By Lateef Adewole
Where it concerns my country, Nigeria, I wish I could simply say: “one day one killing” or “one day one kidnapping”. That would have been relatively comforting in the sense that, we would have been talking about just “365 killings or 365 kidnappings” throughout a whole year, as terrible and scary as that sounded, but we all know how insignificant these figures have become, when compared to the reality facing us as a people, as a country today.
The incidents this week alone already cancelled any thought of such approximation, not to talk of many other weeks in the past, in many other years. The incident in one state alone would pass “one day one killing/kidnapping”. Victims of kidnappings in Zamfara alone are already more than one per day. Likewise, Kaduna, which also has killings of more than one person per day. Benue has become perennial. Killings in Plateau state have started all over again.
With the statistics released by Kaduna state government sometimes ago stating that in the second quarter of 2021 only (April to June), 222 people were killed, while 774 were kidnapped. That’s a rate of 2.4 killed per day and 8.5 kidnapped per day. Can anyone imagine that? This was only in one state and within three months. What about the rest 35 states and FCT? What about the rest of the months and years past? What would the figures have been?
I had tried to take some time to cool off. I travelled to Abuja to enjoy some serenity, away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos. I didn’t plan to be engaged in any discussion concerning all the upheavals in the country, but that was not to be. It seems every corner I turned, where there were two or more concerned citizens, they would not have some minutes of conversation without issues of Nigeria being mentioned.
I had the pleasure of enjoying riding on beautiful road network. The roads in Abuja remain an exciting feature of the capital city. A pride. When someone has lived in Lagos for many years, moves around the state, virtually lives in traffic (technically) due to persistent traffic congestions everywhere, every day. In Lagos, a journey of 10 minutes could take you one or more hours. There was a day we were coming from Ajah, driving back to the mainland, a client called from the USA, he was doing Uber.
It took us over five hours to reach Abule-Egba, while the man in US claimed he has picked and dropped as many passengers that earned him naira equivalent of over hundred thousand, within the period, while still speaking to us on phone. He wondered how we survive or remain sane in Lagos. That’s the typical waste of man-hour we experience in Lagos due to traffic congestions. This is besides the stress to one as a human being, the health implications, wear and tears in the vehicle, not to talk of the menace of traffic robbers that have become prevalent these days.
So, leaving Lagos for some time gave me the chance to escape all of that. It was in such feelings that I was still reeling when the shattering news of an invasion by bandits, of the topmost military establishment, the military university, The Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, broke. This happened at the early hours of Tuesday at the permanent site of the institution, located along Airport Road, Afaka, in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna. Two military officers identified as Lieutenant Commander Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Okoronkwo, were reportedly shot dead during the invasion while another senior officer, later found to be Major Christopher Datong was kidnapped. He was later found dead in the late hours same day. Many others sustained gunshot injuries. That was unbelievable, sacrilegious, audacious! It was followed with outrage. How could that happen?
The last institution on which the people could still reasonably trust their safety is the military. That explains their presence and engagement in about 32 states of the Federation. How come this then happened? We have heard of how bokoharam fighters sometimes overrun some military formations located at the war fronts in the North-East, especially Borno state. But, this happened in Kaduna, far away from such location.
Moreover, the bokoharam has been clearly declared as terrorists and whatever capacity they possess in arms and ammunitions wouldn’t be too much of a shock. But bandits? Are they still supposed to be called that “watered-down” name? What is holding back the federal government from declaring them terrorists already, so that they could be treated as such and all the magnitude of cohersive forces will be brought to confront them? Aren’t they the same people who brought down a military fighter jet? Aren’t they the same people who boasted of killings Nigerian soldiers? Aren’t they the same people who threatened the state? What’s really going on? Ironically, this killer fulani herdsmen has been declared as a terrorists under the Global Terrorists Index (GTI), as far back as November 2015, when their menace in Nigeria has not grown to this magnitude.
The abducted Major was killed and his corpse dumped somewhere. That’s making statement. Nigerians still await the response (in action not rhetorics) from the military establishment. Now that the bandits have taken the war to their “bedroom”. I have heard some people argued in the past why bandits and killer fulani herdsmen were not treated the way IPOB and their members were treated. They claim the former do not attack the military and military facilities as IPOB did. I hope to hear what such persons have to say now after this incident.
While we are still rueing this, the mass murder on Wednesday in Yelwa Zangam community, Jos North local government area, Plateau state, happened. It was reported that 36 people were killed and several others injured. Many gory pictures and videos of people maimed, killed and burnt beyond recognition, have been in circulation since the incident. Indigenes trooped out in protest against the government, took the dead bodies to the state government house and state House of Assembly. The sight was heart-rending.
The incident was said to be an aftermath of the mass murder of 22 muslim travellers in Rukuba road, Jos, eleven days earlier, by the Irigwe militias. This is because, several threats to take revenge have been publicly issued by some groups and individuals. In the last two weeks, many states made efforts to evacuate their indigenous students in the University of Jos. This must have been based on premonition or intelligence about the impending invasion. Before now, Plateau state has been relatively peaceful, a departure from the endless crisis that have rocked the state for many years. That peace has been shattered now.
When the attack on and killing of those muslim travellers happened at the time, it was met with outright condemnation by well-meaning Nigerians. Whatever reasons or excuses that the attackers gave were unacceptable. Many were also glad that all security agencies were ordered by the Federal Government to fish out the perpetrators, something they responded to with an unprecedented speed. Tens of suspects have been arrested since, they will face trial and should be severally punished if found guilty.
One would have assumed that such unlikely quick response to the incident would have assuage the victims’ people and group, and expected them to await the outcome of the government’s actions but no. If the allegation that this last attack was a reprisal, then, it means no one will trust the government to get justice again. This is because, the promptness with which suspects were arrested in that case was at variance to how such similar uncountable massacres have been handled in the past.
Many perpetrators of numerous heinous crimes across the country are still roaming free. The killings in Katsina, Kaduna south, Benue, and many other parts of the country have remained unresolved, with no one being held accountable for them. Hundreds of Nigerians are still “officially” in the captivity of their abductors. The Islammiya school children in Niger state spent over three months before they were released. Several others in Zamfara. In fact, it seems the bandits have “taken over” the state. Such frustration could have prompted the state governor’s call for a state of emergency in the country, tactically avoiding focusing on his state, which is worst in term of insecurities in recent times.
So, if the government is sincere, we expect that those who were responsible for Wednesday’s attack in Jos, just as we saw in the previous case in the same Jos, should be promptly arrested. It will amount to insincerity for security agents to fail in this respect.
These are just two isolated and recent incidents. Hundreds of others happened in various parts of the country, reported and unreported. When will these come to an end? Or are we going to continue like this?
Even here in Abuja, I have heard stories of gradual rise in crime rate. People are now more conscious about the security situation and act with caution. Cases of kidnappings, one chance drivers, robbery and other sundry crimes are becoming rampant in the federal capital. They may not be comparable with other areas, but Abuja is no longer the same one I lived and worked in, many years ago, where one could go out to anywhere, at any time of the day or night, and still come back in one piece. Caution is the word now.
As President Buhari said that the attack on the NDA would speed up the end to banditry, we can only hope so, considering the quantum of promises the same president has made in the past regarding ending the banditry. May be, just may be, the situation will be different this time around, but sincerely, many would take that statement with a pinch of salt. It’s sounding like a broken record. The capacity of the military to perform and deliver on their constitutional mandates, is beyond military arsenals. The spoken and unspoken words of the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), carry heavy weight, and could change the game. I mean sincere and serious commitment to end the insecurities by the C-in-C. He often says one thing while his body language say the contrary. It will not work.
The security agents should continue to step up their games too. It is disgraceful that “ragtag” bandits, a nomenclature we use to describe criminals until they overwhelmed the system, would carry out such attack successfully. Not hunting them down immediately and deal with them, would be like adding salt to injury. That was how bokoharam was called while they continued to wreck havocs. They are a force to reckon with wether anyone accepts it or not, even when many of them now “pretend” to have repented and surrendered. They can’t be trusted.
We appeal to the various disgruntled groups and individuals in Jos to sheath their swords and allow peace to reign. Same thing for other crisis-proned areas. Government and security agents must rise to their responsibilities to nip such incidents in the bud. Decisive action should be taken against anyone who is recalcitrant, to serve as deterrent to others.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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