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The bounty on bandits

In a heightened bid to, once and for all, wipe out all the criminal elements that have made the country unsafe for Nigerians, the Defence…

In a heightened bid to, once and for all, wipe out all the criminal elements that have made the country unsafe for Nigerians, the Defence Headquarters recently released the names and identities of 19 terrorists’ commanders who have been wreaking havoc particularly in North East, North West and North Central Nigeria. The Military High Command said it would give N5m to any Nigerian with information on how the terrorists could be captured; urging the public to provide useful details.  This, according to military authorities, became imperative to finish the war against bandits and secure the country.

Cheering successes recorded in recent weeks in the war against bandits, kidnappers and terrorists saw the end, during offensives in Kankomi forest in Kaduna State, of Kachalla Gudau. He was a notorious bandit who commanded a large number of foot-soldiers that carried out kidnapping and killings in Chikun, Kachia and Kajuru LGAs of Kaduna State. ‘Rigimamme’, one of Gudau’s criminal aides, was among the bandits neutralised in the offensives. The Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said Gudau played leading roles in the joint kidnapping of students and expatriates in southern Kaduna.

Another bandits’ commander, Dogo Maikasuwa, also known as ‘Dogo Maimillion’, has been killed by troops of the Nigerian Army. Dogo, who had a long era of ruthless attacks, was said to be one of the deadliest bandits leading other elements in terrorising citizens plying the Kaduna-Kachia road, and in communities within Chikun and Kajuru LGAs. Dogo often killed kidnapped victims when ransom was delayed or considered meagre. He ran into an ambush laid by operatives in the Gengere-Kaso area where he was neutralized.

Also, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji (OHD) on October 20, 2022, took their battle to bandits’ enclave at Gando Forest in Anka LGA of Zamfara State and in the process neutralized two terrorists, including one identified as Mr Ibrahim Chire, a notorious bandit leader known for terrorising Gando, Gwashi, Bukkuyum and Anka general areas. Similarly, troops of OHD neutralised two other bandits, including a notorious kingpin identified as Bada during separate operations in Zamfara. Bada was said to have attacked Yar-Tashar village market and killed some farmers on October 13, 2022. He was killed during a gun duel that ensued between troops and bandits during an attack on farmers while harvesting their farm produce. The troops had also on November 6, 2022, neutralised another criminal element at Gamraki village, Kwatarkwashi District of Bungudu LGA in Zamfara State where they engaged bandits who had kidnapped two locals.

Following these successes, many of the once dreaded bandits’ warlords may seem to be on the run; an indication that Nigerian troops are now winning the war against bandits. We commend the military for these successes. Usually, criminals are declared wanted when they are fleeing or evading arrest. In either case, the bandits seem to have evidently lost the vigour to continue with the battle.

However, many Nigerians still express doubt if the military’s placement of bounty on bandits’ kingpins would end the era of terror unleashed on the country by kidnappers. The fears of such Nigerians appear justified when reasons are sought to explain why it took the military so long before declaring the terror kingpins wanted or even making daring efforts at neutralising or capturing them alive.

It was incredible how, for example, a bandits’ leader called Ado Aleiro was declared wanted by the police command in Katsina State, with a N5 million bounty shortly after he led a gang of criminals to attack Kadisau in Faskari LGA of Katsina State, in June,2020, yet continued to walk around freely. Indeed, it was ridiculous and scandalous that two years after the police had announced a bounty on him,  the same Ado Aleiro was on July 16, 2022, publicly turbaned as Sarkin Fulani in Yandoto community of Zamfara State.

However, in spite of the reservations expressed over what many consider hollow, the hope to defeat banditry and kidnapping is still not lost.  For this bounty strategy to go farther than mere pronouncement, security agents who are believed by Nigerians to know the forests where these criminals operate from would have to stop being part of the problem by carrying out their duties professionally and with utmost sense of patriotism. Troops need to practically do more if only to actualise President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to leave a legacy of a secure Nigeria, including holding peaceful elections.

Intelligence gathering and use should be prioritised by troops and all other security agencies. Bandits captured alive should be used to track their commanders. The high-tech information offered by the SIM-NIN linkage must be explored to the fullest in the war against bandits. The bounty declaration is an opportunity for the wanted criminals to surrender and stay alive. If they refuse, we encourage operatives to deploy their professional expertise to neutralise them and secure the lives and property of Nigerians. It’s time for the country to defeat bandits and face the critical challenges of development.