To their unsurpassed wickedness, there was a method and a sense of lethal timing. As the country was glued to the All Progressives Congress (APC) convention at Eagle Square on March 26, the bandits, who have been menacing most of the northern states of Nigeria struck at the Kaduna International Airport and halted a Lagos-bound flight from taking off.
Emboldened by what these ogres saw as a successful outing, the insurgents simply escalated their vile game and went for broke: Two days after, on Monday, they bombed an Abuja-Kaduna train using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Not less than nine persons were killed; not less than 30 others were injured and an unaccountable number of the passengers were abducted.
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These dastardly attacks, coming shortly after similar fatal attacks in Kaura and Giwa local government areas of Kaduna State, could have been averted if the government was proactive and if it took its constitutional duty to protect lives and property seriously.
Rather than confront the issue of insecurity head-on, the government seems to pay lip service to it, and for inexplicable reasons, to treat the menace with kid gloves. This complacency is in spite of thousands of precious lives that have been lost. It is crystal clear that once the bandits could attack the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), the very citadel and bastion of elite military training, they would not spare any target that could call attention and inflict maximum damage to the country’s already sullied image.
Also, the statements issued by the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i, were revealing of the government’s carelessness and unfathomable indifference to the war against terrorism and banditry. Mr. Amaechi regretted that the bombing could have been averted if surveillance cameras were installed on the train. Governor El-Rufa’i, in his own case, disclosed that the locations where these bandits were camped were known by the government, which had been briefed several times by relevant security agencies.
If it was crucially important, given the insecurity in the country, to install surveillance cameras to avert a tragedy of the proportion we witnessed, why did the train service commence without them in the first place? And if the camps of these terrorists were known by the authorities, why did they dither in taking them out?
The train service had become fashionable and the alternative for most commuters on the very busy Abuja-Kaduna route. This is because, before now, the bandits had taken over the Abuja-Kaduna highway, killing and abducting commuters, unchallenged and on an almost daily basis. One would have thought that if commuters had abandoned the highway, the government would have taken maximum and comprehensive measures to safeguard the train service, and by extension, the lives of passengers. As one wise man once said, you do not put all your delicate eggs in one basket. But if you have to do that then you must watch the basket closely and with eagle eyes. What we saw was not only a rejection of this injunction but setting the stage, deliberately or inadvertently, for an avoidable tragedy. Viewed against the pronouncements of the Minister and the Governor and how emboldened the bandits had become, the train bombing was a tragedy waiting to happen. This, and other tragedies occurring in quick succession, amount to a savage indictment of this government under President Muhammadu Buhari’s negligent watch. They call for the sternest rebuke.
If the train bombing amounts to a savage indictment of the government, the incessant attacks by bandits, kidnappers and insurgents underscore the fact that the country is hopelessly insecure and that no one is safe, not at home, not at work and not on our roads. Similarly, these heinous attacks and the government’s tardy, reflexive responses suggest, without any iota of doubt, that this government lays scant premium on human lives. Furthermore, and arising from its dereliction of its duty to secure its citizens, it is clear that the government lacks the moral right to govern and the right to elicit the understanding of the people.
Compounding this egregious shortcoming is that the prevailing state of insecurity goes against the grain of the pledge President Buhari solemnly made to Nigerians, to wit: that his government would sort out the challenge of insecurity in the first six months of his administration. Seven years and counting, the insecurity situation has gone from bad to worse. Nigerian lives appear not to matter to this government.
As this writer joins other compatriots in commiserating with a country steeped in mourning and a people dismayed by its uncaring leadership, the least the government can do to assuage the people’s anger is to identify and decimate these savages who kill and maim with recklessness and abandon. And the government must do so forthwith. The lives of these mendacious bandits cannot be better than the lives of those they are ever quick and eager to dispatch to the great beyond. Enough!
Nick Dazang is a former Director at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)