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How COVID-19, violence compound Northern governors’ woes

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Gov. Mohammed (centre) flanked by stakeholders while handing over recovered arms to police at the Government House, Bauchi.

Assailed by a very huge human population and expansive landmass, there was no need second-guessing the fact that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic would present additional burden for the governors of the 19 northern states.

Most Nigerians were nonplussed as to why the governors delayed to lockdown its borders, as part of the containment measures against the highly contagious virus, otherwise known as COVID-19 pandemic. But, it took two meetings by teleconference, for the governors to come to terms with the grave dangers posed by the ravaging pandemic.

Coming at a time the governors were putting heads together to find a workable solution to the rising menace of banditry, criminality and wanton violence, COVID-19 no doubt, amounted to an extra task on the governors amid declining revenues.

Perhaps, the message sank when one of them, the governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Bala Mohammed, tested positive to the coronavirus. However, at the teleconference chaired by the Chairman of Northern States’ Governors’ Forum, NSGF), Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, who is also the governor of Plateau State, the governors took a second look at their huge population and resolved to tame the ubiquitous Almajiris by banning the ancient method of imparting knowledge and moral education.

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The governors also explained the rationale for their initial decision to seek a special funding, palliatives and testing centres as preconditions for the total lockdown of the zone against the spread of the coronavirus disease.

In their second meeting in a space of one month, the governors disclosed that they are taking a cue from Kano, Kaduna and Nasarawa states, by returning Almajiri children to their families and states of origin, noting that those without parents would be taken care of by respective governments.

At the meeting, the NSGF received briefing via teleconferencing with 17 participating governors on some of the issues discussed at their last meeting and the follow up on developments.

Lalong informed his colleagues that based on their previous resolutions, he conveyed their concerns to President Muhammadu Buhari on the need for the region to access special funding, palliatives, testing centres and other forms of support to assist the region deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

He disclosed that after appreciating the governors’ inputs, the President assured him of the support of the Federal Government within the context of his administration’s programmes both under the Corona Virus response and under other incentives to farmers and states.

According to a statement made available to The Guardian by the Director of Press and Public Affairs, Plateau State Governor, Dr. Makut Simon Macham, the NSGF further discussed the issue of COVID-19 Testing Centres within the Northern Region, noting that some improvements have been recorded.

“However, they once again insisted that all states in the region should have at least one centre in order to make the detection of the disease and its management easier and faster. On border control and lockdown measures, the NSGF retained their earlier resolution that individual states should decide on the measure to adopt,” the statement noted.

While reaffirming the need for border closures to stop inter-state spread of the disease, which is rising in the region, the governors also discussed the risk posed by Almajiri children, especially based on their high level of exposure to the Corona Virus disease.

NSGF also vowed never to allow the Almajiri system persist any longer, citing the social challenges associated with it, including the perpetuation of poverty, illiteracy, insecurity and social disorder.

The highpoint of the virtual meeting was the engagement of NSGF with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammed Sabo Nanono, on the incentives available to Nigerian farmers and how those in their region can benefit.

In his response, the Agric Minister outlined all the agricultural programmes, including provision of farm inputs and fertilizers, cluster farming, training and deployment of extension workers, provision of rural roads, value chain addition, development of irrigation facilities, agro-mechanization and mobilization of agro-rangers.

The governors lamented the rapid deforestation in the region and resolved to take tougher curtailment measures, even as they also raised concerns about the challenges of insecurity, especially the activities of bandits, Boko Haram insurgents, Kidnappers and other criminals that heighten the risks faced by farmers.

But, no sooner than the governors rounded off their meeting, than fresh reports about banditry in some states started making the rounds. Although the governors have resolved to make concerted efforts and evolve common strategies to tackle the menace of COVID-19, they are taking individual actions on the issue of security, especially violence.

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Bauchi: Security, Mohammed’s Nightmare
At a time he was afflicted with the coronavirus and battling to survive, Governor Mohammed received the shocking report of his elder brother’s abduction. Few minutes after Mongrib prayer that fateful March 25, Alhaji Adamu Mohammed Duguri, never knew his abductors were waiting to whisk him to their dungeon.

The unknown gunmen picked him up without any resistance from neighborhood at about 7:30pm at Anguwar Jaki in Bauchi metropolis. The residents became apprehensive, not knowing what Adamu’s kidnappers might do to him, being the governor’s brother.

Many believed that he must have been kidnapped to punish the governor. For some days there was no communication from his abductors. The puzzle became heightened, just as security agents deployed more operatives on rescue mission.

After five days, Adamu’s family offered N2, 000,000 for useful information capable of leading to his rescue. Although it was not disclosed whether ransom was paid, Adamu Mohammed had spent 13 days in kidnappers’ den before he breathed the air of freedom.

He was not hurt. Friends, family and political appointees kept on visiting. Adamu said he has forgiven his abductors, but advised them to desist from criminality.

It was a sad day for Doctor Auwal Suleiman, who was on duty fighting the spread of Coronavirus in the state when he was called that his 15 year-old boy, Abubakar Sodiq, who was in SS2 had been kidnapped.

Dr. Suleiman, one of the personal physicians of former Governor Isa Yuguda, disclosed that the abductors demanded N10million, but later received N4.5million. Despite the ransom, the kidnappers killed the boy after 11 days in their den.

Like a weird joke, Dr. Suleiman said he got a phone call from the Police, claiming that they have arrested three suspects in connection with the incident. He said the police invited him to “come and see them after confessing to the crime. We found out that one of them has purchased Mercedes Benz car worth N2.3m, three phones worth N160,000. They said one of them was in Azare. He was arrested and all of them are in Police custody.”

According to the Police, the suspects took officers to where Dr. Suleiman’s son was buried. His corpse was exhumed for identification before it was given a befitting burial.

Still on the diary of crimes defining the new wave of insecurity in the state, on January 31, the family of a 29 years old man identified as Luke Oguguo Anyanwu was thrown into panic and melancholy after the lifeless body of their son was identified at mortuary at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi.

Luke, as popularly known as Afrikana was into entertainment and a Master’s degree student in one of the universities in Lagos according to a family member who spoke to The Guardian.

His body was picked up at Rafin Zufi area of Bauchi metropolis and deposited at the Hospital, where his family identified the lifeless body.

The Police spokesman in the state, DSP Abubakar Kamal Datti, said the Police was on the case adding that the command was still investigating to unravel the cause of Luke’s death.

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Shadows Of Sara-Suka
They used to be everywhere in Bauchi State. Boys within the age ranges of 16 to 27 called the Sara-Suka boys. Disgruntled politicians often contract them to terrorise the polity.

But over the years, after electoral activities, the youths return to streets to be laws unto themselves as they unleash terror and carry out petty robberies.

Although in July last year, over 500 of the boys voluntarily renounced their association with crime, pleading with the government to engage or create skill acquisition training for them, this year the state of their shadows emerged.

When they sought amnesty, weapons were laid down at the Police Headquarters in the state. But last two months, a renowned hunter, Ali Kwara and his team recovered 43 rifles alongside 1,117 live ammunitions hidden at the Lame/Burra forest in Ningi Local Government Area of the state.

Reacting to the upsurge in crime in the state, a former Head, Department of Crime Management and Control; Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi, Comrade Abdullahi Yelwa, highlighted the fundamental issues.

Yelwa, blamed collapse in the family structure, adducing other factors to include “infiltration of people from other cultures or negligence of parents, who have abandoned their role of proper parenting.”

He stated: “Once a family is disorganised, everything is in shambles. That’s the situation. There is high rate of divorce. Many children are being nurtured by stepfathers and stepmothers, many men have refused to stay within the confines of their economic reality –they marry and divorce and accumulate children they cannot cater for. And because of this irresponsibility, you have many uncultured children and this has led to such problems.”

Lalong (left), Secretary to the Government of Plateau State, Prof. Danladi Abok Atu during Northern Governors Forum Teleconferencing…recently

Yelwa added that peer influence and drug addiction have exacerbated the situation among youths, both males and females. He maintained that the abuse of substance can intoxicate addicts to carry out any criminal act, noting that social media also contributes to the problem by way of exposing young lads to flamboyant and fake life, which they want to live by all means without willingness to work for such.

“Going by law of nature, you cannot separate pleasure from pressure, no pain no gain. Things put altogether, we are too individualistic in our dealings nowadays, it is not individual responsibility of anyone to raise a child. There is no more community parenting,” Yelwa said.

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The former HOD recalled that the culture in Bauchi metropolis and other main cities of the state used to be that young men feel too big to take certain occupations, choosing rather to get alert for what they have not done.

“That is why we used to have people appointed as P.A, S.A and others without doing anything and get paid. If anyone gives you money without teaching you how to make it, he is just raising a glorified armed robber. And till today, it is manifesting, because these people that are used to spending and receiving money from government no longer see it again. These are not artisans, they don’t have any job,” he stressed.

Governor Mohammed, who seems to be aware of the situation before his inauguration, noted that there are “thousands of frustrated young school leavers without jobs, economic empowerment programs or any social safety nets, many of our youths have become ready recruits into self destructing drug addiction and gangster rings…this is a clear and present danger. It must be confronted and tackled without delay.

Also, Special Adviser to the governor on security, Brig. Gen. Mathias Yake, believes that the governor has drastically reduced the activities of Sara-Suka, adding that on the issue of drug addiction among youths “the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) doing all it can to rehabilitate them.”

“The issue of hoodlums, criminality and all that, are always there in any society, but it is left for the security agencies to be able to uncover it; knowing the root and doing something about it. This is going on, some arrests have been made, but every case that has to do with murder has to be handled with care, because we don’t make noise about it so that the criminals won’t know the strategy we are using,” Yake stated.

Katsina: Resurgence Of Banditry
On a day some residents claimed that they recovered 70 bodies, security agents said they were mobilizing against possible invasion by bandits into some border communities in Katsina State.

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Penultimate weekend, some bandits invaded six communities in Safana, Dutsinma and Danmusa local government areas of Katsina State and killed scores of residents, including women and children, even as the police confirmed the killing of 47 people during the attacks.

Residents who claimed that 70 and not 47 bodies were recovered, disclosed that dozens of their fellow residents were seriously injured while houses were burnt and valuables, including food items and money, were carted away by the bandits.

The attacks were said to have occurred shortly after relief materials were shared to some members of the affected communities to cushion hardship brought about by the deadly coronavirus.

Sources said the bandits, armed with sophisticated weapons, stormed the affected communities in their hundreds, riding on motorcycles in twos and threes.

It was learnt that many residents who refused to give up their relief materials or other belongings were beaten while unlucky ones were shot dead.

According to the source, some of the community members initially resisted the attacks but were overwhelmed when reinforcement came for the bandits.

He said the general hospitals in the affected council areas had received bodies of those killed and were attending to the injured as some of the community members fled their homes in fear.

Another source told The Guardian that the attacks might be reprisal in nature, coming after some vigilantes locally called Yansakai, allegedly stormed some Fulani settlements and drove them away from the area.

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He said the communities were worried that the Fulani settlements were attracting bandits living inside the forest to the area, and that some of the herdsmen were acting as informants to the criminals.

One of the sources, who gave a breakdown of the bodies of the victims so far recovered, said 30 were recovered in two villages in Danmusa council, 17 at Gurzar Kaka, and 13 in Gurzar Gamji, among others.

Police Public Relations Officer, Katsina State Police Command, Gambo Isah, who said 47 persons lost their lives in the attacks, disclosed how bandits in their numbers, armed with AK47 rifles attacked Kurechi village of Danmusa LGA of Katsina State.

“The villagers summoned courage and chased away the hoodlums. Later the villagers started burning down empty corn stalk to keep their animals safe and to keep the hoodlums at bay.
“Subsequently, the situation changed when some Yansakai group (local vigilantes) started setting ablaze some Fulani settlements at Aibon Mangwaro village of Danmusa LGA of Katsina State.”

The police spokesman said an operation is still going on as detachments of police, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Air Force, Civil Defence and Directorate of State Services (DSS) have been drafted to the area.

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