From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
The death toll from bandits terrorising northwest Nigeria stands at 1,260 people, with 2,021 others abducted in communities across Kaduna State between January 2020 and March 2021, an official from the state government has revealed.
Last year, the state government official said, the bandits killed a total of 937 persons and took as hostages 1,072 others, while they killed 323 and kidnapped 949 persons in the first quarter of 2021.
Speaking on a Kaduna-based radio breakfast show, ‘The Perspective” on Monday, Kaduna Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said the state government does not negotiate with the bandits.
‘Now, let look at what happened last year. In 2020, these armed bandits killed 937 people in Kaduna State and kidnapped 1,072 individuals across the state. It may also interest you to know that they crippled the local economy – they destroyed farms. This is the summary of the 2020 report. In that report, we came out with recommendations responsible for what we are witnessing in the State. We look at the misrepresentation, misunderstanding of the nature of the banditry that we are experiencing,’ the commissioner stated.
‘In summary, banditry started within the herders community – those that ran out of cattle and those that were rustling or disposing of others of their cattle. The response of the state to this issue at that time was not significant. People were left on their own. Those that lost their cattle started procuring arms to protect their animals.
‘Those are rustling have started enjoying the proceeds of their criminality. They have also come in contact with gun runners. From there, it metamorphosed into kidnapping and forced their families to pay the ransom. It got to a level where armed bandits prefer to kidnap on the highway.
‘When you meet bandits, they will tell you the emotional side of the story and as I said, it is like a theatre, they bring fighters, well-armed trying to create a certain expression that yes, they are non-state actors, but they are very powerful. And when you go out with such narratives, you will only dish out the emotional narrative and not the true state of their mind.
‘But, when you have the intercept of telephones that are linked to these bandits, you will know their system operation procedure (SOP) as they discuss their movement from one location to another which is the real state of their mind contrary to information you will have when you meet with them.
‘They don’t have justification for what they do. When they cross from one state to another, they attack communities, kill and rape people, set the community on fire. So, on what basis are you going to negotiate or you want to give amnesty. There are two or three states in the northwest that have practised amnesty and negotiation. What as that yield?
‘In one of the states that I don’t want to mention, two weeks ago, on a particular Wednesday afternoon, they killed 35 people. Two days after, they killed about 47 people. On the same week’s Saturday, they killed about 83 in another location. You look at how people are traumatised. You look at the destruction. You look at the public resources that were expended in the name of amnesty or negotiation. What has it yielded?,’ he queried.
Aruwan also explained the rationale behind the publication of the security update in the state saying, “the wisdom behind publishing or making public what happened in the security sector is a demonstration of transparency and a roadmap for critical stakeholders in the security sector to understand the nature of the problem and how to go about it.
‘On the other hand, you cannot just ignore a situation like this where people are being killed by non-state actors. They are being kidnapped with food security and the rural economy being collapsed. You have a lot of enquiry coming from here and there and certainly, you cannot ignore the importance of documentation in this regard. It is a best practice.
‘At times, we smile and move on when we read comments of some people who feel there is no justification for coming up with security updates. For instance, on Friday, immediately after I made the presentation, we had an emergency meeting with the undersecretary-general of the United Nations in the department of safety and security and I knew what he said and how he was impressed by our level of documentation.’