Columns

April 24, 2024

North’s internally generated terrorism, by Ochereoma Nnanna

North’s internally generated terrorism, by Ochereoma Nnanna

Ochereome Nnanna

Kidnapping is as old as crime itself. The first time I became familiar with it was in early secondary school when I read crime novels by James Hadley Chase, Harold Robbins and others. These thriller writers helped us hone our writing skills. In those formative years of the 1970s, kidnapping was hardly known in any part of Nigeria.

It was not until the 1990s when militancy started in the Niger Delta that kidnapping made its odious landfall in Nigeria. Like a vicious virus, it has spread from one part of the polity to the rest. Today, kidnapping has overthrown armed robbery. Why bother to steal from a person when you can steal the person altogether? These days most people no longer keep money at home or even carry it on their persons because of digital transaction technology. Just make a successful snatch, then name your millions, even if the person has never seen N10,000 in one bunch all his life.

The Niger Delta militants (mostly Ijaw youths) started kidnapping White people in the 1990s to bolster their agitation against foreign oil companies and the Federal Government. Later, criminals took it over in the orthodox fashion of asking for ransoms. It was not long before the phenomenon spread to the entire South-East and South-South. In Abia State, some political agitators in the Ngwa area adopted it to force the zoning of the seat of Governor of the state to their zone. Indeed, one Obioma Nwankwo, alias Osisikankwu, terrorised the areas around Aba until he was exterminated and his corpse brought to the Abia State Government House in Umuahia for public viewing in December 2010. After two years of ignominy, Osisikaknwu’s crime empire was comprehensively dismantled.

I can remember very well how Northerners were sneering at those from the South-East about the endemic crime of kidnapping in their area. Is it not an amusing irony that Arewa took over kidnapping and turned it into a factory-scale criminal “enterprise”?

On April 14, 2024, Nigeria marked the first ten years since “industrial” kidnapping seized the North. Islamic jihadists, Boko Haram, swept the 276 Chibok schoolgirls into captivity. Till today, about 82 of them are yet to be recovered or accounted for. School abductions, mass kidnappings in communities and the creation of tiny kidnapper empires by criminal gangsters called “bandits” are choking the North. Apart from Borno, mass abductions have taken place in Yobe, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto states, in addition to Abuja.

A peculiar characteristic of Nigeria’s mass kidnappings is that it only takes place in the deep Muslim North that embraced full Sharia over 20 years ago! On Monday, April 22, 2024, the Daily Trust newspaper published a collector’s item of a front page story that perfectly pigeon-holed the matter to make it easy to understand and deal with.

Quoting data from Beacon Security and Intelligence Ltd, the paper disclosed that 80 per cent of the 2,583 killings and 94 per cent of the 2,164 abductions in Nigeria took place in the North between January and March this year. In truth, this has been the trend since the rise of Boko Haram in 2009. The report further indicated that 793 were killed in the North-West, 681 in the North-East and 596 in the North-Central. In the South, 194 were killed in the South-South, 161 in the South- West and 158 in the South-East. Also, 1,297 were kidnapped in the NW, 421 in the NE, 330 in the NC, 30 in the SW, 66 in the SS and 20 in the SE.

Another notable fact about the trend is that the people armed to the teeth with assault weapons, bursting out of the wildernesses, running riot on motorcycles, killing innocent people indiscriminately and scooping them into the bushes for ransom are people from the North, along with their confederates whom they invited from the outer Sahel. Gradually, some Islamic clerics have openly advocated for them, volunteered to negotiate for them. Some Arewa “elders” have also been heard asking the Federal Government to negotiate and pay multibillion ransoms, which President Bola Tinubu has firmly declined to do.

Another big puzzle is that since kidnapping, banditry, mass abductions and terrorism took root in the North, our security architecture has been mainly in the hands of Northerners. They have been the main occupants of the offices of Commander-in-Chief, National Security Adviser, Chief of Army, Air Force, Inspector General of Police, DG-SSS and occupy commanding heights of our armed, police and security forces. Yet they can’t protect their own people.

It is high time that Northerners asked themselves crucial questions and answered them truthfully, just as the Daily Trust newspaper professionally reported this problem without trying to play editorial pranks. The North is the problem unto itself. It is also the main problem unto the rest of the country, especially security-wise. The armed Fulani militias killing people everywhere are not from the South. 

Why are Northern youth (many of them law-abiding and hardworking) leaving the North in their thousands everyday, for the South? Why have criminals driven farmers off their farms and transformed the food basket of the nation to land of hunger? Why is the North collapsing? The answer is not religion per se, but the wrong use of it. There is Islam in Northern Ghana, Senegal, Northern Cote D’Ivoire and even Western Nigeria, which are all peaceful and progressive.

The North suffers from the disease of the heart, which it must cure itself of.