By Ibrahim Abdul’ Aziz
From Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, Abuja down to Adamawa and Taraba the North seems to be under siege of bandits, kidnappers, insurgents and above all ethno-religious violence.
Facts checks indicates that the renewed spate of kidnapping, armed robberies, assassination and other crimes have put citizens on the edge, raising security alert particularly in the northern Nigeria.
As put by former US ambassador in Nigeria, John Campbell, ‘’ Across the country, Nigerians have seen an uptick in violent, ostensibly non-political, crime. Further, there is anecdotal evidence that crime has become more gratuitously violent. Nigerians are especially concerned about the upsurge in kidnapping, which affects an increasingly wide spectrum of the Nigerian population.’’
In the past, kidnapping mostly occurred in the south and west of the country, but now, it has become national epidemic. In some parts of the country, kidnapping has become a business, with whispers of involvement by politicians and the police as well as entrepreneurs in it simply for the money.
The common thread of monumental loss runs through the stories of every local government visited by the brutal bandits. They are the footprints left behind in these communities to say ‘we were once here’. These pains and losses, most often, change the course of the residents’ lives; they are indelible scars they will bear to their graves.
Just late night, unknown hoodlums stormed Government Girls Comprehensive Secondary School in Moriki town of Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State and kidnapped six people in the wee hours of Wednesday night.
Reports say that the kidnappers who came on bikes stormed the schools and attempted to break the locks of the hostels but when they realized that time was running out for them, they took away six laborers Including four men and two women.
Among the people that were abducted, were one married woman, a girl suspected to be around 17 to 20 years of age, a driver and two cleaners.
It could be recalled, that Zurmi local government is one the areas that suffered more from the activities of armed banditry but there was relative peace in the area as a result of truce brokered between the traditional rulers and armed bandits.
Also in a neighboring state Katsina, Kidnappers on Wednesday night abducted the Magajin Garin Daura, Musa Umar, in his Daura residence.
Mr Umar, a retired customs comptroller, was abducted after observing Magrib prayer.
The traditional ruler is the father of Fatima Musa, wife of Colonel Mohammed Abubakar, the Aide de Camp, ADC, to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Musa’s wife, Hajiya Bilki, is also the daughter of Mr Buhari’s elder sister, Hajiya Amadodo.
Sources say that the attackers shot sporadically to disperse crowd and picked the traditional ruler in a Peugeot 406.
Also in Safana local government area, Katsina state, the area has been under siege for three consecutive days Residents say that the bandits were killing innocent people, kidnapping women, and setting ablaze any village they came across.
They were sighted on motorcycles and 2 brand new Toyota Hilux vehicles totaling more than 200 armed bandits.
Villagers from various villages in Safana, have confirmed the abduction of 20 of their men.
About 27 residents of these communities were returning from a wedding ceremony in Kankara late afternoon on December 19, to their separate villages when they were attacked by gunmen in the outskirts of the town, (the bushy part between safana and illelah).
The gunmen, who opened fire forcing them to stop, demanded for valuables like cell phones and money, which the common villagers did not have.
Unable to provide this, the gunmen abducted twenty-three of the men and took them to a forest named rogo-rogo, while the four women in the group were allowed to go.
Earlier on Monday afternoon, Kidnappers blocked the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, forcing several motorists to abandon their vehicles and head for nearby bushes to avoid being abducted. The development has left many motorists and passengers unaccounted for, just as their belongings were stolen by the kidnappers.
A Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria who narrowly escaped the attack reports that the incident happened a few kilometres to Katari village in Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State at about 3.30pm.
There is no doubt that the scourge of kidnapping has reached an epidemic proportion in Nigeria, and as it worsened many are calling for ‘’ proactive measure’’ by engaging local hunters and vigilantes to assist.
It could be that Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi has urged the O’dua Peoples Congress and vigilante groups to support security agencies to rid the state of kidnappers and other criminal elements.
Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central at the National Assembly, has urged the government to tackle the overwhelming security challenges facing the Northern part of the country.
Sani said: “Today the entire northern Nigeria is under siege. In the North-West it is the armed bandits, the Nort- Central is experiencing herdsmen attacks and the North-East is ravaged by insurgents.
“In Kajuru, it is Muslims and Christians against one another, in Birnin Gwari it is banditry and kidnapping and along Kaduna Abuja Highway, it is kidnapping and raping. I have been visiting you regularly and this time you are in my residence. I have listened to your lamentation, tears, cries and appeals.
”I believe any conscious Nigerian is aware of what you are facing in Birnin Gwari. I must say the issue of Birnin Gwari reflects the fears and dangers we are facing in North West today. Kidnapping is what we used to hear of in Niger Delta. Today Birnin Gwari, Chikun, Niger and Zamfara States are under siege. The most ideal thing is to face the situation and question those that we have elected into positions of authority.”
Police IG’s Response
In a swift reaction on the upsurge of kidnappings and other crimes , the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said that 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country in the first quarter of 2019.
The IGP made this known during the quarterly Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council meeting held on Tuesday in Kaduna.
Adamu said the crime statistics showed that between January and April, at least 685 persons were kidnapped across the country.
He said 767 of the persons killed were from the North.
Giving a further breakdown of the deaths, Adamu said the North-West topped the death list with 436; North-Central came second with 250; while the South-South geopolitical zone recorded 130 deaths during the period under review.
He added that Zamfara State with 203 murder cases topped the national prevalence rate, Kaduna State followed closely with 112 reported cases while 90 people were killed in Benue State.
According to him, most of the murder cases recorded in the North are linked to banditry and communal violence.
In relation to banditry, he said, a total of 175 deaths were reported between January and April this year with Zamfara State topping the list with 104 reported cases, followed by Katsina State with 21 killed by bandits and Sokoto State with 19 cases.
On kidnappings, the IGP said 546 or 79.8 per cent of the national total were recorded in the three northern geopolitical zones.
He said the highest zonal prevalence rate occurred in the North-West where 365 persons were reportedly kidnapped within the period under review.
“This is followed by the North-Central geopolitical zone where 145 persons were kidnapped.
“It is pertinent to mention that Zamfara State has the highest national kidnap rate with 281 victims in what has been directly linked to the activities of bandits in the state.
“This is followed by Kogi and Niger states where 65 and 51 persons, respecrively were kidnapped within the period,” the IG added.
On armed robbery, Adamu disclosed that a total of 212 major armed robbery cases were reported nationally within the period under review.
Adamu further said the North with 130 major robbery cases representing 59.43 per cent of the national total incident rate topped the list of armed robbery profile.
“The North-Central geopolitical zone with a total of 81 armed robbery cases represents the zone with the highest rate while Niger State, the FCT and Zamfara State with 32, 23 and 18 cases, respectively occupy the three topmost states in the national armed robbery profile,” he said.
For now many residents are worried that many people fell victim in such upsurge was recorded in kidnapping. Some are particularly worried that they may be next victim. This is the reason many residents have been asking questions as to the remote causes of kidnapping Nigeria.
Even before senator Shehu Sani broke silence on the insecurity, the once blossoming region has since become the home of crises. The region has the history of ethnic and religious strife that resulted in the death of many innocent souls.
Today, the region has gone beyond ethnic and religious crises. The multi-facet problems have dragged the region backwardness and retarded its development.
For now only time shall tell whether the North is under Siege or not!