At the time when our gallant and patriotic army is recording tremendous victories against the dissident Boko Haram in the northeastern Nigeria, banditry, kidnapping and communal crises are gaining footing in especially Northwestern part of the country.
From Zamfara State to Katsina State, from Kaduna State to Plateau State, from Benue State to Taraba State, tens of villages have been sacked, hundreds of people maimed, dozens of houses burnt to ashes, mass burials conducted, hundreds of cows hacked to death, ransom in millions of naira paid, and IDP camps opened.
Front row narratives have it that the last resort to most of the villages affected by banditry and kidnapping is to evacuate from their ancestral lands, leaving those familiar words – their houses, farms, animals, markets and ancestors’ headstones – behind.
Only those who experienced or saw the reign of terror staged by banditry or kidnapping face-to-face can aptly put in words the real atrocities their assailants had smuggled to the communities. To imagine it, is to dwarf the inhuman exercise.
However, widespread violence has made not only the north politically unstable; but Nigeria by extension. The peaceful atmosphere the north enjoyed hitherto is being whipped mercilessly by the tides of instability. Only God knows who or which community will be the next victim.
Bandits in Zamfara State are overstretching their operations. Last week, intoxicated by some successes, the cruel bandits attacked a government secondary school in Zurmi, Zamfara State, forced their way and carted away an unspecified number of people.
Just two months back, bandits allegedly killed 17 worshippers in an attack on a Jumaat Mosque in Dumana village in the same Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The same tactics of blocking roads, keeping their motorcycles from afar and sporadic shootings were employed in both attacks. Now, in many parts of Zamfara State, piercing sounds of gunshots, bloody sights, mourning, burials and probably a league of the bereaved is a commonplace.
In Katsina State, it is the same gory story. Even before bandits numbering over 200 chanting war songs surrounded Gobirawa Village in Safana Local Government Area, which was later repelled by armed security personnel or that gory clash between a civilian task force and bandits in Tsamiyar Jino Village in Kankara Local Government Area that claimed many lives, hell, death and destruction are bywords in many Katsina communities.
On May 2, 2019, as reported by Vanguard, 17 persons were killed in an attack by armed bandits. Bandits’ attack in Sabuwa Local Government Area left ten dead. Not fewer than 23 people were killed, numerous shops, houses and vehicles razed in a bandit attack in two communities in Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State. The list goes on and on.
Go to Kaduna State. 55 people were grimly murdered in what was tagged a “communal crisis” at Kasuwar Magani in Kajuru Local Government Area. As usual, security operatives were dispatched to the affected area to curb the spread of the crisis and restore normalcy. The no-nonsense El-Rufai administration imposed a 24-hour curfew.
Later, some arrests were made by the state’s police command. This was followed by a familiar litany of complaints. Allegation after allegation now has silenced the investigation.
Six months later, the Kaduna State Government is imposing another dawn-to-dusk curfew in anticipation of a fresh attack at Kasuwar Magani, one of the crisis-prone areas based on a security report indicative thereof.
As long as decisive measures are not put in place, Kasuwar Magani crisis, which is a metaphor for many communal crises, like blood-sucking fleas will continue to contract the state. Why? There is lack of punitive measures to deal with the perpetrators once and for all.
To Plateau State, on May 1, the police public relations officer, DSP Tyopev Terna, confirmed that two herders were missing and 319 cows killed in an attack by some unnamed gunmen.
In Taraba State, Jukun and Tivs are at loggerheads once again. Despite the peace accord signed by the leadership of the two warring tribes, on April this year, many people lost their lives, others injured, houses razed and people fled due to the extremity of the violent cyclone of communal crisis that hit the state.
What next? It is trading blame. Jukun community leader, Bako Benjamin, as reported by Premium Times, accused Tiv militias of launching incessant pockets of attacks on their archrival’s community.
The same is expected to come from Orbee Uchiv, a Tiv spokesman or Tiv community leader. He will pass peace meeting at Jootar, a town bordering Benue and Taraba Sates, for a failure, since Jukun militias’ attack on his community is unrelenting. I suspect that Nigerians have developed a special penchant for passing buck. We hardly contribute to peace-building process; but when lives are lost we punctuate the happenings with a game of blame.
What is needed to overcome security challenges despoiling the region is not passing buck as ensued between Zamfara monarchs and the minister of defense, Munir Dan Ali; but rather a strong political will and collective responsibilities will do the job.
We have to go back to the drawing board, trace the origin of the crises and come up with lasting solution to the menace as Prof. Jibril Ibrahim did in his well-researched article.
Jibril tried to draw a link between “the collapse of local government and the end of public administration of the traditional burti system of cattle routes that ensured that cattle moved without destruction of crops by encroaching on farms”, among others, with the dose of mass killing that is tossing the north from one side to another like a mad woman on her side.
I do not believe that the government is doing nothing to address the security challenges in the north. Before the recently launched Operation Harbin Kunama iii, there were Operation Harbin Kunama i and ii, with a view to curtailing the tides of activities of the so called herdsmen and armed bandits in Southern Kaduna, parts of Plateau, Niger and Kano States.
What is missing as Tony Blair would write is that leaders in this part of the world hardly take note of factors fueling such crises until they accentuate; then they jerk up in response to the urgency of the situation.
Initially, despite reports by villages in some part of Zamfara and Sokoto States of some suspicious movements of some strange people, deafening cries, burial after burial – in fact, the warning signs of foreboding danger were there – the government continued to treat the matter with kid gloves.
Now, Operation Harbin Kunama iii to contain security challenges in the North Western part of the country is ongoing; and the good story is that bandits and kidnappers are being crushed, both physically and in spirit, or fleeing. Kudos to our security forces.
Albeit all this, we have to come to terms with the truth that abject poverty in almost all the rural communities in the north is one of the driving forces that fuel the crises. Rural areas have been left to their fate.
It is true population may be the most important resources the north may ever have since it can be an asset that can catapult socio-economic and political development if empowered educationally; but anything less may turn it to disaster.
As Martin Luther Jr. would say, we are now faced with “fierce urgency of now” that the authorities concerned must not only launch operation after operation, but respond, as quickly as possible, to the economic difficulties and deep human sufferings of especially rural dwellers and Nigerian in general.
Abdulhamid wrote from Kano via [email protected]