Fighting insurgency, terrorism and banditry: Agenda for the incoming government

By Jideofor Adibe

It was a great privilege to be invited as one of the three keynote speakers on a security management symposium and book launch under the theme “Sustaining the Gains of War Against Banditry and Insurrection”, held at Ibeto Hotels, Abuja on 4 May. The other two keynote speakers were General Lucky Irabor, chief of defence staff and Solomon Arase, retired inspector general of police and chairman of the Police Service Commission, who was ably represented by Ferdinand U Ekpe, the director of Police Recruitment.

The two books presented were, The Nigeria Police Force and the Dynamics of Election Security Management System: Essays in Honour of Habila Joshak – Deputy Inspector General of Police (Rtd) and Countering Banditry in Nigeria edited by Al Chukwuma Okoli and Ikechukwu Kingsley Uzoma. Professor Olayemi Akinwunmi, the vice chancellor of Federal University, Lokoja, reviewed both books, which were published by Unilag Press & Bookshop Ltd.

I intend to properly report and interrogate the very robust presentations at the summit soon, especially the highly illuminating speech of General Irabor, which he delivered extemporaneously, on the general theme of the symposium and on the synergies between the Army and the Police in the fight against insurgency, terrorism and banditry.

Today, the focus is on my own presentation entitled, “Beyond the Rhetoric of Winning the War Against Insurgency, Terrorism and Banditry: The Task Ahead for the incoming Government.” The reason for this is not because of any special intellectual merit of my presentation but more because, with the inauguration of the president-elect less than three weeks away, the incoming government needs to be strongly reminded that the war against insurgency, terrorism and banditry remains unfinished.

What do we understand by insurgency, terrorism and banditry? What are their drivers and manifestations? And what is the relationship between the three concepts?

An insurgency is a violent political struggle for the control of people and resources. It is not a mode of warfare but primarily a political process. Insurgent groups aim to undermine the legitimacy of government and bolster their own standing with the population. They seek to alienate the population from the government by creating alternative social, political and cultural institutions. They are essentially a struggle of the weak against a materially superior ruling power. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Yoruba nation agitations are typical examples of insurgencies.

Terrorism is an emotionally charged term, with no consensus in literature on its definition. Broadly speaking, it is the use of intentional violence and fear as tools to achieve political or ideological aims. The term can also be used in a political sense to de-legitimise any group. People also talk of state-sponsored terrorism. There have been several theoretical explanations of terrorism, including David Rapoport’s waves of terrorism theory, in which he argued that terrorism moves in waves, with each wave lasting approximately 40 years before it mutates into another form. There are equally the poverty, state failure and crisis in our nation building arguments which supposedly force some groups and individuals to de-link from the state into other contraptions they feel offer them better alternatives to negotiate life.

Banditry is a form of organized crime which typically involves the threat or use of violence. In Nigeria bandits famously terrorise communities in the North West region and other parts of the country. Their activities include kidnapping, arson, shooting, rape, cattle rustling, killing, and looting. The prevalence of ungoverned and under-governed spaces where the government’s control is ineffective or absent is a major factor giving rise to banditry. Ungoverned and Under-governed spaces coupled with the country’s porous borders have increased the influx of small arms and light weapons from the Sahel region – thus increasing the opportunities for crime. This is facilitated by vast forests which allow the illegal arms trade to fester. Additionally, the challenging socioeconomic conditions in the country leave many of the youths vulnerable to recruitment for criminal activities

There is a nexus between terrorism, insurgency and banditry. While terrorism and insurgencies are driven by forms of ideology, banditry is pure criminality by armed gangs driven primarily by economic gains. The three groups are however increasingly converging on their strategies: just like bandits, terrorists and insurgents are known to have raided communities, looted property (foodstuff and livestock), and abducted civilians. There are also suspicions that the three groups may have established forms of collaboration in some areas.

How far has the Buhari government fared in the fight against Terrorism, Insurgency and Banditry? In his inaugural address in 2015, Buhari vowed to crush Boko Haram within three months and recover all the territories it had seized. While some gains were made in the recovery of lost territories held by Boko Haram, the emergence of a splinter group in 2016 known as Islamic State- West Africa (ISIS-WA), heralded a new dawn of terror. At the same time there was an increase in banditry in the North-west and in insurgencies in the South-east and to a lesser extent the South-west primarily as a result of the government’s mismanagement of the herdsmen’s crisis which led to non-state actors moving in to promise the local populace protection from the rampaging herdsmen.

So what should one recommend to an incoming government?

One, if there is anything the elections of 25 February 2023 and 18 March 2023 showed, it is that the chasms in our traditional fault lines are deeper than previously thought. Since insurgencies and terrorism are rooted in groups feeling alienated from the state and consequently de-linking from it, it will naturally subsidize if faith is restored to the nation through deliberate use of state instruments to wield together the diverse nationalities that make up the country.

Two, healing from the bitterly fought elections cannot work if those who played active roles in promoting ethnic and religious hatred during the elections – the likes of Bayo Onanuga, Fani Kayode, MC Oluomo – are given front row positions in an incoming government. Nasir el Rufai is a smart and courageous man. However, given his role in initiating the Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna State and in trying to institutionalize it by making sure his handpicked successor also opted for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, any front row position given to him in an incoming government will be viewed as an affront by the Christian community and a tacit endorsement of the anomaly he created and sustained in Kaduna state. In essence, an incoming government must be sensitive to the role of optics in nation-building.

Three, an incoming government must devise a better approach for fighting the herdsmen terrorism. Though the herdsmen crisis has its roots in the struggle for environmental resource, it has become politicized largely because of its total mismanagement by the Buhari government who chose to treat the herdsmen with kid gloves thereby unwittingly creating insurgencies like IPOB and Yoruba Nation agitators who moved in to promise citizens protection from the excesses of the herdsmen.

Four, is the need for not just an increase in the number of policemen but also an introduction of multi-level policing to address the issues of ungoverned and under-governed spaces. Improving the quality of governance and providing well-targeted socioeconomic interventions will reduce the role of poverty and unemployment in pushing people to criminality or alienating them from the state system.

Jideofor Adibe is a professor of Political Science and International Relations at Nasarawa State University, Keffi and Extraordinary Professor of Government Studies at North Western University, Mafikeng South Africa. He is also the founder of Adonis & Abbey Publishers and can be reached at 0705 807 8841(Text or WhatsApp only).

Author: Jideofor Adibe

Source: Premium Times

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