INSECURITY: Northerners killing Northerners!

With the specter of violence sweeping across the North, it will be an understatement to say the region is now under siege.

In many communities, gunmen have continued to have a field day. Agricultural and livestock productions have been badly affected because the peasants involved in such vocation  are have been disorganized by banditry and insurgency. The security agents appear to be overwhelmed as the bandits and terrorists seem so daring, unstoppable and destructive. It is against this background that some indigens of Katsina are appealing to President Buhari to champion the law that will allow ordinary citizens to carry arms to defend themselves.

Some governors, from Kaduna to Katsina, have already apologized as chief security officers of their respective states for the carnage being experienced and also calling for help from the Federal Government. Insecurity of life and property is of serious concern to them.

Daily,it has become a recurring decimal, especially in rural parts of their regions, to count losses in human lives and property. It was either through attacks and invasion by terrorist groups code named Ansaru in the Northwest, or by the seemingly unorganized guerrilla fighters of the Boko Haram sect in the Northeast.

Contemporary war analysts say the groups now unleash mayhem on this part of Nigeria under the aegis of  the Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, an offshoot of international terrorist organizations with overt sources of funding and undisclosed origin of sophisticated armoury  and ammunition.

The Ansaru bandits and Boko Haram insurgents, have  threatened the corporate existence of Nigeria in their actions and utterances. Till date, they have continued to disrupt the peace previously enjoyed in the guise of enforcing their violent and unacceptable Islamic beliefs on some parts of the country.

In the Northwest, the Ansaru militants, said to have taken advantage of the porosity of Nigeria’s borders with Niger and Benin Republics, have infiltrated and turned some neglected forest into their territories. Nigeria, with her landmass, due to alleged outright neglect  and, or, complacency by successive governments ,has been described as a country with huge ungoverned spaces.

The submission, wailing and cries of the wife of a local monarch killed by bandits in the ‘Yantumaki community of Kaduna state, summed up the hopelessness and despair in many rural folks.

“ They came in numbers, wielding dangerous weapons. I heard my late husband reciting prayers from the Qur’an. They shot and killed him….in our presence. Oh Allah!!!! Where is the government? Who will take care of our numerous children? Is this how the government will allow these bandits to be killing us? Oh Allah where is the Government? Where….! “ she  screamed amidst sobs in a VOA Hausa report.

That was the situation across the North. Some were reported, others only discussed in groups by the affected , often without any attendant reaction as security operatives  appeared to lack  the capacity and wherewithal to be everywhere.

Many still remember  how the Bakale and other neighboring communities in Chikun and Giwa Local Government areas of Kaduna state, were turned into a temporary theater of war. At a point, an attack virtually neutralized, an entire community. In the most gory manner ,the daredevil bandits, heartless and determined to inflict a high sense of fear ,had locked up a number of individuals in one room, and set them ablaze. Gory.

Just in March 2020, Governor Nasiru Ahmad El Rufa’i of Kaduna state had visited locals whose communities were invaded by bandits. He  rendered apologies to the affected and said there won’t be any negotiation with the terrorists. He was firm.

The Governor was told by the locals who lost their loved ones in the attack on Giwa and Igabi Local Government Areas of Kaduna state,that  casualty  figure  was  over 50.

A visibly disturbed El-Rufa’i had said that the casualties could have been more  but for the intervention of security personnel on land and in the air. “It could have been worse,” he said.

The  lawmaker representing the troubled communities in the House of Reps, Hon.Alhaji Ibrahim has sought  the intervention of the Federal Government. He told the BBC Hausa service that the area and other parts of the state were in a state of emergency because bandits often killed indiscriminately in the area.”Buhari should come to our rescue, we need Federal Government’s intervention,” he had said.

Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina state ,was engage the bandits in talks that did not take long to fail. Oblivious of the fact that hardly could terrorist groups with no central leadership keep  to agreements ,the rural state was enmeshed in renewed wave of killings. The governor,like his counterpart, had to apologize and admitted inability to protect  the locals.

As the attacks on Kaduna rural communities heightened, locals in Giwa Local Government might have decided to take their destiny in own hands. Those  in  Karaukarau village had confronted the bandits who stormed the locality during a wedding ceremony. Ten women who were being abducted were rescued by the villagers. The bandits could have turned them into sex slaves in the thick forests. But three women were not lucky. They were taken by the bandits.

The villagers appealed to the authorities to help secure the release of the three nursing mothers.

A community leader ,Muhammadu Sani Bakale, told journalists that the gunmen targeted a wedding ceremony in the village,stormed the community on bikes and abducted 13 women including nursing mothers. Speaking in Hausa,he said “ because of the curfew imposed on the state, the bandits were looking for soft targets in villages to get food. They came on Tuesday afternoon and unleashed violence while our people ,mostly women were celebrating a wedding  that took place.”

“ But when the locals came out in numbers and took arms against the bandits,10 women were rescued. Sadly,they ran away with three nursing mothers,” he said. From  Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna,farming communities have become the major targets. In collaboration with local informants,villages in these states were sacked and many were murdered in cold blood principally by the Ansaru wing of ISWAP who still lurch in bushes and caves.

Bandits now conceal motorbikes on Camels- – head to different locations 

One of their Modus Operandi was to cause devastation and carnage. With a good knowledge of bush paths ,they easily navigate and access the rough  terrain to change location. Security agents find it difficult to reach such places. Many were not trained in  combating guerrilla warfare.

For instance,bandits suspected to be ISWAP elements that terrorized some parts of Kaduna state,may flee  using bush paths that link the Birnin Gwari forests to Zamfara and Katsina states.

“ They were sighted by natives fleeing at night, they were many and looked horrible,” said a local who craved for anonymity.

According to him,” they used camels. Perhaps they feared using motorbikes which could  expose them to local vigilante groups in nearby settlements. We sighted the camels carrying heavy loads. We believe the bulging luggages on the camel’s backs were the parts of motorcycles.”

“ They knew security agents could trail them if they were on motorcycles. They are moving on  camels .We are afraid of telling the police,due to unforeseen consequences. But we hope the airforce will look into this matter and try to locate such movements from the sky,” he said.

According to the locals, once such fleeing bandits run short of food or other provisions, they  launch attacks on villages along the path ways, causing harm to the locals and dispossessing them of their belongings.

Formation of Regional Security outfits

Such crises have led to the establishment of regional security outfits such as the Amotekun in the Southwest  and its fledgling counterpart in the North, Shege Ka Fasa. These,according to concern Nigerians,was a clear demonstration that the Nigerian security apparatus has failed in the protection of life and property.

Garkida attack and the  deployment of  local hunters

When the police in Adamawa state explained why local hunters were necessary in the fight against the insurgents who dealt a heavy blow on Garkida town,the news was received with mixed feelings.

They said only  the hunters who reside in the locality know the terrain. The PPRO of Adamawa State Command, Suleiman Yahaya Ngoroji,had explained that they would only succeed if the locals cooperated and exposed strangers amongst them.

“We assure you that we are collaborating with the Army and local hunters to protect life and property of citizens, and to prevent future occurrence of such attack.

“The local hunters reside in the affected community. If you really want to know the geography of a place, it’s necessary to work with a native of that place. They will show us all entry and exit points ,”he said. The local hunters, journalists were told, have the spiritual power to disappear when facing danger, apart from a seeming ‘aphrodisiac’ which could make it impossible for any sharp object or bullet to pierce their skin.

The attack had displaced residents. One local said: “ Many have fled on foot even if you have the money, there are no vehicles because of the high number of people on the run ”I had to leave my family behind……everybody is scared because they( Boko Haram) sent a new message that they were coming back.

“ We are afraid because there is a route that links us with Guyuk, Chibok and up to Sambisa. That is why we are afraid of another attack. The last attack lasted from 7 o’clock up till midnight they vandalized the town, set houses on fire, razed a hospital and three churches. They killed two security agents……we have no full information of the exact number of the dead among the town dwellers because we all scampered for safety,” he said.

However, the PPRO, Suleiman Yahaya, assured that  security was  beefed up in Garkida “Truly, houses and churches were burnt, police facility and a mini Army barracks too. But Investigation is still on by the police to ascertain the number of the dead.”

He therefore, sought  the cooperation of the any strange development or strange faces to the authority. Still in the Northeast, although there was heartwarming news of the Nigerian military neutralizing the terrorists in droves, attacks on soft targets are still worrisome.

The night attack and subsequent carnage on Auno near Maiduguri was a dark part of history. Worried about these attacks, Inspector General of Police(IGP), Mohammed Abubakar Adamu had assured that all bandits would be smoked out of Birnin Gwari forests in Kaduna state . He said soon, motorists could be able to use that route to Lagos . He said in Kaduna that more trouble awaited  members of Ansaru terrorists group and bandits terrorizing Birnin-Gwari .

The IGP spoke when he visited the troops injured from an attack on the police operational helicopter in Kuduru village, Birnin Gwari local government area of Kaduna state. Represented by the Deputy Inspector General in charge of Operation, Abdul Majeed Ali, the IGP said “the assault on the terrorists camp in Kuduru was just the first of its kind, assuring that, many others will follow.”

“The force lost another injured personnel by name Sgt. Idris on Friday morning.  The death of Sgt. Idris brings to two, the number of personnel lost by the force, while 13 others were receiving medical attention at two medical facilities in Kaduna,” he said. The DIG Operation said he was sent by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu to see the condition of the gallant troops who were injured during the operation that was carried three days ago.

“And am very happy that the injured men are very stable, even the doctor treating them said there is no need to worry as they are responding to treatment. “The Inspector General of Police is very disturbed, but I assure that we will give them the best of treatment as we will see how fast they can respond to treatment “Unfortunately, we lost another personnel which increased the number of death to two whose names are Muhammad Abubakar and Sgt. Idris.

“It is a continuous operation as this is not the first one, it is just that this is a very special one because the police have woken up and are equal to the task of fighting every bandit in the country until it is cleared. “Thirteen of the men were injured, four will be discharged today while the rest will continue to be under observation.” He said. The IGP said the Ansaru terrorists have extended their tentacles to Birnin-Gwari and large area of Pandongari in Niger State too.

“We have taken note of them for a very long time and we had put a lot of intelligence on them. However, the operation in Kuduru happens to be the first in line up of our operations to wipe out terrorists from Birnin-Gwari. “So, we want to assure Nigerians that, very soon, Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road will be passable and Nigerians will have freedom of movement everywhere.”

He said Not long after,the bandits hit Sokoto, killing many. Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state had said that the military tried to counter the attack on communities in the state , but could not reach the affected places due to undulating terrain and bad road . The governor said that where the attack took place was an hour’s journey from the military base in Sokoto state.

However, by the time the soldiers were able to reach the communities bandits had already wreaked havoc on communities. It was bad as the bandits had attempted to wipe out a community. Tambuwal  said that while the killings were going on,” I spoke with the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 8th Division of the Nigerian Army in Sokoto as well as the Garrison Commander and other security chiefs.” “They informed me that the troops on ground in the area were stationed at (unmotorable, undulating terrains of) Burqusuma axis (about an hour’s journey) away from where the attack was going on.

However, the troops were quickly redeployed to the attacked area to defend the people” “Before their arrival, some things  had happened. Nonetheless, they chased the bandits, who, as they fled, continued to wreak havoc on hapless communities,” he said.

North Now Epicenter, Theatre Of Violence

The spate of killings has attracted condemnation from all walks of life.

Immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara had said that the North has now become the epicenter and theatre of violence and stressed the urgent need to find a lasting solution to the situation.

Honourable Dogara who stated this at a Northern Security meeting convened by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) to inaugurate the Northern security monitoring committee  had emphasized that Nigeria has suffered from Boko Haram ISWAP led by Albarnawi, Boko Haram led by Shekau and Ansaru insurgency to farmers/herders conflict, banditry, kidnapping, ethno religious conflicts, cattle rustling among several others.

According to Dogara who was the Chairman of the meeting,” We are confronted with a crisis that is unparalleled in our history. The death spiral appears unstoppable. Increasingly, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish us from our enemies.

“ There was no shortage of early warning signs and as a matter of fact, our philosophers such as the late Sa’adu Zungur of blessed memory had warned that this dystopian era was fast approaching but we ignored all. We are now paying for our collective negligence”. He further observed that our economic debris has become too conspicuous to be ignored, adding that, “as it is, we are now trapped in a prison of mirrors, where  lies are answered with new lies.

With all these, its like our slow motion walk to self Apocalypse is assured”. “ Violence is taking roots because our leadership model has been exposed as a lie, an empty ideology used to satiate greed instead of addressing social inequality and injustice. “ We are running out of time, it is crystal clear that the North cannot withstand the kind of contradictions that exist now. The North is on fire ignited by us either by our actions or inaction. Those who truly love the North must now come out and accept responsibility and begin a salvage mission, bearing in mind Professor Andrew Haruna’s warning ‘That the North was handed over to us in one piece, we must therefore not pass it to our children in pieces, he said.

Resurgence of violence in Katsina

Bandits have over the past few weeks shot and killed a traditional ruler, the Hakimin Garin Yantumaki, Alhaji Atiku Maidabino in Danmusa Local Government Area of Katsina State. The bandits, said to to be Fulani herdsmen, raided the Yantumaki community at about 12:30 am on motorcycles .They found the monarch’s home, broke into his home while everyone was asleep, and shot him. The killing was less than 24 hours after bandits also shot and killed the chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Batsari council area, Abdulhamid Mamman.

The state, like most others in the Northwest geopolitical zone, has witnessed an increase in activities of bandits in recent months, with several lives and properties lost in the process. Katsina has suffered frequent  attacks in June ,which made President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the military to tackle  bandits in the state, According to Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina state,”the military operation had seen military personnel, including Nigeria Air Force (NAF), go into parts of the forest in the state where they had never gone before. The operation has recorded some successes, including neutralizing bandits and recovering  of assorted weapons. I hope  the issue of banditry would soon become a thing of the past.” But the bandits have rather appeared more vicious and have killed more in the state.

Contrary to the perception that withdrawing arms from indigenes of troubled communities would lead to some reprieve for government in the war against insecurity, the step has actually empowered bandits and insurgents who now appear to have upper hand and easily turning parts of North West and Borno into their killing fields.

Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and Borno are some of the badly hit states. To this end, a prominent kinsman of President Muhammadu Buhari, Maiwada Danmallam, a one time Senior Special Assistant to governor Aminu Bello Masari and a traditional title holder, wants the President to go the whole hog in protecting the civilian communities now at the receiving end of the bandits who are turning the affected communities into hell on earth.

He was speaking for other kinsmen whose decision he articulated. Government, he says, must legislate and relax the relevant laws to allow citizens caught in the vortex of recent killings to protect themselves from the carnage being meted out by AK-47 wielding insurgents and bandits.

“Even if we have to make necessary adjustments in our laws to face the reality, we have to do so. And what’s our reality? Citizens are living helplessly in the hinterland, sitting like ducks waiting for bandits to come and kill them at will. “Like I opined before, these bandits are not “jinns” but mere mortals who are only having an upper hand in this war because they have stepped down their allegiance to the state and no longer respect our laws.

They are free to carry arms and kill at will when the citizens are not allowed to carry arms,” Danmallam said in an open letter written on behalf of his kinsmen to the President, the State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, Katsina State caucus in the National Assembly and the state law makers. He said: “We have able, willing but traumatized citizens who, in the right frame of mind, can defend their lives if allowed to carry arms. Hence, it’s sensible to not only allow them to do so but assist them with the weapons.

“Sirs, this deserves your serious consideration given that with or without government approval, a time will come that citizens will source for arms to protect themselves from the seemingly inexhaustible sources these bandits are sourcing their own. It’s better then, for the government  to evolve controllable means or arm citizens in the area affected than force them into arming themselves, using random uncontrollable means that will make disarming them another problem.”

Tackling insecurity by allowing citizens to bear arms, he believes, is feasible, given the overstretched capacity of the Nigerian military and the many theatres of war it’s involved with at the moment. “With citizens armed with minimum training, three or four police officers permanently stationed in villages (even local army and police retirees will do) they could counter attacks and save their communities. Actually, when the bandits know about villagers having AK-47, they will start to think twice before attacking any village with reckless ease and disrespect to human lives (as) they do today.

“The peace to be created by this effort would then be used by the government to develop a more permanent and sustainable solution to the problem ,” he said. Another step, he outlined in solving the problem, is to re-evaluate the role of the judiciary. His words: “Arresting and releasing, on bail, deadly criminals mostly on judicial technicalities and general inefficiency of our judicial system will not help.

Our justice system, bad as it may sound to our ears, is neither designed for nor capable to handle complex problems of this magnitude and proportion. “The inefficiency of the system to dispense justice does not frighten the bandits. As important as the need to flush out and neutralize the bandits is, the need to reform the justice system and make it effective enough to reintroduce the concept of law and order as obtainable in a normal human society is even more important.”

He also warned that nothing short of full and swift implementation of the Katsina State law, making banditry punishable by death would do. Recall that many villages in parts of Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna in the North West and Borno in the North East had been bleeding copiously for over 12 months and the limits of patience of the people had reportedly been overstretched by the carnage.

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