In the last six years activities of the Boko Haram sect in most states in the North have continued to cripple growth and development even as the onslaught of criminal gangs dubbed bandits has further complicated the situation. In this report ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU examines the factors that fuel insecurity in the region against the background of the recent protest by northern youth over years of persistent killings, kidnappings, and banditry.
Nigerians, especially the supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), often argue against suggestions that insecurity in the North and the country at large has become worse than it was before the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prior to 2015, the Boko Haram insurgents were practically in charge of some local government in North-east with many people captured and detained by the sect. This is as most Nigerians in other parts of the country lived in fear of being attacked by the insurgents.
The situation was so bad that almost all our major highways were occupied by the military, just as many schools, place of worship and businesses in the affected were closed.
Consequently, curbing the insecurity in the country formed a major campaign issue in the 2015 general elections which APC won overwhelmingly bringing an end to the 16-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the federal level and some states previously controlled by the party.
There is a general conviction that President Buhari and the APC won the 2015 election and re-election in 2019 because of the promise to tackle insecurity, however, the administration has not been able to stop this bleeding after years after.
Notably, the APC government led by President Buhari, like the administrations before, had recorded some successes in the fight against insurgents. President Muhammadu Buhari is credited with recovering the territory under the control of the insurgents with quite a number of them being arrested and killed in the process.
This is as many reportedly captured by the Boko Haram were also rescued and members was sect were boxed to just a few states in the North-east. However, the sect has continued to carry out their evil acts.
Kidnapping, banditry on the rise
The situation has been worsened by activities of kidnappers and bandits, who seem to be carrying out their criminal operations without much hindrance from the security forces in the North-west, North-central like the Boko Haram. Kidnappers and bandits have claimed many lives in North and indeed in most part of the country.
Analysts are of the view that though the President Buhari-led administration has made some progress in the fight against Boko Haram there was a lot that needed to be done to stop the daily killings, kidnapping and banditry in the North where it is at its peak.
Northern elders accuse govt of ineptitude
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) had blamed the high rate of insecurity in the region on President Buhari and northern governors losing control over the imperative of protecting people of the North, a constitutional duty that they swore to uphold.
In a press statement last Sunday the Convener of the forum, Ango Abdullahi, said the situation was getting worse by the day, noting that, “Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is alarmed at the rising insecurity of communities and their properties in the North. The recent escalation of attacks by bandits, rustlers and insurgents leave the only conclusion that the people of the North are now completely at the mercy of armed gangs who roam towns and villages at will, wreaking havoc.
“It would appear that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and governors have lost control over the imperatives of protecting people of the North, a constitutional duty that they swore to uphold.
“The situation is getting worse literally by the day as bandits and insurgents appear to sense a huge vacuum in political will and capacity which they exploit with disastrous consequences on communities and individuals.
“It is now time to say, enough is enough. Our people are known for their patience and respect for constituted authorities, but all governments must be aware by now that all northerners have been pushed to the wall.
“The Forum reminds President Buhari that provision of security and pursuit of the economic welfare of citizens is the only two constitutional responsibilities of the state which all leaders must achieve.”
The forum further stated that: “Our current circumstances in the North demonstrate that President Buhari’s administration has woefully failed to achieve either. This is unacceptable.
“We demand an immediate and comprehensive improvement of our security in the North. We are tired of excuses and verbal threats which criminals laugh at, and our fellow citizens see as a clear failure of leadership which they see as part of them. Enough is enough.”
… Lack of synergy among security agencies to blame – JNI
On its part, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, led Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) has said that the security challenges leading to wanton killings in North-west and parts of North-central were extension of Boko Haram insurgency, and due to lack of synergy between security operatives or outright complacency.
The Sultan in a statement issued by JNI Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, condemned the repeated brutal acts in their entirety especially the lackadaisical attitude of relevant security agencies that seemed to be overwhelmed, despite repeated calls by concerned Nigerians for a decisive action. “We implore the government to take all genuine calls, concerns so raised and recommendations proffered so far, even from perceived antagonists in good fate, to move the country on the path of glory, as development in whatever guise, is incomplete without security.
“Government should also note that citizens have a right to be listened to, over their feelings on the insecurity challenge in Nigeria. By now an instantaneous pronouncement followed by robust actions should have been made by the government of the day, not verbal warnings and condemnations dished out to the perpetrators of the murderous acts.”
Speaking further, the Sultan noted that: “There is an apparent lack of synergy between security operatives in Nigeria, or outright complacency. This is so evident and heart rending because where citizens provide intelligence to security operatives on suspected criminal activities, one ends up hearing that such informants are hunted down and many killed within the next 24-48 hours by the criminals for providing intelligence to security men.
“Cases in point are 81 people killed by Boko Haram for revealing their location to soldiers on January 21, 2020. Likewise, soldiers reportedly opened fire on Police Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives who repelled Boko Haram attack in Mainok, a town along Maiduguri-Damaturu road of Borno state, on January 21, 2020.
“Soldiers in three Hilux gun trucks, who claimed they were on a mission to repel Boko Haram attack on Gubio, deliberately rammed into a Rapid Response Squad (RRS) van which was used to block the road to prevent illegal entry, which occurred on June 13, 2020.
“Farming is becoming more and more a mirage than a reality, due to the unending security cataclysm, affecting food chain and its production, which in the final analysis may affect cost and distribution, in the foreseeable future due to the insecurity.
“Isn’t this insecurity fiasco a near confirmation of the rumours making the rounds that security operatives do not want the war on Boko Haram to end, because of the lucrative benefits they allegedly derive there from?
“The insecurity bedevilling North-western states and some of the North-central states are more or less an extension of Boko Haram. For instance, one of the gang leaders responsible for terrorising neighbouring communities in the forests of Katsina and Zamfara axis is called Kachalla (a Kanuri usual name).”
The JNI appealed that: “Governments at all levels should do everything possible, as a matter of urgency to stop these evil acts of terror repeatedly being unleashed on innocent souls and restore peace and security, which is their first constitutional role.
“The Nigerian Army and all other security outfits in Nigeria must be properly well equipped, adequately provided and maintained routinely by the government, as the narrative making the round suggests that the criminals do have more sophisticated armouries than the security men on the front line.
“A symbolic gesture by those in authority, such as a prompt visit to affected areas by the federal and state government functionaries, as well as making strong statements with a follow up decisive actions must be entrenched.
“This will assuage the communities to have more confidence in their leaders seeing that they are not left alone in their ordeal. It will also boost their morale and send a strong signal to the bandits that the government is ready to go to any length to protect its people.”
Presidency sues for patience
The Presidency Tuesday assured Nigerians that the nation’s armed forces are fully capable of dealing with the challenges of banditry and terrorism in the country.
In a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, the Presidency called for more patience as the military takes appropriate steps to block gaps being exploited to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens.
The president assured Nigerians that the nation’s armed forces and the entire security agencies were capable of dealing with the challenges of banditry and terrorism in the country.
The statement read in part, “President Muhammadu Buhari, who has approved a joint military and police operation specifically targeted at combing Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States to rid the areas of bandits, assures that surveillance will be improved, with more night vision aircrafts already deployed under Operation Accord.
“The operation was launched three weeks ago. Nigeria’s military has displayed its capabilities in the past and will show it again by dealing with the current challenges.
“President Buhari appeals to the people of Katsina state to be patient and supportive of the ongoing military operations in the state, while sympathising with those who are bereaved, injured and lost properties.
“President Buhari admonishes that taking to the streets for protest could distract the military operations, urging Katsina indigenes not to give up on the military who over the years have a strong track record of quelling crises once given enough time.
“The major forests in North-western Nigeria have been identified as home to the bandits in the region. The operation will clear all these forests.”
Arewa youths call for strategy change
The National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to change strategy to put an end to the killings in the North.
In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend, Shettima said the security situation in the North showed clearly that the five years after the President Buhari-led government lacked the political will to tackle the security challenges.
He said, “Every normal personal should really feel bad about the situation in northern Nigeria. And we are most concerned because we are the direct victim of most of this things happening today. Despite the fact that we have one of our own who happens to be the leader of the country.
“It appears that certain things are going bad and the government refused to do anything about it or they lack the political will to do something about it. So, the time has come for us to rise up to the occasion and speak to the authority for prompt action.
“As a matter of urgency the federal government has to come up with different strategies. Because if you use one method and you realise is not working, then you think of better strategy. Because when you continue to apply a method, you will continue to get the same result. But by the time you change strategy, certainly you will get a different result.
“As it is the government must have the political will to address the issue. Security issue must be all inclusive, all inclusive in the sense that the community, law enforcement agencies, traditional institution, clergymen and other stakeholder must all come to table to discuss the issues. They have to collectively marshal a way out, come up with suggestions that will help solve the problem. There should be synergy between these people.
“Let the government also come up with a law backing community policing, making it a constitution issue so that side by side the community policing will complement the effort of the federal security agencies.
“Also, the government needs to do something about the unemployment rate. You cannot allow people without employment to sit down and do nothing, which will bring about trouble for the states, region and country.
“There is need for the state and federal government to come up with a training programme to enable some of these youths acquire some skills, which will at the end of the day encourage them to go into entrepreneurship. If they seat down idle some may be used for evil act. So, for me, government must come up with a policy to attend to these youths.”
What FG, state govts need to do – Expert
Security Risk Management Expert and Managing Director Beacon Consulting LTD Dr. Kabir Adamu has called for synergy between the between the federal and state governments to occupy the un-governed spaces used by criminals to put an end to insecurity.
In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend Adamu said, “With regard to security challenges facing the country, unfortunately the predisposition of the Buhari administration has been the use of military to tackle the security challenges, which so far has been unsuccessful. Some of the reasons include the current economic challenges; there is a correlation between economic downturn and increase in criminality.
“Unfortunately, there are issues around the criminal justice system and we must give the Buhari administration kudos for what it has done in this respect. We have seen what he has done with the correctional service, what he is doing with the judiciary and of course many are tie to the police reform.
“Democratise security, enhance corporations between the federal and state governments. In the North and even some part of the South, most of the security challenges have their origin in what I will call un-governed spaces. Now these spaces include forest, mountainous area or in the Niger Delta the water body.
“Most of these spaces to a large extent belong to the state government. But because the state government does not have the capacity to maintain surveillance or government present within these spaces, criminals will take it over. This is the case with most northern states,” he added.
Speaking further Adamu said, “So, enhance coordination between state and federal government to allow governance to be visible. So, some forms of government presence must be maintained in these un- govern spaces to disallow this bad elements from using them to operate.
“There is also need for the government to enhance intelligence gathering capability. And there are several ways to do this. One of them is through community policing, there are some recognise organisation that are been given money, but we are not seen result. So, there must be an enhancement, monitoring and evaluation capabilities within the intelligence community to ensure that they are performing and where they are not performing there must be some form of penalties.
“And this cut across the entire security agencies. Right now there is no monitoring and evaluation, we give them money and there is no way to find out if they are leaving up to the constitutional mandate they’ve been given.
“Also, because of our military background our legislative oversight is a bit weak. So, one of the ways to solve this problem, is to enhance the legislative oversight capacity. And this will require training of committee that are to perform this function. There is also need to review some of the security laws and the current 9th assembly is doing that”.