Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.


• Buhari overwhelmed or indifferent?

It is increasingly becoming impossible to keep a tab on the number of deaths as Nigeria continues to sink deeper into criminality by the day with terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other sundry criminals reigning like the Lord of the Manor across many parts of the country.

Early last week, the Sultan of Sokoto,  Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, had grabbed headlines when he raised the alarm that the Northern part of the country has been sitting on a keg of gunpowder in terms of security. “People think North is safe, but that assumption is not true. It’s the worst place to be in this country because bandits go around in the villages, households, and markets with their AK-47. They stop at the market, buy things, pay and collect change, with their weapons openly displayed. These are facts I know because I am at the centre of it,” the revered traditional ruler said at the fourth quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) in Abuja last Thursday.

The assertion by the Sultan was widely reported and attracted interests of Nigerians, not because what he said was novel or strange to most of his countrymen. The Sultan was applauded for drawing attention to the fact that life has become two-a-penny in the Northern part of the country. With over 10 years ravaged by insurgency, increasing banditry and herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, many parts of Northern Nigeria have witnessed unmitigated bloodshed in the past five years, despite that one of the campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019 was security. The alarm by the Sultan was, therefore, like a reminder that the President had wantonly failed to deliver on his promises.


Grisly Murder

Barely 48 hours after, Sultan’s typification of the Northern region as the ‘worst place to be in this country’ came vividly alive again with the grisly murder of 43 or 78 rice farmers – depending on which figures you choose to believe between that of the Nigerian government and that of the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau who claimed responsibility for the slaughter on Tuesday evening.

 The sheer number of people murdered at a go, regardless of which of the two figures is right should ordinarily provoke wailing and outrage from people within and outside the country as it did. Yet, the stomach-churning manner of the killings as was recounted by some of the survivors again brought to the fore the savagery Boko Haram has been unleashing on the people of North-east generally in their over 10 years of insurgency.

A farmer told journalists that the slaughtered farmers were all rounded up in by Boko Haram members dressed in army uniform and armed with sophisticated weapons in Zabarmari and marched to another location some kilometres away from where they were initially locked in a room before the insurgents began the slaughter of their victims in two and threes. “The terrorists would ask them some questions and thereafter tie their hands to their backs and slit their throats. Some of the villagers were beheaded and the heads placed on their bodies. It is the height of callousness because only very few of those captured were spared during the killing spree. I am still in shock as to how people could be that heartless,” Mallam Abubakar Yunus, who lost two children in the massacre, told a national newspaper.

As later confirmed by Shekau on Tuesday, the farmers said they incurred the wrath of the insurgents when they arrested two of their members who came to beg them for food the day before and handed them over to security operatives. They also said they had alerted soldiers of the possibility of revenge from the insurgents after the arrests, but there was no action from the security operatives. “It was a sad day for us in Zabarmari; it could have been averted but the military failed to act on the information we gave them,” he said.

Difficult Situation

At the burial of the slaughtered villagers, Governor Babangana Zulum who had also escaped from no less than three ambushes of Boko Haram during his tour of various parts of Borno State since he was sworn in in 2019 brought home vividly the predicament of the people. “It is disheartening that more than 40 citizens were slaughtered while they were working on their farms. Our people are in very difficult situation. They are in two different extreme conditions. On one side, if they stay at home, they may be killed by hunger and starvation; on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” the governor said.

As usual, the killings have been followed by outrage from a cross-section of Nigerians lamenting perpetual inaction of the Buhari administration as terrorists and other criminals were having a field day.

Many of the critics lamented that Nigeria is gradually becoming a failed state under Buhari.

Former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu lamented that while the Buhari administration cannot protect Nigerian farmers, it has been exerting energy to suppress #EndSARS peaceful protesters:  “The barbaric beheading of 43 Nigerians in Zabarmari village in Borno State by Boko Haram is a national outrage and tragedy. It’s increasingly clear that @NigeriaGov is unable to protect the lives of Nigerians. What does that mean? Our country is becoming a failed state.

Also, former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili called for medical examination of President Muhammadu Buhari to determine his ability to continue to preside over the country.

Lumbering For Excuses

In reaction to such criticisms, the government has lumbered as it tried to come up with a credible reason for its failure to protect the farmers from killers. The President, through his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu had initially claimed that the President had given the military all the wherewithal necessary to defeat the insurgents.

But in contradiction, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture had told reporters in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State that insecurity and killings would persist in Nigeria because of the failure of the international community to allow the country to acquire the necessary platform to fight insecurity.

However, the most controversial was the claim by Garba that the farmers were not expected to be farming where they were rounded up and slaughtered because they didn’t have the military permission to be there. “I am not exactly blaming the farmers but the truth has to be said. Was there any clearance by the military which is in total control of those areas? Did anybody ask them to resume activity? I have been told by the military leaders that they had not been so advised and certainly, therefore, it was a window that the terrorists exploited,”   Shehu said in a statement.

Kidnappers/Bandits On The Prowl

Many commentators had accused Shehu of blaming the innocent victims of the massacre, instead of showing empathy. But as the Sultan said, Borno is not the only state in the North where mass killings, especially of villagers and kidnappings for ransom are going on. On Monday, there were reports that bandits killed seven farmers in Katsina and abducted 30 others.

A member of the Katsina House of Assembly, Ibrahim Machika said the farmers were killed and abducted by the bandits in Tasha Bama, Dogun Muazu and Unguwar Maigaya villages in the Sabuwa LGA during plenary on Monday. All the lawmakers had during the plenary lamented that attacks by bandits had become a daily affair in their various constituencies.

Also, the village head of Gwaram in the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State, Alhaji Umaru Magaji was killed by bandits who also kidnapped eight other persons. It was learnt that just like the Sultan said, bandits now attack villages, kill, plunder property and kidnap people in many parts of the North-west including Buhari’s own Katsina State virtually without challenge from the security operatives.

Some of the killings of the past week include the murder of five worshippers and abduction of many others in a mosque in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State as well as killing of a former chairman of Sabuwa Local Government Area, in Katsina, Lawal Dako and his granddaughter by gunmen sometime last week. Also, two relatives of Abubakar Yahaya, a member of the House of Representatives representing the Kusada/Ingawa/Kankiya Federal Constituency in Katsina, were kidnapped. In the same vein, Boko Haram insurgents reportedly killed six soldiers in an ambush between Jagiran and Monguno in Borno State.

In the same vein, Azubuike Iheanacho, the medical director of Peace Hospital located along old Egume Road, Ayingba, Dekina local government area of Kogi State was abducted in his residence late last week.

He regained freedom after paying N3 million ransom to the insurgents. Kidnappers also abducted a senior lecturer of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, simply identified as Bako, alongside his wife and daughter, while Tofai Nanono, brother of the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, was abducted from the minister’s home in Tofai Village, Gabasawa Local Government Area in Kano.

In Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State, Philip Sekwo, the Chairman of the State All Progressives Congress, APC was found dead after he was forcefully abducted from his home by yet-to-be-identified gunmen.  There were also reports that kidnappers took away the wife and son of a police officer in  Yolde-Pate community of Yola South Local Government Area of Adamawa State. There were similar killings in Kaduna, especially the Southern part of the State.

South-west Under Siege

The South-west had literally been under siege in the past two weeks as criminals took advantage of massive destruction of police assets during the EndSARS protests to embark on an orgy of kidnapping and kidnapping across the region. The biggest casualty of the breakdown of law and order across the region was the Oluifon of Ifon, Oba Adegoke Adebusi who was shot dead while returning from Akure, the state capital to his domain. Two persons were also kidnapped at the same spot.

Reports also indicated that two persons were shot in Ode-Irele area of Irele Local Government Area on the same day, during attack by armed robbers on a bank in the area. Oladimeji Gbolagade, a Baptist Church cleric in Ikere Ekiti was shot dead by gunmen while returning from a neighbouring state. Also, the wife of Olugbenga Ale, the chief of staff to the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, was kidnapped at Owena in Idanre council area of the state and he spent 24 hours with his abductors before he was freed.  In Ekiti State, a Chinese engineer was abducted while his police orderly was killed along Ado-Iyin Road in Ekiti State.

There were reports of kidnappings and assassinations in Ogun, Oyo and Ondo while street and cult gangs are making living hell for residents in many parts of Lagos. “Many of such kidnappings go unreported as the families of the victims just quietly look for money to pay ransom to get their relatives freed,” said a source. The Sultan had confirmed this when he noted that bandits recently killed 76 people in a village in Sokoto State without it getting reported in any newspaper. In reaction to the massacre of Borno rice farmers, Nigerians had taken to social media to again demand the sack of the service chiefs.

Same story ​

The killings in Borno also reverberated in the Senate where the lawmakers after about an hour debate on the massacre of rice farmers asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the service chiefs, the third time they will pass such resolutions in response to gruesome killings, especially by Boko Haram.

In his motion, Senator Kashim Shettima had noted that some of the recent mass murders by Boko Haram insurgents.  These include the February attack in Auno that left 40 people dead, the assault in Foduma Koloram village of Gubio in which almost 100 civilians were killed in June, while another attack in Usman Lawanti left another 40 dead. He also noted that last month, Boko Haram fighters also killed 22 farmers working on irrigation fields near Maiduguri in two separate incidents. He also noted that the insurgents had last Saturday slaughtered at least 43 farmers in Borno.

After a robust debate on the motion, the Senators asked the President to sack the service chiefs since they can no longer help him fulfil the primary responsibility of government, which is the protection of lives and property.

But the Presidency had always rejected such calls while insisting that nobody can stampede Buhari to sack his military chiefs despite the worsening state of insecurity in the land. And few hours before the resolutions and perhaps in anticipation of such calls, Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman had during an earlier TV interview repeated the same line: “The clamour for the sack is out of place considering that the president is not subject to the opinion of the opposition political party, which has clamoured for this all the time,” adding that “the buck stops at his table —with due respect to the feelings of Nigerians.”

But the fact is that it is not only the opposition party that is asking for the sack of the service chiefs as the Senate, and indeed, the National Assembly is headed by members of the ruling APC. While the President may not heed the calls to sack his service chiefs, the Senate will expect him to comply with some of their other resolutions like paying a condolence visit to the families of the victims and taking urgent immediate steps to restructure, remodel and revamp the country’s entire security architecture and provide enough state-of-the-art weapons and equipment to effectively combat the belligerent power of the insurgents.

Besides, they want the President to immediately probe into widespread allegations of corruption and leakages within the security structure and put mechanisms in place to foster transparency and ensure all resources meant and deployed for security are spent on the needs on the ground. Also, they asked President Buhari to aggressively explore multilateral and bilateral options of partnership with the neighbouring nations of Chad, Niger and Cameroon towards reviving and strengthening the Multinational Joint Task Force and finding a lasting solution to the insurgency to the scourge of insurgency in the Lake Chad region.

Also suggested as a solution for tackling the problem of insurgency by the Senate was the recruitment of at least 10,000 civilian JTF, versatile with the local terrain in Borno as Agro-Rangers under the aegis of the NCDSC to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Armed forces and improvement in the welfare of security personnel in the frontlines of Boko Haram war.

On their part, members of House of Representatives after a debate on a motion of urgent national importance by Rep Satomi Ahmed asked the President to come and brief them on the security situation in the country. Nigerians will wait to see if the President will honour the invitation.

Mercenary Option

Away from the National Assembly, the governors of South-east states last Tuesday endorsed the suggestion of their Borno counterpart that President Muhammadu Buhari should employ mercenaries like former President Goodluck Jonathan did early 2015 to root out the insurgents.

In addition, analysts have called for the restructuring of the nation’s security architecture, including a constitutional amendment that will allow for multi-level policing to tackle the multifaceted security situation confronting the country.

These are all suggestions that have been made many times in the past. But analysts say the President first has to be convinced that Nigeria has turned a killing field on his watch to agree to any of the recommendations. It is doubtful if the President is convinced that there is a need for a radical departure from the past in terms of security despite the killings.