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As bandits relocate to Taraba and Plateau

Recently, the media have been awash with the news of bandits daring attacks in Taraba and Plateau states. On November 24, 2023, it was reported…

Recently, the media have been awash with the news of bandits daring attacks in Taraba and Plateau states. On November 24, 2023, it was reported that gunmen in their numbers attacked and killed 20 people in the Yangtu Development Area of the Ussa Local Government Area of Taraba State. On December 19, 2023, gunmen attacked the Pupule community in Yoro Local Government Area of the same Taraba state, kidnapped Umaru Nyala, the chief of Yorro chiefdom, and also abducted 22 other people. Though the Taraba state police command and other security operatives killed over 50 bandits terrorising villages along the corridor of Bali Local Government Area on Tuesday, November 28th, 2023. On the other hand, on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, a group of bandits stormed the Gondon Maliki weekly market in Taraba State, kidnapped scores of people, and carted away food and wares using motorcycles. 

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, while condemning the gruesome murder of over 100 people on the Plateau, said, the bandits seem to be ahead of the government.

To be fair to all the Nigerian security operatives, they’ve done an excellent job in the North West’s states of Zamfara, Kaduna, and Katsina, facing the menace of the bandits. These states have witnessed a visible improvement in security in areas being terrorised by the bandits, and the Abuja-Kaduna highway is secured while the Niger axis is a little bit silent.

It appears that the military and other security onslaughts on the bandits and other terrorists have killed many of their leaders, and they have dispersed to the northeast axis and some parts of the Plateau. Why did the bandits settle in these areas, especially the northern parts of Taraba State—Yorro, Lau, Jalingo, and Ardo Kola local government areas? Is it due to its topography, location, or economy? 

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Taraba State is among the poorest states in Nigeria but rich in agriculture and forestry. Probably the bandits found solace in Taraba due to its uniqueness in geography and agricultural activities. Furthermore, the Cameroonian mountains, which stretch almost the entire northern and southern parts of Taraba, linking the state with the River Niger, will certainly provide a hiding place for criminals, bandits in particular.

The state, federal, and local communities should work together; collaboration is key to security management. For example, at its 8th and 9th meetings held in Maiduguri, on September 9,, 2023, and in Yola, on November 24,  and 25, 2023, the North East Governors’ Forum expressed its concern about the new dimension of growing banditry in Bauchi, Gombe, and Taraba states as a result of the concerted efforts of the military on neutralising the bandits from other parts of the country. The governors called on the federal government to intervene and promised to work with and support all security agencies.

Managing security in a vast country like Nigeria with inadequate modern technology for security management is difficult, and our security operatives cannot be everywhere and anywhere at the same time. So what is the solution?

The invigoration of the kinetic and non-kinetic security approaches by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has resulted in many successes and breakthroughs; however, more intelligence gathering is needed; community engagement and direct communication with the bandits should be employed. In community engagement, the model being used by Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri in Adamawa State in tackling farmer-herder conflict should be adopted. 

The community should be made to feel part of the solution in security management, thus providing intelligence and also being a watchdog for security operatives without being endangered. 

Secondly, the reported ongoing. ‘soft approach’ should be sustained, and, in direct communication with the bandits, most of them now also use social media; thus, a kind of smooth operation should be launched by the ONSA and other relevant bodies to recruit people who speak the languages of bandits to send convincing messages to them on the ills, disadvantages, and evils associated with their dangerous ‘trade’ while showing them the beauty and benefits being enjoyed by their ‘kind’ who adopt normal lives, go to school both western and religious, but still maintain their culture, beliefs, and inherited legal trade. 

Furthermore, radio and TV are also still tools to reach the bandits, as satellite TV and solar power technology have now made it possible to watch or listen to the world, wherever one is- bandits, hiding in thick forests, use solar power and satellite technology to charge their phones, watch TV and listen to the radio.

 

Zayyad I. Muhammad resides in Abuja  [email protected]

 

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