By Rasheed Abubakar and Abdullahi AbdulGaniy
Nigeria is gradually becoming one of the most dangerous countries to live in due to the spate of killings and violent attacks unleashed on defenceless citizens. This is not restricted to Zamfara State where armed bandits – a term coined by the media – have wreaked havoc in the last few years.
Though the phenomenon has been a major problem faced by the country from time immemorial, the recent developments are alarming, given that they are unusually frequent and the perpetrators go unchallenged. Indeed, they signpost a threat to harmony and peaceful co-existence in the country.
From Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, to Katsina and in recent times Kogi, brutal killings, violent attacks, high-way robbery and mind-boggling abductions are recurring decimals.
Residents of Zamfara can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed despite the introduction of operation “Diran Mikiya” by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in July 2018 to flush out the bandits
It has been a similar story for travellers going to Kaduna and Sokoto, many of whom have become victims of kidnappers who in turn demand for huge ransom before freeing their catch. No state of the federation is exempted as kidnappers have gone on rampage in Kogi, Ondo, Calabar and Lagos, terrorising citizens, with government doing less to protect lives and property.
Between March and April, 2019, there have been many cases of abductions at gunpoint like never before in recent time. More horrifying is the abduction of a DAILY TRUST’s reporter, Ahmad Garba, alongside other co-travellers along the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
The reporter narrated his ordeal in the kidnappers’ den. He said they were not allowed to take their bath or brush their mouths. He spent eight straight days with his captors alongside numerous others. He explained that they were only released after ransoms were paid by their friends and relatives. He concluded that he never hoped he would come out alive because the driver of the bus and one other person were killed when they tried to play smart.
In a similar development, Shaykh Ahmad Sulaiman, a Muslim scholar, together with his children, was also abducted in Katsina on the 14th of March 2019 as reported by multiple media sources. However, he soon regained freedom from his captors, but not without ransom.
In like manner, Lagos Fire Service Director, Rasaki Musubau, was recently abducted alongside six others around Ejirin area of Ikosi-Ejirin Local Council Development Area of the state. This area had recently been notorious for the activities of another criminal gang called Bado cultist group. The fire service chief and other victims were lucky to have been released unhurt two days after their abduction, according to police.
Zamfara, once a hitherto peaceful state in the North West, has suddenly become a home to criminal banditry, where no fewer than 3500 people, including children and aged males and females, have lost their lives, with 8,200 others sustaining various degrees of injuries, some in critical condition. Nearly 5000 villages have been devastated in five years, according to official figures.
Many Nigerians have rightly criticised the federal government for allowing the carnage in Zamfara to degenerate. The killings in the state, whose major victim were Muslims, got the attention of the social media community with the recent trending of #ZamfaraIsBlessing and #PrayForZamfara among others.
There were also massive protests with protesters calling on President Buhari – as the commander of the armed forces – to end the killings since the outgoing Governor AbdulAziz Yari said he had dropped his responsibility as the Chief Security Officer of the State. According to him, “I have had no control over security machinery”, and the armed bandits operating in my state “possessed sophisticated weapons than the military.”
The Buhari-led administration has accepted to deal with the bandits in Zamfara and other states, saying however that it was “ridiculous” and “unfair” for critics to claim he was not concerned about the killings in Zamfara — a state that voted massively for him in 2015 and again in 2019 election.
Analysts praised the president for the move but suggested that, while dealing with the criminal elements is a priority, it is important for government to find the cause of the crisis.
Some have traced the the Zamfara violence to herders and farmers. In a recent survey carried out by salkida.com, a website owned by an award-winning conflict and terrorism reporter, Ahmed Salkida, the crisis was traced to indiscriminate cases of cattle rustling.
“With such frequently occurring vice to contend with, cases of armed bandits with eyes set on controlling the economy route and trade in illicit mining of precious minerals such as gold deposits burst into the scene, killing villagers in rampant orgy,” Salkida said.
Some researchers on the crisis have also identified “unemployment among youths” as another cause.
Government must therefore provide job opportunities to the people to stem this tide.
Many of the criminal bandits, reliable sources said, are foreigners from neighbouring Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, and as part of the efforts to curb their menace, the government has recently banned mining activities in the region.
Miners Association of Nigeria (MAN) has hailed the ban, saying it welcomes any measure aimed at restoring the sanctity of human lives and the security of investments of its members who have the licence to operate in the area.
As part of the directive for the security agencies to ruthlessly deal with the bandits and other criminal elements, the Buhari-led government has instructed the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) to begin a special military exercise called ‘Operation Tsaftan-Daji’ to curtail the criminals in Zamfara. The operation, Muslim News learnt, will complement the existing “Diran Mikiya” which the NAF started late last year.
Security analysts believe that while the move by the Nigerian government will bring about a relative peace in Zamfara and other affected States, Muslim News can authoritatively confirm that there is no end in sight in the North East, particularly Borno as the military continued to engage Boko Haram militants, who have over the years killed tens of thousands of people, including in their places of worship.
The gruesome murder of two Muslim health workers, Saifuna Ahmed and Hawa Liman, in September and October 2018, is still fresh in memory. No less the abduction of 276 Chibok girls in April 2014 – many of whom are Muslims – and 111 Dapchi girls in February 2018. Later in November 2018, Boko Haram burnt an Imam, his wife and three children to death during attacks on four communities, including an IDP camp.
The attacks by the terrorist group have displaced millions across the Lake Chad region, especially in Nigeria where people continue to flee their homes.
There has been no let up in the militants’ activities despite the recent collapse of Daesh, the notorious international terrorist network to which Boko Haram is officially affiliated. Boko Haram has recently attacked several military bases in the northeast, resulting in multiple deaths of security forces and terrorists alike.
Notwithstanding, the Nigerian army of section 2, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, recorded significant successes in Damaturu, Yobe State, early April, killing scores of terrorists and recovering ammunitions.
As at the time of filing this report on Sunday, April 14 – a day marking the fifth anniversary of the abduction of scores of Chibok school girls by the terrorist group – the Buhari-led administration has raised hopes of freeing the remaining 112 Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu, the last girl standing of the Dapchi girls, who is reportedly held on the basis of her faith.
The Nigerian military, led by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, has continued to inflict deadly blows on the Boko Haram terrorists, but the battle to end the insurgency continues amid uncertainties about what the future holds.