Column Opinion

As Banditry Eclipses The North

By Zainab Suleiman Okino

The Emir of Kajuru, Malam Hassan Adamu was kidnapped with 13 members of his family and two other people among them women at the weekend. The emir however regained his freedom about 24 hours after, perhaps to go get money for ransom, or security personnel were at their best, who knows. This is a further confirmation that Kaduna now has an unenviable position as the epicentre of banditry.

No doubt, banditry is a nationwide malaise, but for states of the North like Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states, the statistics are bemusing. In addition to the intractable insurgency war with Boko Haram and ISIS/ISWAP, the North is now a huge jungle where life is practically brutish. The thought of the kidnap of women (and young ladies in particular) always depresses me like no other, for the simple fact that those animals called bandits, most often, violate the opposite sex.
The number of people who have been taken away within the last one month within Kaduna and environs makes one wonder if Nigeria has become Somalia or Sudan of yore.

Shortly after the students of Greenfield University were released—some were killed and ransom paid on the rest, kidnappers have become even more brazen and daring, may be because of Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s recalcitrant stance not to negotiate or pay ransom. This has left the residents, who sometimes have to sell valuables to pay ransom, more vulnerable. Then came the abduction of 121 students from Bethel Baptist High school in Kaduna again. Not that anywhere is safe anyway, Kaduna’s happens to be more frequent in-between.

Last weekend’s attack on a whole Kajuru community of 30 kilometres away from Kaduna town was a new dimension, what with the abduction of the Emir and 13 members of his family, and also a confirmation that nowhere is too secure for the bandits, and the business is no longer about the downtrodden and wretched of the earth. It is not even about the rich alone and you don’t have to be on a journey before you become a victim. Like the emir, anybody can be whisked away from the comfort of his home with all the body guards or security aides.

Those in the know said the bandits operated for about two hours in Kajuru, not too far from a police station or the Strike Force which is also a stone throw away from the emir’s palace. I can’t blame the security operatives who are now clearly overwhelmed. What can 10 to 20 soldiers do when confronted by over 100 AK-47 wielding bandits. At the ground zero level we are today, no one should expect any heroic exploits from our security men. They can at best die in vain, and their families will be in want and misery, going by antecedents.

The Kajuru case is the eighth high profile kidnapping across Northern Nigeria starting from December 11, 2020 when Government Science Secondary, Kankara, Katsina state came under attack and 300 students kidnapped; February 27,2021, Government Secondary, Kagara in Niger State had their share of attack when 50 of their students were abducted; March 2, 2021, Girls Secondary School, Jengebe in Zamfara state suffered the same fate, about 100 of the girls were commandeered out of their boarding school. March 2021 witnessed another attack when 30 Greenfield University students were kidnapped; March 15, College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna where about 100 students suffered the same fate; May 30, Salihu Tanko Islamic School where about 100 youngsters were taken away and are still in captivity; June 11, 2021, eight students of Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic were abducted while one was killed. Yet there are more isolated cases of kidnapping across Nigeria than the schools kidnap saga.

The national outlook as far as abduction is concerned is grim and scary. According to Nigeria Security Tracker, there have been 5,800 deaths and 2,943 between January and June 2021. The figure does not include Bethel and Kajuru and the 39 people that were killed in Zamfara state last weekend. The reported cases go thus: North West- 1,405; North Central- 942; North East- 210; South South- 140; South West- 169; South East- 77; Northern Nigeria- 2,557; Southern Nigeria- 386; making a total of 2,943 abductees in 181 days at the average of 16 per day. The 12 states with the most number of deaths are: Borno- 1,137; Zamfara- 862; Kaduna-715; Benue- 449; Niger- 407; Ebonyi- 210; Katsina- 164; Imo- 153; Kebbi- 144; Yobe- 137; Oyo- 114 and Anambra; 109, while the states with most abductees are: Niger- 795; Zamfara- 523; Kaduna- 479; Katsina- 289; Borno- 115; Kebbi- 103; Oyo- 63; Delta-55; Taraba: 55; FCT- 52; Edo- 37.
Is it still a surprise therefore that Nigeria is classified as the third most terrorised country in the world? Banditry has become so audacious and ubiquitous, there are no impregnable fortresses in the country. For all of us, it is no longer a question of how, but when it will be your turn. Take for example the ABUTH, Milgona-Shika, Zaria case where they attacked one Mrs Jummai Suleiman, a clinical psychologist in the department of psychiatry. The bandits made a hole on her fence, made their way to her home, and abducted her and her three kids between 10 and 4 years on Monday night. Or is it the case in Okene, Kogi state where the community rallied against the kidnappers to stop them from taking away a member of the community, but were soon overpowered by the firepower of the bandits. The bandits had their way, left one dead and others injured and still went away with their victim.

For the Northern states, that are already backward in education, the new threat will compound an old problem and you cannot blame parents giving up on the education of the girl-child in particular. There is virtually no solution that has not been offered on the face of the earth, as much as the president giving marching orders over and over, like a broken record. The preponderance of opinions of Nigerians is that the president is only doing the talk and not walking the talk, because his marching orders are not implementable; and they are not implementable because the bandits, in most cases outnumber soldiers on ground and wield more sophisticated weapons.

The logical thing is to curb the sources and supply chain of the weapons from their countries of origin while efforts should be intensified to halt the flow from the black market, from our borders and on high seas. The last time I checked, having or holding weapons illegally is a crime. So, when did it become fashionable to brandish them openly without anybody being apprehended or punished or those caught prosecuted? But our borders are porous and endemic corruption makes the country easy prey for illegal arms market, besides the fact that crimes are selectively punished and laws are not enforced. Another compounding factor to the multiplication of our woes you may say.

Banditry has become a profitable business and the monies collected find their way back to towns and system. It therefore means that if there is effective intelligence gathering, part of these monies can be tracked, traced and intercepted. Talking about intelligence stirs some controversies. If Nigeria’s intelligence agency can organise and execute to near precision, the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu from the UK to Kenya to Nigeria, without the help and knowledge of America, such praise-worthy efforts can be applied to nip the proliferation of weapons in the country in the bud. I don’t want to join the conspiracy theory making the round that the bandits are pampered by government, while being high-handed in the case of Kanu and Sunday Igboho, because crime and criminality are evils notwithstanding the person who commits the offence. But it is legitimate to raise eyebrows when the analogies are put side by side.

It has now become expedient to recruit operatives for the protection of lives and property because at this juncture, only security and security alone matters. It should be the priority of government, because without it, nothing else can stand.

Contact the writer: zainabokino@gmail.com

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