By Stephen Ubanna
President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General appears set adopt ’’the carrot and stick’’ approach suggested by Ali Ndume, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman, Committee on Army, in dealing with the Islamic Fundamentalist BokoHaram and the Islamic state of West Africa ,ISWAP, Insurgents, in the north east including the Bandits turned kidnappers operating in the north western states.
. Between 2009 and now, there had been rising insecurity in the country that people fear that at the rate at which the BokoHaram and ISWAP Insurgents are operating in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe or the Bandits in the north western states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Buhari home state and the north central state of Niger, home state of a former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, a retired army General. , the country may slide into anarchy.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President may have read the handwriting on the wall of what may likely happen if the situation is not handled with caution that he had threatened’’to use kinetic means to restore normalcy in the country’’. Some non-state actors were said to have been put under security surveillance. That much was confirmed by Babagana Munguno, a retired Major Gneral and National Security Adviser , NSA, who eveald that the country’s defence and Intelligence Organisations have been’’ put on the red alert and charged by the Katsina state born Nigerian President ’’not to allow the country slide to a state of anarchy’’.
Given an insider information of the Tuesday, March 2, 2021, National security Council, NSC, meeting presided over by the Nigerian President, he disclosed that the Prsident had already given a marching order to the new service Chiefs’’to reclaim all the areas in the north east under the control the Insurgents and also all the areas in the north west and north Central geopolitical regions which are currently being controlled the Bandits who had resorted to kidnapping school children in the recent time for ransom.
It is on record that between December 17, 2020 and now, no fewer than 627 students had been kidnapped by the Bandits, in Katsina and Zamfara states and Niger states.The Bandits attack on the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina state, had resulted in the kidnap of 344 boys who were said to have been held in the Rugu forest in neighbouring Zamfara state.
The mass abductions of the Kankara students for ransom may have opened the floodgate for the successful operations in other schoolsin the region and the north central state of Niger. The Bandits had kidnapped 42 people, comprising of 27 students inthe Government Science College, Kagara, Niger state.
The latest of such attacks by the Bandits that had resulted in the kidnap of 300students was that of a Government Girls Science Secondary school, Jangebe , Zamfara, describe as a home of the Bandits, a loose term for kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle hustlers, Fulani herdsmen and other armed militia operating in the state, who many believe are largely motivated by money.
Security analysts believe that the country’s weak security infrastructure and the ineffective governors who have little or no control over the security in their respective states as the police and the army are controlled by the Federal government and may have informed why the governors, particular, the northern states governors, had resorted to paying ransom to the Bandits who may have seen mass abductions of students as a lucrative source of income.
Take for instance the efforts that had been made by Bello Matawalle, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, governor of Zamfara state and who had repeatedly called on the Nigerian President to grant blanket amnesty to reward the repentant Bandits in the state.
He was said to have promised to Compensate the repentant Bandits in the state in the past with houses, money and cars as a way of ending the kidnap activities. The governor was said to have also promised to give two cows for every AK 47 gun returned to the government by the Bandits. He got it wrong. The Bandits Never turned a new leaf despite the promise but had continued their kidnap operations and killing spree in the state.
Matawale, the Zamfara state governor, claimed that he not have fulfilled his promise to the Bandits because of the Criticisms of the people who were opposed to his peace initiative with the them, insisting that they were sabotaging his efforts to end the crisis. According to him, ‘’the serial kidnappings of school pupils in the north would only worsen a bad and unacceptable state of education in the region.
Bello Massari, a former Speaker of House of Representatives and now governor of Katsina state, also fall into the same trap of treating the repentant Bandits in the state with kids globe by contemplating of rewarding them as a way of encouraging them to stop the kidnapping of business.
The information about the governors rewarding the alleged repentant Bandits with mouth watery sums , houses, cars and cows, may have filtered to the ears the Nigerian President that he had intervened and warned the north the governors to review their policy of rewarding Bandits with money, houses , vehicles and other items.
The Nigerian President was said to have told the governors that such a ‘’policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences’’. Appealing to the states and local governments to ensure that they play their part by being proactive in improving security in and around the schools, he averred that it would go a long way to check mate the Bandits who had formed a habit of attacking schools in order to kidnap students and then use them a bait to Negotiate with the state government for ransom.
The Nigerian President may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when said that Jangebe Mass abductions of students in Zamfara state would be the last that would be witnessed by his Administration. This remains to be seen.
Informed sources told The Magazine that the Zamfara governor may have played into the hands of the Nigerian President with what is happening around the state: Killings and mass abduction of students by the Bandits. This may have informed why he declared the state a ‘’no fly zone’’, instead of declaring a state of Emergency in the north west state. This could have given him the opportunity to fully use his Constitutional powers to appoint a Military Administrator to replace Matawalle in office who would use brute force to deal decisively with the Bandits. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, did it in Plateau and Ekiti, and appointed military Administrators , when states were sliding to anarchy during his tenure and nothing happened.This may have resulted in relative peace which the people are enjoying today, despite the occasional flashes in Plateau state.
He was said to have also banned all mining activities in the state. In 2019, the retired army General had suspended mining activities in the state, making the 22021 suspension order the second in two years that mining activities have been suspended in the state. The restiveness in the north western state, according to informed sources was becauseIn spite of the accussations and counter-accussati of the large untapped deposits of Non-minerals oil including gold allegedly smuggled out of the state illegally to the neighouring West African countries of Niger and Togo.
Investigations by The Value News including interviews with some indigenes of the state shows that about 500Kg of gold is illegally smuggled out of the state to these two West African countries monthly. At the current rate of gold in the International market , the illegally mined and smuggled gold per month month is worth about $25 million, an indications that the country was loosing millions tax revenue over the years from the state alone.
Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of Mines and Steel Development, had said that the Bandits used ‘’to buy the gold at cheap rates and sell it to purchase guns and ammunition. The minister had made it clear to those that cares to listen that’’ the large gold deposits found in Zamfara state belonged to the government’’.
This may have informed why Munguno, the NSA, had said that the ban on mining activities in the state e was part of ‘’the measures to tackle the insecurity challenges currently being witnessed in the north western state’’. Security reports has it that’’ there is a clearly established strong and glaring nexus between the activities of the armed Bandits and the illicit miners’’.
Note that the government had borrowed a N2.5 billion loan, which had hit N3.2 billion, from the Bank of Industry to facilitate the gold mining activities in the state. Adegbite, the minister of Mines and Steel, who confirmed it had said that only 10 small scale miners got N2 million and N5 million each respectively while 20 other miners were selected to benefit from the loan.
In a related development, Matawalle, may have shocked Nigerians, when he threatened to reveal the identities of those behind the recent kidnappings of 300 female students in Jangebe in the state. An aggrieved Zamfara governor who is not happy over the rising insecurity in the state had said that ‘’Nigerians would be shocked to know the people behind the abductions of the Jangebe girls’’.
He may have exposed the happenings in the north to ridicule that Audu Ogbeh, a former minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Chairman, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, had challenged him ‘’to reveal the identies of those that sponsored the recent kidnappings in the state.Ogbeh, who could not hide his feelings had said that the Matawalle’s allegation was an embarrassment to the north and warned against such unguarded Statement by those in Authority’’.
In spite of the media war between Matawalle, the governor of Zamfara and the ACF, of the later’s Statement of exposing behind the recent mass abductions of Jangebe female students in the state, Lawan Ahmad, the President of the Senate would want the military ‘’to take the fight to the Insurgents and Bandits Camps.
Major General Irabor, the CDS, and the other service Chiefs who were confirmed last Tuesday by the Lawmakers into their respective offices as requested by the President may have got the message right as they have become more determined to flush out the Insurgents and Bandits in different parts of the country.