Nigeria At 59: A Fortress of Impetuous Banditry and Extra-judicial Killings

On the 1st of October in 1960, Nigeria gained independence from her colonial master, Britain. This saw the transfer of governance by the colonialist to the young nation, who was faced with the factors of religious and tribalistic differences as a hindrance to her unity. These differences created a metaphoric ditch which kept increasing in size, as political activities further provided greater amount of friction between the regions of the country.

The apex of this disunity was reached with the first military coup in 1965, spearheaded by a young officer by name Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu of Eastern origin. The death of several Northern leaders led to a counter-coup by some young officers of Northern origin. The immediate years saw a rapid continuous strain in the regional relationship as thousands of Easterners, resident in the North, were slaughtered in tribal violence. Following failed talks, this led to the secession of the Eastern region under the then governor Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and formation of a sovereign state referred to as Biafra. The result was a civil war, between 1966 to 1970, which saw the arming of thousands of civilians in the Eastern, Western and Northern regions of the country.

Following the end of the civil war, the then military government failed in the proper management of the demobilisation and disarmament of the recruited civilians. The effect of the war took a toll on the economic sector of the nation and the unemployment rate experienced an uprise. This ignited the embers of outlawry and led to the birth of urban banditry. Several cases of armed robbery and theft with kingpins such as Ishola Oyenusi (popularly known as the Doctor), Lawrence Anini, Shina Rambo, others unleashing terror and mayhem on citizens of the nation. The then military government fought the rising banditry by the issue of the decree making the death penalty and public execution the sentence for the crime. The most cases of urban banditry was highly recorded in the Southern part of Nigeria.

The 1980s witnessed the plague of rural banditry in the Northern region as artisanal rustlers from Mali, Sudan and Senegal surged into the country in search of shiny gemstones such as diamond, sapphire, quartz, ruby, temaline and aquamarine. This led to the report of cases of eliminating by kidnapping, sudden disappearance of dealers and diggers and a range of other blood-chilling tales. The barons, agents and diggers fully armed themselves with automatic weapons. These weapons which were brought into Southern Kaduna prominently played a role in the first Kafanchan crisis in 1987. The methods used have taken the descent from artisanal mining to organised banditry in Birnin-Gwari and Zamfara within the next three decades.

In the early years of the 20th century, organised banditry in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria morphed into militancy. Indigenes of the area, in protest of their marginalisation despite producing the strongest pillar (crude oil) of the nation’s economy, took to sophisticated weapons to halt the blind eye which the government was showing to the development of the region. This led to years of battles (which included destruction of oil pipelines, abduction of expatriates, among other vices) between the militants and security operatives of the nation. In 2009, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, after consultation with the National Council Of State, signed amnesty and unconditional pardon for the militants. The amnesty period lasted for 60 days beginning on August 6, 2009 and ended on October 4, 2009. Armed youths were required to surrender their weapons to the government in return for training and rehabilitation by the government.

Fast forward to the year 2019, the nation is still wobbling in the sector of security. Coupled with the terrorist insurgency being posed by the Islamic State West Africa Province (popularly as Boko Haram), rural banditry is still prevalent in the Northern region especially in states like Zamfara, Kebbi, Benue, Taraba and have been linked to Fulani nomads/herdsmen who take their cattle grazing on people’s farmlands. When confronted, they apply violent offensives and attack the rural communities who disagree with their methods. This menace have seen the herdsmen equipping themselves with sophisticated guns and other weapons, without checks by the government. These weapons have enabled them perpetrate havoc such as kidnappings, murder, rape, theft and other vices in numerous communities. Pleas to the government to intervene in these matters have met deaf ears leading such communities to resort to the formation of vigilante groups to protect themselves and their farmlands. In the Southern part of the country, there has been several cases of kidnappings with huge amount of ransoms demanded before release of the victim(s). In some cases, the victim(s) are murdered even when the ransom has been paid. Most recent cases have seen the evolution of the kidnappings as digital currency, such as bitcoin, have been demanded as ransom to prevent the ability to trace the recipient(s) of the payment.

Another factor of terror which has plagued citizens of the nation, especially youths (supposed leaders of tomorrow), are the extrajudicial killings being perpetrated by operatives of security agencies. Notable among these extrajudicial killers are officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigeria Police Force. These officers have launched a battle against the Nigerian youths, under the guise of hunting and eradication of cyber fraudsters. One in three Nigerian youths has been a victim of the harassment, torture and extortion perpetrated by these officers. This led to several protests by well-meaning citizens demanding the disbanding of the unit. The Vice President of the country, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, called for an investigation into the issue and upon receipt of the report, ordered a reform of the unit. However, this has not curbed the inhumane activities of the unit of the law enforcement agency.

With the continuous growth of insecurity and inhumane treatment of citizens by law enforcement agencies, there has been a high exodus rate of Nigerians, especially young ones in various professions, from the country. If the nation continues overlooking the maltreatment of her citizens, a time would come when there would be no one to maltreat but the oppressors.

Happy Independence Day/New Month to all Nigerians nationwide and in diaspora.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Article by Agwah Michael
(Founder 247NewsUpdate Blog, Researcher, Human Rights Activist, Social Critic and Political Analyst)

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