The upsurge in banditry and the attendant killing of innocent people in Nigeria should serve as a wake-up call on our leaders to find lasting solution to the overwhelming national insecurity. Speaking during a recent panel discussion in Abuja on ‘the Economic and Social Impact of Insecurity on Education’ at the national dialogue on financing safe schools in Nigeria, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, restated his opposition to negotiating with bandits. According to him, they deserve death, not ransom. “Nobody living in the forest is innocent, and we must kill them all,” he said.
We commend the governor for his boldness. His state, Kaduna, has been the epicentre of banditry in recent times. Recently, some 23 students of Greenfield University in Kaduna were abducted from their school. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N800 million. In an unprovoked, vile and wicked act, the bandits killed three of the students on April 23. On Monday when the nation was yet to come out of the trauma, the abductors killed two more students. They have threatened to kill more if their demand was not met. The hoodlums even rejected the N15 million the Greenfield authorities pledged to pay and insisted that it must be N800 million.
Also, 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Kaduna State were abducted in March. The assailants also demanded huge ransom. So far, they only released 10 of the students while the remaining 29 are still in custody. Across the country, it has been a tale of woe for many Nigerians. In Niger, Zamfara, Nasarawa and many others, hundreds of citizens have been kidnapped and sometimes killed for no justifiable reason. It is only in an animal kingdom where there is no rule or order that this type of savagery happens.
In civilised societies, there are rules governing human relationships. Good enough, the Nigeria Police personnel are there to enforce these rules and instill order in the society. Any society that defaults in maintaining the set rules reaps anarchy and chaos. Thus, the primary duty of any government is to maintain law and order and protect life and property. That is why the government, in an ideal situation, has the monopoly of the instruments of violence. This is to enable it whip any outlaw or recalcitrant person into line. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case in Nigeria. Might is gradually becoming right as bandits continue to terrorise innocent citizens almost on a daily basis. The situation is so scary that the United States recently issued travel advisory, warning her citizens against travelling to some parts of Nigeria. The rest of the world watches in horror as Nigeria slides into anarchy.
Failure of the government to arrest the ugly trend has pushed some Nigerians to canvass negotiating with bandits and offering them amnesty. People like the Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, are of the strong view that negotiating with bandits will help to stop their evil act. We do not think so. As el-Rufai had noted, negotiating and paying ransom to the bandits would not make them stop their criminal activities. It will rather empower them to do the more. With the ransom, they can buy more sophisticated weapons to ply their nefarious trade and take full control of more Nigerian territories. They will also become more emboldened to confront any force that challenges them. It is sad that the government wasted time in tackling the growing menace. Now, the situation appears to have gone out of control.
We believe there is still hope for redemption. At this point, the government should seek foreign assistance in tackling the spate of insecurity in the country. There is no need to hide a malignant sore threatening the fabric of the nation. Some countries that have gone through this type of experience can offer valuable advice and weapons.
The Federal Government should go all out against bandits and terrorists in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari was on point when he recently directed the deployment of fiercest show of legitimate force against bandits, saying such criminality would be fought with all the resources available to the country. To do it effectively, the military and the police should be well equipped to confront the criminals. Security operatives know the hideout of some of these hoodlums. They should take the war to them rather than reacting when the deed is already done.
To effectively tame the criminals, there is need to put more emphasis on intelligence gathering and sharing among the security forces. Training and retraining of troops, especially on counter insurgency, must also be prioritised.
Government should also redouble efforts to reduce unemployment and poverty. These are some of the triggers of insecurity that the country is experiencing today. We cannot convincingly win the war against insurgency and banditry when millions of Nigerians are living in extreme poverty.
Besides, all Nigerians should be involved in the efforts to tackle insecurity. Therefore, any person with relevant information on the movement and operations of criminals must divulge it to security agencies. Above all, good governance, which entails tackling poverty, unemployment and corruption, is vital to ending the general insecurity.