Update on Nigerian Bandits.

“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government,” says Muhammadu Buhari.

This innocent and hypocritical statement was made by President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria on Friday, February 26, in his reaction to the abduction of 317 female students of the Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State. In the late hours of the previous day, Thursday, a terrorist group locally known as Bandits struck at the all-girls high school and kidnapped all the students.

Nigeria is a country of extremism. This part of the country is officially described as educationally disadvantaged region. Hence most of the schools in the region – elementary, secondary, and tertiary – are government owned and managed. Then, one should ask;

How did this happen in a government school?

– How were the terrorists able to penetrate the school is spite of the high wall and     

  gate that fortified the school?

– How were they able to take away the 317 students in one single night on

  motorbikes?

– How many hours did the operation last?

It has been said before that Nigeria has four main terrorist groups; Boko Haram, Islamic State of West Africa Province, Fulani Herdsmen, and Bandits. The first two have their abode in Sambisa forest. The third group roam the whole country with AK-47 suspended on their shoulders. The fourth group operates mainly in the North West of the country.

All these foremost terrorist groups have remote government support from federal to the state, down to the local government councils. This is why they are formidable and operate with impunity. Not that they are invincible. Since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015, he had vowed to deal with the terrorists. The one at the all-boys secondary school in his home state of Katsina in November was described by him and his political aides as a political sabotage. The kagara incident just a week before Jangebe was again described as an act of sabotage against the president.

Sincerely, Nigeria is big. But not bigger than West Africa or the whole of Africa. Nigeria has three tiers of government; federal, state, and local government. Each of the tiers has government representatives who are the eyes and ears of the government in their respective areas. Why are these reps not able to help government detect its enemies using terrorists to sabotage its progressive policies in their areas? An official government negotiator, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, had revealed that government knew the camps, hideouts, and leaders of the insurgents. This revelation beats the idea of the president being sabotaged all over the country including the president’s home state.

When the Bandits launched their initial campaigns, President Buhari told the public not to retaliate against them but to negotiate with them. This was how this group was ennobled and became dreaded. This was about five years ago. At that time, they were doing hit and run. They targeted soft spots and lonely places. Their operations were few and far between. Since government did not make effort to stop them; rather, asked people to negotiate with them after hurting the people, they became bold, came out of the bush, and started day time campaigns including school abductions.

The Bandits are Fulani, the tribe of President Buhari. They have added to the proliferation of terrorist groups in Northern Nigeria, especially the Fulani connection. They have the audacity to attack fortified government schools because of their affinity with Buhari. The security agents did not intervene no matter the long hours it took them to remove the students on their motorcycles.

As this incident was unfolding, forty-two students and staff of kagara Government Science School in Niger State, North Central, who were abducted by another group of Bandits were being released by their abductors. Their release came after government paid the ransom demanded by the terrorists. The governor of the state had said in a public address before that the “Bandits need to be pampered.”

The pampering is now ongoing with severe consequences for his state and the country in general. He is not alone in this outlandish mindset. His counterpart in Bauchi State claimed that, “Herdsmen have right to possess AK-47.” After the incident in Jangebe on Friday, President Buhari sent a delegation to the state governor, saying that the incident would be the last in the country. He commended the governor for his efforts against the Bandits and promised his continued support to bringing lasting peace. The governor in turn thanked the president and expressed his strong believe in the president and his effort in fighting all forms of insurgence.

Meanwhile, today, Monday, March 1, 2021, the Bandits struck in Sokoto in the same North West of the country, killed ten people, injured many, and took a number of the residents hostage. This is a sour weekend gift to the president who boasted that the Jangebe school terrorists attack would be the last in the country.

The claim that no criminal group can be too strong for the government to defeat is true. But it tests the sincerity of government in fighting criminality. If government fights the insurgents with levity and approaches the people demanding for self-determination with the sledge hammer, it will never win the war against terrorism. 

Western education especially girls’ is not fully encouraged in the north of Nigeria. That’s what Boko Haram stands for. If you look closely at the uniform of the abducted schoolgirls, you will observe a semblance between them and the Madrassa and Taliban style. If the Nigerian government does not strongly and sincerely fight the burgeoning insurgence in the country, girls’ education could become a thing of the past in the region.

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