Insecurity: Plugging the loopholes that paved way for resurgence
After a momentary period of relative peace in the country especially towards the end of 2019, which paved the way for hitch-free Christmas and New Year celebrations, the gains recorded in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping and other organised crimes appear to have been lost so far in 2020. There has been upsurge of these crimes this year. Boko Haram insurgents that Nigerians thought had been vanquished have effectively regrouped. They have successfully waylaid military operatives stationed in the Northeast, killing many of them and injuring many others; they have bombed soft targets killing scores of people and destroying properties worth millions of naira; they have set communities ablaze and forced residents to flee their ancestral homes.
Bandits and kidnappers have also been on rampage in Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Benue, Plateau, and even in some states in the southern part of the country. In Niger State in particular, about eight local councils had been reportedly under siege. Meanwhile, conflict between herdsmen and host communities is gradually rearing its ugly heads again with killings recorded almost on a daily basis. The statistics is scary even to the most carefree Nigerian who knows he/she could be the next victim.
On Sunday, February 9, for instance, Boko Haram insurgents who invaded Auno, 20 kilometres to Maiduguri, burned no fewer than 30 travellers to death. The victims included children and women. Two weeks before the Auno attack, the insurgents had killed two persons and their frozen fish carted away where they were sleeping in a truck because they could not meet the 5:00p.m deadline when the military usually shut the Maiduguri gate.
Also on January 6, the insurgents attacked Gamboru in the state, with no fewer than 30 persons killed after an improvised explosive device exploded on a bridge. On January 18, a soldier and four Boko Haram terrorists were killed during an attack on an aid facility in the Ngala area of the state. The attack also saw at least 20 internally displaced persons waiting for assistance at the facility killed. Two days later, many residents were abducted in confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents on the Bama-Gwoza highway. A day later, eight soldiers were reportedly killed during a battle with the Boko Haram insurgents in Kaga, Borno. The insurgents had disguised and moved in a police vehicle towards a military base, before opening fire on unsuspecting soldiers near their trench.
In Plateau State, bandits attacked Kwatas village, killing 15 people on January 26 and a day later descended on Marish and Ruboi villages killing 17 people. According to reports, the attackers also burnt four churches. In Katsina State, bandits also killed 30 people in Tsauwa and Dankar villages in the Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State on February 14. Reports had it that majority of the victims were the elderly and children even as the bandits also burnt down many houses.
In Delta State, there have been renewed attacks by suspected herdsmen in Avwon, Agadama, Ohoror and other communities of Uwheru Kingdom, Ughelli North local council of the state. In a recent attack, about eight people were reportedly killed in those communities while many others were injured. On Tuesday, February 18, travellers were stranded along the Akure-Benin Road, following protests by residents of Owan community in Ovia North East Local Government Area over the shooting of two community members by suspected herdsmen. The gunmen were said to have attacked the farmers in their farms and opened fire on them, killing them on the spot. Three days ago, reports also had it that suspected herdsmen killed two soldiers and injured another one in Plateau State.
The list of reported attacks by Boko Haram, kidnappers, bandits or herdsmen keeps growing by the day. Unfortunately, the security agencies have not been able to find a solution to the present threats. They appeal for calm each time the attackers strike and give assurances that they are on top of the situation but there seems to be no respite in sight.
In the face of the failure of the security agencies to arrest the situation, Nigerians have turned to prayers. Last Wednesday, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, asked the people of the state and other concerned Nigerians to fast on Monday, February 24, 2020, for the defeat of Boko Haram.
Zulum, who made the declaration during a very short state broadcast, said: “Even though this decision is based on the popular demand of our people, some observers may rightly argue that it is a strange call. But then, Borno has been befallen with a strange evil since 2009, and sometimes strange ailments require strange approaches.
“As your governor, I hereby declare Monday, February 24, 2020, as a day of devotion to pray for the return of peace in Borno. I intend to fast on that day and I appeal to every one of us in Borno, who can, to join in that simple, but pricelessly rewarding spiritual endeavour. I also appeal for the sacrifices of all other well-meaning friends and associates of Borno who can, to join us in fasting on Monday, insha’Allah, for the restoration of peace in Borno State and rest of Nigeria. I urge all of us to be steadfast in prayers.”
This declaration by Zulum depicts how helpless Nigerians have become in the face of insecurity. And many religious groups in the country, including Christians and Muslims, had in the past held special prayers for the restoration of peace and order. But the situation seems not to be changing, probably because as the saying goes, “heaven helps those that help themselves.” This is why some Nigerians, who spoke with The Guardian, believe that the situation could still be brought under control if certain steps are taken. Below are their views:
‘With Sophisticated Weapons, Proper Intelligence, War Against Terror Will Be Won’
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
A FORMER Commander of the 31 Airborne Brigade of the Para-Trooper Brigade in Makurdi, General Yakubu Rimdan, has proffered reasons for the current spate of insecurity in the country.Speaking with The Guardian in an interview, Rimdan, who also commanded the First and Fourth Guard Battalions in Lagos, explained fighting insurgency or terrorism is not like a conventional warfare where you plan to face your enemies.
Rimdan therefore noted that routing the insurgents requires the cooperation of the citizens. His words: “In a conventional war, you have to sit down, plan and attack based on the military law and based on where the enemies are located.“But the so-called terrorists or insurgents are not permanent. They are always on the move. If they know that the military is not in a place, they will move there to attack. But if they know that the military is somewhere, they will try to run away so that they will not be caught.
“You see, cooperation will have to come from the civil populace; the vigilante, the people on the ground have to give the military sufficient information about the movement of the terrorists,” Rimdan stated.He said that the situation could easily be dealt with if villagers who know about the movement of the terrorists report to the village heads/chiefs and then to the military.On the agitation for the sack of the service chiefs, Rimdan said they should be brought to book if it was proved that they were supporting the terrorists.
“But in a situation where you simply suspect or you speculate that the service chiefs are not doing well, then we need to be circumspect. You see, the service chiefs are not in the battlefields; they are not in the arena where the war is being carried out. Their own is to give directives and we have field commanders. If you say the service chiefs should be removed, it means the field commanders, who are in charge of the people should also be removed, which I don’t think is the answer to the problem.
“What I believe should be done is there should be more intelligence work by the entire leadership of the armed forces. They should work hand in hand with other military elements. They have to work hand in hand in a well-coordinated effort so they will be able to carry out some of the attacks on the insurgents. I think our intelligence gathering can be improved so that we will know where these insurgents are so that they can be dealt with,” he added.
On the issue of pardoning and reintegrating repentant insurgents, Rimdan said government should realise that there were hardened criminals among them who are not ready to surrender, saying these were the ones causing havoc in the society. On negotiation with bandits, Rimdan said the practice was criminal in itself.
“There should be no negotiation at all. Negotiating for what? Negotiating with armed robbers? Negotiating with terrorists? You don’t negotiate with these people. That is my believe. You don’t negotiate with anybody.
“If the military is going out for operation, they go out for operation based on intelligence gathering. When you go there you are not going to negotiate with anybody. To negotiate with criminals is not the right thing to do,” he said. Rimdan recalled that the insurgents shot at the Nigerian Airforce plane in Sambisa forest, asking: “What are you negotiating for? The terrorists were there destroying everything. I don’t think there is any need to negotiate at all. If you are going to negotiate, then you are part and parcel of the problem and you are supporting the terrorists.”
He acknowledged that winning the war against terror in the country would not be easy, adding that there was need to restrategise and get the theatre commanders together.
“They are in the field. They know where the shoes pinch, because they are there directly. They know where the problems lie. The theatre commanders know exactly what they are going through. The soldiers are complaining. The armed forces are complaining of lack of sophisticated weapons. The Federal Government has to come in and provide the necessary weapons.“They should have enough weapons to carry out the attacks. They have to know where these insurgents are and to carry out the attacks on them,” he said.
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