Waiting for repentant bandits

The end of the war against Boko Haram is near, as the cheering news has continued to emerge that many members of the deadly group are surrendering.

Although, mixed reactions have continued to trail their repentence, since the emergence of the group in 2007, waging a war against the Nigerian state, Boko Haram is reported to have killed over 100,000 Nigerians with huge humanitarian catastrophe.

However, our committed and gallant soldiers deserve a pat on the back for ensuring that they sustain an onslaught against the combat ready group. At least, the North-east states, especially Borno which is ravaged by the activities of the group in recent times, heaved a sigh of relief after many years of horrible experience.

For the members of the group, believed to have a strong links with ISIS, to back down, repent and embrace amnesty, indicated a triumph or victory against them after all hope was almost lost. Also, a country overwhelmed by myriad of insecurity which includes Boko Haram insurgency, secessionists and banditry and government’s desperation to tame them, the news of their repentence is a welcome development.

Ironically, while many Boko Haram members are surrendering and government is rolling out programs to radicalise and fully rehabilitate them, bandits in the North-east states are inflicting more harm to the helpless and poor communities.

In Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger states bandits have become kings or assumed a state role. They impose taxes and only allow local farmers to havest their crops, if certain levies are agreed to be paid by them. In the last three months, there have been increasing cases of students’ abduction for ransom.

The bandits forcefully invaded many schools and abducted hundreds of students. The continued abduction of students has forced government to close schools with dire consequences on the education development of the region. Sadly, these daredevil bandits have continued to rake in billions of naira from the victims’ poor families unabated.

Disturbed by the continued killing of his people, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina state recently directed his people to arm and protect themselves against the ravanous bandits. Governor Masari’s self-defence statement indicates government’s failure or inability to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians as guaranteed by the constitution.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the shameful invasion of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) last week by the bandits. The bandits kidnapped a Naval officer and an Army major but murdered them in cool blood. Whether it was a security breach as alleged by the Nigerian military or not, the audacity of those bandits to strike is a proof of the poor security network in our military formation.

The unfortunate attack on NDA should serve as a wake up call to the government that like Boko Haram, the bandits are not only attacking soft targets, such as villages and schools, but also highly secure places.With some Boko Haram members laying down their arms and surrendering, should Nigerians also expect repentants from bandits?

Boko Haram and banditry are are major security challenges threatening the country. However, their mode of operation differs. While the former took up arms against the Nigerian government and wants to declare an Islamic caliphate, the latter are criminals who attack and kidnap for monetary gains. Banditry is purely the mismanagement of cattle rustling by government.

It may interest you to know that attempts have been made by both Katsina and Zamfara state governors in the past to negotiate with bandits. It was only Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i of Kaduna state who kicked against dialogue with the criminals.

Regrettably, the two governors who initiated the negotiation lamented how bandits, after repenting, dumped the peace deal and continued with their nefarious activities. For the country to have repentant bandits like repentant Boko Haram, there is the need for our security apparatchik to intestify massive onslaught against the bandits. These bandits need brute force before they would surrender.

Ibrahim Mustapha,
Pambegua, Kaduna state