For the umpteenth time, bandits struck in Katsina State. And again, as is always the case, lives were put in jeopardy. This time, the target of the criminals was, as usual, a soft spot – Government Science Secondary School in Kankara. The public outrage that this dastardly act has so far elicited is a measure of the unacceptability of it all. Already Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for the crime. It is not beyond them.
In the ensuing confusion, there are conflicting reports regarding the number of students that were taken away by the soulless hoodlums. Some say 600, others 333 or10 as if that should be the real issue. Even if it is only one student, in the opinion of this newspaper, that is bad enough. The country has not quite overcome the trauma of the Chibok girls’ experience, here again we are burdened by the calamity of having to worry about the lives of innocent students whose only crime is that they went to school to seek an opportunity to be useful to themselves, their parents and the society at large.
It is reassuring, though, that the security agencies stormed the state to fish out the bandits and bring back the students. We are yet to get the full impact of the storming exercise because the students are still in captivity. While this mind game, that is what it is, a mind game. While it continues, we are disturbed by the signals coming out from government circles with regard to efforts being made to secure their release. While briefing the President on the matter, the Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari admitted that he was negotiating with the bandits. That is not good enough in our view.
Should that worry anyone, yes! And for the simple reason that no one, not even in a desperate situation, should negotiate with terrorists. The Governor, from past experience, ought to know that it is a bad idea to negotiate with terrorists. We have argued against that line of action severally on this page. They are not in control of their faculties and cannot understand why they should do business with decent society.
Around the world, no one negotiates with terrorists. No negotiation with terrorists refers to a policy followed by most countries to not negotiate with terrorists. This policy is often applied during hostage crises like the one in Kankara. There are multiple motivations for such policies, including a lack of guarantee of the hostage’s safe return upon payment, as well as not creating an incentive for future hostage-takings.
There is also a catch to this non negotiating principle. As long as a country or, in our own case, a state consistently applies this policy on a no-exception basis, terrorists can anticipate that there will be no reward for trading hostages. Katsina state has consistently breached this policy and, even as they had burnt their fingers in the process, they are still doing what they ought not to do.
In the recent past, the same State government had suffered some embarrassing moments in the way and manner they pampered these terrorists. Negotiated with them, signed memorandum of understanding with them, took official photographs with them and generally raised them to high positions of protocol. What happened after? Bandit attacks of the nature that took place in Kankara still happened. May be not of the same magnitude but attacks all the same.
These outlaws have made the state almost ungovernable – farmers cannot go farms and women and children cannot go too far out in the open without the fear of a possible bandit attack even with subsisting agreements between the government and some elements in the act of banditry.
It is a proof to the government that bandits, like terrorists they are, cannot be trusted to behave or respect any agreements. And that is why we will continue to insist that any negotiation with terrorists is the wrong way to go. Hostage taking is a security issue and there are principles to be applied in this situation which, in our considered opinion, have not been exhausted to warrant a resort to negotiations. We think that the negotiation step is actually interfering with the plans and actions of the security agencies.
This newspaper is of the opinion that it is time for the government, at all levels, to set a machinery in motion to find out and address the remote and immediate causes of this unyielding roguery going on not just in Katsina state but also in other parts of the country. The kind of bravado that these bandits exhibit in their actions are sufficient evidence that there are a lot that Nigerians need to know about this whole madness.
Nigerians deserve to know why the terrorists are having an upper hand against the security apparatus of the nation. Why are the security agencies not proactive and almost always react when the deed is already done?