Kaduna State government has been able to do something uniquely different in reporting security breaches within its borders. Through the novel Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, manned by Samuel Aruwan, it has been able to scientifically document and analyze security breaches in the state and used same to get a proper handle on the trends. In 2021, the state produced quarterly reports on security breaches. With that, it was able to achieve a new understanding and, also, design its response to insecurity. With those reports too, the state became convinced on the limitations of states and the role that the federal government must play in overcoming insecurity across the country.
For instance, in its review of security breaches in 2021, the state found that 5.54 percent of security breaches as a result of banditry, violent attacks, reprisals and communal clashes, which also led to loss of lives, occurred in Kaduna North senatorial district while Kaduna Central zone accounted for 60.40 percent and Southern Kaduna district recorded 34.06 percent. This amounts to a total of 1,192 lives lost in the state as a result of banditry, violent attacks, reprisals and communal clashes with Kaduna central zone recording 720 deaths, Southern Kaduna 406 deaths and Kaduna north 66 deaths.
A further breakdown of these numbers showed that Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun and Igabi were the worst hit local government areas in Kaduna Central while Zango Kataf recorded the highest number in Southern Kaduna with Lere recording the most in Kaduna north. Birnin Gwari houses the largest forest range in Kaduna and provides some sort of cover for terrorists.
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Another report by Eons Intelligence, which documented deaths and kidnapping incidences across Nigeria in January 2022, indicates that Kaduna recorded 67 killings and 44 kidnap cases in January while Zamfara recorded 228 killings and 15 kidnap cases; and 29 killings and 16 abductions in Katsina. Those are the highest figures from the north west. This is against the north central where Niger State alone recorded 267 killings and 396 abductions. Figures from Niger state are higher than those from Borno in the north east where 89 killings and 27 abductions were recorded in January. These statistics point in one reality: the shortage of armed military personnel to secure territories against terrorists and, reinforces the need to heed to Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s consistent call for the federal government to deploy more booths to give those responsible for these violent deaths a good run for their guns and bullets.
Recently, the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic, Senator Ahmed Lawan, was quoted as saying: “When we declared the bandits as terrorists, my understanding was they are going to be dealt with ruthlessly. Now, I wonder whether that is the case”. In voicing out his frustration, the Senate President was surprised that despite increased military funding and armament, terrorists were still actively killing and maiming Nigerians. Sen. Lawan’s frustrations were confirmed by Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno state, who had said that two local governments of the state, Guzamala and Abadam are still under control of Boko Haram terrorists while ISWAP was “regrouping with 300 motorbikes”. The Senate also urged the federal government to push harder and deeper. Following this, President Muhammadu Buhari, on whose desk the buck stops, promised “drastic action” against terrorists.
Fact, however, is that whatever strategy the federal government had adopted, even immediately after officially designating bandits as terrorists, has failed to achieve purpose. It thus calls for smart thinking which will include a deliberate action towards understanding the evolving dynamics of terrorism and working with modern trends to achieve a push back. It is obvious that categorizing bandits as terrorists is not just enough. Choking their operational space is a begging option. From observable reality, the migratory habit of terrorists makes it difficult to lock them down at a specific location. This mobility, mostly on motorcycles, is made possible by free access to telephony thus creating the need for the authorities to explore other avenues of responding to their movement style, including, but not limited to, denial of access to mobile telephone network. Evidences from Kaduna and Borno states show that total disconnection from telephony, makes life, and movement, difficult for terrorists
El-Rufai had called for the engagement, and empowerment, of 774,000 youths (1000 per local government), as counter force to the terrorists. (Recall that Bola Tinubu, a member of the ruling APC, had called for the engagement of 50m youths). El-Rufai’s call makes sense. Ask, are there actually up to 1000 terrorists operating in Katsina state, for instance? Therefore, outnumbering them is a way out. This is what the creation of a theatre command in Kaduna State to cover the north west region and, Niger state, will entail. The northwest has about 186 LGAs. That creates a possibility of a 186,000-strong army derivable from 1000 per LGA and domiciled in the locality. This will create a huge impact on the fight against terrorists.
El-Rufai spoke with conviction when he called on the Federal Government “to create a Theatre Command similar to the situation in the North-East to confront the insurgency that has clearly emerged in five states of the North-West and Niger State with continuous and contiguous forest ranges.
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The creation of such a Theatre Command will enable holistic approach to counter-insurgent operations across the six affected states and the enhanced coordination of the resources of the Armed Forces, the Police, the SSS, our respective State Vigilance Services, hunters and other local volunteers to fight the insurgents.” Many other governors are making similar calls. Some are also in favour of recruiting mercenaries, like Eeben Barlow’s Executive Outcomes, which was engaged by the federal government prior to 2015, for the task. All conclude to the same fact that more booths are desperately needed on ground.
The Senate President’s use of the word “ruthless” in dealing with terrorists, I believe, comes from a deeper understanding of the pain that leaders bear when living with the reality of the decimation of their citizens by non-state actors. It thus means that the federal government must go beyond rhetoric to device stronger means of supporting state governors to smoke terrorists out of their holes and end their free reign. This goes beyond the policy of pampering-for-repentance, rehabilitation and reintegration which has proven to be counter-productive. Terrorists don’t repent. They only take a break when the heat is too much and return when the grounds are fertile again.
If indeed they do repent, there is, therefore, no logic to explain the increase in terrorism in northeast and northwest despite the large number of terrorists said to have surrendered, repented, rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. That practice is self-delusion. That is why I like it when El-Rufai said “we continue to emphasize that as a state government, we do not believe that there is any phenomenon like repentant bandits.”
According to him, “any person that makes a conscious decision to secure arms, challenge the authority of the Nigerian state, and threatens the lives and property of Nigerians does not deserve to live, or be granted any concession by the society. There are no immediate or remote causes to justify terrorist conduct. Those that hide behind these are either ethnic jingoists, religious apologists or fail to recognize that no legitimate government can survive by tolerating terrorists or negotiating with those that menace law-abiding citizens.”
Former MOSSAD Director, Yossi Cohen, said “if a man expresses capability which endangers others, he must be stopped. He must stop existing”. That is the mindset that has led the State of Israel to successfully deal with terrorism within its territory.
Most Nigerians will readily agree with the governor here. And it does seem that the ‘repentant terrorist’ tag is the cover needed to sustain a regime of violent blood-letting against innocent Nigerians which has made the Nigerian government lackluster, sleepy and ineffectual.