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Review operation strategies in North West

In recent weeks, the Nigerian security services have cranked up efforts to confront banditry in the North West region of the country. Operation Hadarin Daji,…

In recent weeks, the Nigerian security services have cranked up efforts to confront banditry in the North West region of the country. Operation Hadarin Daji, which has been ongoing in parts of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and other states in the region over the last few weeks, has seen the government taking certain extreme measures to limit the capacity of these criminals and ensure maximum success by the security forces.

Some of these measures have included the shutting down of telecom networks in the affected parts of the states since September. The objective was to cut off communications between bandits and their informants within the communities. While this is believed to have aided operations, it has not been without consequences for civilians, and indeed for the military as well.

While bandits have found ways of circumventing this telecom blockade by tapping into telecom services from neighbouring Niger Republic, law-abiding Nigerians residing in these areas have been cut off from other parts of the country. In some instances, this means they cannot call for help when they are attacked by bandits. This, therefore, shows that adequate preparations were not made before the strategies were implemented.  There should have been in place an alternative plan for communication, especially among the security agents.

The September 25 bandits’ attack on the military’s forward operating base in Burkusuma, in Sokoto State, left scores of soldiers, police and civil defence officers dead. This could have been averted or thwarted, if the soldiers had accessed telecom services to call for backup as their communication system was down.

Considering the sensitivity of these operations, the federal government could have reached out to its ally in Niger Republic to ensure that bandits do not have access to that country’s telecom services, which have rendered the shutdown on the Nigerian side less effective. Efforts should also have been made to ensure that these bandits do not have escape routes to neighbouring countries, from where they could later return to inflict damage on Nigerians.

This also brings into question the NIN linkage with SIM cards, which was principally designed to help track criminals who use telecom services for criminal activities. The haphazard nature of that procedure and the fact that months after it was initiated it is yet to aid significantly in the fight against banditry and kidnapping is a sad commentary.

The gallantry of our soldiers at the frontlines is noteworthy and must be commended. The government needs to ensure that the morale and welfare of these brave Nigerians remain high, that the injured will be adequately catered for and that those who lay their lives for the country are remembered, honoured, and their loved ones cared for.

To ensure no casualties on the parts of our soldiers and civilians, it is imperative that the military properly works out its strategy to confront these criminals. The bandits and their camps need to be identified, surrounded and precisely targeted while escape routes for them are cut off. A situation where bandits dislodged from one forest, gain easy access to unguarded villages to take out their anger on defenceless Nigerians should be avoided.

News reports indicate that attacks by bandits such as the ones in Kagara in Niger State, Madamai village in Kaduna and villages in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states have left at least 282 civilians dead since these extreme measures were adopted in September. Operations strategy is the core function of the military top brass, and it is shocking that our military has been unable to come up with an effective strategy to end banditry and return life to normal in these areas. With each passing day of failed strategies, the bandits become more and more confident, as exemplified by their boastful comments in the videos many Nigerians have seen. The failure of these strategists over the years in coming up with a comprehensive solution to terrorism, banditry and other criminalities bedevilling the country makes for sober reading.

With the loopholes noticed in the strategies so far deployed in the operations in the North West, it is essential that the security services, while keeping the pressure on these criminals, modify their strategy to maximise its impact and cut down on the avoidable suffering inflicted on law-abiding Nigerians who are going about their legitimate businesses.

We also strongly urge the governors of the affected states to provide palliatives for ordinary people in their states that have been affected by the measures taken, especially the shutdown of markets. The federal government, other state governments, and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians should also provide humanitarian assistance to Nigerians living under these harsh circumstances. Doing so is, we think, a gesture of fellow-feeling characteristic of common citizenship. Above all, however, the military offensive in the North West must not fail.

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