Better equipped bandits? – The Nation

  • That is a bad stain on the Nigerian state that must be cleansed without delay

Again, the Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, has cried out about the menace of armed bandits and their capacity to unleash terror on citizens of his state, in what appears like an intractable security problem.

In a country without reliable data, census and records, it is very difficult to say, as  in the other states with insurgency problems, how many people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in the northern region.  But  the numbers are staggering.

In his latest outburst that spells exasperation and helplessness, the governor stated, albeit outrageously, that the bandits are better equipped than the Nigerian military. Even though this claim on the face of it may appear a tad too exaggerated, it speaks of the exhaustion and desperation the governor has been displaying since the problem peaked in Zamfara, a state in the North West, curiously away from the troubled North East.

The governor had earlier threatened to resign; and he had called for a state of emergency to be declared in the state, to underscore his desperate moves to attract attention to the problems in his state, understandably commendable being the chief security officer of a troubled state.

Even if his pronouncements are a bit exaggerated, he might not be blamed totally given how helpless he is in the face of consistent killings in his domain. It merely highlights the fact that Nigeria as a nation has to plan better and execute better, for a better security cover in all spheres.

However, we find it curious that the governor made reference to having negotiated with the bandits three good times; and each time they renege on their promises. He made references to the bandits having and showing the government side their own armory, ”For instance, during the first dialogue, they invited some of our team, Army, DSS, Police and my Chief Security Officer, as well as some traditional rulers representatives and we have seen what they have”.

It beggars belief that a government and its agencies could have this bone-chilling dialogue and armory ‘inspection’, in a state that has been under siege for so long with the attendant deaths, arson and rapes. Then the question arises, if these armed rouges are known and can be accessed, how come the killing continues? How is it that the country is so lapse in intelligence gathering and even with access to the criminals, they are treated with kid gloves literarily?

We equally recall a certain $1bn dollars approved amidst debates for the rearmament of the military in the face of continued insurgency. How is it that the military, after the financial approval, have seemingly not fared better? How do non-state rogue actors have more sophisticated weapons than state actors? The proliferation of small arms and weapons in Africa has been a source of worry to the international organizations like the United Nations, how is a country like Nigeria not able to adequately police its borders?

So, beyond the despair by the governor, we urge the government and its agencies to see the fight against the insurgency in the North as a national emergency. The governor indicated that the bandits benefit from the weather situations as they prefer attacking during the rainy season when they can hide in the forests without being apprehended because of the bad topography then.   Is there no way, knowing this, the government  can come around their strategy?

The claim that the bandits come in from outside the country, and take up spaces to terrorize the citizens, may appear too simplistic even if true. The truth might be that there are home recruits in the mix. High illiteracy and unemployment levels might just render most youths readily available to recruiters, even if they are coming from outside. Again the Ministry of the Interior, in charge of immigration, must be ready to adequately police the borders like other countries; and make plans to provide permanent identity cards and national data for citizens of Nigeria.

Making a song and dance of bandits coming into the country through the ECOWAS free trade routes sounds too puerile, given that other countries like the EU have such multilateral agreements without the attendant terror Nigeria has been experiencing. Our governments, at all levels, and their agencies, must realistically wake up to the twenty first century global security challenges.

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