June 17, 2020

Protests against Banditry rock Katsina

Protests against Banditry rock Katsina

…As Niger communities threaten self-help

…Be patient with my govt — Buhari; Calls for calm in Katsina

…Senator Musa cries out to FG again for lasting solution

…Acts of terrorism, violence in Northern Nigeria  intolerable – EU

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Wole Mosadomi & Shehu Danjuma

The insecurity in the north yesterday triggered massive protest in Katsina metropolis, as thousands of youths took to the streets against what they described as incessant killings in seven frontline local government areas of the state by bandits.

This came on a day affected communities in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State threatened to embark on self-help to defend themselves against rampant invasion and killings, as well as destruction of properties by bandits.

This is even as the European Union yesterday condemned the latest attacks on communities and villages in the northern part of the country, describing acts of terrorism and violence in the region as intolerable.

Apparently reacting to the spate of protest against insecurity in the north yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to Nigerians to be patient with his government, saying everything was being put in place to tackle insecurity in the polity headlong.

The President, who also approved joint military, police operations to tackle insecurity in North West, called for calm in his home state of Katsina, assuring that security agencies were working to bring the current wave of banditry and killing to a halt.

The protest, organised by the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, and Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, started at the roundabout at Katsina Central mosque at about 7:00am, with the protesters bearing placards with inscriptions.

The protesting youths had earlier planned to converge on the Emir’s palace but were stopped by security agents who blocked all the routes leading to the palace.

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They later proceeded to the roundabout at Katsina Central mosque enroute Kofar-Durbi to GRA.

Some of the placards read:  “Stop the bloodshed”; “do the needful before they finish us”;  “banditry and kidnapping are our monsters.”

Security agents also blocked all the ways leading to Government House to prevent the protesting youths from gaining access into the area.

Lukman Umar Kankia, chairman, NYCN, Katsina State, told newsmen that the protest was to make government sit up and protect the lives and properties of people in the state.

Kankia lamented that the state, which was known for its peaceful nature, had become the theatre of banditry and a killing field.

He noted that apart from banditry, residents of the state were also contending with kidnapping and cattle rustling, among others.

He said: “Bandits operate with brazen impunity. Their audacity is appalling. In broad daylight, they sack villages and annihilate the people.

“They rustle animals, raze markets and reduce houses to rubble; they despoliate farms and pillage resources.  They rape women, abduct men and demand  ransoms their relations can’t afford.”

Kankia urged the federal and state governments to intensify efforts in protecting people’s lives and properties.

He said: “The government should employ more police for the affected areas, proffer stiffer punishment for anyone found aiding bandits and kidnappers.’’

In Niger State, communities in Shiroro Local Government Area threatened to resort to self-defence to save their lives and properties, if government failed to protect them against frequent invasion and killings of their people by bandits.

The communities said they had lost hope completely in the Federal Government since the killings by the bandits continued in the areas unabated.

President Buhari’s message

The President in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja, observed that violent reactions to insecurity by citizens could distract the plans already laid out by security agencies, assuring that security forces were capable of stemming both terrorism and banditry.

The statement read:  “The Presidency assures Nigerians, again, that the nation’s armed forces are fully capable of dealing with the challenges of banditry and terrorism, urging more patience as the military takes appropriate steps to block gaps being exploited to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens.

“President Muhammadu Buhari, who has approved a joint military and police operation specifically targeted at combing Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States to rid the areas of bandits, assures that surveillance will be improved, with more night vision aircrafts already deployed under ‘Operation Accord’. The operation was launched three weeks ago.

”The President said Nigeria’s military has displayed its capabilities in the past and will show it again by dealing with the current challenges.

“President Buhari appeals to the people of Katsina State to be patient and supportive of the ongoing military operations in the state, while sympathizing with those who are bereaved, injured and lost properties.

“President Buhari admonishes that taking to the streets for protest could distract the military operations, urging Katsina indigenes not to give up on the military who over the years have a strong track record of quelling crises once given enough time.

“The major forests in North Western Nigeria have been identified as home to the bandits in the region. The operation will clear all these forests.”

Sen Musa pacifies the people

However, the senator representing Niger East senatorial district in Niger State, Mohammed Sani Musa, appealed to people of the affected communities not to take laws into their hands but have faith in the steps already taken by the Federal Government to protect them against the marauders.

Senator Musa said youths in the communities told him they were tired of the lukewarm attitude of government towards security of their lives and properties and had, therefore, vowed to resort to self- defence should the killings by the bandits continue unabated.

He said:  “On my own, I am pained seeing the frequent bloodletting in my constituency, leaving women raped and killed, while the men are maimed and children rendered fatherless. This development is really sad, especially now that it has remained a recurring thing.

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“We have made several appeals to the Federal Government, we have paid courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on our predicament but we are yet to see any corresponding results towards the frequent killings.

“With this development, the youths in my constituency have decided, henceforth, to defend themselves, in view of government’s failure to address the lingering challenge.’’

EU condemns attacks

Meanwhile, the European Union has condemned the latest attacks on communities and villages in the northern part of the country.

In a joint statement by the High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, and Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, yesterday, EU noted that the situation had worsened recently.

According to the statement, attacks, abductions, and killings of civilians by armed groups in northern Nigeria have led to the death of over 160 people, including 130 civilians since May 28.

“Such heinous acts of terrorism and violence are intolerable.  These attacks pose a serious threat to Nigeria’s security and to that of the wider region, including the increasingly restive North West of the country.

“The ongoing conflict, growing food insecurity and COVID-19 pandemic significantly increase humanitarian needs in North East Nigeria,’’ the statement read.

The EU stressed that international humanitarian law must be safeguarded and respected by all parties to the conflict in Nigeria and elsewhere.

It warned that civilian and humanitarian personnel should not be targets of kidnappers, bandits, and terrorists among other criminals, urging the federal government, states and all parties involved to facilitate the unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for the victims of such attacks.

“The EU stands by Nigeria and its people in this period of increased violence and instability,” the statement said.

The reaction from the EU followed the series of attacks that have claimed several lives in Borno and Katsina, and some other states in the North.