Nigerians have lost count of the casualty figure arising from the cyclical violence, which has continued to ravage the country lately. The massacre being masterminded by bandits, insurgents, armed herdsmen, kidnappers among sundry despicable elements, contradicts the promise of security as a cardinal plank upon which President Muhammadu Buhari, and his All Progressives Congress (APC) rose to power in 2015.
Even one year after the mandate was renewed, in 2019, the ruling party is yet to fulfill this pledge substantially. Thus, insecurity has diminished the value, as well as the performance rating of the government.
What is indeed more worrisome is the fact that even as the needless bloodletting festers, and amid the Federal Government’s claim of doing its best to secure the country, insurgents and bandits have continued to operate freely. Most times, they carry out these attacks successfully.
For instance, within six days – between Monday, June 8, and Saturday, June 13, 2020, the country lost over 240 lives in several attacks in the northern part of the country. This represents the highest number of deaths within such a short period in recent times.
The Nigeria Security Tracker, which compiles violent incidents fuelled by socio-economic and political tendencies, stated that 114 persons lost their lives in Borno State within this period. The Borno State is dovetailed by Katsina State on the list of fatalities, as 75 people were killed.
In Adamawa, 24 were killed, nine lost their lives in Kogi State, seven were killed in Benue, five died in Bayelsa, and Ebonyi, Osun, and Taraba states recorded one death each.
A total of 184 of those killed were civilians, while two were security operatives. The list further indicated that 20 of the dead were insurgents belonging to the terror group, Boko Haram, 24 were sectarian actors, seven were suspected robbers, while four belonged to armed groups.
In the previous period of one week preceding Monday, June 8, and Saturday, June 13, 2020, deaths caused by violent events stood at 183, while between Monday, May 25, and Sunday, May 31, the number of violent deaths reported by the tracker stood at 149.
One of the killing sprees that riled Nigerians, as well as the international community was Tuesday, June 9 killing of 81 persons in Faduma Kolomdi Village in Gubio Local Council of Borno State, by Boko Haram insurgents, who posed as preachers.The Defence Headquarters in explaining the cause of the attack said the insurgent killed the locals as punishment for revealing their locations to the military.
Defence spokesman, Major General John Enenche, while speaking during a live television programme the penultimate Friday, said the lack of intelligence constitutes a major challenge in the fight against insecurity in the North.
As the bloodbath continues, many Nigerians increasingly believe that it is either the military high command has reached its wits’ end, or it simply does not have what it takes to rout the religious bigots and others that are inflicting untold pains on the citizenry.
In the last one year or thereabouts, the military has become very versatile in explaining the reasons violence has continued in the country. In most cases, the reasons beggar belief.
For instance, in May 2019, the Nigerian Army alleged that some unnamed foreign powers, working in concert with their local collaborators were complicating the country’s security challenges, by sponsoring terrorism and banditry.
According to the army, “not only are these elements working assiduously to derail the ongoing counter-insurgency efforts, as well as the West African sub-region, they were also hard at work to scuttle the country’s democracy, as well as the May 29 handover date.” The army’s position was made known by the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sagir Musa.
In the same May, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General, Tukur Buratai, accused some politicians defeated in the 2019 general elections of being responsible for the heightened security situation in parts of the country.
The COAS, who levelled the accusation in Maiduguri when he received the House Committee on Army, led by its Chairman, Remande Shawulu, at the Theatre Command said: “The myriad of security challenges we are facing now in the North West, North Central and other parts of the country, I want to believe and rightly so, is the fall out of the just concluded general elections.
“There are several political interests, politicians, in particular, are not happy with their defeat and therefore, trying to take revenge by sponsoring some of these criminal activities. There are strong political undertones, strong political influence,” he said.
The following month (June 2019) after Boko Haram attacked four military bases in one week, Buratai again changed gear and alleged that some officers and men’s insufficient commitment were affecting the success of the counter-insurgency operations.
Buratai who spoke at the opening of a five-day leadership workshop for mid-level officers and soldiers in Abuja said the rising terrorist attacks were due to “insufficient commitment to a common national and military cause by those at the frontlines.
Buratai said, “It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigerian Army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks or simply insufficient commitment to a common national and military course by those at the frontlines.”
Perhaps, it is this act of prevarication that prompted a former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd) to, in February, declared that Nigeria’s security system is not working and that the Federal Government “should go to hell if it cannot provide security” for Nigerians, which it swore to protect.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, the deeply worried retired military top brass hat expressed frustration at the mass murder of Nigerians going on, to which the government’s response has been largely rhetorical.
He said: “There may be a lot of things that are not clear to me, whether the constitution precludes you from defending yourself, or looking after your security and that of your people. But I think it is only a stupid constitution, and one that is inhuman that will prevent anyone from looking after his security, and welfare of the people around him.”
He continued: “The Constitution did not create governors, but administrators…A governor must be able to make laws through his parliament and also enforce those laws using the police force, but our governors can’t even, though they are called chief security officers of the states. Where is the instrument for fostering that security because the police is not under their control.”
Akinriade’s positions speak directly to the situation that is playing out in Katsina State, where thousands of residents are being displaced and even killed while the state governor, Aminu Bello Masari, last week admitted to failing to protect the residents and apologising to the residents for his government’s inability to protect them.
Masari, who said he is a very unhappy person because the people have never had rest since he came on board as governor, described bandits that have held the state by the jugular as “worse than animals” because they kill indiscriminately.
“I don’t know what to tell them (residents of the state). I cannot look at them in the face because we have failed to protect them, contrary to our pledge to ensure the security of lives and property throughout the state.
“I never expected the behaviour and the attitude of people living in the forests, the bandits, whose behaviour is worse than that of animals. In the forest, a lion or a tiger kills only when it is hungry and it doesn’t kill all animals, it only kills the one it can eat at a time. But what we see here is that bandits come to town, spray bullets, kill indiscriminately for no purpose, and no reason whatsoever, like the recent massacre of people at Faskari and parts of Dandume local government areas. They just killed the people. How can a human being behave the way an animal cannot behave?”
He added: “Our role is to complement efforts of the security agencies for which I believe we are doing nothing less than 90 percent in terms of whatever is expected of us, based on resources available to us.”
But what many find disturbing and very annoying is the fact that the Federal Government that is incapable of protecting the citizens from killers, was swift in taking into custody, Nastura Sharif, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Coalition of Northern Groups, who organised a series of protests against the killing of innocent people by bandits and other criminal elements in Katsina State.
Our Grouse Against FG – Northern Elders’ Forum
IT is not only Katsina residents that are calling on the government to take its job of protecting the citizens seriously, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), tas well as a coalition of northern youth groups also want Buhari to sit up and sack the service chiefs over the rising insecurity in the region.
Last week, the NEF noted that with the recent escalation of attacks by bandits, rustlers, and insurgents, it was safe to conclude that the people of the North were now completely at the mercy of armed gangs who roam towns and villages at will, wreaking havoc.
According to the convener of the body, Prof. Ango Abdullahi: “It would appear that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and governors have lost control over the imperatives of protecting people of the North, a constitutional duty that they swore to uphold.
“The situation is getting worse literally by the day. Bandits and insurgents appear to sense a huge vacuum in political will and capacity, which they exploit with disastrous consequences on communities and individuals.
“The situation under which our communities from Kogi to Borno states, from Sokoto to Taraba states live is no longer tolerable. As a responsible body, the Forum has joined millions of others in prayers and in giving advised, and encouragement to all authorities that have the responsibility to protect our communities.
Also, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) also called on governments at all levels to adopt proactive measures to address security challenges in the country.
Secretary-General of the body, Dr. Khalid Aliyu, who spoke in Kaduna, said it was imperative to take decisive actions to end insecurity, promote peace and security in the country.
He expressed concerned over the loss of lives and destruction of property arising from attacks by bandits, Boko Haram terrorists and rapists, and called for an end to the acts of terror being unleashed on innocent people.
Also, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, while condemning the recent killings by Boko Haram insurgents, said such incidents would have been avoided if the government had risen to the occasion.
In a statement issued through Abubakar Aliyu, the sultan asked the government to do more to stem the tide of killings across the country. Abubakar, who expressed shock over the “unfortunate, repeated incidences of loss of precious lives and wanton destruction of property arising from well-coordinated attacks of armed bandits, Boko and rapists,” also lamented the attitude of security agencies.
On its part, the coalition under the auspices of Coalition Against Killings in Northern Nigeria (CAKIN) and the Northern Groups Coalition (NGC), in its statement lamented the destruction of lives and property by bandits and Boko Haram insurgents and issued a 14-day ultimatum for the Federal Government to address the security challenges, failure of which it would mobilise its members for protest and shut down the government.
“It is on a sad note that this coalition wishes to remind the Federal Government and government at all levels, that the primary responsibility of government anywhere, particularly the one that was democratically elected by voters, is to protect the lives and property of citizens… Alas, five years into President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, instead of reducing insecurity, it has escalated thereby exposing great numbers of our people to avoidable deaths and loss of property in a manner that history has never witnessed before.
“As patriotic citizens, it is our constitutional duty to raise voices and call attention to the killings that are taking place across states of the northern regions daily and mobilise citizens on how to constructively engage government at all levels and make demands to end the killings.
The Federal Government may have approved a joint military and police operation specifically targeted at combing Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states to rid the areas of terrorists, but security experts say the country is literally at sea as far as the security of lives and property is concerned.
Consequently, they are calling on the Federal Government to place a massive premium on human lives and also get cracking to stem the human carnage, including the slaughter of brilliant officers and men in the war.
One of those, who believe that the Federal Government has achieved little, and is being sloppy in its fight against terrorism in particular and insecurity, in general, is a security analyst, Col. Hassan Stan-Labo (rtd).
According to him, only minimal successes have so far been recorded in our fight against terrorism because “the Nigerian citizen is yet to be adequately mobilised to see the war as his own. The ordinary man on the street still sees it as a strictly a military affair in which he has no role to play.
“Our national security process is not citizen-centred, hence the Nigerian citizen is yet to take ownership of his security, his neighbour or community. Ten years into the war against terrorism we are yet to articulate an appropriate urban security strategy to prevent or dislocate any form of attack on vital soft targets in our major cities.
“We have only sparingly implemented recommendations of previous security reports on the bombings of motor parks and crowded places. A serious national commitment to this is yet to be seen as exemplified in the installation of CCTV cameras, perimeter fencing, metal detectors, explosive detectors, vehicle scanners, bollards, alarm systems, and blast-resistant materials, etc.”
Stan-Labo asked: “Do all soft targets currently playing host to our critical national infrastructures maintain risk assessment scorecards? Do we have trained first responders at all major parks, markets, leisure spots, stadia, and crowded places to handle emergencies before the arrival of NEMA? Have all DPOs nationwide established regular security liaison with the various market management committees within their areas of operations? Has the Nigeria Police put in place counter-terrorist liaison officers desks at every divisional police post working with the public on preventive and preparatory terrorism? We are not likely to make an appreciable success if Preventive Terrorism Initiative (PTI) is not embraced with a sense of national commitment for implementation.”
He continued: “While the narrative in respect of our face-off with the insurgency is a fairly happy tale, the war against terrorism has not been much of a success story. Anti-terrorism operations are intelligence-driven and to this effect, the Nigerian Police remains the lead agency, acting in concert with the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), the Department of State Security (DSS), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and the National Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC). The military, however, avails back-up support.
“As the lead agency in the fight against terrorism, the Nigeria Police is better placed and enabled to investigate local terrorist threats, neutralise sleeper cells, and ensure that vulnerable soft targets are protected. The police are the gatherer of intelligence, the enforcer of the law, the preventer of offence, the investigator of the crime, and the standard-bearer of the authority of the state, all rolled into one. It cannot be ignored.”
The retired military officer, who said that the protest embarked on by Katsina youths was long overdue, stressed that enough pressure must be brought to bear on the government to do the needful because security constituted a foot in the tripod of issues that Buhari singled out to make a difference in our national life. Besides, as a government, the social contract entered into with the people is amongst others, predicated on the protection of lives and property of the citizens. Given the current developments can we with all honesty say we are winning the war on banditry? Whatever search on solutions must start with an admittance of the facts on the ground.
Commenting on whether the recent escalation of attacks buttresses claims by the Northern Elders Forum that it appears the Buhari administration and governors have lost control over the imperatives of protecting people of the North, Stan-Labo said: “The truth of the matter is that we are reality-shy as a nation in addressing our problems. We lack the guts and political will to do the needful. There are five fundamental areas of deficits in our military and paramilitary agencies that need to be addressed immediately. I refer to them as the big five and they include funding, manpower, logistics and equipment, training, and welfare. Our inability to get these right will continue to haunt us.”
He dismissed recent claims by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan that the Nigerian military and other security agencies have failed to contain the escalating nation’s insecurity because of international politics saying; “it not true. The truth is that we belong to a nation that has problems getting its priorities right; we belong to a nation that would rather prefer to spend billions of naira renovating its National Assembly than committing that to buy surveillance helicopters for its para-military agency to fight insurgency and banditry, yet we turn around to complain about the incessant and unabated banditry attacks on our people. We belong to a nation that would commit billions to buy foreign luxurious cars for its lawmakers at the expense of locally assembled vehicles, yet we turn around shamelessly to complain of the absence of jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. When we are ready, we shall address our problems because we all collectively know the solutions to our problems.”
Like Stan-Labo, a security consultant and a retired Assistant Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Dennis Amachree, also disagrees with Lawan that international politics has a role to play in security agencies failure to end wanton killings. According to the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON): “I disagree with him. A country deserves the security they get.
I know that law enforcement and security agencies are doing their best under the circumstances. The Senate holds the key to solving this problem of insecurity once and for all. May I ask, how many times the Senate has invited the security chiefs to come before it? What was the resolution? Were the promises fulfilled? We cannot continue blaming the security agencies, who have been losing very brilliant officers and men in the war front.
“Security analysts have been calling for a rejigging of the security architecture that we inherited from the British. The appointment or retirement of service chiefs is the prerogative of the president. However, it is not the people at the head of these agencies that constitute the problem, but the structure. Carpenter’s work on the structure is what Nigerians want at this moment. For instance, the Senate should make bold to amend the Constitution and allow for state police and local government sheriffs. The pretence of establishing community policing will not solve it because it is still in the domain of rhetoric,” he said.
On claims by the military high command that the 81 persons killed in Faduma Kolomdi Village were killed as punishment for revealing Boko Haram’s locations to the military, Amachree said, “those managing government information need to be careful, by not helping to propagate terrorists’ information. It was reportedly claimed by the Defense Headquarters that terrorists killed 81 persons in Borno as punishment for the residents revealing the (terrorists) location to the military. That information and assertion are very unnecessary and uncalled for. The terrorists will be jubilating that the DHQ has confirmed the number they killed. This kind of information will make the villagers hold back any future information they may have on the terrorists. The summation of all these is for the legislators to do their job. Amend the clause in the constitution to allow for multiple police organisations in the country – at the federal, state, and local government levels.
On his part, President, Association Of Industrial Security And Safety Operators Of Nigeria (AISSON)
Dr. Ona Ekhomu, regretted that banditry is taking firmer roots in the country with each passing day. He said the situation is so bad that “there are internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in most North West states taking care of those who were forced to flee from bandit-terror attacks. The number of terror gangs is rising at an exponential rate given the widespread proliferation of illicit arms in the Sahel and the fact that 350 million small arms and light weapons are already in Nigeria. With current capabilities, the terrorists might soon be able to challenge government security forces head-on… The North East terrorism-banditry is proceeding along the same trajectory as the onset of the Boko Haram insurgency, which grew out of control due to poor law enforcement and poor intelligence, among other vulnerabilities. Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists subsequently grew into monsters that have engaged the Nigerian military for almost 11 years now. I hate to bear bad news, but Nigeria is headed down the garden path of Boko Haram atrocities with the bandits-terrorists. Emphatically, things can get much worse than what it is now if nothing is done.”
On claims by some groups that the Federal Government has lost control of the situation, he begged to differ. Said he: “I don’t think the federal and state governments have lost control. I think they have not done proper threat assessments and feel they can control the monster. There is this mistaken notion that because the perpetrators are Sahelians Fulanis and President Buhari is a Fulani, it should not be asserted that Fulanis are committing the atrocities. That is a mere denial, which cannot change the facts. The North West governments have been treating security issues with kid gloves, and have not addressed the threats with the seriousness and purposefulness that they deserve. I sense that if the Federal Government tackles the terrorist head-on, it can get the problem under control and restore peace to Nigeria…”