A week after a marathon meeting with leaders of Nigeria’s security team, the House of Representatives, yesterday, lamented rising insecurity in several parts of the country, especially Kaduna, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states.
The lawmakers took turns to criticise the action and inaction of President Muhammadu Buhari, restating their earlier call for a declaration of emergency on security.
While some called for the sacking or resignation of the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.) and the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd.), others called for the shutdown of the National Assembly, partly blaming the parliament for not doing enough in its oversight of the executive arm.
This is coming a day after the Northern Elders Forum demanded the immediate resignation of President Buhari over killings across the country.
Placing a handle on the dire straits regarding the state of the nation, at least, 2,968 people have been killed, while 1,484 were abducted in the country from January to March 2022, according to data released by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST). NST, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, gathered data through weekly surveys of Nigerian and international media.
This is nearly 900 more than 2,085 persons killed in the fourth quarter of 2021 in violent incidents, which raised the tally of deaths to 10,366 in 2021, a sharp increase from the 7,063 fatalities in 2020.
According to the data, more people were killed in the Northwest than in other regions in the country. At least 1,103 people were killed within the period in the region.
The North-central region recorded the second-highest number of murders with 984 killed during the period, while in the Northeast, 488 were killed.
In the Southeast, 181 were killed during the period under review, while in the Southwest and South-South regions, 127 and 85 people were killed respectively.
Terrorists, locally called bandits, have been attacking and killing thousands of people in the Northwest since 2017. These assailants have attacked rural dwellers, destroyed their farmlands and in many cases only allow them to the farm after they have paid protection fees. They have also targeted travellers across the region in what is one of the most lucrative kidnap-for-ransom syndicates on the continent.
The data show that the North is the more violent region with 2,575 (86.8 per cent) murders, while the South recorded 393 deaths (13.2 per cent). Some of the most violent states are Niger with 840 deaths, followed by Zamfara with 404, Borno 392, Kaduna 332 and Kebbi 114.
Assailed on all sides with escalating insecurity in the country, the Federal Government, yesterday, blamed it on an ‘unholy’ collaboration between bandits and Boko Haram, as it said fighters of both groups have joined forces, leading to an increase in terrorist activities being witnessed across the country.
The Minister of Defence, Magashi, disclosed this while briefing journalists after the week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Buhari. He stated that the attacks on the Abuja-Kaduna train and rail track, and other recent attacks in the North were carried out by joint forces of bandits and Boko Haram members working in unison.
“What is happening now is that there is a kind of an unholy handshake between bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. Preliminary reports of what transpired at the Kaduna train attacks show that there is a kind of collaboration between the bandits and the dislodged Boko Haram terrorists from the Northeast. I can tell you very confidently that the Federal Government is on top of this matter,” he told journalists.
On the government’s efforts to arrest the terrorists that carried out the train attack, the minister said: “Honestly, I think the security chiefs are working hard to unveil those that are involved and we will tell you very soon those that are carrying out these attacks.
“For both attacks in Jos and Kaduna, we will come and explain to the public what is really going on and our efforts to ensure that all these activities are stopped once and for all. We are really on top of the situation, we are planning hard and we will get it out as soon as possible.”
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State had recently revealed that the train attack was carried out by Boko Haram terrorists in collaboration with bandits operating in Kaduna, Zamfara, Sokoto Niger and Kebbi states.
On the 72 hours ultimatum by families of victims of the train attack to secure their release or take their fate into their hands, and what the government is doing, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said: “I think the Minister of Defence has already addressed the issues. One, what the Federal Government is doing won’t be the subject matter of a press conference, because we have lives at stake and various arms of security are working night and day to unravel the mystery surrounding the attack as a whole.
“On the kidnapped people, what I can assure you is that the respective arms of government actually engaged as we speak, are working to get those victims released.
“It’s natural for anybody who is a father or a mother of a kidnap person to be worried and to be concerned, but at the level of government, we appreciate that and we are leaving no stone unturned, but to give you specific steps we’re taking, I think will be counterproductive and not going to aid or help those who are kidnapped or the security forces who are tracing them and ensuring that there’ll be no repeat of such attacks.”
The Presidency has reacted to the call by Northern Elders Forum (NEF) for President Buhari to resign immediately over killings across the country, especially in the North. The Presidency, according to a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, assured that reform on security sector is coming soon.
It accused NEF of seeking publicity like oxygen as it’s the norm with failed politicians. According to the Presidency, the call for President Buhari’s resignation is not a solution to the security problems facing the country, especially one that has built up to a worrisome level following decades of neglect.
“It is more important that citizens know what their government is doing to deal with this situation and for politicians to come to terms with the fact that it is beneficial to all that they help to preserve the state so that when it is their turn, they will have a place that they will manage. People don’t have to destroy what is there in a desperate quest to get power,” the statement said.
The leadership of the House and security committees had last week Tuesday met with security chiefs over the growing insecurity in the country, especially on recent attacks on the Kaduna International Airport and an Abuja-Kaduna train. The meeting, which was held behind closed doors, lasted over four hours.
However, the lawmakers returned to the chamber yesterday to lament the incessant killings and abductions by terrorists. Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Yusuf Gagdi, moved a motion of urgent public importance titled ‘Terrorist Attacks on Kanam and Wase Communities of Plateau State,’ while Bem Mzondu and John Dyegh moved a separate motion of urgent public importance on killings in Benue State.
Gagdi said: “We were elected by the people to represent them here, with a specific mandate mentioned in the Constitution. It begins to beat my imagination whether that function is really being practised by all the tiers of government. Before we do anything, the first responsibility is the security of life and welfare of the people.”
Gagdi further lamented that the National Assembly has kept appropriating more funds for the security forces, while nobody is held accountable for the growing insecurity in the nation. “There must be someone somewhere that has neglected his responsibility or failed to discharge his duty to the best of his ability,” he stated.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Police Affairs, Bello Kumo, called for the sacking of the Minister of Defence and National Security Adviser. The lawmaker blamed the President for the security situation in the country by refusing to sack both security heads.
Another lawmaker, Linda Ikpeazu, described the country as a failed state, while the Deputy Speaker accused the security agencies of complicity, citing an instance where a soldier was arrested for supplying uniforms to bandits.
Idris Wase, who presided over the day’s legislative business, decried terrorist attacks on the People of Kanam local government of Plateau and neighbouring communities, which killed about 100 people.
Wase recalled that the House had passed a resolution on a similar motion on December 14, 2021, and many other security resolutions in the past and have communicated all the resolutions to government and security agencies, but unfortunately, no action has been taken.
THE Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alkali Baba, has admitted that the effort of the police towards ensuring security for the populace was not good enough. The IGP, while fielding questions from newsmen after inaugurating the Area Command in Gwarimpa, Abuja, noted that the average policeman is more endangered as they are being killed on a daily basis.
“We are doing our best, our best is not enough. Everyone is synergising, the military is in, and other security agencies are in. We are even more endangered; there is no day our men are not killed. We have been trying and we shall continue to try,” he assured.
Meanwhile, prominent Northern leaders have warned the Federal Government not to jeopardise efforts in ensuring the release of kidnapped victims of the Kaduna train attack by not engaging in meaningful negotiation.
Among those who ventilated their views on the efforts so far made to get the hostages out of the den of terrorists is a former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi; former Senator representing Kaduna Central zone and civil rights activist, Shehu Sani; chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Elder Anthony Sani and close associate of Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, Prof. Usman Yusuf.
They all agreed that the days are gradually waning and government should get the process of rescuing all the victims safely in motion, even if it requires talking with the terrorists without compromising the criminal acts they have committed.
Senator Sani, who referred to one of the videos posted by the terrorists, said the Federal Government should immediately constitute a joint security agency made up of the military and police to negotiate with the terrorists to know what they really want since they have declined to accept money.
He said: “Most kidnapping like this ends up in the payment of ransom, and it is difficult to believe that they don’t want money. What needs to be done now is to reach out to them and ask what they really want, since they don’t want money.”
Sani, explained that those who attacked the Kaduna-bound train could have been terrorists of ISAWP and Boko Haram backgrounds. He noted that “from all indications, bandits have not targeted the trains for a very long time.
“It is possible that they have elements of jihadists and the fact is that bandits have always asked for money. If these ones don’t want money, I still insist that we need to know what they really want,” he suggested.
Former ACF Secretary-General, Anthony Sani, said: “I am not privy to the interactions between the terrorists and government, which have resulted in this kind of demand, but I suspect there are some leaders of the terrorists in the custody of government whom they want released.
“The government has no choice but to negotiate with the terrorists to secure the release of the kidnapped Nigerians, lest lack of serious efforts to secure their release could affect the sense of patriotism among citizens.”
He added: “If you recall in 2006, Israel released over 1,000 members of Hamas and secured the release of one Israeli soldier in the custody of Hamas. In 2014, President Obama released five Talibans from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for one American soldier held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Both America and Israel had to negotiate for the release of their citizens in the interest of patriotism, which is very important for holding a nation together. This is because no government can afford to abandon its citizens to their fate and expect patriotism.
“Negotiation with terrorists should be used very sparingly. I think what this government can do is to have enough trained and equipped security personnel who are well motivated to secure the nation by taking the campaign to their doorsteps in the forest. It is only after dominating the campaign in the forests that government can negotiate with the terrorists from a position of strength and secure favourable terms.”
However, according to Gumi’s associate and former Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Yusuf, “rescuing the kidnapped victims safely should be a national priority.”
Recounting his visit with Sheikh Gumi to the bandits’ camps, he explained: “These are not the regular bandit’s Sheikh Gumi and I visited. The bandits we visited when they kidnapped people will ask for money. They don’t blow rail lines.”
Source: The Guardian