By Musa Ilallah
It is not an exaggeration to say that Nigeria has witnessed unprecedented reports of large scale kidnappings mostly involving school children in the last three months or so in the country.
From the abduction of more than 300 students on December 11th of 2020 from an all boys boarding secondary school on the outskirts of Kankara town in Katsina State; to that of 42 students, teachers and some family members on February 17th this year at another boys boarding secondary school in Kagara town of Niger state; to that of 317 girls boarding secondary school in Jengebe town of Zamfara state on February 27th this year, the country is obviously facing the worst of times in it’s security.
In addition to all of these disturbing and ugly incidents, the country is engulfed in several other pockets of groups and individual kidnappings on the roads, at home and other places across the length and breadth of the country,.
Indeed the atmosphere remains charged, prompting Nigerians to express concern and calling for government’s serious interventions to deal with the threatening security challenges.
In his usual prompt and rapid response to issues of national importance, President Buhari having carefully considered the strength of issues surrounding the sudden upsurge of kidnappings of school children, carefully and strategically adopted a multi pronged approach from the roots to deal with the situation once for all.
Meanwhile, President Buhari had condemned the kidnappings as “inhumane and totally unacceptable,” adding that his administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments,
As a retired Army General, President Buhari swifly moved into action by first directing security agencies to do all within their powers to rescue all the kidnapped school children having provided all the logistical, moral, material and financial support. Furthermore, the President had directed the use of kinetic and non kinetic approaches to deal with the bandits.
Secondly, PMB declared Zamfara state which the bandits and kidnappers have turned into their theatre command for years now, a “no fly zone”, NFZ. The wisdom behind this long awaited approach was to halt the swap of gold for arms by bandits, illegal miners and other criminals. Along with this Presidential order was the ban on all mining activities in all parts of Zamfara State.
These key decisions were resolutions adopted by the National Security Council, NSC at it’s meeting recently which was chaired by President Buhari with a view to stopping bandits in the State from their activities. Consequently, the President further directed the security chiefs to re claim bandits dominated areas across the states of the Federation while warning non-state actors against promoting insecurity in the country.
Towards this end the President had directed the immediate deployment of military and intelligence assets to restore normalcy in the State and other parts of the country ravaged by the activities of bandits, kidnappers and other criminals.
While it is true that there is a strong correlation between the ongoing banditry and mining, illegal miners are largely responsible for the instability in the area.
Thirdly, President Buhari issued another order to security agents to shoot at sight anyone found to be in possession of AK 47 rifle and other ammunitions. This, according to Garba Shehu, President’s spokesman, is aimed at a total clampdown on bandits who have refused to surrender such arms.
To conclude his step by step approach to giving bandits a deadly blow, President Buhari swore in the newly appointed service chiefs where he urged them to identify competent officers to improve the security of the country.
Typical of a leader of human and capital resources, President Buhari said “I have taken responsibility as C-in-C for them to go out into the fields and every part of the country, to ensure peace and security and I have also accepted responsibility for all actions taken in fulfillment of the mandate to secure Nigeria.”
Interest groups like the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF have appealed to PMB to extend the no fly zone order to cover such States with security challenges like Zamfara. ACF recalls that there are rumours making the rounds that States like Benue, Taraba, Borno witnessed the dropping of arms for bandits and insurgents in the States. Some others say that no fly zone order be enforced in states like Adamawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger and Kaduna, among others.
The President’s actions were greeted by an overwhelming support describing them as the way forward for a return to nomalcy in the affected areas in particular and the country in general.
However there are a few voices who think otherwise. Leading this group is the Governor of Zamfara state, Bello Matawalle of the opposition PDP and his party. The Zamfara State Governor took an exception to the ‘’ No-fly zone’’ decision of the Federal Government imposed on the State as a measure to stem the insecurity in the area.
The media quoted the Governor as saying that the National Security Adviser did not understand the nature of insecurity in the State.
However, expressing his support to actions taken so far by President Buhari in giving a lethal blow to banditry, kidnapping and in fact all crimes, Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje cautioned politicians not to toy with security-related matters, saying that negative reactions from States can undermine the efforts of the central government in securing the nation.
He described the declaration of Zamfara as a no-fly zone as a well-thought-out security strategy by the National Security Council that will help to overcome security challenges not only in Zamfara but other neighbouring States.
Governor Ganduje further observed that the measure would aid in cutting suspected logistics supply and illegal evacuation of the nation’s natural resources, particularly gold.
Going forward, what the country needs most now are joint efforts by stakeholders to combat the scourge of kidnappings, insurgency and banditry ravaging the country through concerted approach by state governments and the co-operation of all security agencies, traditional rulers, community and religious leaders to successfully tackle and overcome security challenges in the country.
Lending his voice to efforts by the Buhari administration to contain threats to security of lives and property, former President Goodluck Jonathan
expressed the view that his successor, Muhammadu Buhari, is not taking the security situation in the country with levity.
Jonathan in describing the incidents of school children kidnapping as unfortunate, called for the Federal Government and the governors to work together in order to surmount the challenges.
Impressed by PMB’s efforts so far, former president Goodluck Jonathan commended Buhari for his efforts and asked Nigerians to join hands to make the country safe for all.
Also throwing it’s weight in support of the current strategies to win the war against banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and other crimes, the Buhari Media Organisation, BMO called on leaders across the country to work with President Buhari to rid the country of its security challenges.
The organisation also called for a shared understanding of the solutions being put forward by government to end the security challenges, and not antagonism or politicisation by political, religious leaders or traditional rulers. It noted that all hands must be on deck to tackle the issues of insecurity, especially the raging banditry in the North-West.
It is therefore not in doubt that the biggest success recorded in the listed incidents of kidnapping of school children was the swiftness with which government used its security agencies and other non kinetic networks to rescue them unharmed and without a kobo paid as ransom.
These achievements are no mean feats and such that the PDP government was unable to do when the Chibok school girls were kidnapped.