The security agencies could do more to stem the carnage across the land
Apparently outraged by the brutality and gruesome killings going on in Taraba State where he hails from, former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), last week accused the armed forces of complicity and called on Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves from the incessant attacks by herdsmen. “The Armed Forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people and kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them,” said Danjuma. It is perhaps the most biting indictment of the armed forces, and indeed a rebuke of the narrative that the violence and bloodbath is the work of some foreign herdsmen and armed bandits.
From Benue to Taraba to Zamfara, Kaduna and Ekiti to Enugu and other conflict zones across the country, killings have become a routine fare. Indeed, the ability of terror-minded gangs to thumb their noses at the authorities each time the security forces attempt to make claims and boastful noises must be seen as a measure of their strength vis a vis the weakness of the federal government. To compound the problem, there seems to be no coherent strategy to deal with the menace.
President Muhammadu Buhari admitted recently that he directed the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to relocate to Benue State after the sensational burial of some 73 victims of cold-blooded murder. Idris did not only ignore the order, he also disputed a presidential story that he was queried, and nothing happened. And even after the president’s reluctant visit to the state, as he also did to Taraba, and all assurances that the killings would stop, the mass slaughter is still on. Besides, hundreds of thousands have become homeless in their ancestral land.
It took Danjuma’s outburst for the Ministry of Defence to admit that it had received reports from Nigerians on the “misconduct” of soldiers as regards the farmers and herdsmen’s clashes, but none came from Taraba. Taraba, however, disputed that assertion. Even so, we ask: When did the authorities receive the message of misconduct of some soldiers? What was the nature of the offence? And how did they deal with it? What sanctions were imposed on the vicious culprits? What measures were put in place to check future occurrences?
It is this sheer reluctance on the part of the authorities to intervene decisively in the increasing desperation for survival among the people that made Danjuma’s extreme call to arms and balance of terror to resonate with many Nigerians. Who could, in good conscience, deny the people the means to defend themselves when confronted by gun-wielding herdsmen?
However, whatever may be the situation, a free-for-all call to arms will only fuel and worsen an already prickly situation, while also foreclosing any chance of a solution. Indeed, it will heighten criminality across board. Already, the nation is awash with illegal and small arms and light weapons (SAWLS). The ease of access to these weapons has made individuals and communities less amenable to make peace as they are ready to go on the offensive or reprisal attacks. This does not bode well for the country as it will result in the total breakdown of the law.
For the umpteenth time therefore, we reiterate that security agencies need to step up their acts and strengthen not only inter-agency coordination to checkmate the current descent into anarchy, but also the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the Police and State Security Service (SSS). As we have also repeatedly pointed out, it is important for all the critical stakeholders in the country to look beyond politics at a time like this and render whatever assistance they can in the bid to put an end to the current carnage, which clearly puts all at risk. But in the quest for a solution to the challenge at hand, Danjuma’s proposition is not one that should lend itself to consideration.