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Ending banditry across northwest states

By Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim

Nigeria’s NorthWest is suffering a deadly conflict involving many armed organisations, including foreign herder-allied groups, vigilantes, criminal gangs, and jihadists.

The violence has killed over 8,000 people since 2011, and displaced over 200,000, some into neighbouring Niger. Despite several security operations and dialogue efforts, a durable peace remains elusive.

Disturbing videos of killings and rape by bandits of innocent citizens of this nation, apart from extortion of money through kidnapping are becoming popular on social media, these days.

This is indicative of the pervasive nature of the issue as well as the urgency of the need to stabilize the security situation in Northern Nigeria.

The spike in jihadist activity in the North West has raised fears that the region could soon become a land bridge connecting Islamic insurgencies in the central Sahel with the decade-old insurgency in the Lake Chad region of North-Eastern Nigeria. There are too many externally motivated enemy units operating now in the North West.

At a forum in Abuja yesterday, National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno admitted that terrorism and the rapid escalation of violent activities by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel since 2016 have been primarily driven by the Islamic State in Greater Sahara, which mainly operates in Mali and extends to the Niger Republic and Burkina Faso. To be added to these multifarious insurgent forces are various clubs of migrating groups in the Sahel due to climate change issues, as well as instability in Libya.

Kidnappers and bandits are carrying on as if their trade is a legitimate business. They are also carrying on with the audacity and ferocity of an army pursuing a cause.

In May this year, specifically on May 10th, 2021, we had foreseen where we are today and recommended the implementation of a six-point agenda to deal with the security situation in the country. These measures are now more desperately needed and they include the following:

1. Establishment of a Defence Co-operation Agreement (DCA) with a friendly nation to halt the enemy’s advance. Those who are fighting Nigeria are from all over the world, the enemy is multinational in its composition.

2. We must put our house in order by resolving internal wrangling through dialogue, fairness, and justice.

3. We must have a broad-based cabinet that can inspire hope, efficiency, and national unity.

4. We must immediately create the framework for States and Local Governments to have their own police.

5. All states should have concurrent jurisdiction over mineral resources within their state and pay taxes to the Federal purse. This is to ensure efficient control of mines that are now a source of revenue from Non-state actors involved in criminality.

6. We must decentralize electricity generation, transmission via the local grid, and distribution. This should be on the concurrent list.

To be added now is the need to create a Special Force with the required training to ensure the rescue of victims of kidnapping in every state of Northern Nigeria and every Zone in Southern Nigeria. Kidnapping will not stop until kidnappers know the State has the ability to rescue their victims with a minimum casualty.

Time is running out for orderly resolution of the issues, giving leadership on a road-map for peace and security at this critical time, is the least we owe our people who have suffered too much deprivation.

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