There was a lull in the activities of bandits in the few weeks preceding Nigeria’s 2023 general election. It was thought that the redesign of the Naira was partly responsible for this. Now, it appears that the bandits are back with more ferocity. In recent times, they have terrorised Niger, Kaduna and Kogi and other states.
In Niger State, for instance, bandits struck recently in Mashegu Local Government Area, killing two people and abducting 34 others, including two policemen. They also carted away arms and ammunition from the Ibbi Police Station in Mashegu. This was after about a week of killing seven people and abducting 26 others. In Kogi and Adamawa states, gunmen similarly wreaked havoc in some communities, killing scores of people. In Adamawa, for instance, gunmen attacked Dabna community in Hong Local Government Area, killed three people and destroyed properties worth millions of Naira.
Insecurity is one of the problems the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the Naira redesign policy would solve. According to the CBN, the cashless policy would make it difficult for kidnappers to seek ransom. But that was not the case as the bandits and terrorists were the first to acquire the new currency and were proud to show it to the public in a viral video.
We cannot tame banditry and terrorism unless we are able to tackle a number of factors that fuel it. One of the major factors is unemployment. Currently, the rate of unemployment in Nigeria is conservatively put at 33.3 per cent. Experts predict that the figure will hit 40.6 per cent in 2023. Youth unemployment is even worse. When vibrant young men and women have no job to keep themselves busy, they can easily resort to crime.
Another trigger of insecurity is social inequality. The political class, for instance, have easy access to slush funds while the rest of Nigerians live in abject poverty. Oftentimes, these politicians and many people in government engage in ostentatious display of their wealth in such a way that some youths, who want to match them, join criminal gangs to create their own wealth.
Illiteracy is part of the problem. Most of these youths who engage in criminal activities have no marketable skills. Some of them didn’t go to school and as such cannot even be gainfully employed. Some of them are so lazy and over-ambitious that offering them regular salaried job will not satisfy them. The spate of insecurity has caused enormous damage to the economy and image of Nigeria. It is partly responsible for the food insecurity and the resultant high cost of food in Nigeria. In some parts of the North, farmers are attacked at random. Last month, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists attacked and killed no fewer than 30 fishermen in Mukdolo village, in Ngala Local Government Area of Borno state. The fishermen were on fishing and wood-cutting activities in Mukdolo. Rice farmers had similarly been attacked. In Benue, Plateau and some other states, farmers are frequently attacked. All this has driven the farmers out of their farms.
Investors have also been driven away by the activities of bandits and terrorists. The number one consideration for investors is security of their investments. When this is lacking, no amount of preaching will attract them to invest. Some Nigerians have further been impoverished on account of attacks by bandits.
Security agencies must tame the monster before it degenerates to something we cannot control. Government should mobilise security agencies to do their work and come up with a new blueprint to tackle insecurity. Police should intensify mop-up operations against illegal arms in the country. There is need for stringent checks at the borders as a way of preventing the proliferation of illicit arms in the country. Any security personnel found to have compromised at the borders should be summarily dealt with according to our laws.
Above all, there should be conscious programmes to get the youths engaged. Some state governments and corporate individuals have skill acquisition programmes where youths acquire one skill or the other. Let this be replicated in all the states of the federation. Government should provide incentives and the enabling environment for companies to provide jobs for our teeming youth population.
Eradicating banditry and insecurity generally is a task that every Nigerian must be involved in. It should not be left for only the government or security agencies to tackle. Everyone has a role to play to make Nigeria more secure.