THREE months into President Bola Tinubu’s administration, insecurity is once more escalating rapidly. A report that at least 23 local government areas in three North-West states are currently under the control of bandits underscores the gravity of the situation and harks back to the time terrorists ruled over 27 LGAs across the North-East. The PUNCH reported that farmers and residents in 23 LGAs in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi states have abandoned their farms and communities, fleeing rising bandit criminality. This and other developments reinforce growing public perception that Tinubu is distracted by politics and is misplacing national priorities. He should take security more seriously.
With insecurity, history is repeating itself. In the early months of 2015 and the run-up to the general elections, 27 LGAs in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states were occupied by Boko Haram Islamic insurgents. There, Boko Haram hoisted its flag, collected tributes/taxes, rendered social services and imposed its harsh version of Sharia law. Although these territories were later liberated, parts of them intermittently relapsed into the hands of the Islamists.
Bandits and terrorists are resurgent in many states. In the North-West especially, they are thriving. The PUNCH report named the worst affected LGAs in Sokoto as Isa, Sabon Birni, Gwadabawa, Illela, Tangaza and Goronyo. Not only has this affected farming – the largest of employer of labour in Nigeria and 23 per cent contributor to GDP – residents are migrating en masse to other areas. Several villages have been deserted. The bandits enforce the payment of tributes to farm or harvest crops, collect taxes, kidnap for ransom, and kill randomly.
Among the characteristics of a failed state include loss of sovereignty over territory, and inability to provide the basic functions of statehood. Countries fail, adds Brookings Institution“when they are convulsed by internal violence and can no longer deliver positive political goods to their inhabitants.” Nigeria has been moving dangerously along this path.
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In Kebbi, the bandits slaughtered 2,500 persons from 2019 to 2023, a Zuru Development Foundation official said. In the first six weeks of the Tinubu presidency, criminals massacred 555 Nigerians, said the NGO, Global Rights Nigeria.
After stillborn negotiations with the bandits by the state government, all the 14 LGAs in Zamfara are under brutal attacks. The most tormented are reportedly Maru, Anka, Shinkafi, Maradun, Zurmi, Gusau and Bungudu.
This is a reversal of the modest gains of the past. Bandits and terrorists are also wreaking havoc in Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Katsina, Bauchi, Nasarawa and Benue states. In August 2022, the immediate past Governor of Kaduna, Nasir el-Rufai,revealed that bandits and Ansaru terrorists were “consolidating their grip on many communities” in the state and running a parallel government.
El-Rufai’s Niger counterpart, Abubakar Sani-Bello, said seven of the state’s 25 LGAs were under siege of banditry. Bandits ambushed military troops there last week, slaughtering 36 soldiers.
Nigeria is drifting and Tinubu, like his predecessors, is mishandling the security challenges by underplaying the capacity of the bandits, and by inattentiveness. On Monday, bandits abducted eight NYSC members travelling to Sokoto in Zamfara for their service year.
In the North-Central, bandits are drenching Plateau and Benue states in rivers of blood. Eight persons died in a clash between two rival bandit groups in Benue’s Ukum LGA on Monday. A day earlier, bandits massacred a ward commander of the Benue Livestock Guard. The Global Terrorism Index 2023 listed Nigeria as the eighth most terrorised country in the world because of the relentless malevolence of Boko Haram/ISWAP, bandits, Fulani herdsmen, and killer gunmen in the South-East.
These killings and abductions mimic a war situation. Having lost its monopoly of coercive force to sundry criminal groups, the Nigerian state is hurtling towards failure. With physical insecurity, food insecurity has also worsened, and extreme poverty is rising.
Therefore, beyond the pledge by the new Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru, to significantly improve on the security in his first year in charge, Tinubu must prioritise security because that is the supreme raison d’être of government.
He should collaborate with the National Assembly and state assemblies, and governors to promote the establishment of state police, closely supervise the security agencies, and drive their modernisation, including overhauling the intelligence services and the effective deployment of technology.
Source:- Punch Ng