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March 4, 2024
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Insecurity: Nigerians groan, demand new strategies

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By Reporters

Nigerians have expressed concern about the resurgence of insecurity in the country and called for new security strategies to restore peace and stability in areas affected by kidnapping, insurgency and banditry.

Those who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) from across the country hailed the efforts of security agencies in tackling the menace, but said that the resurgence meant that a lot needed to be done to eliminate the threat.

While some of the respondents said they have been forced to flee their villages by gunmen, others said the activities of the insurgents and other criminals had decimated local economy and exacerbated the poverty level of the people.

They said in some instances, apart from the criminals taking all they had, they were also forced to pay for every bullet used by the terrorists in shooting at them.

In Bauchi, Jigawa and Gombe, stakeholders in the security sector said new security strategies must be emplaced against kidnapping and terrorism in the North-East and across the country.

They also urged government to prioritise policies and programmes that would encourage social and economic development, and strengthen local authorities.

Mr Ahmed Baba, a Bauchi-based security expert, said it is imperative for security agencies to adopt new approach in the war against kidnapping and terrorism.

He said the measure should enhance peace and thwart any threat to national security.

“The military and other security agencies have decimated insurgency. However, kidnapping and other form of crimes are on the increase in the North-East and other parts of the country.

“The trend calls for new approach to holistically address the security challenges in the country,” he said.

Also, Sukumun Ezekiel, a civil society activist, said sustainable infrastructure development is critical to security, peace, stability and prosperity in the society.

He attributed the spate of insecurity to weak local governance, economic inequality and poverty.

“Insecurity is tied to weak local governance and corruption, limited government presence and lack of the rule of law.

“Many citizens feel unsafe resulting to their inability to access essential services such as healthcare and education,” Ezekiel said.

While stressing the need for the review of the security architecture, Ezekiel urged governments to accord premium to road, airport and rail infrastructure development in the country.

This, he said, could be achieved by investing in security agencies, infrastructure and the installation of safety systems on roads, airports and railways.

“Such infrastructure improvements will make travel safer for both citizens and tourists, and encourage social and economic growth”.

To stem security breach, the Bauchi State Government said it had adopted practical measures to promote synergy between the police, other security agencies and communities.

Mr Abdulhamid Bununu, the state Commissioner for Security and Internal Affairs, said government has been supporting community policing to bolster security at the grassroots.

The commissioner added that membership of security council has been expanded to include community and religious leaders.

“The Bala Mohammed’s administration expanded the security meeting to interface with religious and community leaders, and heads of the security agencies in the state.

“This allows them to brainstorm and review the security situation, and provide proactive response to security breaches,” Bununu said.

Similarly, Mr Hayatu Usman, the Commissioner of Police in Gombe State, said the command had employed effective measures and strengthened collaborations with critical stakeholders to make the state safe.

“Gombe State is safe in spite of pockets of insecurity in parts of the country.

“We are doing everything possible to maintain the record of being one of the safest states in the country,” he said.

Usman said the command had adopted new approach to stem the activities of the local “Kalare boys” hoodlums.

“Just recently a lot of them denounced crimes and turned a new leaf in view of our new approach, and we are working with the government to engage them meaningfully using skills acquisition.

“We are engaging stakeholders like hunters and community leaders to help the command to nip crimes in the bud.

“We are also making serious progress in crime prevention to enforce law and order because of our partnership with the traditional stakeholders,” he said.

Usman assured residents of their safety in spite of few kidnapping cases recorded in the state.

In Jigawa, security agencies said they have scaled up surveillance and patrols to rid the state of criminals.

The Police Spokesman in the state, ASP Lawan Shiisu, said they have also been working with Bauchi State Police Command in conducting intelligence-led raids to root out criminals hibernating in Zamdama hills, Balmo, Baranda and Bagadaza forests.

“The joint operation was led by the Jigawa Police Commissioner, AT Abdullahi and his Bauchi counterpart, AM Muhammad with a view to taking the war to the bandits.

“Members of the hunters, forest guards, and vigilance services complemented the effort of the police during the two-day operations,” Shiisu said.

Badruddeen Tijjani, the spokesman of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Jigawa, said raising the security consciousness of citizens is critical to stemming any security menace.

This, he said, will lead to the prompt generation of actionable intelligence to enable personnel to respond quickly to any security issue.

According to him, the corps has set up five additional divisions, three area commands and several outposts to enhance its operations in Jigawa.

“The corps is also conducting mobile patrols and raiding identified black spots in areas where kidnapping cases were recorded.

“Our personnel are also exposed to appropriate measures in handling emerging security challenges,” he added.

Meanwhile, some residents of Jigawa have expressed joy over the prevailing peace in the state.

Malam Musbau Shehu and Isa Inuwa, said there has been remarkable improvement in security unlike before when it was difficult for people to move around without fear.

Shehu said that the crime rate had reduced in the past months, while Lawan said the measures adopted by government and security agencies have enhanced peace building in the state.

“The herder-farmer crisis is now a thing of the past. The combined security task force in various areas set up by the government improved understanding and cordiality among them,” Lawal added.

However in Benue, residents said not much has changed with regards to insecurity.

Some of the victims of banditry said the criminals now even force victims to pay for the bullets they expended after any attack on villages and communities.

A victim,  Timothy Terwase, a 35-year old commercial motorcyclist, told NAN that bandits killed his father in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area and forced the family to pay ransom for the corpse.

“Our area has gradually become a war-torn zone. Those wicked men, after killing my father in cold blood, demanded that we pay for the bullets they wasted on my father, and there was nothing we could do than to pay; that is like adding salt to injury,’’ he said.

According to Terwase, in spite of the heavy presence of joint security operatives in the area for more than a year now, nothing has really changed.

“The security situation in the state has not really changed for the better despite the coming to power of Gov. Hyacinth Alia in May 2023.

“His Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, who hails from that axis was kidnapped in September 2023, but later released. Just recently, the Caretaker Chairman of Ukum LGA, also within the same axis, was kidnapped,’’ he said.

NAN reports that local bandits have been terrorising the people of Benue for long, and in spite of the killing of their leader, Terwase Akwaza, aka Gana, by the military in 2018, the bandits have continued to carry out their nefarious activities.

However, the state Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr Yakubu Ibrahim, said security agencies in the state were doing their best to tackle the menace.

In Plateau, which has just witnessed another round of violence, there are still divergent views as to the causes of the recurring crisis.

These ranged from political manipulation, farmers-herders disagreements, the indigine-settler conflict, religious and tribal bigotry and others that have continuously pitched the people against one another.

Both Mr Chris Damcher, Chairman, Plateau State Civil Society Organisations Forum, and Prof. Aboi Aboki, National President, Plateau Initiative for Development of the Natives, believed that land was at the heart of the crisis in Plateau.

They blamed government and traditional leaders for failing to do ‘the right thing’.

A Mangu-based cleric, Rev. Samuel Chukwuma of the Lighthouse of All Nations Assembly, said troops of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) helped to prevent further loss of lives in the latest sectarian clashes in Mangu communities.

“The troops carried out their constitutional responsibilities with utmost professionalism, disregarding any affiliations to ethnic or religious groups.

“The swift response played a significant role in preventing further loss of lives in the targeted areas,” he said.

The cleric said that while the military plays pivotal role in resolving the situation, there was need for politicians to refrain from stoking tension for personal gains.

He emphasised that finding a lasting solution to the crisis relied tremendously on the cooperation of influential leaders within the political circle.

Chukwuma said that the falsified narratives amplified on social media platforms exacerbated the severity of the clashes and magnified the number of precious lives lost.

Maj.-Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division, who is also the Commander of OPSH, said that efforts aimed at bringing perpetrators of the killings in Plateau to book were yielding positive results.

“Our efforts in bringing the perpetrators, especially of the recent attacks in Plateau to justice, have yielded quite some positive results.

“We acknowledge that challenges exist, however, we shall not despair or become despondent. We are aware of the complexities that lie with current dynamic security challenges.

“I am confident that by maintaining our unity, cooperation, dedication and relentless pursuit for peace, we will overcome any obstacle that comes our way,” the GOC said during the Nigerian veterans annual celebration.

Also, Gov. Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau, acknowledged the complexities of the security situation and pledged to ensure full restoration of peace in the state.

Mutfwang decried the recent killings and wanton destruction of properties, and commended the military and other security agencies for their commitment to defending the state.

“We want to appreciate all that you are doing, particularly in the wake of the recent attacks on our people.

“I have seen how you mobilise your men to go into the nooks and crannies of Plateau, to chase away these evil men; men who have vowed that we will not live in peace.

“We want to thank you all for this effort. Some have lost their lives, some badly wounded. We pray that families who lost their fathers and husbands to find comfort in God.

“As a government, we are doing everything possible to ensure that the Christmas Eve attacks do not occur again in our dear state,” he said.

Mutfwang also thanked President Bola Tinubu, Services Chiefs and relevant government agencies for their support to Plateau people.

In Taraba, which has had its share of crisis and general insecurity, stakeholders said they were determined to restore peace and stability across the state.

Maj. Gen. Frank Etim, the Brigade Commander, 6 Brigade Nigerian Army, Jalingo, told NAN that they have been making efforts to flush out bandits and kidnappers and stem the tide of criminal activities in Taraba.

Etim however requested for more cooperation from the people, especially in actionable information on the movement of bandits and other criminals in the state.

Mr Ben Adaji, an intelligence and counter-terrorism expert, advocated the use of private security services in fighting criminality in the state.

According to him, those saddled with the responsibility of taking out bandits, kidnappers and other violent criminals are not doing enough.

In Kaduna State, the Police Command said it has put in place robust strategies to stem the high rate of kidnaping and killings in the state.

The command’s Police Public Relations Officer, Mansir Hassan said the new strategies are already bearing fruits.

According to him, some of the results include the rescue of 18 kidnapped victims, arrest of 16 suspected kidnappers and 19 armed robbers within a week.

He told NAN that one of those arrested was among those who kidnapped several people in Bwari, FCT, and participated in the killing of Nabeehah, one of the six sisters abducted there.

The suspect was nabbed at a hotel in Tafa and attempted to buy his way out with N1 million from the N2.3 million found on him.

Hassan appealed for more support from the public, saying, “security issue is everyone’s business, thus a collective responsibility.”

A retired Brigadier General, Kabir Galadanci, said to win the war against insecurity, political leaders must be firm, patriotic and unwavering in demanding for results from the security forces.

He added that the leaders must also understand the situation and be committed to equipping and training security personnel and taking care of their welfare.

Galadanci said while troops adopt the kinetic approach to tackle the menace, the bigger social and economic problems that push more people into crime must be addressed by those in government.

He said, “The problem is when in the midst of issues, the question that crosses the minds of the political leaders and civil servants is what a security agent commander is going to make out of the situation.

“If from the beginning there is no understandimg of the situation, we are just buying equipment because we will get overhead out of it, or we are just training because we will get money out of it, then that shows no commitment to what we are doing.

“The situation we are in has passed crime and criminality, it has gone to the issues of social problem. Every Nigerian today is thinking of what he would do to get advantage of monetary values over others.”

According to him, the cost of governance should be drastically reduced while political leaders should begin to live a more austere life.

“The problem is not what the security agencies could do, but how political leaders should change the psyche of the people to do things right, and provide them with what to do.”

In Kano State, the police said they are working with communities and other security agencies to checkmate crimes.

“Generally speaking, crimes especially incidences related to banditry, kidnapping and other related offences are cases for which solutions cannot be found in isolation.

“In Kano State, the police are always synergizing with sister security agencies including the military.

“First we come to the table, we cross fertilize ideas, we come up with the best of decisions and we move together in implementing those lofty decisions,” the Commissioner of Police, Usaini Gumel told NAN.

Gumel said the command had also collaborated with the state government and set up a joint task force to deal with incidences of kidnapping in parts of the state.

He said in areas along the border with Katsina and Bauchi States, such as  Rogo, Karaye, Tsanyawa, Kunchi, Shanono, Sumaila and Takai, where pockets of kidnappings were recorded, the government has set up a joint security task force to deal with the situation.

Gumel said, “We have undertaken a lot of rescue missions, we have arrested several suspected kidnappers in their hide outs in Katsina and most of them have been prosecuted.

‘Likewise, in some of our villages bordering Bauchi State such as Sumaila,Takai, and nearby local government areas, we have reduced the incidences of kidnapping using our joint task force led by the military.

“I am assuring you that we are handling that situation head on in collaboration with all security agencies in the state.

“You can attest to this when you interview members of the public, the community leaders and religious leaders.

“People are appreciating the efforts of the police and all other security agencies in reducing the crimes.”

Gumel said since his assumption of office nine months ago, the command had arrested many criminals and recovered several vehicles and other exhibits including illicit drugs and substances fueling crimes.

In Katsina State, residents have urged government and security agents to intensify efforts in addressing the recurring security challenge bedeviling the state.

The state has in the last one month come under barrage of attacks by bandits especially in Jibia and Batsari Local Government Areas where many villagers were killed and abducted and their houses burnt.

In separate interviews with NAN, the residents said that the security situation seems to be worsening after a lull for many months.

Malam Abubakar Hassan, a resident of Batagarawa, said that the security situation in the state and other parts of the country was becoming alarming, hence the need for security operatives to redesign measures to reverse the trend.

Hassan urged the government to provide equipment, training and incentives to encourage the security forces to discharge their duties effectively.

Another resident, Alhaji Abdulkarim Usman, said the public should support security agents with actionable information to tackle the menace.

Gov. Dikko Radda of Katsina State said they have been reappraising the security situation and responding appropriately to the challenges.

He said that the North-West zone, Katsina inclusive, has been facing an alarming surge in various forms of insecurity, including banditry, kidnapping, insurgency, and communal conflicts.

“These challenges have disrupted the lives of countless Nigerians and hindered economic growth and development in the area.

“Addressing this crisis requires a concerted effort and a unified approach, transcending state boundaries.”

The governor who spoke during a regional security summit in Abuja said, “to understand the significance of regional cooperation in the fight against insecurity, several factors must be considered.

“The first is the cross-border nature of insecurity. Our experience with bandits shows that they operate freely between Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto.

“Any effort to push them out of one state leads them to safe havens in neighbouring states, and they often return to their original base.”

The governor said lack of information sharing between states means poor coordination and approach by the different federal security agencies operating in the region.

He said: “The level of insecurity has now mandated the need to have open discussions about innovative solutions to fight insecurity.

“We must take into account all stakeholders and absolutely and immediately provide support and protection to the victims of insecurity.

“The regional approach requires targeted coordination towards socio-economic development to reduce poverty and associated insecurity.”

Osun and Ogun states have witnessed high profile kidnapping cases such as that of Chief Olu Falae in 2015, killing of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Afenifere leader, Chief Rueben Fasoranti in 2019, and the abduction of 25 choir members of Christ Apostolic Church, Oke-Igan on Sept. 29, 2023.

Mrs Foluke Fagbemi, a trader, who was abducted while travelling along Otun-Ekiti-Ido-Ekiti road in Ekiti State on Oct. 2, 2023, said government must give priority to the security of citizens.

Fagbemi, who said that her husband, who was the driver, had to pay N2 million ransom for their release after spending four days in a forest, near Omu Aran, in Kwara.

“Government should give priority to the major needs of the security agencies, to enable them carry out their duties effectively,” she  added.

Also, Mr Micheal Ojo, a retired teacher and father of a kidnapped victim, urged government to provide special support to security agencies, especially the police.

“Most police stations in various communities do not have good vehicles and motorcycles to carry out surveillance,” he added.

Some residents who spoke to NAN in Osun, urged the Federal Government to provide more vocational institutions and training for young people who are easily attracted to crime.

They also urged the government to equip security personnel with better facilities to encourage performance.

Mrs Isabel Williams, a mother, suggested that government should provide more vocational training centres to engage the youth and create business opportunities for them to be self reliant.

“How many people have benefitted from agricultural training, fashion, tailoring, and auto repair services?

“Children who are done with school, even those who are not done with school, let the government encourage them with training.

“There are many other activities the government can do to encourage the youth”, she said.

Miss Irene Archibong, an Administrative Officer, said job creation would help to bring down the level of insecurity in the country.

She also advised government to come up with new incentives for security personnel to motivate them to do more.

“Also, life insurance should be made available to all security officials, and a good amount of compensation given to families who lost their bread winners and loved ones.

“They need to sanitise the security apparatus to curb sabotage,”Archibong said.

Also, Mr Abimbola George, a Technical Support Specialist, said security agencies must respond to emergency calls and information quickly.

Abimbola also called for the adoption of technology in tracking criminals.

“Take the National Identity Number and Bank Verification Number, for instance, these are unique to individuals and organisations, and mandatory for financial operations and telecommunication.

“How are these not used in solving kidnap cases where calls are made to the family and friends of victims, or payments made to kidnappers?

“What are the intelligence agencies doing? We know phone calls can be tracked. So, why is it not done?

‘There are so many things that are not done right for whatever reason”, he said.

Another key suggestion on how to end the security challenges in the county was made by security experts from the military, intelligence community, security services, government, traditional institution and media.

They made the suggestion in Abuja in a communiqué at the end of a course on the usage of Psychological Operations and Strategic Communication for national security.

One key suggestion is for government to urgently take over all ungoverned spaces currently occupied by non-state actors including bandits and terrorists, and providing means of livelihood to communities vulnerable to radicalisation by non-state actors.

They also observed that poor governance and leadership have equally pushed more people into crime.

The experts, however, say Nigeria’s biggest threat is the manipulation of its diversity by politicians and religious leaders to create disharmony among citizens.

“The media and traditional institutions should play major role in shaping public attitudes through their respective channels of communication.

“Inter-agency collaboration should be sustained especially among security services for coordinated activities for national safety and security.

“Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations should be engaged in addressing ethnic and religious intolerance through grassroots initiatives.

“Security agencies should explore the potential of new technological tools including Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics to enhance security and effectiveness of psychological operations and strategic communication.

“There is a need for National Policy backed by legal frameworks in order to regulate the activities of digital media and social media to guard against fake news and hate speech.

“National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be adequately funded to discharge its statutory responsibilities of promoting national unity, harmony and national cohesion,’’  they advised. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Maharazu Ahmed

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