Among plethora of challenges, the scourge of Scourge of banditryhas deeply formed a strong part of the State-of-Nation discourse on Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary commemoration. The escapades of bandits in Nigeria have seen insecurity worsen in the Country with a misadventurous estate coming out of the ugly phenomenon. The menace which begun in a mild manner has seen the Country heated by the ravages of mischievous escapades destabilising of communal cohabitation, while rousing a trepidtory atmosphere which has been dispelling sensations of safety and security. The menace has now inarguably spread its strings with resonance of dread as the prevailing situation in the Country presents unfair colouration of turbulence.
The extension of the estate of banditry across the Country has graduated to become an albatross. As one of the systemic error traceable to the grounding of the menace, the silence of the Federal Government over a long period to criminalise and condemn arm wielding by mischievous elements among herdsmen whose modus operandi speaks volume to the working patterns of the prevailing gross seated banditry, poses deep seated conundra. Hence, discourse over the ground factors which engineered degeneration of situation seeing banditry become an estate of turbulence ravaging the Country, has become clustered.
The unprompted disposition of the Government to address the menace at the nascent stage, has left gaps of exploitation which have informed the evolution of the misadventure growing into an estate of horror which criminally inclined elements have seen as a ready resort to make ways. Recently, the turn of bandit groups to imbibing the kidnap-for-ransom misadventure which used to be a phenomenon in the South-south at the wake of the Niger Delta Amnesty struggles, has seen the mayhem heightening the narratives of insecurity in the Country. The deficiencies of the approach of the Government, which appears more or less unsystematic, have seen bandits making formations which have subjected several classes of persons in the society, as potential victims, to inhumane conditions. The graduation of the estates with extending networks unto disturbing height, has seen the records of soft targets assuming broader inclusions. While the menace could be traced to have had farmers and their settlements at the root of targets at the nascent stage, the estate of the menace has seen school children recently coming under the list of soft targets. The abduction of traditional rulers has recently become a recurring phenomenon to join the scale of important persons (VIP) who form their soft targets. The more dehumanising part of the narratives has been the killings of their victims even after collecting ransom. While some victims go with the luck of release after huge payment of ransom, many unlucky ones have suffered the fate of gruesome killings either without prompt payment or by gross wickedness even after receiving ransom payment.
As the security operatives are finding it more difficult to end the estate of banditry by die-hard approach, it behooves Government authorities to adopt strong systemic approach in tackling the phenomenon. In this light, attacking the rootings of the estates to break down the working networks of the menace becomes important. It is apparent that the operation of bandits in the Country has not been without a network that keeps the estate running and expanding with agents of their operations seated across far and near communities holding bearings to their operating locales. It, therefore, behooves Government authorities to turn to approaching the fight against the menace by systemic patterns driven by intelligence; such that all channels through which their networking agents connect to supply their inputs are cut off.
On Sunday, the Police Command in Zamfara, disclosed that it had arrested 21 suspected notorious bandits and 48 collaborators during various raids it carried out in September. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the State’s Command, SP Muhammed Shehu, who made the disclosure at a press briefing in Gusau, on the achievements of the security agencies in the state, five bandits on the wanted list of the security agencies were also neutralized during the raids. According to him, firearms, including AK47 guns, Dane guns, ammunition, machetes, charms, foodstuff, drugs, fuel, as well as motorcycles and money were recovered from the suspects during the period.
He was quoted: “Since the implementation of the new security measures of Gov Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, a month ago, the Police and other security agencies had carried out assaults on identified bandits’ locations to rid the state of recalcitrant bandits and other criminal elements. As a result of the security agencies’ commitments and sacrifice, tremendous achievements have been recorded, thereby reducing bandits’ attacks, killings and abductions in the last one month.
“The measures led to blocking the recalcitrant bandits from accessing food, fuel and drug supplies, as well as other essential services. Similarly, payment of ransom to bandits by the relations of kidnapped victims had stopped due to the effective enforcement of the security measures, by which communication between the bandits and their informants became impossible.
“On the effect of the new security measures to communities in the urban areas, the Police Command has succeeded in curtailing the rampant cases of abductions, armed robbery, car snatching, burglary and housebreaking and other heinous crimes. The ongoing operations by the police and other security agencies in the state has stabilized many villages and communities that were hitherto under threat and apprehension of the bandits. Criminal elements, especially bandits, are no longer finding it comfortable to operate; informants to the bandits are not having access to the bandits, who rely so much on their information to commit their dastardly acts against the innocent people of the state.
“The police, through the ongoing operation, have also succeeded in the arrest of 21 notorious armed bandits at various locations in the state, with five of the bandits neutralized during the operations. Police equally repelled four different attacks with many bandits suffering heavy casualties. Many informants to the bandits were arrested, investigated and prosecuted. Apart from the achievements of other security agencies in the state, the following arrests and recoveries, mostly from bandits’ collaborators, were made by the Zamfara police command and will be showcased to the press for onward dissemination to members of the public.”
Zamfara has been noted to be one of the seats from where the scourge of banditry grew to expand its coast to other parts of the Country.
While the efforts of the recent arrests may be commendable, it is by all means a drop in the ocean compared to the coast of the menace across the Country. Beyond the state in question, it is imperative for intelligence driven security system of response to be instituted by state governments to exterminate the networks of banditry and its threats where applicable. Hence, such response system should give priority and definition to addressing the peculiarities of the each State in concern with robust interface of multi-security formations within a complementary framework of concerted measures. In this light, the system would be virile enough to address peculiar situations of localised mayhem where the conditions demand emergency approach while addressing those still within threat zones.