The recent threat by some terrorists to kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, symbolises the ridiculous level insecurity has reached in Nigeria. In a video they released recently, the bandits, who kidnapped the Abuja-Kaduna train passengers on March 28, 2022, also vowed to abduct other prominent Nigerians and cause mayhem in the country. They threatened to kill some of the abductees and sell off the rest if their demands were not met. Although the Federal Government described their threat as laughable and a mere propaganda tool to instill fear in the citizens and force government to submit to their demands, there is no sign of any concrete effort to flush out the outlaws.
In theory, the threat to abduct Buhari seems laughable and impossible. In reality, insecurity is trying to overwhelm the nation. The exploits of terrorists in recent times show how serious and audacious they have become. The other day, they attacked the presidential guards in the Bwari Area Council of Abuja, killing at least eight soldiers, including two officers, and wounding three others. They had earlier threatened to attack the Nigerian Law School in Bwari. Incidentally, the Federal Government has shut down the Federal Government College in Kwali, Abuja, on account of terrorists attack on a community near the school.
A few months ago, criminals invaded the Kaduna International Airport with impunity. Ordinarily, airports are seen as fortified safe havens, but the terrorists were able to penetrate the one in Kaduna, though no serious casualty was recorded. It was the same period they attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train, killing eight passengers and abducting 68 others. Some of the abductees are still in captivity undergoing excruciating torture.
Earlier this month, the terrorists attacked the advanced team of the presidential convoy in Katsina, President Buhari’s home state. Though only a few people sustained injuries, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Aminu Umar, and another police officer were not that lucky as they fell to the bullets of the terrorists, who attacked them same day at Dutsinma in Katsina State. They also attacked the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre in Abuja. In this incident, hundreds of prisoners escaped from the correctional centre. A Washington-based think-tank, the Nigeria Security Tracker, estimates that between January and June this year, non-state actors had killed about 5,222 people nationwide.
The rising spate of insecurity in Nigeria is very unfortunate. It is because of the negligence of the government. Over the years terrorists engaged in kidnapping for ransom but government and security agents took no decisive action to combat them. With the billions of naira they have made in ransom, the terrorists acquired more sophisticated weapons and became more emboldened to commit more atrocities.
There is no ruling out sabotage in the whole saga. The fear in certain quarters is that the attacks on the Kuje Correctional Centre, the presidential guards, the Nigerian Defence Academy )NDA) in Kaduna and some others would not have succeeded without some fifth columnists in the security agencies. The sabotage, unarguably, makes it easier for terrorists to smuggle their weapons through our porous borders.
Amid the prevailing insecurity, the citizens now live with their hearts in their mouths. There is nowhere to run to because nowhere is safe. People are afraid to travel by road because many of the expressways have become operational theatres for bandits and terrorists. They are afraid to travel by rail. The air transport, which happens to be the safest, is no longer affordable for many citizens. With the rising cost of aviation fuel, the airlines are forced to increase their fares. Some of them are already distressed.
All these are happening at a period the country desperately needs foreign direct investment. Ironically, some investors are leaving and the new ones are not coming. They cannot come because the security situation is dire.
The country is at a crossroads and needs serious redemption. Acquiring more sophisticated weapons to fight terrorism is good but without tackling the problem of sabotage, the efforts will not yield the anticipated results. There is need to fish out the fifth columnists sabotaging the efforts of the security agencies and deal with them decisively. This is where effective intelligence gathering comes in.
Besides, our security agents should stop taking reactionary actions. If we are serious about combating terrorism, we must take the war to their enclaves. The security agents know where they are. Security of life and property is the number one function of government. Any government that fails to fulfill this obligation has failed. President Buhari should ensure that he tackles the security challenge before he leaves office next year.