n a systematic effort to make banditry the most lucrative industry in the country, bandits have taken over areas of the country, particularly the North West. While they are united in their efforts and becoming more daring, state Governors are divided.
Some Governors consider the bandits to be victims of ethnic cleansing, while others suggest that dialogue, amnesty, and compensation should be offered to them.
Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, disagrees, claiming that bandits are criminals who must face the consequences of their actions. Bandits and other criminal elements, he added, should be “degraded and decimated to a position of total surrender to constituted authority,” rather than bargaining with them.
He argued that criminal gangs, bandits, rebels, and ethnoreligious militias who consciously choose to violate the country’s sovereignty and frighten its citizens must be eliminated swiftly and without hesitation.
He claims that banditry has forced farmers off their land, jeopardizing food security, dislocated communities, stolen property, and robbed individuals of their rights to life and that these criminal activities must be stopped so that people can live in peace.
To attain these goals, El-Rufai advocates for greater security force training and equipment, as well as boosting their numbers, technologically upgrading them, and modernizing their weaponries.
He maintained that community security is dependent on the state’s ability to project power, intimidate and discourage criminals. He emphasized clearly that “the state’s prerogatives must be asserted, not simply declared. Non-state actors must never be outgunned or outnumbered by the people we put in uniform.”
He also made the reasonable point that policing a vast country like Nigeria, which has a landmass of 923,768 square kilometers, in a unitary manner is impractical. As a result, the formation of state police and other policing levels is unavoidable.
He bemoaned the lack of coordination among North West Governors on how to combat banditry, noting out that a “State like Zamfara followed a policy of communication with the gunmen, giving them amnesty, which I don’t believe in. We disagree on how to handle the matter as a result of this.” “It is deceptive to imagine that a guy who is now counting millions in ransom income can welcome dialogue and return to his prior lifestyle where he saw little money only on rare occasions,” he claims.
He told his Governor-colleagues who are hesitating that it will be difficult to fight banditry unless they come together and allow the Federal Government to provide the states with military and police to hunt down the bandits in the forests and exterminate them.
I was so moved by El-Rufai’s principled, foresighted, and statesmanlike position that I nearly drove to Kaduna to shake his hand, salute his courage, and promise my support. The only constraint was that, due to bandit activity on the Abuja-Kaduna route, I needed to fast and pray for several days. Then concerns arose: should El-Rufai’s opinion be taken with levity when he held a completely different viewpoint less than 5 years ago?
When bandits attacked Kaduna State in 2016, Governor El-Rufai chose to negotiate and pay off the killers rather than using or relying on security forces to restore law and order, in some cases, he used state monies to pay the bandits in neighboring countries.
He himself gave reporters the following strange story: “We did not fully understand what was going on in Southern Kaduna, so we formed a committee headed by Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (retd) to investigate the matter. The source of the problem was identified as having a history dating back to the post-election violence in 2011.
“Fulani herders from all over Africa used to move their livestock towards the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. They start transporting them up to go back to their various communities and nations as soon as the rains start around March or April.
“Sadly, it occurred at the time they were going back with their livestock via Southern Kaduna that the 2011 elections and post-election crisis trapped some of them within the Nigerian border. Some of them were from Chad, Senegal, Niger, Cameroon, and Mali. Fulanis live in 14 African countries and travel with their cattle across the countries. Many of these people were slaughtered, and their animals were stolen, so they banded together and vowed vengeance. As a result, most of what was going on in Southern Kaduna came from outside Nigeria…
“We took a few steps. We had a group of people travel around attempting to track down some of these people in Cameroon, Niger Republic, and other countries to inform them that there is a new Governor who is Fulani tribe like them and is ready to pay recompense for lives lost, and he is urging them to stop the killing.
“When that request was put forward to them, the majority of the communities made it clear that they had forgiven Nigerian. A couple of people requested for monetary compensation. They claim to have forgiven human deaths but demand recompense for cattle. No problem, we said, and we paid some.”
There is no evidence that, like the foreign herders, he paid the local farmers and townspeople, who were slain and their fields and houses destroyed. El-Rufai did not reveal the identity of the killers or the amount he paid them. It is also unclear whether they used the ostensibly compensated funds to purchase further weapons. The terror attacks, on the other hand, did not stop.
So, which of the El-Rufai positions is he actually in? Is it the one from five years ago, when he presented the bandits as victims for whom he crossed borders into countries such as Chad, Senegal, Niger, Cameroon, and Mali not only to ask them to forgive Nigerians, but also to pay them to stop coming to kill Nigerians or the one he espouses now, that these killers are merely criminals with whom no negotiations, amnesty, or ransom should be given?
Did he experience a change of heart, in which case he must articulate and justify his decision? I believe that we all make mistakes as humans, but he should own up to his errors rather than acting as if this has always been his viewpoint.
I am attempting to figure out whether El-Rufai’s present position, that banditry should be tackled head-on and eradicated, is principled or determined by the 2023 presidential race, in which he is rumored to be interested as a contender or running mate. Please, let us know if you know the truth.