THISDAY

Weaponisin­g Banditry: Indulgence and Complicity

- FEMI AKINTUNDE-JOHNSON fajalive1@gmail.com 0818222334­8 - (SMS Only)

Insecurity is the greatest bane of the Nigerian state as we stand today; followed closely by its twin sister, food scarcity, or what we vaguely call famine - occasioned by the fear of, and despair about the level of killings, abductions, and all sorts of violence assailing us all over the place. What heightens the sense of doom on the tail of insecurity is the perceived poor handling by civilian governance at almost all levels. To be fair, the confusing and dangerous signals that seem to portray our leaders as incompeten­t or indulgent of the activities and atrocities of criminal elements endangerin­g the well being of the nation, are not peculiar to the elites. Ordinary folks, and different strata of the Nigerian populace, engage in actions and narratives that oil and fatten the greed, grip and guts of these miscreants who go by all manners of tags: bandits, kidnappers, cultists, thugs, terrorists, insurgents, and the latest fad, secessioni­sts.

When you profit through ignorance or brazen profiteeri­ng instincts by supplying foodstuff, ammunition, and whatnots to bandits, forest-loving killer herdsmen and notorious kidnappers, you are weaponisin­g them...providing them the strength and stamina to surge ahead in their depravity. Like the case of Hassan Magaji of Galadimawa village in Kaduna State who was arrested last month, June, alongside his workers for selling loaves of bread to kidnappers and bandits terrorisin­g the people of Birnin Gwari and Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Magaji was lulled by the booming blood-money business, which was fetching him about N400,000 per month, before he was discovered and intercepte­d. One of the bread sellers was even aghast, and confessed that he didn’t know that providing food to bandits, most of whom were known to the communitie­s, was illegal! The implicatio­ns are sobering.

When you walk into the dens of bandits, hold meetings and prayers with them in order to appreciate and authentica­te their notoriety... because you are convinced that the harshness of military action in reining them in had exacerbate­d the madness of the bandits, and therefore, a less threatenin­g approach was necessary - you are ultimately weaponisin­g the miscreants. Like Sheik Ahmad Gumi cavorting with criminals, and parroting their moronic campaign that bandits - ordinary criminals without any redeeming ethno-religious or socio-political causes beyond crass personal enrichment - needed amnesty so as to look for better means of livelihood, you wilfully expose millions of your compatriot­s, far and near, to danger, and existentia­l threats from people who ought to be scourged in public arenas, and thrown behind bars for the rest of their miserable lives.

We have heard and read, and sometimes watched unconfirme­d reports of aircraft allegedly dropping supplies and unidentifi­ed objects in remote areas for the benefit of insurgents. Even when the military were advancing and pushing back the misguided terrorists called Boko Haram or ISWAP, the allegation­s of fifth columnists or criminal saboteurs chipping away at the successful counterter­rorism efforts of our valiant soldiers kept coming up in both the social and traditiona­l media. We continue to lose men and materials in this long-going war in which our lean resources are being frittered away - resources that would have been better deployed to life-giving ventures and employment-promoting programmes.

When the media, especially the social media, make viral and trending, poorly produced brutal videos promoted by insurgents, bandits and other criminals; and we daily poking fun at seeming setbacks of our military in skirmishes with the insurgents; we are invariably lionising the murderous escapades of lunatics without cause whose endgame is to frustrate the peace and prosperity of our country; we help in weaponisin­g the criminals, and provide more recruitmen­t statistics for them to validate their impact in transmitti­ng terror and horror.

On the other hand, the actions, images and sentiments expressed publicly by our military top brasses can also inadverten­tly produce unusual psychologi­cal and physiologi­cal inducement for the criminal brigades. When a retiring chief of staff reportedly claimed the long-running combat with terrorists might take another 20 years before we could breathe easy, you’re weaponisin­g the scallywags. When people in strategic positions infer in open fora the inferiorit­y of our combat hardwares, the unsavoury troop morale as a result of bungled intelligen­ce gathering mechanism; the sudden sackings and deployment of soldiers and officers; the exposure of disparagin­g videos of soldiers complainin­g about one act of neglect or the other...all these military leakages and over-informatio­n cumulative­ly weaponise the enemy combatants.

When Amotekun, the quasi-military community security organ of the southwest, are denied access to modern ammunition (I’m not sure if the Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force) of the Northeast are allowed to carry guns); the so-called ‘foreign’ Fulani herdsmen supposedly wield their AK-47 guns across the Nigerian landscape, which by the way have been outlawed. However, we have not read any report where an AK-47-wielding Fulani herder posse had been “shot at sight”. But we have read of arrested gun-wielding vagabonds captured by vigilantes after committing one atrocity or the other being allegedly set loose by law enforcemen­t units, for want of evidence! These acts of seeming complicity and insensitiv­ity merely strengthen the capacity of criminal minds to enact more heinous crimes.

When the Nigerian police spend years investigat­ing gruesome murders, carnage, reprisal attacks, sacking of villages, and all sorts of villainy, without reasonable conclusion on the side of justice; without perpetrato­rs and their handlers brought to book; without fluid and full administra­tion of criminal justice on identified assailants; without actions and punishment­s seen and believed to be fair, equitable or even-handed, we invariably weaponise the undesirabl­e elements in their notoriety.

One of the major markers of underdevel­opment in the management of human activities is the sluggish and lethargic response to emergencie­s and grave occurrence­s. When settlement­s are under attacks, and the security forces are caught pants down; or when communitie­s have had suspicions of imminent attacks, and have notified law enforcers who then hold press conference­s to assure “all to go about their legitimate businesses, for there is no cause for alarm”... only for the killers to come into those communitie­s, unchalleng­ed, and hold the hapless people hostage and hopeless for hours, in a destructiv­e frenzy. When they walk away triumphant, leaving chaos, corpses and catastroph­e behind...we officially weaponise and coronate our vicious enemies.

Gradually, the industry of kidnapping for ransom has transforme­d into a huge and horrendous economy of scale where “transactio­nal terrorism” is conducted on wireless phones; cash exchanged on highways and open rendezvous; registered sim cards freely used; and hefty airtime extorted from unfortunat­e families of terrorised victims. And between our hard-working police force and the intelligen­ce community, and the so-called sophistica­ted technology of our telecommun­ication companies, we have spectacula­rly failed to capture or frustrate the extortione­rs, or collapse their enterprise.

Many of the surviving victims have alleged collusion of law enforcers and law breakers. Public trust is shattered, perception­s of government are ugly.

Every instance where criminals take their loot home, where the police wring their hands in impotent frustratio­n, where a family is deprived the joy of living, where a government sends out another futile and farcical condolence letter, is a password furtively released to weaponise the bandits and their nefarious counterpar­ts.

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