*CAN, CNG, Imams back governor
*Ex-ACF leader, activist fear collateral damage
By Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
Day after Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai of Kaduna State advocated that forests inhabited by bandits be carpet-bombed, there were reactions for and against the remark in which some feared that the collateral damage would be unimaginable.
The Council of Imams and Ulamas in Kaduna State, while reacting, said the governor’s statement was in line with calls it had made for years.
In a statement by the Secretary General, Dr.Yakubu Yusuf Arigasiyu, the Muslim leaders said:
“The issue of segmented attacks will not yield any positive result. There is the need for clear tactical plan to understand the strategic locations of these bandits and deal with them once and for all. “The military knows, nobody should tell them this, but our thinking perhaps is because of personal benefits some people are getting out of it they do not want to see to the end of this calamity. Otherwise three months is too much for Nigeria’s military to make banditry history in Nigeria.
I really appreciate and support the suggestions made by his Excellency the Governor of Kaduna.” Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria ( CAN) in Northern states and Abuja, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, on his part, said what the governor was advocating was “what many groups including CAN have been calling on the governor to do since 2018 but he had always viewed the suggestion as coming from those he had scores to settle with.”
Hayab, who is the also Chairman of CAN in Kaduna State, explained: “If El-Rufai had done what he is saying now over three years ago, Kaduna would have been saved and the many lives lost would have been averted. “The governor’s call now may be coming from fear he is having that he will soon be out of office and be a free citizen like us not knowing what would his fate be with these evil people.
“Therefore he is championing that they should be wiped out completely for self-protection and interest first, not a sign of concern for the suffering of the masses. The governor knows that many will support this suggestion though it is coming late after the state has suffered many losses.
“CAN Kaduna State is urging him to go ahead and wipe the bandits and terrorists out of the forests but with less noise since they seem to know what he discusses even in his bedroom. We believe the best way to get at these enemies of the people and the state is by action, not noise making.”
Anthony Sani, elder statesman and immediate past Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum ( ACF), also speaking, said, “While I agree with the strategy of taking the fight to bandits and smoke them out of their hide outs in the forests, such tasks are not as easy as the governor sees it.
“This is because the bandits and gunmen are all over the forests across the nation while there are not enough trained and equipped security personnel who are well motivated to secure the whole country. As a result, the spread of the security personnel to man all the communities across the nation are too thin for any serious engagements in asymmetric conflicts. This is not a conventional conflict requiring only the use of military weapons but a guerrilla war where some of the enemies live among the people.
“What is more, there is no war where all the enemies are killed without due regard to collateral damage. There must be room for surrendering and laying down of arms by those who wish to do so. That is why there are local and international laws on rules of engagement that include how to deal with those who surrender and lay down their arms.”
The Arewa Youth Forum ( AYF), in a reaction, called for caution in any attempt to comb the bushes in order to chase out the bandits.
President of AYF, Gambo Ibrahim Gujungu,in a statement, stated that the group was in support of any action that would bring an end to banditry and insurgency.
“ But such action should not be so extreme as to cause a collateral damage capable of harming innocent people, animals and the environment,” Gujungu said.
The Coalition of Northern Groups ( CNG),also commenting, said everyone could see reason in the position of El-Rufai that the forests which serve as enclaves for bandits be bombed with the criminals.
The spokesperson of the coalition, Suleiman Abdulaziz, said: “In any case, it’s the responsibility of government to secure the territorial boundaries of its country. Nigerian government therefore owes an urgent responsibility to reclaim its forests, land boarders, highways and seaways by the use of force if needs be.”
“We hope to see that done soon now that the Federal Government has proclaimed the bandits terrorists. The CNG has all along been in the frontline of challenging the isolated responses by state governments.”
But to a social critic,Abubakar Atiku Nuhu Koko ,doing what the Kaduna governor said would cause serious damage to the environment which would take a long time to normalise.
Koko in a statement, said: “During Vietnam War, after using carpet – bombing tactics and strategies, Americans, having failed or not succeeded in clearing the notorious Vietnam fighters well entrenched in the heavily thick Vietnam forests, resorted to spraying the thick forests with a chemical product to defoliate the forests in order to clear and expose the thick forests for them to target bomb the hidden camps of the fighters.
“But the Chemical Orange is also toxic to humans and the environment, resulting in monumental collateral damages to innocent civilians, animals and the environment, including rivers and streams.”
He said carpet – bombing “is equally very expensive, the Nigerian government cannot afford, plus the fact that it is going to involve too much human and animal collateral damage and is very harmful to the environment.”
El-Rufai was quoted to have said:
“I have always believed that we should carpet-bomb the forests; we can re-plant the trees after but, let’s carpet-bomb the forests, kill all of them. There will be collateral damage but it’s better to wipe them out and bring peace back to our communities so that agriculture and rural economies can pick up, than to continue this touch and go, touch and go isolated responses to banditry.
“They kill people in Sokoto, you mobilise the army there, and chase them out, they move to Kebbi, from Kebbi, if they are bombed, they move to Kaduna. What should be done is to bomb them from the air, ground, troops on the ground at the same time in all five, six states of the North West plus Niger. And this problem can be sorted out, in my view, in weeks. I believe the levels of insecurity now are at a tipping point and something is got to give. My hope is that what will give is the end of this banditry once and for all. It is a problem.”