INSECURITY: State governors surrender, look unto FG for help

0
440
Gunmen
  • 22,032 Nigerians killed in two years, 10,324 abducted
  • Attacks, killings worsen food crisis

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR AND BRIGHT JACOB

Bright Jacob

Five months after the inauguration of a new government, Nigerians are still being killed, villages are still being sacked by bandits and kidnappers are still rampaging, while terrorists are regrouping.

Despite President Bola Tinubu’s promises to prioritise security, investigation by The Point shows that the country continues to grapple with insecurity, with data showing over 1,406 deaths between May and August 2023.

Generally, no fewer than 22,032 Nigerians were reportedly killed from March 2021 to June 2023.

According to reports, 10,324 citizens were also abducted during the period under review.

In August this year, some members of the National Youth Service Corps going to camp in Sokoto for orientation were abducted.

On October 3, bandits reportedly killed three people and abducted eight others, mostly women, in a village in Sokoto. There have been similar cases in Katsina, Ondo and other places across the country.

Killing has continued in Benue and Plateau States.

Last month, some security agents were killed and their bodies burnt in Imo State.

Up till now, many farmers in states across the country have yet to return to their farms for fear of being abducted or killed by herdsmen that have taken over the bushes for nefarious activities.

The killing of five persons in August in Nchya village in Mangu Local Government Area by suspected Fulani herdsmen, and the slaughter of another 17 persons in Heipang community in Barkin Ladi LGA, both in Plateau State, are still fresh.

A report by Global Rights said Boko Haram/ISWAP, gunmen and insurgents killed 555 Nigerians and kidnapped 267 others between May 29 and July 3 this year.

In Benue State, 24 villagers were killed by a ‘militia gang’ in Akpunna village on July 9.

Reports said the criminals operated for two hours without any security intervention.

In Plateau, over 100 persons were massacred in May.

Sadly, eight people were killed on Independence Day in the latest round of attacks in Plateau State.

Security experts said that the country is plagued in the North East by ISWAP, Boko Haram, and other Islamic terror groups; in the North West by bandits and kidnappers, in the North Central by genocidal Fulani herdsmen; and in the South East by arsonists, kidnappers and killers camouflaging as Biafra secessionists, while the South West is troubled by assorted criminals, thugs, and kidnappers.

The Benue State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Matthew Abo, regained his freedom last week after 10 days of captivity.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria in Plateau State, Kim Bot, was kidnapped in Jos North Local Government Area.

Bot was driving home at about 8pm when the gunmen, who had mounted a roadblock in the Laminga area of the council, flagged him down. Immediately he stopped, he was forced out of his vehicle and taken away.

Family sources confirmed the release of the pharmacist in Jos on Friday.

“Pharmacist Kim Bot has been released to the glory of God. He is presently being attended to in a hospital in Jos. We really thank God for sparing his life and the security agents for working to secure his release.

“He was released unconditionally even though the bandits initially demanded an undisclosed amount of money as ransom,” a family member said.

Residents of Lamingo have also lamented that the Jos University Teaching Hospital road has become a den of kidnappers and other undesirable elements.

“The rate of kidnapping in this area is alarming; there is no week without a report of kidnapping or robbery. We appeal to the government and security agencies to come to our aid,” a resident, Ibrahim Dalyop, said.

Gunmen raided the Tsohuwar Kasuwa region of Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State, in the early hours of Friday, abducting nine people and rustling five cattle.

The terrorists invaded the neighbourhood at about 2am and kidnapped nine people in front of three homes.

According to a source, they kidnapped two of one Alhaji Sabitu’s wives, Umma Sabitu and Zulaihatu Sabitu; his three daughters, Jamila Sabitu, Ihsan Sabitu, and Hafsat Sabitu; and his son, Hussaini Sabitu.

SECURITY ARCHITECTURE

President Tinubu, upon his administration’s inauguration on May 29, saw the need to rejig the country’s security architecture as part of measures to halt the deadly trend.

Tinubu did not waste time in firing the Service Chiefs he met when he assumed office and appointed new ones.

Those appointed are Maj. Gen. C.G Musa, Chief of the Defence Staff; Maj. Gen. T. A. Lagbaja, Chief of the Army Staff; Rear Admiral E. A. Ogalla, Chief of the Naval Staff; AVM H.B. Abubakar, Chief of the Air Staff; and DIG Kayode Egbetokun, Acting Inspector General of Police.

However, some Nigerians have expressed the concern that there has not been any visible improvement in security since the new Service Chiefs came on board.

Data gathered from the Council on Foreign Relations, SBM Intelligence, Stefanos Foundation, and news reports revealed that between January and June 2023 alone, Nigeria recorded 324 instances of attacks from across the country, resulting in 2,558 deaths and 1,044 abductions.

In examining the disaggregated data on violent incidents in the first quarter of 2023, the report confirmed the popular opinion that each region of Nigeria is beguiled by a peculiar type of violent incident.

Overall, more violent incidents were recorded in the Northern part of the country than in the South.

Of the 1,230 deaths recorded, there were at least 932 violent killings in the North, representing 75.77 per cent of the total killed; in contrast to the South, where at least 298 were killed, representing 24.23 per cent of the recorded figure.

An in-depth breakdown of the data further revealed that banditry and Boko-Haram/ISWAP are a form of terror up North that contributed the largest number of victims, with the North Central suffering the heaviest number of casualties, owing mostly to herdsmen activities in Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa States.

While the North East had at least 312 casualties, the North West had 289 casualties. In the South, however, a combined 140 deaths in the South-East were attributed mostly to violent secessionist activities; South South had at least 88 killed while 70 were recorded killed in the South West.

According to reports, many families have been displaced, especially in the North East and North West, owing to insecurity as others have been thrown into serious food crises.

Humanitarian organisations have been striving to feed families who have lost their bread winners to attacks and carnage by terrorists.

Checks by The Point revealed that farmers were most hit in these relentless waves of attacks in Nigeria.

These armed groups have been hindering critical food supplies and threatening to push the country deeper into a devastating hunger crisis.

An organisation, Save the Children, said increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country were leading to displacement, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods.

According to the Nigerian Security Tracker, armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023. It noted that in June, 19 farmers were killed by non-state armed groups in Borno State alone.

In January, the UN estimated that more than 25 million people in Nigeria could face food insecurity this year – a 47 per cent increase from the 17 million people who were already at risk of going hungry, mainly due to the ongoing insecurity, protracted conflicts, and the projected rise in food prices.

In addition, an estimated two million children under five across the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe are likely to be pushed into acute malnutrition in 2023, with about 700,000 children on the brink of death.

It is also likely that even more people will be pushed into hunger than earlier predicted due to extreme weather events that are getting more frequent and severe due to the climate crisis.

“Some organised kidnappings are being carried out by unemployed graduates. One of the kidnappers captured in River State recently said that he was lured by the money and pressure to take care of his family. Another said it was payback to the government and society that don’t care about the poor and unemployed”

NORTH EAST GOVERNORS TACKLE FG OVER INSECURITY

This is coming as state governors at different fora have accused the Federal Government of not doing enough to tackle insecurity in the country.

Governors from the North East region of the country have challenged the Federal Government to step up action to perpetually address the intractable security challenges bedeviling the region.

The governor’s position was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of their meeting held in Maiduguri, and read by Babagana Zulum, the chairman of the forum.

The NEGF expressed concern over the escalating menace of banditry in the region with a particular reference to Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba apart from Borno State that has suffered insecurity for years.

The NEGF meeting was attended by the governors of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe with the Governors of Gombe and Taraba represented by their deputy governors.

It said, owing to the push by the military to flush bandits from the other parts of the country, the bandits were now moving towards the North East.

They said the case was becoming worse in Bauchi, Gombe, and Taraba with a call on the Federal Government to urgently intervene to address this issue.

SERVICE CHIEFS YET TO SHOW DEXTERITY – SECURITY EXPERTS

A security expert, Akin Adeyi, said the nation had yet to experience the security dexterity of the Service Chiefs appointed by President Tinubu, lamenting that ordinary Nigerians were no longer safe.

“It is sad that we found ourselves in this mess as a nation. One would have thought that the retiring of former Service Chiefs would bring respite to the citizens, but the opposite appears to be the case. It is never too late for these security officers to prove their worth in their assigned roles,” he said.

Decrying the situation, acting Nigeria Director, Amnesty International, Isa Sanusi, said it was a brazen failure of the authorities to protect Nigerians, “and sadly, it is becoming the norm in the country.”

For him, the security measures in response to insecurity have not translated into protection of lives of Nigerians.

President, Ijaw National Congress, Benjamin Okaba, sees no paradigm shift yet in security architecture.

Okaba, a professor, is worried that despite the appointment of new service chiefs, and regular security meetings with the President, there has not been significant improvement in the security architecture of the country.

According to him, the security policy of the Federal Government under the current political dispensation is not yet clear to the citizens, who have continued to live and go about their daily activities in subdued fear and anxiety.

The irony for some concerned Nigerians is that despite all the assurances from the President, the appointment of new service chiefs, regular security meetings and allocation of more funds to the fight of insecurity in the country, it seems the non-state actors are now more emboldened.

“Yes, dare-devil bandits abducted some National Youth Service Corps members in Zamfara State, but going ahead to kill some soldiers in Niger State is unacceptable. It means the bandits are not scared of anything. We are in big trouble here,” an Abuja-based lawyer, Chijioke Umelahi, lamented.

On the factors fueling insecurity, Umelahi noted, “Some organised kidnappings are being carried out by unemployed graduates. One of the kidnappers captured in River State recently said that he was lured by the money and pressure to take care of his family. Another said it was payback to the government and society that don’t care about the poor and unemployed.”

Other factors that fuel insecurity in the country, according to a security expert, Bertram Amuda, include ethnic and religious tensions, inadequate security infrastructure and socio-economic factors.

“I know that socio-economic conditions, like poverty, and the duo of ethnic and religious tensions can boost insecurity, but if the country has adequate security infrastructure, we will be able to tackle our security challenges to a reasonable extent. Part of it is taking good care of our security personnel because they cannot carry guns with empty stomach or families neglected when they die in the line of duty,” Amuda said.

Proffering solutions, Umelahi said that the President should give the Service Chiefs targets and remove whoever did not meet the target, ensure regular review of their operations and expenditure on security.

“People are hungry, the government should bring policies that will encourage SMEs and more foreign direct investments to come in and create jobs. It should be sincere with its promises to the people and recognise every zone and people of the country equally,” Amuda said.

In his view, a security analyst with SBM Intelligence, Emeka Okoro, said that it would require a multifaceted approach to address insecurity in the country.

According to him, the country needs improved security infrastructure, effective governance, social cohesion, economic development, and peace-building efforts to truly fight insecurity.

A researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Malik Samuel, advised the Tinubu administration to address the root causes of insecurity.

“The President should address root causes of insecurity. He should look at insecurity not just as a threat to national security but also as a threat to the people. He should focus on the safety and the welfare of the people. Instead of focusing on military force, address the issues driving the violence; address the issue of governance and corruption.
“No group in Nigeria possesses the capacity to take on the state. It is really about dealing with the drivers first,” he said.

US WARNS CITIZENS AGAINST TRAVEL IN NIGERIA

The United States recently warned its citizens to reconsider travelling to Nigeria due to increased risk of crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed gangs in the country.
An updated travel advisory issued September 20 by the US Department of State includes a flat “do not travel” warning for Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kogi, and Zamfara States due to terrorism and kidnapping.

A similar warning was issued for Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Imo, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, kidnapping, and armed gangs.

While placing these states on Level 4 – the highest risk category, the US warned that the security situation in the states was fluid and unpredictable due to widespread terrorist activity, inter-communal violence, and kidnapping; adding that security operations to counter these threats might occur without warning.

“Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, roadside banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country. Kidnapping for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as US citizens with perceived wealth. Kidnapping gangs have also stopped victims on interstate roads,” the advisory read.

“Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their reach.

“There is civil unrest and armed gangs in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta and Southeast regions; and armed criminality and gangs, including kidnapping and assaults on Nigerian security services is also pervasive in this region. Violence can flare up between communities of farmers and herders in rural areas” it added.

It said terrorist groups based in the North East routinely target humanitarian camps, security forces, churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, entertainment venues, and road travelers.

“Approximately two million Nigerians have been displaced as a result of the violence in Northeast Nigeria,” the advisory stated.
The State Department cautioned its citizens that the government had limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Nigeria due to security conditions.

ARMY VOWS TO CURB KIDNAPPING, CULTISM, OTHERS
However, the Nigerian Army says it will conduct three exercises to curb kidnapping, armed robbery, and other criminalities during the yuletide season.

The exercises will cover all parts of the country, except North East and North West, which already have Operation Hadin Kai and Operation Hadarin Daji, against Boko Haram and bandits, respectively.

The Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, disclosed this during a briefing at the Army Headquarters Abuja, on Friday.

Nwachukwu said the exercises would begin from October to December 2023, and eventually dovetail into full-fledged operations.

He said the exercises were codenamed “GOLDEN DAWN III” in the South East, “ENDURING PEACE III” in the North Central and “STILL WATERS III” in the South-South and South West.

“These exercises are designed to improve individual and collective professional competence and would dovetail into real-time operations to tackle various peculiar security challenges in the geo-political zones,” he noted.

The Army spokesperson said Exercise Golden DAWN III would tackle security challenges in the South East, such as armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism, and communal clashes, which he said become more pronounced in the build-up to the yuletide when many citizens return home to celebrate.

He said, “The exercise will focus on enhancing the capabilities of our troops in intelligence gathering and effective, proactive response to criminalities.

“With the exercise, we aim to improve the security in the South East and ensure the safety of the populace during the period that will culminate in the yuletide.”

Nwachuckwu said in the North-Central, exercise ENDURING PEACE III would address farmer-header conflicts, cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping, ethno-religious conflicts, and terrorism, among others.

“During the three months that will culminate into the yuletide, October, November and December, many Nigerians will be returning from overseas. During this period, the expectation is that the tendency for kidnapping is higher”

“The exercise will equip our troops with the necessary skills to combat banditry, including hostage rescue operations, intelligence-driven raids, and effective coordination with other sister services and security agencies,” he said.

He added that Exercise STILL WATERS III, which would be conducted in the South-South and South-West, would target the menace of cultism, robbery, and kidnapping.

Nwachukwu said, “It will equally seek to address the challenges of pipeline vandalism and other forms of economic sabotage. The exercise will also focus on securing critical infrastructures.

“Our troops would be trained on advanced surveillance techniques, rapid response tactics and the use of technology to effectively counter pipeline vandalism. By conducting this exercise, we aim to curb economic sabotage, protect national assets and ensure a stable environment for economic growth.”

On why the Army is launching another operation in spite of ongoing operations in the South East like Operations Udoka, Nwachuckwu said ongoing operations in different parts of the country were different from the three exercises.

He explained that the Joint Tasks force Operation Udoka in the South East was particularly geared towards addressing successions agitations and the criminalities associated with the agitations in the region, while exercise GOLDEN DAWN III was geared towards addressing crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping and other crimes associated with the yuletide.

“During the three months that will culminate into the yuletide, October, November and December, many Nigerians will be returning from overseas. During this period, the expectation is that the tendency for kidnapping is higher and to nip this in the bud, we are being proactive by springing up these exercises,” he said.

He added that there were non-kinetic operations embedded in the exercises like medical outreaches that would bring succour to Nigerians in order to win their hearts and minds to support the exercises.

SENATE SUMMONS SERVICE CHIEFS, IGP OVER KIDNAP OF STUDENTS

Consequently, the Senate has summoned the security chiefs to a closed session, to address the spate of kidnapping in tertiary institutions across the country.

This followed a motion by Senator Abdulazeez Musa Yar’Adua (APC, Katsina Central) on the kidnap of five female students of the Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State, on Wednesday, and the rising cases of kidnapping for ransom in the North West geo-political zone.

The Senate urged the federal, state and local governments to tackle the issue of poverty, which is purportedly the precursor to all social vices.

The October 4 attack happened 12 days after bandits, in their large numbers, forced their way into three hostels of the Federal University Gusau, Zamfara State, and abducted 24 students. Sixteen of the students were freed after three days by security agencies.