By Rose Moses
Last week, precisely, Thursday, July 23, 2020, half-clad women in southern Kaduna had a protest march, provoked by what they described as persistent killings and destruction of property in their area.
In a manner that clearly spelt doom, the women were protesting a sad development they said had deprived them of their breadwinners and turned them into widows. Their men and people, generally, were being killed with wanton impunity.
The marchers headed to their Atak Njei, Agwam Atyap palace in Zango-Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State to lament the situation. They as well decried their farmlands being taken over by bandits. As such, they called on the relevant stakeholders, including the government, security agencies, and the international community, to save them from further mayhem.
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You will agree that it is not very often in our clime, or anywhere else for that matter, that you see women, especially the elderly, protesting half-naked. When that happens in a typical African setting, it calls for serious concerns.
It is worrisome, therefore, that while the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a serious toll on humanity across the globe, the people of southern Kaduna and indeed other parts of Nigeria are constantly dealt additional blows by killer-herdsmen, Boko Haram militants or bandits.
Despite a 24-hour curfew said to be enforced by the Kaduna State government on southern Kaduna, fresh attacks by suspected Fulani militiamen have reportedly left 63 people dead in the area within one week. The criminal gangs do not just stop at that. They loot their victims’ belongings and burn down houses afterward.
The Kaduna governor, Nasir el-Rufai, it would be recalled, had on the night of Thursday, July 23, imposed a 24-hour curfew on the troubled southern Kaduna, such as Kauru and Zangon Kataf local government areas, and actually extended it to Jema’a and Kaura local government areas.
This, notwithstanding, the carnage has continued with impunity and the state government even accused of ‘normalizing’ the slaughtering when it referred to it as reprisals, an act that former National Human Rights Commission chair, Chidi Odinkalu, described as irresponsible.
“The normalization of slaughter is the worst thing a government can do and that is what this lot (referring to Kaduna State government) has done. If you recall, it promised the people security, not normalization of being slaughtered,” Odinkalu said, among the plethora of condemnations by well-meaning Nigerians.
Like Kaduna, so also are such horrible tales coming from Katsina and Borno. An online video, for instance, surfaced almost at the same period in Borno showing the execution of five persons by masked men in military camouflage suspected to be Boko Haram militants. A voiceover is heard in Hausa, before the execution, saying that the five were working for infidels.
“Those of you that are being used by infidels to turn others to infidels know this today. You who work for infidel groups, you satisfy their aims but they do not care about you and that is why when we catch you they do not show concern. Our call to you is to repent and follow Allah; we shall waylay you in all the roads that you follow and if you don’t listen, the fate of these ones will befall you.”
According to reports, the slain persons were believed to be aid workers captured during a raid in the Monguno Local Government Area of Borno State on June 13, 2020. They were staff members of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Action Against Hunger, Rich International, International Rescue Committee, and a security guard.
It was gathered that before carrying out the execution, the insurgents had demanded a ransom of $500,000.
Sadly, these were happening despite several air raids by the military and assurances by the Federal Government that many insurgents have been neutralized. But what do you get, instead? Continuous attacks on communities, aid workers, and even military bases.
In Katsina, among several other criminal acts, an ambush by suspected bandits left at least 16 soldiers and officers dead. Twenty-eight others were reportedly wounded.
Katsina, which is the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, has witnessed periodic attacks by armed militants with over 2,000 people killed, 500 communities destroyed, and more than 33,000 people displaced, according to a 2020 report of the West Africa Network for Peace Building.
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Thus, scores of residents of a Katsina community, apparently angered by the incessant killings, had to block a highway sometime in May this year.
President Buhari, as a result, promised a major military onslaught to rid the state of bandits and kidnappers.
So far, the promise seemed to have remained just some words, something most Nigerians have come to accept as a normal from the All Progressives Congress-led government as attacks by the bandits on military camps and civilians have continued unabated.
It is, therefore, ironic and actually makes little or no sense that a president with such a fire burning in his country, would travel, in the middle of it all, amidst pomp and ceremony, on a peace mission to another country. How on earth do you give what you don’t have? Who does that?
Or are we to believe the voice of those terrorists in that horrible video executing the aid workers, inferring that the lives of some particular Nigerians do not matter?
The President, it would be recalled, had to travel to Mali while his house was burning, so to speak, “to engage in further consultations towards finding a political solution to the crisis in that country.” What an irony!
It, therefore, should not come as a surprise if authorities concerned choose to throw a party, right to our faces, celebrating these criminal elements in the name of reintegrating them into the society… and sometimes, into the military, in what is described as deradicalization and rehabilitation.
Just over the weekend in Gombe, the Gombe State capital, we watched as 601 ex-Boko Haram terrorists, including 14 foreign nationals from Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were reintegrated into the society by the Defence Headquarters through their respective national and state authorities.
It was also heard, sad as that may sound, of some of these deadly terrorists being recruited into some security outfits, simply because someone somewhere wants us to believe such deadly group members suddenly purge themselves of such grave evil by merely handing over their guns. To what extent–forgive my asking–can such terrorists, described as some of the deadliest in the world, repent?
They are even given grants in most cases to start up businesses, or sent to study abroad with promises when they return–in a society where millions of honest young men and women who spent years at various higher institutions graduate into the streets and roam there for years in a futile search for jobs.
How does one expect such an honest young man or woman to feel watching hardened criminals being so pampered and rewarded for wasting innocent lives?
Senator Ali Ndume, chairman, Senate Committee on Army aptly captured the situation when recently he noted that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is giving much attention to the repentant terrorists than it is giving to the victims of their attacks.
Ndume, representing Borno South Senatorial Constituency at the Red Chamber, was speaking on a television programme, where he lamented how victims of Boko Haram attacks are treated in IDP camps, with food, clothing, medical and shelter issues, while the repentant terrorist is well treated.
He argued that the priority of the President Buhari-led government at this time should be how to take care of the displaced victims, while repentant Boko Haram terrorists should be kept somewhere and not be allowed into the society where they had brutally killed people.
The situation is even more worrisome when you recall that the five of humanitarian workers were executed two days before the Federal Government released the so-called repentant Boko Haram members in Gombe. And to think this is the same government that could not come to the rescue of the humanitarian workers because it could not meet the demands of the terrorist group is so depressing.
Any wonder, therefore, why there is a consistent rise in the rate of crime in the country, even while thousands of these killers are constantly being reintegrated into society.
What a puzzle, indeed, in the land of confusion!