As banditry eclipses the North – Zainab Suleiman Okino

5 min read

Our Take: Banditry and kidnapping have become a widespread malaise and a thriving business for bandits. Recent reports show a relatively higher number of reported cases of kidnap and banditry attacks in the northern region than in other parts of the country. From the kidnapping of the Emir of Kajuru; Malam Hassan Adamu and some members of his family, to the abduction of the students of the Greenfield University, to the kidnapping of some 300 students in Kankara, Katsina State. This has become an emerging threat to education for northerners who were already battling challenges on education.

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 in Nigeria.

No doubt, banditry is a nationwide malaise, but for states of the North like Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger, 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 from 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 with or pay ransom to them. 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, just 30 kilometres away from Kaduna town, was a new dimension, with the abduction of the Emir and 13 members of his family, and also a confirmation that nowhere is too secure for the bandits, while 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’s 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 were kidnapped; February 27, when Government Secondary, Kagara in Niger State had its share of the attacks, ending with 50 of their students being abducted; March 2, when Girls Secondary School, Jengebe in Zamfara State suffered the same fate, leading about 100 girls to be commandeered out of their boarding school. March witnessed another attack when 30 Greenfield University students were kidnapped; on March 15, it was the turn of College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna, where about 100 students suffered the same fate of abduction; May 30, when Salihu Tanko Islamic School had some 100 youngsters taken away, and who are still in captivity; also on June 11, 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 the Nigeria Security Tracker, there have been 5,800 deaths, and 2,943 of these occured between January and June. The figure does not include Bethel and Kajuru and the 39 people who 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; and 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 numbers 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 that 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 our turn. Take, for example, the ABUTH, Milgona-Shika, Zaria case, where they attacked one Mrs Jummai Suleiman, a clinical psychologist in the hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. The bandits made a hole in her fence, made their way into her home, and abducted her and her three kids, aged between 10 and 4 years, on Monday night. Or is it the case in Okene, Kogi State where a community rallied against kidnappers, trying to stop them from taking away their member, 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 States of the North that are already backward in education, the new threat will compound an old problem and you cannot blame parents for 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 the 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 their flow from the black market, through our borders and the 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 anyone being apprehended or punished or having those caught prosecuted? But our borders are porous and endemic corruption makes the country easy prey for  anillegal 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 into the 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 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.

Recommendation(s): Weapon proliferation through the Nigerian boarders is having been noted to be one a major driver of insecurity across the country. Thus, one effective strategy to clamp down banditry is to trace and curb the sources and supply chain of the weapons from their countries of origin.

About the Author: Zainab Suleiman Okino is an accomplished journalist, columnist, public affairs analyst, bankable editor and publisher of VerityNews

Source: Premium Times

Keywords: Banditry, Nigeria, Insecurity, North

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