In the last seven days or so, Kaduna State has been in the news for the wrong reason. Last Sunday, daredevil brigands, wielding dangerous weapons and riding on motorcycles, stormed the Bethel Baptist Secondary School in Chikun local government area and abducted no fewer than 140 students, among others. About 26 of the kidnapped students would later escape from their captors.
Just as the wailing of parents over the mass abductions of their children was not yet over, another group of criminals on Monday night seized an unspecified number of travellers near the Kaduna toll gate along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway and killed two persons. As this article was going to bed yesterday’s evening, not a single word on the fate of the kidnapped travellers has been heard.
Also, early in the week, another group of bandits attacked the residential quarters of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre, Zaria, where they seized 10 persons, including five members of staff. Despite spending over two or so hours of assault on the hospital, there was no help from any of the security agencies.
A driver was shot by bandits on Tuesday near Idon town along the Kaduna-Kafanchan road. Despite the shots, the shot driver braved the odds and drove the passengers to safety. A passenger who later took over the vehicle arrived at the hospital too late to save the heroic driver’s life.
Kaduna state is turning into an abode of a bizarre bloody world. More than any time now, no place in the state is safe as the wind uncertainty is blowing across the nooks and crannies of the state. Farmlands have been deserted for fear of ransom-seeking gunmen. The schools are now dreadful kidnapping centres.
Those who once thought building homes away from crowded areas could afford them a clean environment are now abandoning their airy mansions for fear of bandits. Those seeking refuge in crowded neighborhoods are not spared of these brigands. Last Wednesday night, abductors operated for several hours as they drilled holes to kidnap no fewer than 12 persons without any challenge from security operatives. When youths on Thursday in Sabon Tasha attempted to demonstrate against these kidnappings, soldiers were deployed to disperse them.
Earlier before now, these men of terror had visited the permanent campus of the Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Zaria, where they abducted some students, including a lecturer. They also reportedly shot a student who later died in the hospitality. The Afaka abductions in Mando, Kaduna, had sparked international and local outrage as another gang of kidnappers held scores of students in a bush for over 40 days. Not a few heaved a sigh of relief when the Afaka saga came to an end without any of the students killed. It was not the same with students of Greenfield University where parents of the abducted students were coerced to N200 million after five of the undergraduates were brutally murdered to drive fear down the spines of traumatised parents/relations of the abducted victims.
For the administration of Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, trouble pours every day as Kaduna state has been turned into a safe haven for bandits and coldblooded murderers. Amidst the troubling present that has turned kidnapped victims into commercial commodities, the road to recalibrating the failing security system to salvage the state has become unavoidable.
When el-Rufai assumed the reins of power in May 2015, he had shocked Nigerians on national television when he disclosed he had traced and paid foreign herdsmen to stop attacking Southern Kaduna communities. The assaults on Southern Kaduna only ceased momentarily as the bloodthirsty bandits soon returned with a venom yet unseen. The Birnin Gwari area, hitherto known as the axis of kidnappings, also came under renewed attacks. Kajuru and Zangon Kataf LGAs became terror points as communities were decimated and despair soon set in.
In the early hours of yesterday, another group of bandits, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, launched a deadly assault on Warkan village in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area where no fewer than nine persons, comprising four children, three women and two men, were feared killed and about 13 homes completely destroyed. Before yesterday, Kibori town, a settlement near Zangon Urban in Zangon Kataf LGA, came under attack on Wednesday from another murdering terror group. The gunmen slaughtered a widow and her three children.
More than six years of el-Rufai as governor, bandits have taken over the state. While the state is groaning under unceasing attacks, the governor recently insisted that banditry cannot be tackled in the North because it has become a business. In essence, what the governor means is that when illegality overcomes legality, then, the best option is to legitimize such an illegal act. Little wonder, the state seems summarily vitiated in tackling dangers posed by these undesirable elements.
In the heat of the Afaka students’ abductions, Governor el-Rufai had declared that his government was not willing to negotiate with bandits. Against the backdrop of trauma and tension unleashed on grieving parents of abducted students, not a few had interpreted the no-negotiation stance of the state as complicating the abduction quagmire that took nearly one and half months to resolve.
In view of the varying opinions held by el-Rufai in the past seven years or so on how best to tackle banditry, the governor has shown he is a maestro in double speaking. Not a few people are chagrined over the non-negotiation policy of Kaduna state in resolving kidnappings by bandits. One of the leaders of the bandits behind the kidnapping of the Greenfield students had threatened to concentrate banditry in Southern Kaduna. The ceaseless attacks and spates of abductions in southern Kaduna communities are clear pointers that such attacks are premeditated acts of aggression aimed at weakening and destroying the people.
It is clear that the Kaduna State Government has failed in its duties of protecting lives and properties. Speculations are rife that the Kaduna State Government is not happy with the Kaduna State Police Command over its refusal to truncate the recent warning strike embarked by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). While it is a fact that the Federal Government is in charge of security agencies engaged in the protection of lives and properties, governors have often found it plausible to engage the police in a creative synergy aimed at combating insecurity facing their states. This is done in complete collaboration with attacked communities through joint efforts involving vigilante groups and other security personnel. The absence of this joint security strategy in tackling banditry has worked against resolving the spiraling spates of abductions and attacks ripping across the state.
The Federal Government must be told clearly that the responsibility of protecting lives and properties lies on its shoulders. The administration of President Muhamamdu Buhari cannot at this time hand over the task of dealing with banditry and kidnappings to state governors when it is clear that the states are not in charge of the security apparatus that is mostly, if not all, controlled by the central government.
To make matters worse, el-Rufai has not imbibed the timeless attributes of the good leader who must be seen at all times closing the widening gulf of differences that divides citizens. The governor seems to enjoy riding in the storms of controversy just as he refuses to acknowledge the fact that one wrong word from him can set the entire state ablaze. More worrisome, el-Rufai’s administration has assumed adversarial disposition against state citizens on several fronts.
There are limited options in dealing with the present Kaduna conundrum. It is either the Federal Government declares a state of emergency or engages attacked communities to form joint efforts with security forces to combat banditry. The midnight destruction of Kaduna state has exposed the failings of our democratic structures. If nothing is done, Nigeria’s chances of surviving the tides are getting dim by the passing of each day.