Insecurity: Army and Police Differ on Whether Bandits Terrorizing Parts of Northern Region, are Nigerians
By Ebuka Onyekwelu
Growing security concerns in Nigeria is at a very desperate level, with continued banditry and terrorism on extreme rise in parts of the north. In Southern Kaduna, it is a daily harvest of death in large numbers, and destruction of private properties on a daily. In Katsina, it is a free field for terror as innocent civilians continue to suffer untold hardship in the hands of terror groups and militia. In Borno, the case is not different and only recently, the governor of the state was harassed by suspected members of Boko Haram in the state. There are huge concerns and perhaps, Nigeria has never had it this bad. Only a few days ago, Islamic State West African Province – ISWAP- reportedly raided and kidnapped hundreds of people in Kukawa village of Borno state, northeast Nigeria. Since 2014, several thousands of people have lost their lives to insecurity in northern Nigeria, with over two million people in internally displaced person’s camps in the region. Aside the banditry and terrorism, the rising effect of herdsmen militancy is of major concerns. Sometime in 2016, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed was reported to have said that militant herdsmen are not from Nigeria. According to the minister, “herdsmen move from everywhere, from Mauritius or anywhere. You can’t stop them”. Mauritius is an island African country thousands of miles away and it is only unimaginable that armed herdsmen will move from there to Nigeria. However, there are concerns as to where the crowd of armed bandits and terrorists killing Nigerians at will come from. The question of where they come from or if they are Nigerians, has refused to go away.
Only recently, the question as to the nationality of the bandits and members of the terror groups who inflict without end, severe damages on innocent Nigerians have come up again and this time, the police and the army are of opposing views. In his view which represents that of the Nigeria Army, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Burutai on Monday, July 20, 2020 opined that 90 percent of kidnappers, bandits and armed robbers are Nigerians. This he said during a meeting with the President at Aso Rock Villa. According to Gen. Burutai, “These terrorists, 90 percent of them are Nigerians. These kidnappers I will say 100 percent of them are Nigerians”…. Exactly one month after, on August 19, 2020, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu says most of the bandits come from outside Nigeria. Speaking in a town-hall meeting in Zulu Local Government Area of Kebbi state on peace and security issues, the IG said, “We have realized that most of the banditry has an international dimension. The bandits come from outside the country. We arrested Sudanese, Nigeriens and Malians, among other nationals”. The position of the police IG sharply contrasts with the position of the Army Chief. Some critical questions come to mind; if the bandits are coming from outside Nigeria, what happened to Nigeria’s border security? On the other hand, if they are Nigerians, then, what does it take to track them down? These questions remain unanswered, just in the same way the identities of the bandits, terrorists, and militia, remain uncertain.
As Nigeria grapples with addressing the rapidly rising security problems in northeast, which is now gradually moving to northwest with devastating impacts on citizens, the questions of who the bandits are and where they come from are of paramount importance in nipping them in the bud. Only a few weeks ago, the National Assembly had called on the President to sack the security heads for incompetence in the manner they have been handling the insecurity challenge in the country. Thereafter, President Buhari had meetings with the service chiefs, but none has been relieved of his duty. There is apprehension and raw anger, even as the situation keeps deteriorating. Now with overwhelming evidence that the Army and the Police are in opposite direction in their diagnosis of where the bandits and criminals terrorizing Nigerians are from, it remains unclear how the security agencies are going to address the insecurity. It is equally vague if the two security agencies are on the same page in the fight against terrorism and banditry in the country. In any case, the position of the Army chief which contrasts with the position of the Police chief shows lack of synergy and sufficient information sharing between the two security agencies at the forefront of the country’s fight against insecurity.
In solving security challenges facing Nigeria, it is important that security agents synergize among themselves by sharing information that will help in ensuring maximum protection of lives and properties of citizens. If the Nigeria Army and the Nigeria Police are publicly disagreeing about where the bandits, militia, kidnappers and terrorists come from, it becomes even more difficult to excuse frequent accusations of incompetence against security chiefs. The lack of synergy also puts in a difficult situation, citizens who are critical stakeholders in ensuring security through providing useful information. In all, the security chiefs appear culpable over accusations of incompetence. The most important thing remains the protection of lives and properties of citizens from the enemies of the state and the army and police must work together to get it done.
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