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OPINION

Niger Killings: David Umaru Got It Wrong

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Senator David Umaru, representing Niger East Senatorial District and chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights has given me reasons to be suspicious of his nationality. These sentiments are not meant to cast aspersions on the person of this Niger politician but to interrogate what was behind his recent past time of sowing discord when the occasion calls for concerted national efforts.

11 soldiers of the 31 Field Artillery Brigade were killed by persons that the military identified as gunrunners in Kopa, Dagma and Gagaw villages of Bosso Local Government Area, Niger State and the senator’s response was the trigger for the confusion. The truth be told, some people reported as civilians were killed when the gun runners attacked the military but there was no way of knowing if these were among the gun runners since the criminals were not in uniform.

But the senator, possibly in desperation to assume an air of relevance, befuddled the situation when he described the operation as an invasion of “a very peaceful community in my constituency, Niger East Senatorial District” without first availing himself the benefit of facts. I would like to ask how come Senator Umaru’s ‘peaceful community’ was harbouring enough arsenals in private homes enough to create a mini army for Niger State.

Is he in support of the criminals who kidnap innocent citizens on daily basis along the Kaduna – Abuja Road? Is he not saddened to see families being deprived of their bread winners from the weapons being locally fabricated in his peaceful constituency? Should his constituency remain peaceful and prosperous at the expense of the other constituencies to which the fire arms were being shipped on daily basis?

Even if he was pained by the incident, Umaru should have, as a federal lawmaker, maintained decorum by allowing processes that would review what happened. He has however jeopardised all potentials for an unbiased review of the situation. As the chairman of Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights, his committee should have investigated the operation if a motion to that effect sailed through in the Red Chamber. But the lawmaker cannot now be the accuser and prosecutor in his own case since he has shown his hand. His action further forecloses the corresponding committee in the House of Representatives from being able to look into this matter since he would exploit existing relations to influence outcomes.

If I were Senator Umaru, I would be worried about this faux pas. With our history of fighting terrorism, Umaru forgot that the military, just two years ago, had to flush out the Nibrassiya Huda Islamic Sect from their camps in a forest in Chechei, Lapai Local Government Area of Niger State. The former governor of that state, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu once declared that the bloodthirsty leader of Boko-haram, Abubakar Shekau and the group’s now deceased spokesman, Abubakar Kaka, were among the Islamic fundamentalists dislodged from Dar ul-Islam in Mokwa local council area of the state by security operatives in 2009. Boko Haram also carried out attacks in the same state. I would therefore be worried if the gunrunners of Bosso local government are another terror group building a stockpile of weapons to take on the Nigerian State.

My contention is that if Senator Umaru is a Nigerian and lives here, he would understand that the rest of us are only just emerging from the grip of terrorism while facing other forms of threats have a lot to do with guns and gunrunners. He would have thus expressed concerns that such nefarious activity was going on in his peaceful constituency while taking practical steps in putting an end to their evil. He would have placed the security of other Nigerians above his desire to be seen as a champion of his gunrunning constituents, which is all in his bid to take another shot at Niger State governorship seat.

If his ambition was what drove him to spew such destructive utterances, he can take a leave from his fellow All Progressives Congress (APC) member and the party’s candidate in the last governorship election in Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, who strongly condemned the killing of three soldiers in Nembe area of the state by suspected militants. The killing in Bayelsa took place some hours after the one in Niger but Sylva made a statement, condemning the attack even when that singular act could hurt his political career.

What will not work for Umaru is to think he can barge his way out of this misstep as this would not fly. His options are clear; he should walk back from his baseless accusations, make provisions for constituency intervention to keep his people from fabricating and running weapons, apologise to the military and support future efforts to rid the country of terrorism and gun violence. In case he is not aware, the next elections would be more demanding and security would be a focal point. He should not be surprised if politicians in constituencies where the gunrunners are wreaking havoc with their ware make it a point of duty to make him lose at the polls. If people decide to do that, their position would get sympathy – a Nigerian would not oppose an operation aimed at improving security.

— Kuta, a former staff of the National Assembly sent in this piece from Minna, Niger State.



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