It is a fact that bandits of different backgrounds are on the prowl in all regions of the country, making life difficult and unsafe for the citizenry.
When it seems that the war against the Boko Haram has been won, as declared by the Federal Government, the terrorist sect regroups and occasionally wreaks enough havoc on the military forces and civilians in Borno State, where it has been pushed back to, to prove that it is not a pushover yet and that its capacity for evil is still very potent.
The Boko Haram threat, however, pales into insignificance, in the light of the atrocities perpetrated by violent Fulani herdsmen and bandits in many states across the country. Nigerians also contend with ritual killers, cultists, conventional armed robbers and criminals of other ethnic backgrounds.
But of all the criminal gangs, the violent herders and bandits have drawn the most attention and ire in recent times. With the frequency, spread and audacity of their killings and abductions, many Nigerians easily credit any and all unproven criminal acts to the Fulani.
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The killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of nonagenarian leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, on the Ore-Akure highway on July 12, provoked fresh accusations against Fulani bandits. Although the police said some suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder of the 58-year-old woman, their identities have yet to be revealed.
However, while the real killers of Mrs. Olakunrin remain unknown, even as politicians have gone mindlessly partisan over the tragic incident, it is not in doubt that violent herdsmen and bandits are still being engaged by the military and political leaders to restore peace and order in many states in the North.
One unhelpful intervention in the troubling security crisis was the directive by Prof Ango Abdullahi on behalf of the Northern Elders Forum last Tuesday, that all Fulani herders should withdraw their cattle from the southern states. Is the northern elders’ directive the much-needed antidote to the problem? If indeed, the herders withdraw, what about those without cattle, engaging in criminal activities in the South? What about the recent reported case of herders, who returned with the onset of the rains and grazed their cattle on farms in Katsina State, precipitating a clash with farmers, which resulted in deaths? Also, where will the bandits on the rampage in different parts of the North – Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Benue, Taraba, Plateau, etc., withdraw to?
It was heartwarming that the Presidency responded timely with a statement, directing that the northern elders’ order be ignored.
While the Presidency’s intervention is commendable, it is yet disappointing that the government saw people, who raised their voices against the widespread insecurity and warned about the situation going totally out of hand, as playing politics and, therefore, unpatriotic.
The criticism made by President Buhari himself and interpreted as a reaction to former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s warning of the country “tipping over the cliff” and suggesting a dialogue is unhelpful.
Government has deployed police and military forces to end the reign of terror in several northern states. Many of the criminals apparently dispersed to the South when the heat became unbearable.
Now the government is considering drafting soldiers to the highways in the areas currently terrorised by the criminals in the South. Will the bandits not shift base again?
Another reaction, which could further inflame passion, was the call by the Fulani socio-cultural organisation, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, for the arrest of Chief Obasanjo for suggesting a national dialogue to proffer solutions to the insecurity problem.
Meanwhile, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria commendably toed a reconciliatory path, calling for collaboration with the Christian Association Nigeria, CAN, to peacefully resolve the herder-farmer conflicts.
It is becoming evident that the use of force alone may not effectively put the criminals out of action. Therefore, the government should be willing to apply other measures. How about a declaration of amnesty for the bandits, asking them to surrender their weapons, paying for the weapons and rehabilitating them as done in the case of the Niger Delta militants? This gesture should also be extended to other parts of the country where youths are also engaging in similar anti-social behaviours.
Furthermore, there is no doubt that at the root of the insecurity, plaguing the country is the collapse of family values, total lack or poor education and poverty. Government’s responses to these challenges are yet to be felt and whatever strategy being used will, therefore, have to be changed, if we really desire better results.
In response to the latest bandits’ attack in Ondo State, the Senate announced plans last week to hold a national security summit.
Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, made the proposal for the summit that would involve other arms of government and security formations, to address the insecurity challenge.
We believe that the Senate President’s proposal is a waste of time and resources. We ask if he has forgotten that the last Senate, which he served as majority leader, held one national security summit in February, last year. That summit was attended by the vice president, security chiefs and heads of federal ministries, departments and agencies.
Lawan, in the communiqué issued at the end of the summit and signed by him, had stated that the, “Senate looks to use the data and information from the proceedings to improve the security sector through legislative interventions and advocacy.”
He should rather inform the nation which of the recommendations made at the summit has been implemented.
The government appears overwhelmed by the protracted crisis. While the Presidency is acting in denial of the characters of those involved, the severity of the problem, as well as perceiving as insincere some of those who offered suggestions on the way forward, the government must realise that the reality on ground does not suggest it is exhibiting the capacity to effectively secure lives and property of the citizens.