Bandits: El-Rufai Must Go Beyond Swaggering

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Ring True with Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; Tel: 07013940521 (text only)

Ring true
Phone number 07013940521
Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

His response to attacks by bandits in any community in Kaduna State is always predictable. I am talking about Governor Nasir El-Rufai. He visits the community, laments the incessant killings and vows to tame the killers. The story ends there until there is another attack and he would repeat the same swagger. The killers are hardly apprehended. It happened few days backwhen bandits attacked some communities in Igabi and Giwa Local Government Areas of the state, killing 51 people. The gunmen carried out the slaughters last Sunday and El-Rufai was there the following day.

As usual, El-Rufai declared: “In Kaduna State, we don’t give bandits amnesty and we don’t negotiate with them. Security agencies have been asked to wipe them out. The state government will not rest until the bandits are completely wiped out. It is our duty to wipe them until we send them to their maker. The security agencies are taking the war to the forest and we are eliminating them. I also came to apologise to the community for failure to protect them fully. We are doing our best to minimise the situation.”

Then the usual El-Rufai excuses follow: “The security agencies are doing the best they can, but they find it difficult to get to remote areas in good time due to poor access roads while the natives also find it difficult to alert security agencies due to poor GSM network. Kaduna has vast land and if the security closes one area, they attack another area. We are hoping that this bandit issue will be addressed because security agencies are on ground to manage the situation.”

El-Rufai also told traumatised residents of Igabi and Giwa Local Government Areas that shortly after the bandits started the attack, there was security intervention both on ground and in the air and that the bandits were wiped out. Haba! Not a single dead body of the bandits “wiped out” was seen anywhere. I am sure the security agents would have made a big show of this if they have such pictures. The Police Commissioner, Kaduna State Command, Ali Janga, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, and the Kaduna State Director of DSS, Idris Koya, have been silent about the so-called “wiping out” of bandits.

Only El-Rufai has the story of how security agents wiped out the bandits. No wonder he thanked them thus: “I am grateful to the Air Force, Army, Police and DSS for being always prompt. It would have been worst. If not for their prompt intervention, they (bandits) would have wiped out the entire villages, but people are still here.” This is part of the swagger agenda.

The security agents in Kaduna State are also very good when it comes to swagger. They proudly announced deployment of officers and men to affected communities in Igabi and Giwa Local Government Areas after the bandits had completed their mission and departed. As at last Tuesday, there was heavy presence of policemen in Kerawa after the carnage had ended.Instead of going in search of the killers, they are on ground in the devastated villages. Doing what? Only God knows.

Just as the District Head of Karewa, Alhaji Ibrahim Damu, noted, attacks, killings and kidnappings in his community have persisted for so long. Economic and social activities have been destroyed in this place. Hundreds of displaced men, women and children are now languishing in a primary school in Birnin Yero. The situation is the same in so many communities in Kaduna State. Killings and abductions occur daily. El-Rufai’s Kaduna State is in a big mess and he is not helping matters with his unproductive swagger. Kidnapping and banditry have become big businesses. The last four years have been horrendous. Daily, scores of hapless people are kidnapped for ransom (many killed) in communities across the state, while security agents and Governor Nasir El-rufai display so much incompetence. I remember that traumatised residents of Rigasa, in Igabi Local Government Area, were on the streets last year to protest the high rate of abductions in their community. They also visited the state’s House of Assembly to seek the intervention of the lawmakers over their plight.

Few months back, kidnappers walked into Engravers College, Kakau Daji, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and cherry-picked six female students and two staff of the college. There was no sign that security agents ever got close to the kidnappers. In fact, the girls and their teachers spent 23 days in the dungeons of their captors.

The victims eventually secured freedom, largely based on the efforts of the parents, concerned indigenes of the state and a retired Army officer, who mobilised N13.6 million to meet the demands of the kidnappers. Security agents and the Kaduna State Government were obviously lackadaisical about freeing the victims and the concerned indigenes had to come in. No word yet on apprehending the abductors of the Engravers girls and their teachers. Like in previous cases of abductions, it may never happen. Those who inflicted pain on these children, their parents and teachers are enjoying their loot. What a country!

Another Kaduna community persistently attacked by bandits and kidnappers is Kajuru. Apart from kidnapping for ransom, here, herders and locals are persistently at war, leaving hundreds dead and so many families bereaved. The Kaduna State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Joseph Hayab said the church had spent over N300 million on payment of ransom in the last four years for over 500 Christians abducted within the period. El-Rufai and security agents persistently fail these people. They must show greater commitment to ending the kidnappings and banditry by running the state dispassionately. The pounded communities see this governor and security agents as having compromised.

On the flip side, can those attacking Kaduna communities be rightly described as bandits? I have checked the meaning of the word “bandit” and the mode of attacks don’t fit into it. More often than not, they attack, kill and maim, without taking anything from the communities. The conclusion is that our security agents should look deeper. In the case of the Kerawa killings, they arrived burning houses, killing and unleashing mayhem on the people. They did not steal anything.

A councilor representing Kerawa Ward, Alhaji Daiyibu Kerawa, said: “What happened was unprecedented. We have never seen this kind of horror in our lives. These killers are Boko Haram. They stormed our village killing indiscriminately. They spared nobody, the young, the old, even Almajiris were not spared. They continued to shoot people, setting fire on the dead and on property. It was extremely horrific!’ They went from one room to the other, a man and his children were killed, even new born babies. We are in a terrible situation. These killers are not just bandits. They are Boko Haram, they did not steal anything; they just killed and burnt peoples’ belongings.”

The position of Shehu Sani after the Kerawa killings is instructive. Sani, a former senator who represented Kaduna Central said: “The mass killings of innocent people in Kerawa village and surroundings by suspected bandits stand unreservedly condemned. Northern governors are still playing the ostrich, afraid of confronting the federal government and taking independent action to protect their people while the killings and the kidnappings go on. The north has become a region of endless funerals and perpetual bereavement. Bandits in the north have become a state; they impose fines and taxes, send notices, control spaces, determine life and death and operate without much challenge. Banditry has further impoverished the north and turned it into a cemetery.

“The lives of ordinary people in the north have become cheap, dispensable, disposable and ordinary. The pervasive insecurity in the north is reinforced and sustained by the silence and sycophancy of its elite as much as the inaction of the government. Muslims are not much being seen as victims of the killings in the north because many Islamic leaders prefer to massage the image of the government in the face of the killings of their followers, while Christian clerics are leading protests in the streets. The north must wake up, buckle down or perish.”
Sani has bravely spoken the truth. Northern governors must wake and free the region from servitude.

Depletion of Excess Crude Account
Now, crude oil price has fallen below Nigeria’s 2020 budget benchmark price of $57 per barrel, no thanks to Coronavirus. Demand from China has fallen drastically, and this country is the biggest importer of crude oil and the home of Coronavirus. Many factories in China have been shut for fear of further spread of the virus. Back to Nigeria, economic crisis looms as crude oil continues to slide. Already, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, has confirmed that Covid-19 is negatively impacting on Nigeria’s oil revenue, adding that a mid-term review of the 2020 budget will be carried out to reflect the realities on the ground. According to her, the international oil price has dropped to $52, which is below the budget benchmark of $57 per barrel, impacting negatively on the nation’s estimated revenue for the fiscal year.

The Excess Crude Account (ECA) that should help us at this period has been badly depleted. Only recently, the World Bank warned that a “moderate” decline in oil price could trigger another recession in Nigeria, noting that the exhaustion of the ECA had made the country more vulnerable. The bank, in its latest Nigeria Economic Update, rightly stated that the Nigerian economy had become more vulnerable to shocks as a result of the depletion of the ECA.

“Fiscal buffers in the Excess Crude Account have been exhausted, rendering Nigeria more vulnerable to shocks. The ECA has rarely operated as envisaged. When it was established in 2004, it was to be drawn on only when the actual crude oil price falls below the budget benchmark price for three consecutive months,” the bank stated, noting that the account was mismanaged.

The ECA, created by the Obasanjo government in 2004, for the purpose of saving oil income in excess of the budgeted benchmark, rose from $5.1 billion in 2005 to more than $20 billion in November 2008. Persistent demand by states to fund numerous programmes and the inability of the federal government to generate sufficient income to fund its operations resulted in pressure on the ECA. The three levels of government are guilty of this mismanagement. Some payments for petrol subsidy also came from the ECA. And so, the depletion of the account has been unending, and it has been on since 2009. Between 2015 and 2019, federal and state governments withdrew $4.92 billion from the account. The $496.37 million paid to the United States Government for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft was also withdrawn from ECA by the Buhari government. The $380.51 million approved by Buhari for procurement of equipment for the Nigerian Army, Navy and Defence Intelligence Agency late in 2018 was also from the ECA.

The Obasanjo government saved for the rainy day while others that came after him depleted the savings. Now, the ECA that should serve as our buffer while oil price is tumbling is gone. The storm is already gathering and there is no ECA to help due to mismanagement. Nigerians should prepare for harsher times.