The reality today, despite the initial gains of president Buhari’s war against insurgency, is that we are increasingly sliding back to the pre-Buhari era when soldiers could not protect themselves even in their own barracks. Recently, 24 soldiers were ambushed and killed along the Gamboa-Maiduguri Road in Borno State.
At least 19 others were killed In Katsina. About 20 were also ambushed and killed elsewhere in the north. With the reported “over 236 soldiers voluntarily resigning from the Nigerian Army”, many soldiers are no doubt losing their fighting spirit.
The above facts came from Senator Ali Ndume, chairman Senate Committee on Army, who in a recent motion titled ‘Matter of urgent national importance, asked the CDS and the service chiefs to step aside over the killings of soldiers by insurgency and banditry in some parts of northern Nigeria. It was a followed up to two earlier upper house’s resolutions asking the president to sack the service chiefs. Back in February, Nigerian opinion leaders including the founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum and Kano politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakassi, as well as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF; Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) had asked the president to allow the tired service chiefs go on their well-deserved rest.
Their soldiers are demoralized. As it was during President Jonathan administration when Brigadier-General Ransome Kuti and some courageous military officers who had raised alarm about lack of military equipment were court-marshaled, today Major General Adeniyi, who admitted that “only 29 of our gallant soldiers were killed with 61 injured in the ambush”, which he blamed on ‘false military intelligence supplied by the military authorities and inadequate equipment’ which led to a suicide mission whereby over a hundred soldiers along with explosives and other munitions were caged in the same vehicle, is in detention.
Today, Nigeria which ranked third behind Afghanistan and Iraq out of 163 countries in the 2019 Global Terrorism Index is under a siege. Boko Haram and militant herdsmen declared in 2016 as being among ‘the top four deadliest terror groups in the world’ are let loose on helpless Nigerians.
Amnesty International, last Sunday claimed at least 1,126 rural dwellers in seven northern states of Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara, have lost their lives to rampaging insurgents since the beginning of the year. It affirmed: “Insecurity is worsening in the North ‘due to the Nigerian authorities leaving the backstreet communities poorly-policed’ and blamed “terrifying attacks on rural communities on the failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from predictable attacks”. It called attention to Katsina State, home of President Buhari, where “ at least 33,130 people are now in displacement camps, with thousands of farmers unable to cultivate their farms during the 2020 rain season.
A Punch editorial of August 12, quoting a pressure group, ‘NigeriaMourns, tallied 2,503 persons killed between January and June, 339 of them security agents. The paper quoted another intelligence research firm, which claimed 2,700 Nigerians died violently in 33 states and the FCT in the three months to June adding that a “string of violent attacks in Southern Kaduna has assumed pogrom proportions”.
An investigation by this newspaper published in its edition of Sunday August 16 confirmed 17 of Borno State 27 LGAs are under frequent attack by Boko Haram insurgents with most people relocating to their LGA headquarters and farmers unable to go their farms. The report also confirmed claims by senators and representatives of these areas that they could no more visit their constituents. Only seven southern Borno LGAs enjoyed relative peace while Sambisa Forest, the Mandara Mountains, and Lake Chad fringes are in firm control of Boko Haram insurgents.
The Borno people led by Babagana Zulum, their governor told Buhari last week that they nurse no grudges against their “son, Gen. Yusuf Burutai the Chief of Army Staff and other service chiefs but also told him the truth he has refused to accept: “the war is sliding and fatigue has set in for some officers and troops”, some of whom they alleged are “ now fish and cattle merchants in Baga”.
Coming from the voters, it is hoped the president will understand we operate a democracy, which prefers bureaucracy that “adopts systematic processes and organized hierarchies needed for maintaining order and maximizing efficiency”, instead of arbitrariness and nepotism by complying with military rule that says “no officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier.”
Since the 2016 launching of Operation Sharan Daji (Sweep the Forest), Operation Harbin Kunama (Scorpion Sting) and Operation Diran Mikiya (Eagle Fighting), and the stationing of a full battalion of special forces in Zamfara backed by “Operation Maximum Safety with 510 police personnel and 40 patrol vehicles” , this did not stop the sacking of three LGAs by “300 AK- 47-wielding bandits riding 150 motorcycles and the killing of seven soldiers”. Experts have long argued solution to local security is local policing.
Until the setting up of Amotekun security outfit by Southwest to address their peculiar problems, the federal government had stood against the idea of local policing by states. Garba Shehu, the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity recently listed government fears as including adequate funding, training and procurement of equipment, and enlightenment of the public without forgetting to add the “need to streamline the processes embarked upon by the states and the sub-regions.” He went on to add: “Whatever name they go by, Amotekun or whatever, they will be streamlined and run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector General of Police”.
Garba Shehu’s reference to funding was to cover up government real motive which is “to have a single type structure community policing across the country”. Not long ago, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjan, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)’s executive director, while calling ‘for security reform to end spate of insecurity across the Nigeria,’ during seminar held in Kaduna, disclosed that the security votes of governors Garba claimed cannot fund local policing which is put at N208.8bn annually “outweighs the annual budget of police, army, as well as air force and navy combined in the last five years.”
Why must all federating states run the same system? Problems of Zanfara, Sokoto and Katsina which many see as the struggle between landless oppressed majority and their minority oppressors is different from the ethnic rivalry between the Tivs and Jukun which is still different from Fulani immigrants’ lust over luxuriant Benue Plateau land inhabited by Tiv Bantu immigrants. All the above differ from bandits unleashed on Yoruba country by failed northern leadership who join local miscreants and area boys to visit violence on people in their farms.
It has therefore long been concluded that in an heterogeneous society, local communities are better at policing themselves. Unfortunately, attempts to substitute federalism with unitarism since the collapse of the first republic has continued to take us father away from ‘path to Nigerian freedom’, envisaged by our founding fathers.