TO deal with and arrest the ugly menace of banditry in Kaduna State and other parts of the North-West, security experts have called for proper management of the nation’s forest reserves, most especially the ones in the troubled region.
They say various security agencies in the country must carry out their operations through enhanced and improved intelligence gathering.
Kaduna has, in recent times, become a major bandits’ hub in the region. Bandits appear to have left Zamfara, Kastina and Niger states for Kaduna, with series of attacks and kidnap cases in Nasir El-Rufai’s state .
In this month alone, the criminals have launched several coordinated attacks against schools, public places and communities in the state, raising so many security concerns.
No fewer than nine persons were kidnapped by the criminals from the staff quarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) at the Kaduna Airport on March 6th. Those kidnapped included a family of six, and another housewife and her two children. Although the military engaged them in a gun duel for several hours, the bandits went away with their victims on motorcycles.
Three persons were killed on March 9th after bandits attacked the residents of Ganji village in Igabi Local Government Area of the state, leaving about five persons with severe gun injuries.
On March 12th, more than 150 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Igabi Local Government Area of the state, were also kidnapped by bandits. Although some of them were rescued by security operatives, 39 of them are still being held in captivity for N500 million ransom.
In a similar vein, bandits stormed Government Science Secondary School, Ikara, Ikara local government area, in an attempt to kidnap students, but they failed after the students utilised the security warning system in place and alerted security forces.
While a failed attack was launched on a Turkish International Secondary School, another primary school in the Rema area of Kaduna State was also attacked.
Nine persons were equally shot dead by gunmen suspected to be bandits in separate attacks in Birnin Gwari and Giwa LGAs of Kaduna state on March 24th.
Commissioner for internal security and home affairs Samuel Aruwan, who confirmed the killings in a statement, said six persons were shot dead by the bandits after a barricade was mounted at Dogon Dawa-Kuyello road in Birnin Gwari LGA.
He identified the deceased as Nura Rufai, Sanusi Gajere, Yakubu Labbo, Usman Dangiwa, Alhaji Abdulhamid, and Janaidu Tsalhatu.
Two others, Haruna Dotu and Hamisu Mohammad, were reportedly shot dead at Ungwan Maje in Birnin Gwari LGA.
He added that “armed bandits also attacked Kwama village in Giwa LGA and killed one Nasiru El-Rufai after he resisted their attempts to kidnap him.”
These renewed attacks have been attributed to the stance of Governor El-Rufai, who has publicly denounced the activities of the criminals. He has also vowed that he will not pay a dime of the state’s scarce resources to the criminals.
He warned that insecurity in the region would continue to escalate as long as the states refused to coordinate their policies in dealing with banditry.
El-Rufai, who spoke in an interview with BBC Hausa, said attempts were made at cooperation on tackling banditry among governors in the region, but it did not succeed because the governors adopted different policies in addressing the challenge.
Managing director of Agent-X Security Limited Timothy Avele said the escalating bandits’ attacks were a bargaining strategy. He argued that banditry and terrorism were political tools for achieving from the government what other methods could not achieve.
“In the end, as long as the security agencies and the military do not have any sustainable means to eliminate them, then the government will have only two options: negotiate with bandits (even secretly) or ‘we continue attacking and killing your people,” parts of interview with The ICIR read.
Avele expressed worry that the situation would get worse unless the government and the security agencies, especially the intelligence services, would come up with a new strategy to defeat the bandits and terrorists.
“For now, I am yet to see any of such a new tactical approach except the usual helicopter hovering and deployment of soldiers when there are new attacks,” he noted.
“Defeating bandits and terrorists is not as easy as many think. First, the political angle to it, many will read political meanings into it no matter the approach taken. Do not forget that banditry, militias and terrorists are all political means to get what other methods cannot get easily.
“However, to really end these bandits’ attacks, first, intelligence services must find and block access to the sophisticated weapons available to these non-state actors.”
He suggested that the Nigerian police should train and equip a specialised anti-banditry unit. This team, according to him, was not to be seen, but should always be in the forest for 24 hours of the week and could be monitored from a command and control centre. He added that the military could be used to support these team in joint covert operations.
He stressed that the state government should be responsible for logistics, team welfare and part or all of the equipment to be used.
“Communities and individuals who provide intelligence information must be rewarded and protected.
“The military and law-enforcement agencies must immediately start to recruit and train intelligence analysts if we are to expect any improvement in security generally in Nigeria.
“In security and intelligence, negotiations are not bad, but you must negotiate from the strongest position. Sadly, it is the bandits that have the upper hand in their current offensive.”
A retired senior officer of the Nigerian Air Force Sadeeq Shehu also agreed that the government at all levels must set up forest guards akin to the colonial eras to comb forests of criminal elements and protect economic resources.
He also called for both state and local police to address insecurity challenges in the country.