Kaduna may not be the commercial centre of the Northern region but being its capital before the creation of states in 1967, the city still occupies a central position and has remained attractive to many personalities, groups and corporate organisations that over the years enjoyed a flourishing business climate in the state.
At a point, Kaduna was like a mini Manchester where textile and other agro-allied industries held sway. It was a city that hardly sleeps because the textiles were working on shifts all through the days and nights. Along with the automobile assembly plant, furniture and beverage industries, the oil refining and petrochemical plant, which came up in the late 1970s and many others in the state, this sector complemented the government in providing employment.
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Although banditry is not new in Kaduna State, it was previously robbery and cattle rustling in rural communities in Birnin-Gwari, Chikun, Giwa and Igabi LGAs. Kaduna then only witnessed a spillover of the crime in Kamuku, Kuyanbana and Falgore, a large forest spanning Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Zamfara and Sokoto states.
On the Kaduna side of the forest, which envelopes Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area, the bandits were as far back as 15 years ago known for their trademark highway robbery and cattle rustling. They used to block the Buruku, Birnin-Gwari axis of the Kaduna-Lagos Road, rob travellers of their hard-earned possessions but rarely killed.
The group became dreaded when they began mass rustling of cattle around 2001. Communities had to form vigilante groups. The measure did not however yield much result. Instead, it toughened the bandits, as they became more audacious and even followed members of the vigilante groups to their communities to kill them.
The climax of such attacks was in 2013 when the bandits rounded up vigilantes and other community members at the mosque and killed 33 during the dawn prayer in Dogon Dawa, Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area.
The bandits became untamed after the Dogon Dawa killings and the Kamuku Forest where they operated became dreaded and home only to the criminal gangs, who established links with their likes in Niger, Zamfara and Katsina ends of the forests. The alliance made it easy for them to strike in one state and hibernate in another.
Governor El-Rufai has consistently blamed the return of the bandits on the failure of lasting cooperation amongst the affected states, believing that the hitherto simultaneous security operations would have ended banditry in the region if sustained.
Succeeding administrations, however, were not able to sustain the tempo as many of the industries are either nonexistent, dysfunctional or grossly underutilised. Thus many were thrown out of jobs, which further compounded the socioeconomic problems of the fledgling economy.
Souhir Mzali of the Oxford Business Group had said Kaduna’s performance in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index has been instrumental in attracting investors.
Finally, there should be reconciliation between the governments and the bandits, there’s no more effective solution than forceful inland and frontier policing.
Hauwa Ibrahim is an intern at PR Nigeria Kano