By Gambo Dori
ATTACKS by bandits in the North-West and Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East were unrelenting last week, and very bloody, if the reports lavishly spread in the media were anything to hold on to. The bandits have been on a bloody campaign in Sokoto and Zamfara states with occasional forays in to Katsina State.
The people of Sokoto State, last week, mourned the loss of 26 of their compatriots killed in cold blood in the villages of Dutsi, Warwarna and Kurna in Rabah Local Government. Actually the murders occurred on the penultimate Sunday and, probably due to the remoteness of the villages, the news did not filter out till mid last week.
The neighbouring Zamfara State had been besieged by bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers for over a year now with the situation getting almost out of control. This had prompted the State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, to voice his support for the call to the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Zamfara State and even offered to step aside if that would be necessary for the state to have peace and save the lives of the people.
Things do not seem to be better in neighbouring Katsina State similarly surrounded by armed robbers and kidnappers. Governor Masari was reported to be candid about this predicament going by the remarks he made at the opening ceremony of an extra-ordinary security meeting, recently, in Katsina. He was quoted to bemoan the precarious condition of Katsina people. He said:
“The citizens are on daily basis being harassed by bandits and kidnappers that are on rampage in the state. Our state is currently under serious siege by armed robbers, kidnappers and armed bandits who arrest rural people at the grassroots at will and demand ransom, which if not paid, they kill their victims. The people of Katsina in the 34 local governments now sleep with one eye closed and the other opened. Our state is in a dangerous situation.
Travellers are afraid of being stopped on the highway and arrested by kidnappers who demand ransom”. Masari even intimated at the meeting that the situation was so bad that some thieves stole some electrical equipment near the Government House at the Government Reserved Area, GRA, in Katsina.
I happened to be in Maiduguri last week on a routine home visit and seized the opportunity to do some leg work so as to assess conditions. Maiduguri was in the throes of typical January days with acute conditions pervading.
There were cold nights and mornings and in between warm afternoons complete with the hazy atmosphere and the inevitable dust chocking the uninitiated. There was a general air of calmness about the town with markets, businesses, government offices, schools and streaming with those engaged there.
The roads were busy as usual and one was quick to observe that most of the road constructions of the dual carriage ways and street lightings about the town have been completed. It is now possible for one to move from one end of the town to the other with considerable ease.
The roads are a beauty to behold making the approach into Maiduguri now particularly attractive with well-laid out street lights and side-walks with interlocking tiles. Traffic lights now dot the town bestowing some discipline to the traffic and allowing seamless movements.
I drove on the splendid Lagos Street dual carriageway in the night with the street lights winking in the haze at me, on to the iconic Lagos Bridge, now actually two bridges, linking to Gwange and Bama road. For all practical purposes Maiduguri is beautiful once again and is being made ready for peace. However, in other parts of the town, particularly in the outskirts where the refugee camps have become home to the displaced from the crisis in the north of the state, there is tension and considerable distress.
The displaced from Baga and the settlements around Kukawa have been streaming into the safe haven of Maiduguri without let. This is despite the fact that the Nigerian Armed Forces have been at work in those areas clearing the audacious Boko Haram insurgents that had seized the initiative to terrorise and occupy the area.
As we celebrate the retaking of Baga and its environs news came of the attack at Gajiram and Magumeri with the civilian population fleeing as a result. The worse was to emerge as a few days into the week, the Boko Haram terrorists visited Rann and left it devastated.
Rann the capital of Kala Balge Local Government, lies east of Ngala, and only a few kilometres from Cameroun Republic, and is one of those settlements that have gone through the vicissitudes of life. Having one of largest IDP camps in that zone Rann was unfortunately bombed by our own military jet in 2017 leaving a large number killed or maimed.
Readers might also recall that it was at the IDP camp in Rann that three female health workers working for the UN agencies were abducted last year. Two of the abductees have so far been killed by Boko Haram. At the time I am writing this, Rann is still reeling under one of the worst humanitarian crises it has ever witnessed as aid is yet to reach the people stranded there.
Wherever and whenever I raised the subject there seem to be unanimity and satisfaction on the renewed onslaught on the Boko Haram terrorists. Taking the fight to them, rather than waiting for them like sitting ducks, would be the best strategy. Many opine that a well-armed fighting force, well-motivated and coordinated should see the back of this ragtag gang of bandits that rampaging northern Borno.
There is a lot confidence in the professional ability and integrity of the Nigerian Armed Forces as they have times and again proven it, whether it is at home during the civil war or in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan and wherever they were invited to give a helping hand. Many have firm belief in the ability of President Buhari, a war-tested General himself, to finally crush the Boko Haram terrorists and the bandits. One of my regular contributors, Buhari Hassan, thinks so and he says so in the piece below:
Buhari Hassan: “In the early eighties, I worked in an industrial/commercial organisation in Kaduna. In the spirit of cross border trade, we frequently travelled to our neighbouring countries of the Republic of Chad and Cameroon to source for raw materials. It was a period of civil/military strife in the former. At one of the numerous check points, I overheard a soldier muttering that it is only in a lawless country like Nigeria that a fresh faced “boy” he saw on my passport will be a manager in a key organisation.
Unfortunately for him he spoke in a language I shared with him. Using my height advantage and mustering all authority in my voice, I told him that I went through the educational mill and if I exchanged my travel safari suit with his military fatigues I could be his commanding officer using the rudiments of my weapons handling, map reading, bush warfare, etc., of my school cadet days! He stiffened and said Nigeria was (and still) a den of lions.
He was of course referring to when our President in his active service days almost marched into Ndjamena, their capital city, to give them “a bloody nose” as he later explained. We know that majority of the insurgents’ safe haven is in that country. So Mr. President please give the order and let our gallant troops smash their faces!”