Informed opinion indicate that Northern Nigeria is bleeding and has turned into a killing field. On a daily basis, stories abound in the media space of mindless and gruesome killings in one part of the region or the other. Though insecurity is a national phenomenon, yet this once vibrant part of the polity has degenerated at a pace that is frightening.
Recently, in Borno State, at least 43 farmers and fishermen were killed in a mindless attack by Boko Haram insurgents. The attack occurred as the victims were harvesting crops. Also, not fewer than seven farmers including a nursing mother were reported to have had their lives snuffed out of them by bandits who attacked three communities of Tashar Bama, Dogun Muazu, and Unguwar Maigayya villages of Sabuwa Local Government Area of Katsina State.
Kaduna State has not been spared either as bandits kidnap and kill people on a regular basis in the state. This uncanny state of affairs ought to be imagined rather than experienced, but unfortunately, it is not so.
Sadly, in some states in the North West, farmers are forced to pay harvest levy to bandits in order to have access to their farms. The implication of this situation is that it will have an adverse effect on the much desired food security in the country. And the rainy days are already here. For instance, the price of stable foods are astronomically high because of the insecurity in different parts of the north.
Amnesty International had reported that more than 1,100 people have been killed in 2020 in rural areas across several states of Northern Nigeria amid an alarming escalation in attacks and abductions during the first half of the year. It is also worthy of note that the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, recently raised the alarm that the security platform in the North has collapsed.
Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, whose area is in the thick of it all, had asked for the recruitment of mercenaries to fight in the war against the insurgents. His colleagues in the North East have also supported the move. This suggestion simply underscores the point that the people have been allowed to be pushed to the wall and, in desperation, are open to suggestions that would have been hitherto considered bizarre.
However, while we sympathise with the plight of the people of Borno and other parts of the North who have been seemingly left at the mercy of their killers, this newspaper will not support the involvement of mercenaries for the simple reason that they do not win wars. Their interest, wherever they go, is pecuniary. As soldiers of fortune, they settle for the highest bidder.
Besides, can the country afford to hire mercenaries in view of the prevailing economic situation worsened by recession? In our considered opinion, it is not an option the country should contemplate now.
A report in Quora reveal that mercenaries being employed by the Gulf States who are fighting in Yemen, for instance, are allegedly paid $800 per month. There are also former Colombian soldiers, sailors and marines who are fighting there and they are paid almost twice that amount monthly. There are mercenaries fighting in Syria and, to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan. While the majority of the mercenaries in Syria are Russians and fighters from the former Soviet republics, some are Arabs, Druze militiamen from Lebanon and even former Iraqi soldiers. The Russian fighters are paid, on the average, 200,000 roubles which is roughly $3,200 per month. Pilots and skilled combatants are said to earn more.
If this is correct and we have reasons to believe it is, then we suggest that such money should be used to pay the nation’s hard fighting soldiers in the frontlines, buy more arms and ammunition and improve their capacity and working conditions to face the enemy. We insist that the Nigerian military has the capability to prosecute this war successfully.
While fighting the war, it is pertinent to address the root cause of it. The twin malaise of insurgency and banditry are, to a large extent, self-inflicted. It is no secret that a majority of the 13 million out-of-school children in Nigeria are from the North .There is a nexus between insecurity, poverty and illiteracy.
We advocate that the governors in states of the North ought to rethink some of their policies and actions that are creating a pool of recruits on the side of the terrorists. The mass of employable but unemployed youths loitering around aimlessly is not helping efforts to rein in the bandits.
To come out of this embarrassing quagmire, we call on the political, religious, traditional and other stakeholders in the north to declare a state of emergency on insecurity without further delay. That emergency must necessarily focus on the root cause – illiteracy, poverty, unemployment and a reduction in the unacceptable lifestyle on the part of the ruling class.