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Anti-bandit War

Paradox Of Anti-bandit War

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Despite repeated assurances of renewed onslaught against terrorists and other criminal elements killing and maiming innocent Nigerians, latest statistics of those killed by these marauders show   that the war against terror is far from over. It is reported that no fewer than 2,583 Nigerians were killed and 2,164 abducted in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

The figure is alarming for a country not at war, suggesting clearly that the war is losing steam. More petrifying is the fact that the attacks occur almost on a daily basis, especially in North-West states of Kaduna, Zamfara and Katsina.

It is as if whoever coined the paradox, “the more you look, the less you see,” may have had Nigeria in mind. The lacklustre manner in which the nation handles everything, including war against terrorism, graft, poverty, and illiteracy which are at the root of the current security challenges we face, suggests that the more one sees, the less he understands.

Over three decades after independence, Nigeria has not failed to amaze even the brightest of its citizens. Ours is a nation shrouded in paradox; a nation of puzzles. One of such puzzles is the unending war against banditry amidst widespread allegations that the government and some powerful individuals are shielding those behind this worrisome war.

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Turji as a metaphor

One name which has continued to be mentioned as one of those being shielded as far as this unending war against banditry is concerned is that of a hardened criminal, Bello Turji, who has constituted himself into an authority of some sort, controlling a gang of murderous members at his beck and call.

It is so common that Turji has become a metaphor for killings, abduction for ransom, cattle rustling and other criminality that have remained intractable and constitute the worst nightmare for the residents of some communities in Zamfara and Katsina states. Apart from being displaced, abducted and compelled to pay ransom, vulnerable members of these communities are also forced to pay tax before cultivating and harvesting their farm products.

The destruction caused by this gory character called Turji is colossal. He and members of his gang have killed many civilians and security personnel, kidnapped many, raped countless women and are being paid hundreds of millions of naira as ransom. The displaced communities have not been served justice.

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For the sake of emphasis, Turji is merely a metaphor of all the criminal activities, including actions and inactions of governmentsm that have continued to make it difficult for Nigerians, especially the poor and vulnerable, to breathe.

As we ponder this metaphor, it is extremely difficult to dismiss the widespread allegations that Turji is being shielded by some powerful vested interests who are bent on seeing this ongoing war against banditry sustained in perpetuity for their self-serving interests.

Therefore, there are countless Turjis. Any Nigerian who directly or indirectly aid mis-governance, who supports corruption in whatever form because it is being perpetrated by his political party or someone of the same faith or region with him/her, is the reason why the war against bandits has remained intractable and Turji is yet to be served justice.

Only recently, a Nigerien Army Officer in a viral video warned Bello Turji to steer clear of Niger Republic or risk being killed. In the short video, the officer alleged that the Nigerian authority is shielding Bello Turji.

“Bello Turji, let me warn you. Niger is not like Nigeria, in Nigeria you’re enjoying protection from the authorities because in Nigeria, unlike here in Niger, troops require express permission and/or orders to shoot. Make no mistake, I swear by God it’s not really true that you’ve evaded arrest or killing, even in Nigeria.

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“What’s happening there is a high level conspiracy by the authorities…Niger is not Nigeria! If only you’re sensible you ought to have known that you cannot play this rubbish game with the Nigerien military,” the Nigerien Army officer noted.

 

Recurring allegation

Curiously, the video is just a mere rehash of such allegations, most of which have remained uninvestigated by the Nigerian government, further lending credence to the fact that as far as this war against banditry is concerned, the more you see, the less you understand.

Recently, Katsina state governor, Dikko Umaru Radda, had declared that the war against banditry has been turned into a money-making venture for security personnel, government officials and others who are benefitting from the raging banditry. The governor insisted, when asked to shed more light on his allegations, that he was speaking based on intelligence and facts at his disposal.

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“Who has not been arrested? We have had security personnel and traditional rulers arrested for aiding this criminality. So, what is new about what I said?” Radda asked recently when he addressed an international press conference to mark his one year in office.

But even before Governor Radda’s allegations, a serving commissioner in Zamfara State has gone on record as accusing the former Zamfara governor and junior Minister of Defence, Muhammad Bello Matawale, of shielding bandits. Specifically, the said commissioner whose viral interview is still available online accused former Governor Matawale of offering asylum to bandits. “We have records where vehicles were purchased to these criminals,” the Zamfara commissioner alleged.

Sadly, months after his allegations which went viral, there has been no attempt to go after those he accused, just as there is no report of litigations by those he accused.

In saner climes, either of two things would have happened. By now, we would have been following a court case involving the said commissioner and the person he accused or we would have been following the prosecution of the person he accused. None of these is happening at the moment, confirming that in Nigeria, it is as usual: the more you see, the less you understand.

Like most Nigerians, I know that the military has what it takes to fish out Bello Turji and his gang. I strongly believe that the Nigerian security knows where and how to get Turji and his gang but have yet to take this murderers out because of the stronger forces shielding them.

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Dimmed hope

Even though in their bid to be politically correct, the government and top echelon of the nation’s security want us to believe that appreciable progress is being made in the ongoing war against banditry, residents of Zamfara and other states bearing the worst brunt of banditry, and troops deployed to tackle this menace know that the war is far from being over.

Fundamentally, there is nothing to suggest that this war will end anytime soon and the reason is simple: it has been turned into a business venture for many along the chain, with a lot of people making a fortune out of it.

From traditional rulers who collect money to aid banditry to residents who serve as informants and help supply essentials to the bandits, the chain is long and contains the low, and the proverbial high and mighty who are all part of the reason this war will remain intractable.

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And when one thinks of the sad reality that some security operatives are making free money from this, it is easy to conclude that we are not serious with the war against bandits and unless something drastic is done beyond the current frail attempts to confront this monster, we may as well prepare to leave with banditry and other associated crimes.

 

The North’s Malnourished Children

Poverty, illiteracy and disease often find a way of cohabiting. If you are extremely poor, the chances of you not being able to give your children education is high and deprived of education, the possibility that they won’t know the basic requirements of disease prevention is equally high. Could this be the lot of the North where poverty and illiteracy is high?

The report of high number of malnourished children in the north is not surprising. What do you expect from a region that has vast arable land for farming, but its predominantly farming population is kept away from farms by insecurity and hence is facing threat of a looming hunger? What do you expect when the region has over 10 million children including girls who will eventually become mothers, out-of-school? There is an overacting need for immediate measures to address this alarming rate of malnutrition so we don’t end up with more child mortality.

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But a lasting solution will be for government to address the twin issues of poverty and illiteracy. An educated mother will not only know the basic food combination that will provide the needed nutrients for her child, but she will be able to afford it in the event that her irresponsible husband fails to provide.

 



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