Almost six months into the current administration, bandits have continued to abduct Nigerians; terrorize rural, agrarian communities; use mobile technology to communicate and collect ransoms; abduct people on our highways, and kill. Their activities are prevalent in parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, and other parts of the North-West states.
In the North-East, Boko Haram, which the previous government claimed to have decimated substantially, has launched a resurgence. Only a few days ago, persons were killed in a clash ignited by bandits’ attacks in Tangaza Local Government Area of Sokoto State. Four communities were attacked between Sunday and Wednesday by the marauders who killed seven persons, including a nursing mother and her daughter, who were burnt to death in a commercial vehicle.
They also injured several others and abducted many, including women and children. And last month, the village head of Zazzaga in Munya Local Government Area of Niger State, Mallam Usman Sarki, was shot dead by bandits.
An unspecified number of farmers, including women were also kidnapped. This is just to mention a few incidents.
Admittedly, the military has been proactive in tackling bandits, attacking them at their bases, capturing many, and setting free victims of abductions. But this has not translated to an upper-hand against the criminals, who still have the capacity to invade villages a few kilometers away from capital cities, burn down farmlands, impose taxes on the people, and effectively collect them in a manner that sends the message that they run a parallel government.
The National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, recently stated that there was a reduction in security threats in the South-east and Niger Delta region. This is good news, but more needs to be done to secure the entire country.
The missing link in tackling insecurity is that the country does not have enough forces, or perhaps, enough sophisticated military hardware, to overwhelm the criminals. Every country that overcame terrorists/ criminals of this nature had to flood their territories with enough boots on the ground to outnumber these persons who have become enemies of the state.
Examples are Algeria, Mexico, and Colombia. These countries achieved two objectives with the forces that eliminated terrorism from their territories: first, they defeated the criminals. Second, they created employment for the youth population.
Nigeria must learn from the experiences of these countries. Algeria, for instance, had to deploy paramilitary forces to every district. The forces responded to attacks by terrorists, even in rural areas, until the criminals were defeated and were forced to appeal for dialogue and amnesty.
Though our government has brandished the carrot of amnesty before bandits and terrorists, the criminals have ignored the authorities because they feel they still have an upper hand over our military forces. The Katsina State government has recruited hundreds of youths to help fight bandits in their localities. The federal government should work with the state governments to find a way of integrating such persons/ groups into the national security architecture in terms of training, leadership and operations. The government should also work with community leaders on this issue.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had mentioned the idea of creating jobs through massive recruitment of youths into our security forces. In the last six months, the government seems to have relegated this idea to the waste bin. We call on the federal government to take this seriously as a strategic approach to counter-terrorism and criminality in general.
We must devise the security architecture that can protect Nigerians in rural communities, whether in the North or South, because they are as Nigerian as those who live in our big cities, where there is a similar level of security. It is playing the ostrich for the government to argue that because Boko Haram has not attacked the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters or the United Nations complex in Abuja, as it did some years ago, there is security.
Apart from creating jobs by recruiting young Nigerians into the security forces, the government must invest in the kind of technology that has the capacity to map locations at a very large radius to locate areas of operation by bandits and terrorists. It is unbelievable that in this age of drone technology, our security forces are helpless, when told that criminals operate in certain parts of Nigeria because soldiers cannot access those locations by vehicle.
Both Boko Haram and bandits have been with us for many years now; this challenge ought to have been tackled with either technology or other logistic devices for rapid response to distress calls in our rural communities. Lately, kidnappings have become rampant by criminals who are taking advantage of the security situation. All efforts must be made to stem the tide.
The Tinubu government plans to revamp the economy, but it must be stated clearly that this cannot be achieved unless there is security. Without security, there cannot be healthcare in rural communities, where bandits have destroyed primary healthcare clinics and sent nurses and doctors packing.
Without security, educational institutions cannot produce quality graduates. Criminals have destroyed thousands of schools and abducted secondary and tertiary education students.
Without security, there can be no food security, where bandits run riot on farms, set them on fire, kill farmers, and appropriate the land and harvests. Even the country’s railway system has been frozen as a result of insecurity, as bandits have taken it as a game to attack Nigeria’s trains. This government must prioritize security, as it provides the foundation for achieving development and other objectives.
It is a good thing that it is chasing investors and businesses to the country, but only security can give individuals, companies and countries the confidence to come to Nigeria. The base of the success of this government in addressing all our problems lies with security and addressing that should take centre stage.