Bandits with superior firepower

Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, recently stated that after an inspection of the armoury used by bandits, government agents found that the bandits were better armed than the military command in the state. In one of the armouries of the bandits, the agents found over 500 Ak-47 rifles. He stated this after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja where he apprised the president of the dire situation in the state.

This statement coming from the chief security officer of the state should send an alarm to the security services, the president and Nigerians in general. But it seems that the full implications of this state of things have not dawned on Nigerians and the leadership of relevant agencies of government. While going to apprise the president of the state of things showed his concern about the situation, the subsequent statements made by the governor do not show sufficient appreciation of the implications of the state of things for peace, order and well-being of citizens. The governor does not also realise that the situation points to a major weakness of the Nigerian state that has been allowed to fester for too long.

The governor told newsmen that he ruled out dialogue with the terrorists as a way to end the menace. He also told journalists that he hoped that with the arrival of the $1 billion arms ordered by the Federal Government, the military would be able to deal a decisive blow to the criminals. He further stressed that the Federal Government had already given procurement contracts to the United States of America, China and other European countries for arms. The governor failed to explain how these relate to the immediate need to address the urgent extraordinarily difficult situation under which the citizens in the state live.

Clearly, the governor underestimates the nature of the situation in the state which has reached crisis point.  The situation points to a major weakness of the Nigerian state that must not be taken lightly: the inability of the state to govern spaces in large swaths of land in the North. The spaces have been occupied by bandits, terrorists and sundry criminals. These pose challenges to the peace, order and social stability of these areas.  It means that millions of citizens residing in those ungoverned communities are daily victims of threats to their physical safety and therefore their livelihoods.

Furthermore, the situation points to the weakness of the Nigerian state as a geographical entity with questionable integrity. It tells an adverse story about the security services and their capacity to protect the state and citizens. Indeed, it encourages forces of disintegration and gives them hope that they can transform the fragility of the state into collapse if they try harder and exploit its weaknesses.  Clearly, the claim that bandits are better armed than the security forces is a demoralising statement for those already engaged in the fight against terrorism in the trenches. In other words, there is clear and present danger which Nigerians, especially those in the armed forces and the political leadership, should rally round to address. The situation should be treated as an emergency. The president must rise to the occasion.

There is also a need to emphasise the importance of intelligence in dealing with the problem. There is a failure of intelligence here. The government needs to explain the reasons for the ease with which bandits were able to import such weapons, and in the quantity described. Efforts must be made to prevent illicit importation of weapons and arms into the country. The current situation is too dangerous to be handled with kid gloves. That this situation has arisen under President Buhari’s government that has named security as one of its cardinal programmes is bewildering.

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