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Tackling terror and killings on the highways

By Editorial Board
10 December 2021   |   3:25 am
There can be no contention that government’s regular claim of triumph of security forces over the spate of insurgency in many parts of the North is not supported by equally regular and even more frequent deadly attacks...

There can be no contention that government’s regular claim of triumph of security forces over the spate of insurgency in many parts of the North is not supported by equally regular and even more frequent deadly attacks on hapless citizens. This much can be gleaned from the recent dastardly attack by marauding terrorists on the busy Abuja-Kaduna highway; and the gruesome killing of 23 travellers in Sokoto State. Both incidents have again brought to the fore the alarming spate of insecurity in Northern Nigeria in particular and the country in general.

The Abuja-Kaduna highway, a critical route, for that matter, linking Abuja, the federal capital city with Kaduna, the political headquarters of Northern Nigeria, has become a nightmare for travellers plying the road. Virtually no day passes without an incident of violent attack and abduction of innocent travellers. In the case of the Sokoto incident, the victims were burnt to ashes in the vehicle conveying them, a deliberate act of the terrorists.

The attack on Kaduna-Abuja highway mimicked previous deadly onslaughts, eyewitness accounts and police sources say scores of people were abducted during the attack. A member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governorship aspirant in Zamfara in 2015 and 2019, Mr. Sagir Hamida, was brutally murdered during the operation while his police orderly was abducted. This is lamentable.

Following the panic and commotion that ensued, travellers were forced to abandon their vehicles while some others veered off the road with shattered windshields and flat tyres. And despite reported arrival of soldiers subsequently, the terrorists briskly finished their operation and disappeared into the bush with many people. In Sokoto, the Commissioner of Police, Kamaludeen Okunola confirmed that about 23 persons, all travellers were attacked and killed in their vehicle.

The constant loss of human lives as a result of these attacks is heart-rending, particularly as they come against claims by government security agencies that the war against insurgency is being won. Clearly, government should be concerned of its failure to secure the lives of Nigerians, which is supposed to be its primary purpose, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

The despair of Nigerians can only be imagined as they watch helplessly while criminals exterminate them, and law enforcement agencies appear powerless. Some locals and security experts said the only way to tackle the menace of bandits on the Abuja-Kaduna highway is to have permanent surveillance along the road. That may be so, but can the country afford to station policemen and soldiers on every road and at every hour? As this is not possible, isn’t it time for government to begin to explore an effective way to carry out its constitutional and sacred duty of protecting lives and property of Nigerians?

If a regular security presence on the highway will put a stop to the menace of bandits and kidnappers, why then is both the federal and Kaduna State governments not taking full control of the highway? Why should the terrorists be allowed to have the upper hand while the security forces stand on the fence? In particular, the Federal Government should accept its singular responsibility to safeguard lives, given that all official security paraphernalia are within its control and command.

As things stand, the road is not safe and the railway is not safe. The other day the terrorists stalled a passenger train on the same route in the middle of nowhere.  What would the people do? How would they move about for daily living? The Abuja-Kaduna highway is an important arterial road that should not be left to terrorists to take over. The unceasing reign of terror on the road is an indictment on the government, which regrettably, has abdicated its legitimate responsibility leaving the people in a hopeless situation.

It is again worth asking: Where is President Muhammadu Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces, while terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and sundry criminals have virtually overrun the country. Nowhere is safe. What legacy is this administration leaving for posterity? Is there really hope of an end to insecurity considering that terrorism and insurgency have lingered for over 10 years, putting Nigerians on the receiving end? Surely that is embarrassing for a government so-called.

Insinuations of sabotage on the part of the military should not be ruled out or treated with levity. Every now and then, Nigerian troops are ambushed and killed in large numbers by the terrorists. What could be behind that other than compromise? For how long will Nigerians live in a state of fear and apprehension? Is it not a fact that terrorists, kidnappers and killers in the country are always a step ahead of security agencies? This should be unacceptable to government.

The challenge is on Buhari to redeem his image. What is happening under his watch is absolutely not in the interest of his administration. The country is steadily going down and the government appears helpless. The country is fast attaining the status of a pariah or a failing state. Buhari can no longer ignore the bare fact that the country’s security architecture as presently constituted is no match for the current challenges. He needs to diversify security outfits and divest responsibilities to the federating units through a restructuring of the country into a true federalism. The present over bloated structure of one central military and one police is counterproductive and will not bring positive results.

Nigeria is fast losing trained manpower, needlessly so, in an insurgency that appears to be out of control. Structures like Amotekun and Ebubeagu regional security outfits are needed to protect the people. But they should be properly equipped for such responsibility. It is surprising that the Northern state governments have not made any move towards having such security outfits despite the magnitude of insecurity in the region.

Security is a warfare issue. There should be reasonable defence in the face of a vicious warfare that is out to annihilate people.