Mindless killing of Nigerians By Punch Editorial Board

These days, it is difficult to keep up with the mindless killings going on around the country. On a daily basis, reports of gory killings inundate the airwaves and benumb the mind. From Niger Delta militants’ macabre gyrations to gangland (cultism) killings, and Fulani herdsmen carnage to Boko Haram massacres, the nation is always in lamentation. Many more lives are extinguished prematurely in the course of violent crimes like armed robbery, assassinations and kidnapping. Restoring order and peace to the fractured polity is, therefore, a task the government must undertake immediately.

The atrocities convey pure anarchy. It prompted a former Chief of Army Staff, Theophilus Danjuma, to call on Nigerians to defend themselves. This is especially true of Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Zamfara, Kaduna and Rivers states. The latest incident of mass killings occurred on Easter Sunday in Jere, Borno State, where Boko Haram suicide bombers murdered 20 people. Five of the suicide bombers died in the act.

On New Year’s Day, Fulani cattle herders massacred 73 persons in Logo and Guma local government areas of Benue State. Taraba lost 63 victims to herdsmen brigandage the same day. About eight weeks after, Benue buried another set of 24 victims of a Fulani herdsmen attack.

This deadly pattern replicates itself in Plateau, where over 45 people were massacred across two LGAs early in March. Ominously, the killings coincided with the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state. That audacity is powerful evidence that everybody is in peril. From Zamfara State, where cross-border bandits slaughtered 39 people in February, the train of death moved to Kogi State. The renewed herdsmen attacks there claimed over 35 souls in Igala LGA in March. Herdsmen also descended on Agbenema, Omala LGA. They murdered the town’s traditional ruler, Musa Edibo, his wife and eight others.

Simultaneously, Boko Haram is wreaking havoc in the North-East, hitting soft targets in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Spare also a thought for Rivers. In Omoku, a violent gang led by Don Waney, an ex-militant turned kidnapper, wasted the lives of 19 persons as they returned from the church after the crossover service into the New Year. Thankfully, Waney and some members of his vicious gang met their Waterloo a few days later.

Isolated attacks by Fulani herdsmen occur in Delta, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Edo states. In Ughelli, Delta State, herdsmen slew four fishermen on March 17, a few days after they beheaded a farmer.

When it comes to horrific killings, Southern Kaduna is top of the pile. The situation there mimics ethnic cleansing. In December 2016, the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, lamented that a total of 808 people were killed in 53 villages in four LGAs in the state. In Je’maa LGA, suspected herdsmen killed four people one Sunday morning last February. There, bandits displaced from Zamfara and surrounding states butchered 12 soldiers in the Birnin Gwari LGA in March. The Abuja-Kaduna Expressway is a notorious haven for bandits, who frequently abduct and kill travellers.

A tally by Amnesty International put the death toll from herdsmen attacks alone in January 2018 at 168. It said 549 deaths came from herders’ hands in 2017. Another mindboggling count undertaken by Sunday Vanguard newspaper said Nigeria recorded 1,351 violent deaths in the first 10 weeks of 2018. In January, 676 persons were killed, followed by 526 in February and 146 as of March 10. The North-East, where the Boko Haram Islamist terror is relentless, has the highest casualty figure of 591. Considering that Nigeria is not fighting a conventional war, this toll is too high.

Apparently, Nigeria’s security system has collapsed. More than half of the police officers are protecting VIPs, political office holders, executives and corporate organisations. It is a major drawback to general policing. Clearly, the police are overwhelmed. The situation is so awful that the military have taken up basic policing duties in at least 33 of the 36 states. The military is thus overstretched. Annoyingly, the security agencies swing into action only when the long-suffering communities take self-protection measures. This is frustrating.

Unfortunately, the Buhari administration, like its predecessors, has no tangible solution. It is even worse that some top government officials are justifying the killings. Cue in the IG, who has repeatedly claimed that herdsmen killings in Benue and other states are communal clashes. Idris compounded the outrage by asking states in the throes of herdsmen carnage to establish ranches first before implementing their anti-open grazing laws. The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, turned logic on its head, claiming blithely that it is because farmers allegedly blocked the age-old grazing routes. Buhari’s refrain is tepid: local communities should accommodate their herdsmen brothers. Buhari and Idris owe hard-pressed Nigerians the duty to implement the order to withdraw the police officers attached to VIPs and other persons so that they can return to normal policing duties.

Crime festers when offenders get away without punishment. Using intelligence and technology, like CCTV, the police should build up the capacity to arrest and prosecute offenders. The oddity in the current policing structure sticks out like a sore thumb. Unlike other federal polities, Nigeria has a single police force for a multi-ethnic estimated population of 193 million. In contrast, there are 17,985 police agencies in the United States. The United Kingdom, a unitary state, has 45 territorial police forces and three special police forces.

To rectify the anomaly of an ineffective single police force, the National Assembly should remove policing from the Exclusive Legislative List in the 1999 Constitution. States, LGs, communities, markets, universities and public institutions should be empowered legally to have their police.

Buhari should put the security chiefs, especially the IG and Director-General of the State Security Service, Lawal Daura, on their toes by setting targets for them. Proliferation of illegal arms fuels violence. Regrettably, Nigeria is home to 70 per cent of the 500 million small and light weapons that circulate in West Africa. A systematic programme to mop up these arms and restrict their further entry into the country is, therefore, imperative to end this mindless violence.

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