By Musa Gambo
The greatest lesson we refused to learn with regards to banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria is our inability to comprehend that the mass kidnapping of more than three hundred Kankara school boys is a declaration of war against the sovereignty of Nigeria by bandits.
The failure to handle the previous Kankara kidnapping with an iron hand is largely responsible for the continuous rampage of banditry and the recent Niger school boys incident.
No single person has been at least publicly convicted or declared wanted for the Kankara case, all that the public knows is the boys are safely released but there are no further instructions as to prevent future occurrence of similar incidents.
Aside from sources indicating the principal of Niger’s Kagara College writing to the Ministry of Education requesting for a security presence in the school last year and a further reminder this year, nothing was done in that regard, but even without such request, on no account should schools be opened without proper mechanisms to provide security in a vulnerable state.
Its high time for duty bearers to know that the usual cock and bull story of kidnappers releasing victims without ransom because institutions are involved can no longer fly, it was the same storyline that was released when they kidnapped Federal Road Safety officers, the Dapchi girls and even Kankara boys.
They said the victims were all released and that no ransom was paid, if that is the case why would they do the kidnapping in the first place? Certainly, it’s not enough to take such risks just to make it to the headlines of newspapers or international media. Bandits are doing this as business and it doesn’t make sense to think that they would stop when amnesty is granted to them.
At the moment, these guys feel they are above the law and they cannot bend, therefore the law should not be bent for them, amnesty is frankly not the right strategy here, as it might entail giving them more money which they would use to get more weapons and continue their inhuman onslaught on the good citizens of this country.
Amnesty comes into play when people have regretted their actions and have shown remorse to completely terminate their madness. Banditry has grown stronger than ever to the extent of imposing tax on villagers in some areas according to the BBC Hausa report, bandits have now grown wings and are holding beyond individuals but also institutions to ransom.
Bandits have killed 348 and abducted 411 people within a month in Nigeria in addition to more than 9000 people who lost their lives over the years, amnesty worked in Niger Delta region because they were fighting for a cause and their issues have been relatively addressed, the idea is when someone is agitating for a reason, there are chances that things can be talked out and an acceptable solution found by all parties but the big question is what exactly are these bandits fighting for?
For now, all we know is they are greedy criminals fighting for money and greed can never be satisfied, Prof. Lumumba said “greed is like drinking a salty water, the more you drink, the more thirsty you become”.
Banditry must be crushed down to its knees and severely dealt with for lasting peace in the Northwest region and Nigeria at large. It’s time to call a spade by its birth name, a spade. Bandits should be declared terrorists at once! Kidnapping more than 300 citizens in school is terrorism and Nigeria never had any issues declaring other sects such as Biafra agitators and the IMN movement as terrorist, we expect the same courtesy for these criminals from the responsible quarters.
Talking of amnesty for bandits by the Zamfara state governor is not an alternative that is feasible, we all know that he has tried that on his own right and has woefully failed, Zamfara state government at some point declared that no village should kill any bandit, and any attempt to violate that order would result in dethroning the traditional ruler of the area.
All the weapons the villagers have for their self-defence have been collected in efforts to ensure they do not fight the bandits. It all went in vain making matters bad to worse for the villagers. The criminals are now roaming and freely carrying out their inhumane activities even in daylight across villages, as a result, many towns have been completely deserted in the Northwest due to the activities of the bandits.
There would come a time for amnesty, but at this moment such move is more of a weakness than a solution, amnesty is not always the answer, in fact despite the creation of operation, safe corridor in the Northeast to forgive and disarm Boko Haram terrorist, terrorism still continues and villages are constantly attacked across the three states of the area.
It is known that all wars come to an end with dialogue and forgiveness, but right now such move only shows our weakness as a country, they should be crushed with all might until they call for amnesty themselves, they seem to only understand the language of gun and bullets or ransom money.
It’s left for the nation to decide as an independent country the language to use with them, but when we find ourselves at a table of negotiation with people who think they have leverage over us, there is every possibility that it would end in a fiasco or we scum to their interest and we must never trade our sovereignty for anything, not even the marauding bandits.
The government should work out modalities to protect citizens and make schools safe for children, the previous kidnapping of Chibok, Dapchi and Kankara have greatly impacted negatively on education especially for the girl child and STEM in the whole North especially the northeast.
While it’s not only unfair but also unacceptable to treat all Fulani as bandits, all facts are indicating that majority of the kidnappers are Fulani, we must avoid owning criminals because we share tribal extraction or any affiliations at all cost. Fulani traditional leaders must play a critical role in providing intelligence and guiding the necessary cause to clear the tainted name of their tribe by some undesirable elements among them.
The utterance of the Minister of Defence on the issue of banditry for villagers to defend themselves is a supreme disappointment that shows how shallow he comprehends the urgency to start treating this element as a terrorist and their activities as terrorism.
The recent trending video released by the bandits have shown them with heavy guns and RPGs, moreover, the villagers’ story says the bandits are heavily armed with sophisticated weapons.
I personally do not agree with the idea of state policing due to fear of influence by the state powers but it’s even a better idea than calling for locals with machetes, bow and arrows to confront bandits with Ak47 and Rockets Grenades.
We have internationally trained security outfits with outstanding records of performance across Africa and the Interpol, surely with the right weapons and strategy, this banditry would be a thing of the past.
The best contributions of the villagers would be in intelligence gathering and prayers. The Senate’s suggestions of declaring a state of emergency in the country is a good way of moving forward to ensure a safe Nigeria.
We pray for the safe return of the Kagara boys and the other victims kidnapped by this ruthless people, our prayers are with the brave men and women who stay awake and always on their way searching for these perpetrators of violence so we can live in peace.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Musa Gambo is a Junior Chamber International Ambassador in Nigeria and can be reached on Twitter: @musagambo143.