In the past couple of days, the military has increased its offensive against bandits in the northwest and northeast following the targeted attacks against family members of politicians and elites.
Recently, governors in the northwest, particularly the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, have taken some drastic measures including the shutting down of mobile communications infrastructure, cancelling market days, banning the sale of petrol in cans and prohibiting phone charging spots.
These drastic measures coincided with the increase in attacks on the elites as some of the bandits became emboldened and operated in metropolitan areas including the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
To underscore the recent impact of the new dimension of insecurity, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a new directive to the Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police and other security forces.
This saw an increased ground and air offensive by the Nigerian Military, leaving scores of bandits fleeing their hideouts in their hundreds.
In the light of the recent onslaught, the governor of Zamfara State has begun to speak tough against the bandits, saying his administration was not ready to negotiate with criminals.
In this report, the newsmen takes a look at the increase in the target against prominent people, and the latest onslaught by the government.
Here is a timeline of notable politicians and their relatives who have either been killed or kidnapped.
1st of July: Zamfara Lawmaker killed:
On the 1st of July, shortly after attending the defection rally of governor Matawalle, a member of the Zamfara State House of Assembly, Muhammed Ahmed was killed in Katsina State while he was taking his son to Kano to board a flight to Sudan.
The lawmaker, a few hours before his tragic end, attended the defection of his governor from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC). His son was fortunate to only sustain minor injuries and did not die from the attack.
15th of July, gunmen killed Major General Ahmed Hassan.
Major General Hassan, a former provost marshal of the Nigerian Army was killed along the Lokoja-Abuja road while returning from Okene.
The dreadful road has been a major hotspot for abductions over the years. Despite being a major road connecting the North to the South, the road has become one of the most dreaded in the country.
On the 30th of July, bandits also kidnapped Jigawa Ex-lawmaker, Haladu Bako.
In August, suspected bandits attacked the village of the Zamfara State House of Assembly Speaker, Nasir Margaryan and abducted his father, step-mother and 5 others in the village.
According to reports, the village was invaded by armed men around 4pm.
29th August– Sen Na’allah’s son killed; Captain Abdulkarim Na’allah, the Son of the former Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’allah was killed in his home in Kaduna State.
The young pilot was strangulated in his home in Kaduna metropolis, while the men who killed him also stole his car.
Over the past months, several traditional rulers have been abducted by the bandits across the northern region, a remarkable shift from the usual mass abductions of ordinary Nigerians.
5th September, bandits kidnapped Katsina’s lawmaker’s wife and children. DAILY POST had reported the abduction of the wife and children of Ibrahim Kurami, a Katsina Lawmaker by bandits.
According to the report, the suspected bandits stormed the compound of the lawmaker in Kurami, Bakori local government in Katsina State.
6th of September, the about to wed sister of Katsina Deputy Speaker was abducted.
The tragedy of abduction which has become a daily occurrence in the north also struck at the home of Katsina State House of Assembly Speaker, Shehu Tafoki, when gunmen reportedly attempted to abduct his father. However, the vigilante in the community repelled the attack.
Unfortunately, according to reports, the younger sister of the lawmaker, who was about to get married was kidnapped.
Gumi opposes new offensive: However, controversial cleric, Shiekh Ahmad Gumi has opposed this new offensive against the bandits, calling for dialogue with the armed group.
The cleric even compared the groups to the END SARS movement.
He stated this in a post on his Facebook page last week. In the message titled: Zamfara: The flaring of Crisis, Gumi argued that “this conflict can be resolved by active engagement with the agitators just as we saw how EndSARS agitation was swiftly managed after an initial scandalous failed military confrontation, was peacefully resolved by the government, likewise, the herdsmen crisis can be.”
An ex-DSS officer who spoke with the newsmen on conditions of anonymity said the change in tactics could be as a result of logistics.
“Mass abduction of 100 of students involves serious logistics in terms of moving and feeding them. Whereas, when you kidnap a single individual whom you are sure of their families’ wealth, getting ransom is much easier. Mass abduction will get publicity and the government could grandstand by refusing to concede due to the public impact of paying the ransom, but a single family will pay to get their family members back. When you do mass abduction, you are picking a battle with the government, but when it involves an individual, it is easier. The evolution could be them learning, or maybe it is an issue of different groups with different standard operating procedures.
“While some of them (politicians) go about with security escort to their villages, the question is, what of their families? What is glaring is that insurgents in the Northwest appear to be different from the ones in the Northeast. The bandits appear to be interested in making money, not fighters like Boko Haram or ISWAP.”
As it stands, Nigerians on social media appear to be thrilled at the new dimension of the fight against the insurgents.