- IPOB got its just deserts. But so should bandits in northern forests
The speed and dexterity exhibited by the Nigerian Army in clamping down on members of the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Orlu, Imo state, is exemplary. It shows what a determined National Army should do when affronted by dissidents and troublemakers.
But we note that similar adroitness has not been applied in tackling the banditry in the North West part of the country. Could it be that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander? Or is the Federal Government partial in treating similar symptoms of our trouble nation?
Indeed, in Kaduna, Kastina, Zamfara, and now, Niger, the Federal Government appears encouraging rapprochement with the bandits troubling the states, even if that is not yet official policy. Even Sheik Gumi’s initiative to negotiate with the bandits has not attracted any Federal Government opposition. Some states have even offered rehabilitation for the criminal gangs. Just last week, Gumi asked Nigerians to stop calling the armed bandits terrorists, postulating that it is an ethnic warfare, driven by bitter Fulani youths, robbed of their cows by rustlers, was going on.
But in Orlu and Ihiala, the approach of the Nigerian Army has been different. According to the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Aliyu Yusuf: ”on Thursday, January 7, following incessant robbery and killing of civilians and security operatives by suspected IPOB militia within Orlu senatorial zone, troops of 34 Brigade were deployed in Orlu and its environs to commence effective patrol and dominance of the general area to forestall IPOB activities.”
If the postulation by Gumi that what is going on in the northern part of Nigeria is a fight amongst ethnic militias is correct, then we wonder why the Federal Government is willing to treat the militias with kid gloves, instead of an all-out war by the Nigerian Army, as they are doing in Orlu and Ihiala. Perhaps a further prognosis would reveal the affiliations of the militias and their ultimate goal. The recent revelation that the militias in the northern states have acquired sophisticated weapons, including attempts at getting anti-aircraft machine guns, is very troubling.
Surprisingly, in the face of this damning reports, the Federal Government is contemplating appeasement for the bandits. However, in Orlu and Ihiala, where ”the activities of the threat elements have led to an increase in organised crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping and other sundry criminal violent acts,” the Army response is an “operation commenced with air strike at about 171750A February 21 from Mi-35 Combat Helicopter on confirmation of the IPOB camp/hideout, while ground troops engaged the escaping IPOB criminals.”
While we agree that criminals and those troubling our country deserve to be dealt a heavy hand, we think that there should be even-handedness in dealing with the crisis across the country. It is against the principles of non-discriminatory practice, which our Constitution forbids, for a group to be segregated and treated differently. For us, crime is crime, regardless of who is involved, and those exercising constitutional authority should apply the same standard in dealing with criminals, regardless of who they are or where they operate from.
The zest exhibited with respect to dealing with IPOB members in Orlu and Ihiala, should therefore be extended to the north-western states. To do otherwise would give the impression that the Federal Government is applying double standards. Such practice would also give impetus to the conspiracy theorists of a hidden agenda, as the majority of the security heads are from the north-west zone, where palliatives instead of ammunition are being offered to bandits.
The Federal Government must therefore do everything to avoid giving the impression that crime pays in certain parts of the country. The consequences could be very devastating in the long run.