Insecurity: When will enough be enough?

President Muhammadu Buhari is still battling insecurity in Nigeria Shekwo farmers bandit
President Muhammadu Buhari

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.” – Albert Einstein

“Tah..tah…tah-tah….tah!” What’s that? It’s the sound of sporadic gunshots. This was how Sani Bakali of Bakali village, Giwa local government area of Kaduna state described the incident of bandits’ attack on their village last week. The incident claimed about twenty one (21) lives, nine others kidnapped, and properties razed down. Sani said he personally lost thirteen (13) members of his family, eleven (11) of them; three women, eight children, were locked inside their house and burnt to death. Another two uncles of his were killed in another house. Two imams were also killed.

In the same Kaduna, in Kajuru village, bandits killed seven people last week Wednesday. Meanwhile, another Boko Haram attack on Auno village, along Maiduguri-Damaturu highway last week left 30 people dead many of them burnt, several vehicles burnt with goods they were carrying, some people kidnapped. It attracted outrage given the circumstances surrounding the incident which is Nigerian Army’s decision to shut the city gate by 6pm daily. It was a new one in recent time.

This pressured President Buhari to visit Borno state from his African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to sympathise with the people, though he did not reach the actual victims in Auno village, for whatever reason. Sadly, just few hours after the president left, Boko Haram struck again. This must have been done to prove a point. Or, how could one have described that?

The factional leader of terrorist sect Abubakar Shekau released a video afterwards, where he abused and challenged President Buhari, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. General Tukur Buratai, and recently the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami. Shekau even claimed to have “colonised” General Buratai’s village and he dared him to come home. That’s preposterous.

Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram pledged loyalty to Islamic State
Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram sect

Not done, the criminals were determined to send stronger messages to Nigerians. They took the “war” to the president’s home state of Katsina. Just last Friday, bandits overran Tsauwa and Dankar villages, Batsari local government, in a massive attack said to been carried out on over a 100 motorcycles, armed to the teeth. On Tuesday night, news broke of the death of Laetitia Naankang Dagan, an Assistant Director in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), State house, Aso Rock. The police claimed “Yahoo Boys” killed her. That seemed laughable.

One can go on and on. All these are outside the countless number of various criminal incidents of kidnappings of individuals and groups, travellers, etc, making ransom demands and many leading to deaths, the attacks on farmers by killer herdsmen, ritual killings, armed robberies and so on. Life has become so cheap in Nigeria that we no longer cringe when we hear news of people being killed. It is most unfortunate. How did we get here?

In 2014, going into 2015 general elections, Boko Haram was the biggest challenge facing the country, upon which the then opposition party rode to power by blowing it out of proportion. The Chibok girls kidnap was their selling point. Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) was the machinery deployed. Sadly most of people who were involved in the political gang-up against former President Jonathan have all lived to regret their actions. Those who were courageous enough apologised to him for all the attacks they directed at him.

It is true that Boko Haram was on rampage at that time. They attacked locations in different parts of the north, apart from their concentration in the north eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. They carried out attacks in many other states Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Madalla in Niger state, Nyanyan in Nasarawa state, Force headquarters, the UN building and Thisday offices in the federal capital territory, Abuja and Kaduna, were not spared.

I was living in Kano in January 2012 when Boko Haram nearly took over the entire town. That should be their biggest attack at the time. Multiple, simultaneous bombings of all security outfits in Kano took place. The state police headquarters, the Area command, the DSS headquarters, immigration, and many locations across the state were attacked and bombed. The whole city shook to its foundation. Everyone ran helter-skelter. We were in our office then, a storey building. The building was vibrating from the impacts of multiple bomb blasts despite being at a considerable distance from our office.

For about one week, we were holed up in our houses, unable to access our offices, markets, schools, etc. There was full curfew for some days. Most of us from the south ran away at the slightest opportunity to travel by air. It was a horrific experience. Fortunately, they eventually failed to conquer the state because of non-cooperation or non-connivance by indigenes and residents of Kano who exposed their hideouts while security agents smoked them from hiding. That saved the Kano city that we have today.

Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai
Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai

I narrated this personal experience to establish that truly, these insecurities did not start today or with this administration. And it was based on this promise that General Buhari, as he was then called, and his party, APC, will change the fortunes of the people, and keep them safe, that they were voted to power. Many had no reasons to doubt given that he was a military man, with many exploits at the war fronts and fight against similar insurgents in the North Eastern state as a military administrator then. He later rose to become a military head of state in 1983. So, what went wrong?

One would be forced to ask this question, given the degeneration of security across the country as previously highlighted. Like the case of terrorism, other criminal acts also did not start with this administration but they have become worse since their coming to power. Some could be attributed to the worsened economic situation of the citizens, which could have driven many criminally-minded people over the edge.

For instance, kidnapping has been around for long. It can be traced to the Niger-Delta where it was used by the militants as instrument of negotiation for better welfare for the people of the region, who have been suffering from the consequences exploration of crude oil in the region for decades, by the Nigerian government. Their targets were senior officials of the Nigerian government and oil companies operating in the region. This was before criminals hijacked it.

Even at that, based on narrations from arrested kidnappers like the unpopular Evans, it usually took a long time before kidnapping could be executed. It involves planning, where potential target is identified, who is often high net worth individual. They monitor the target’s movements for days, weeks or even months, with the collaboration of an insider oftentimes. So, it is not an easy venture for them. This was also more rampant in the south.

But what do we have now? Daily or hourly kidnappings with serious brutality, it can take place anywhere at anytime and anyone could fall victim. It is no longer necessary that their victims is a high net worth individuals. An Assistant Commissioner of Police has been kidnapped before. School children, lecturers, doctors, farmers, businessmen and women and just about anyone. Four NSCDC personnel were kidnapped in Kogi state last Thursday on their way to their promotional exams in Benue.

Kidnappers can just jump on the highways at anytime, attack all vehicles traveling on the roads, including commercial ones and kidnap large number of people, many of whom are poor. Imagine people who travel by road from Lagos to Abuja, Kaduna, Owerri, Uyo, etc. If they have the means, why won’t they fly? These kidnappers will still force their families to pay ransoms which were ordinarily is beyond the victims’ capacities. They will be threatened with death if their families refuse to pay. These now happens every single day.

These incidents have also become more rampant in the north. For months, people abandoned Kaduna-Abuja highway due to the frequent kidnappings happening on that road. Kaduna to Kano is another hot bed. Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna state recorded the highest incidents in past years. Emirs, kings, chiefs, community leaders, indigenes and visitors were all victims. The incidents have also gotten worse in the south than we had in the past. I am sure Evans will be seeing himself as a “learner” as he listens to the current trend.

Many other crimes get worse with the worsening economic conditions of Nigerians. Ritual killings became more pronounced as people seek quick alternatives to their economic woes. Many more people fall victims of human trafficking out of their desperation to escape from the ravaging poverty in the country. Armed robberies, drug trafficking, all skyrocketed due to the vulnerability of citizens. All these were foisted on them by the economic hardship.

Worse still, many Nigerians have been shouting, crying, pleading, appealing, advising, recommending to President Buhari that he needs to rejig his security architecture and change the Service Chiefs, (whose retirement is actually due for a few years now) so as to inject fresh blood and ideas in the fights against these criminalities but he has turned a deaf hear. Even the national assembly and its leadership could no longer keep quiet, despite the rapport that exists between the legislature and executive arm.

They called for the resignation of the Service Chiefs or asked that they be sacked. They declared a “vote of no confidence” on them. The Minority Leader in the senate, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe even called for the resignation of the President if he can no longer protect Nigeria and Nigerians, considering that, that it is his primary constitutional responsibility. Senator Abaribe was attacked by the Presidency and their supporters, who did not proffer concrete result-oriented actions.

The Presidency kept telling Nigerians that the Service Chiefs cannot be changed now? When then? We were all witnesses to the vigour that was added to the fight against terrorism when these same Service Chiefs were newly appointed. After the inauguration of the Buhari presidency in 2015, he sacked all previous service chiefs, appointed another set, gave them matching orders and the tempo changed. Boko Haram was so decimated that the government declared that Boko Haram has “technically defeated”! Few years down the line, here we are.

These guys seem to have become tired and have exhausted all their initiatives. Many were long due for retirement. Why not allow them go in peace with better performance records before they lose all the credibility they have built over the decades in their career? One can force a horse to the river but one cannot force it to drink water. There are too many competent officers that are being denied the opportunity to attain the pinnacle of their careers by this action. They were denied the avenue to show the stuff they are made of.

This alone can dampen the morale of officers and fighting troops who do not see the possibility of being promoted for their gallantry and performances, just because some senior officers refuse to go. In the midst of that, contemporaries and junior officers to these security heads are being retired every now and then. This can cause poor commitment on the part of officers or lack of it, and internal sabotage at worst. Nothing is impossible.

So, why won’t the president act in the interest of the country? Why continue to “impose” them on the country in spite of contrary feelings across the country? This could not be understood. Except of course the president is satisfied with the situation that we are now.

Apart from the issue of replacing the service chiefs, many other actions need to be promptly taken. Where they were already done, there is need to do more.

President Buhari needs to do more than the common rhetoric we hear all the time on this fight against insecurities. It is sounding like a broken record already. He must show firm, non-sentimental and brutal position against the bandits. His body language must not be that of someone who wants them to be treated with kid’s gloves. Statements blaming the indigenes for the unending Boko Haram attacks like he made in Borno on his visit last week is disturbing.

He made similar one after the attack in Katsina, where he said the attack was a reprisal for the killings of two Fulani herders previously. This is unpresidential and can only embolden those killers to do worse. It was in bad taste. He also advised that people should not retaliate killings. How is that possible when the people are left vulnerable, at the mercy of the bandits?

The recent release of about 1400 supposed “repentant” Boko Haram members was widely condemned across the country. It was seen as being a not-well-thought out plan, given our incapacity to monitor them and absence of proper data based. Many feared that the same people may find their ways back to the fold of the terrorists. Or, they can become spies in the communities and continue wrecking havocs. Some might even get themselves into the security agencies as recruits, become moles, and begin to do the damages from within through espionage and leaking security plans to enemies.

Terrorists, bandits and other criminals arrested should be made to face the full wrath of the law rather than “pampering” them like what it currently seems like. Fighting troops and victims of their brutal attacks must see justice done. Otherwise, such actions can demoralise the soldiers at the war fronts. We saw a video of some soldiers complained about how they suffer, risk their lives and many die in the process, to arrest Boko Haram members, only to hear that they were released back to the society. What do we expect? Victims of banditry can also resort to self-help when they do not see those criminals arrested adequately punished.

The welfare of security agents, especially those fighting terrorists, deployed to fight bandits and fighting other crimes should be top priority. They should be happy defending their country. Likewise, they should be provided with modern equipment to fight. The Inspector General of Police said that arms in the hands of these criminals are more sophisticated than those with the security agents. That is scary. Over four trillion naira have been budgeted for defence in the past five years? Where is the money? Almost five hundred million dollars was paid for Super Tucano planes from USA. We can’t wait to have them deployed.

There are allegations of corruption being bandied around about how the war has become a big business for both internal and external members of the security agencies and government. That they do not want the war to end due to the illicit wealth they are accumulating from there. Some use the IDPs to get funds from international community under the pretence supporting them, using their Non Governmental Organisations.

Illegal arms dealings, stealing of funds meant for soldiers’ welfare, inflation of contracts, diversion of relief materials, shady ransom payments from official quarters, and many corruption acts, continued to fuel the insurgence. All these need to be dealt with decisively before we can get the desired results.

There are two factions of Boko Haram and they now operate beyond the borders of Nigeria. In 2015 and 2019, President Buhari sought cooperation of our neighbouring countries to fight the insurgents since they have found safe haven in some of these countries whenever they commit crimes in Nigeria. Such collaborations seem to have relapsed. It is time for the president to reestablish such relationships where none existed and strengthen them where they have become weak. Helps can also be sought from other advanced countries experienced in dealing with situations like ours. We cannot continue like this. Or, when will enough be enough?

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348020989095 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter