Secessionist agitations and insecurity are rising across the country but security agencies’ approach to tackling them appears divisive, ADELANI ADEPEGBA reports
A notorious bandit operating within the precincts of Zamfara State forest recently boasted about his operations and exploits against the Nigerian military.
In a trending video, the bandit who was identified by his alias, Dankarami, was holding a rifle while surrounded by a crowd.
He granted an interview to some persons suspected to be government officials, including policemen. In the video which lasted four minutes, 40 seconds, the dreadlocked bandit was heard boasting about his ambushes against military convoys in Zamfara State.
Narrating his deadly exploits, Dankarami said, “After three months, they brought in soldiers and took them to Dumburum. I allowed them. My house was under the road they passed; I let them.
“I relocated my wives and stayed alone with my boys. One evening, on the fourth day, on their way from Gusau, I dealt with them (soldiers).
“They sent another team and I killed half of them. Another evening, they ambushed my brothers who were bringing me supplies and seized their motorcycles. They joined forces with Niger State. I dealt with them. I’m still here till tomorrow.
“No one can arrest me unless I let them. Whatever they (my boys) want to do, they won’t do until I say so. The other day, they went to Zurmi and kidnapped children, small children. I was sleeping at home; they said there were 40 people. I took them back. Since our parents pleaded with us to return the children, did we collect a single naira? Did anyone give us anything?
Apart from Dankarami who relished the killing of security operatives and abduction of innocent people, there are hundreds of other gun-wielding outlaws holding sway in different forests in the North whom the government has tacitly given the licence to kill, steal and destroy.
In Katsina State, bandits have killed over 1,500 citizens, and rustled thousands of livestock while Governor Aminu Masari appears helpless.
He had been pictured with various bandit leaders, who, after collecting huge sums, abandon the so-called amnesty offered by his administration.
The Secretary to the Katsina State Government, Mustapha Inuwa, revealed in July 2020, that the government spent N30m on the last failed amnesty programme.
The fund was used to buy surrendered weapons from ‘repentant bandits’ who went back into crime after deceiving the government.
Five months after vowing never to negotiate again with the bandits, Masari hosted two gang leaders, 30-year-old Sale Turwa and 33-year-old Muhammed Sani Maidaji at the Government House.
Promising a change of heart, the two men surrendered 10 AK-47 rifles to the governor during the meeting which was also attended by the heads of security agencies in the state, including the police, the Department of State Services, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Speaking at the state police command headquarters last month, the governor asked the residents to defend themselves, noting that the people should not rely on the security agencies to protect them.
Not a few Nigerians were annoyed by the statement from a man who was elected and paid to protect his people.
Rather than tackle the bandits, the Muhammadu Buhari regime appears to be indirectly encouraging an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, to meet with the bandits frequently.
The cleric has been demanding amnesty for the hoodlums, while also suggesting that they should be engaged to guard the forests.
In Zamfara, rampaging bandits have prevented farmers from going to their farms. This has worsened the famine situation in the state.
The state governor, Bello Mattawalle, hobnobbed with the outlaws, gave them vehicles and money in what appeared like futile efforts to buy them off.
Sadly, reports have since indicated that the bandits have been using the donated resources to further their noxious business.
While the government and security agencies are pampering the outlaws who have become more emboldened, the regime has been going after propagators of secession in the country, especially in the South.
Many Nigerians thought the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, was about announcing a major breakthrough in the security crisis facing the nation during his hastily arranged press conference a few days ago.
But an apparently happy and satisfied Malami had something else to share.
Sitting behind a battery of microphones, the Minister of Justice triumphantly disclosed that security agencies had apprehended Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra. The news which was short on details brewed speculations on how and where he was arrested and the manner of his extradition.
Some applauded the government for apprehending the Biafra leader, but a huge number of Nigerians argued that the Federal Government should focus on the urgent security situation instead of chasing gnats while the nation implodes.
Mass abductions of students and large-scale killings have assumed pandemic proportions under the Muhammadu Buhari regime.
About 110 female students of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State were kidnapped on February 19, 2018; on December 11, 2020, over 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State were abducted by bandits.
On February 17, 2021, a student was killed while 27 other students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State, were also whisked away by gunmen.
Similarly, 279 students of Government Girls Science School, Jangebe, Zamfara, were abducted on February 26, 2021.
A group of gunmen took away 39 students from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna on March 11.
The victims spent two months with their captors before they were released. The bandits also abducted 23 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, on April 20.
Despite collecting over N55m from the parents of the students, the gunmen murdered five students while insisting on additional N100m ransom.
Last Tuesday, five soldiers and nine villagers were killed, while 104 people were abducted in three communities in Zamfara State.
Over 700 persons were said to have been kidnapped since December under General Buhari’s watch.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between the start of January and the end of November 2020, there were a total of 142 attacks by Boko Haram or ISWAP insurgents in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, an average of 13 incidents a month. At least 1,606 people were killed in 125 fatal incidents, making an average of 13 deaths per violent event in the Boko Haram insurgency in 2020.
The United Nations Development Programme reports that nearly 350,000 people have been killed in the North-East in the past 12 years. Also, 1.9 million people currently live in Internally Displaced Persons camps in the North.
In a report on the insurgency released with the Ministry of Finance early this year, the UNDP said many more had died from the indirect effects of the conflict, citing damage to agriculture, water, trade, food and healthcare.
If the conflict continues to 2030, more than 1.1 million people may die, according to the agency. The UNDP noted that needs would remain high for vulnerable people in 2021 and 8.7 million people would require urgent assistance
“Up to 5.1 million people risk being critically food insecure during the next lean season (June – August 2021), a level similar to 2016-2017 when famine was looming over Borno State,” it warned.
Forty-eight hours after Kanu’s secret extradition, the Department of State Services invaded the residence of Yoruba rights activist, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, in Soka, Ibadan. Two persons were killed during the raid while 13 persons were arrested. The raid, which was carried out at night, has however, sparked anger among Nigerians with many expressing fury over the deployment of state power and violence against secessionists.
Reacting, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State urged the Federal Government to demonstrate the same zeal put into the arrest of the IPOB leader , against the leaders of militia herdsmen and Miyetti Allah “who have owned up to the killings in the state.”
The governor, who spoke while inaugurating the sale of fertilizer in Makurdi, said, “If the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity to arrest Nnamdi Kanu, they should also exhibit the same zeal, will and decision to arrest the Fulani herdsmen that are terrorising our state and country. Let that be done, they are living here with us.
“If Nnamdi Kanu can be arrested from a foreign land, I believe that if the Federal Government can exhibit the same will, they will arrest Fulani herdsmen, especially Miyetti Allah who have owned up to the killings in Benue State and have continued to terrorise our land; if the Federal Government does not do that, it means that they are not serious.”
In the same vein, a Tiv group, Mzough U Tiv Worldwide, expressed concern over the refusal of the FG to arrest killer herdsmen terrorising parts of the state.
In a statement, the President General of MUT, Chief Iorbee Ihagh, drew the attention of the government to the security situation and the attendant danger to food production.
It said, ”We are deeply concerned and worried that the Federal Government has refused to look inwards by arresting leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other violent Fulani groups who openly threaten and carry out attacks on communities in Benue and other states of this country without any form of resistance.”
A former Assistant Director of the DSS, Mr Dennis Amachree, however, defended the agency’s action against Kanu and Igboho, describing the men as low-hanging security threats which should be nipped in the bud.
He stated, “The country as a whole is going through a crisis but the government has also been seen as not doing anything about it. Now, the government is trying to do something about it by going for the low-hanging fruits trying to arrest people like Kanu whom they have been looking for, for a while; arrest people like Igboho who is trying to look for self-determination for Yorubaland but intelligence report has shown that he is having guns in his possession.”
Amachree disclosed that the security forces had overwhelmed the insurgents and bandits, stressing that kidnapping incidents had reduced nationwide due to increased operations against criminals.
A security analyst, Ben Okezie, also argued that the security forces had largely eliminated the insurgents, noting that a major onslaught against bandits in Zamfara was also ongoing. He also justified the actions against Kanu and Igboho.
He stated, “They (DSS) knew that Igboho might eventually become another serious case and due to the fact that he has arms, the DSS moved against him. He is not an institution, why would he have more than one firearm?”
Okezie was nevertheless silent on why the government has refused to deploy the same zeal it unleashed on both Kanu and Igboho against bandits and killer herdsmen who are continuing in their deadly activities in the country almost unchallenged.
According to some analysts, Nigerians are keen to know whether the bandits and other criminals the government and its officials are engaging in talks are institutions.