Bandits in the hands of female soldiers, by Najib Sani


For the past 11 years, insecurity in Nigeria has continued unabated. The country’s troops grapple with numerous security challenges posed by the Boko Haram militants, bandits and kidnappers in parts of the country.

A major war Nigeria experienced after the civil war that ended during General Yakubu Gowon’s regime is the Boko Haram insurgency. The civil war lasted between 1967 to 1970, that is three years while Boko Haram terrorism has persisted from 2009 to date after the gang’s first leader Muhammad Yusuf initiated the war against Nigerian authorities. I am mindful of the militancy in the south but that is different as the Niger/Delta militants do not kill innocent citizens like the civil war and Boko Haram fighters.

Yusuf started with preachings against western education, constitution and the security agencies. His preachings led to a clash between his sect members and the security agents, the incident that led to his death.

The compatriots initially thought that the killing of the Boko Haram leader and many of his lieutenants could end the crisis, but that was not the case as the remnants who escaped regrouped in 2011 led by their new commander Abubakar Shekau and lunched series of attacks not only on the police and soldiers but extended their atrocities to mosques, churches, schools, markets, motor parks and all public places.

Such attacks unleashed fear on all and sundry and caused mistrust among countrymen such that nobody was comfortable being with a stranger for the fear of being shot or bombed. I recall that in the past, no one would be allowed to enter a place of worship or work, bank, market or motor park without having his bag, luggage or pocket searched thoroughly as everyone was a suspect.

Asides that, they kidnapped women and girls and turned them into sex slaves. Do you remember the Chibok girls and Dapchi girls?

Many Nigerians blamed the then-president Good luck Jonathan for failure to find a lasting solution to it and couldn’t tolerate him but voted him out in 2015 when he ran for the second term.

A new president and ex-military man Muhammadu Buhari was elected after assuring the citizens during campaigns that he would bring enduring peace in the nation. He appointed new service chiefs including the chief of defence staff General Abayomi Olanisakin, chief of army staff General Tukur Buratai, chief of air staff Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar as well as the chief of naval staff Rear Admiral Ibok Ibas.

To be candid, the erstwhile service chiefs had tried their best to fight the insurgents as they reduced their nefarious activities drastically such that the terrorists now attack only Borno and Yobe states unlike in the past when almost all states of the north including parts of the federal capital territory, Abuja were serially bombed by the Boko Haramists.

However, as the nation is yet to get rid of the dreaded sect, there came bandits and kidnappers who kill more people and snatch their wealth in the northwestern part of the country.

The bandits and kidnappers operate with impunity such that they storm towns and villages often in broad daylight to abduct, kill, rape and rob innocent citizens.

It has reached the level when the victims had no option than to pay ransoms to free themselves as security agents are not helpful. One wonders how the kidnappers call families of their hostages to negotiate ransoms, collect them at agreed places without being nabbed by the security agents. There were reported incidents when even some security people were kidnapped and released on payment of money to their captors.

Kidnapping first began in the southern part of the country. But in their own case, only wealthy people, public figures and politicians and their families were abducted and asked to pay for their lives to be saved. But in the case of the north, nobody even an Almajiri (Beggar) is spared. It is more rampant along Kaduna and Abuja roads.

Banditry seemed to have started in Zamfara state, escalated to Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger states and Katsina state which is the hometown of the President Muhammadu Buhari. Perhaps to prove to Mr Buhari that they are strong and formidable, the bandits abducted school’s children in Kankara village in Katsina state in December last year when he visited the state.

Bandits and kidnappers have now become so proud and powerful that they demand taxes from citizens to allow them to go to their farms or else they will be slain. Their strength increased every passing day especially in Zamfara state such that the state government engaged them for dialogues. I have always argued that it is wrong to negotiate with bandits (robbers). These are not rebels or civil war fighters that fight for a cause. They are pure criminals and thieves that should be treated ruthlessly.

The worsening insecurity became a source of concern to Nigerians and many, myself inclusive agitated that since the service chiefs seemed to be bereft of ideas on how to address the menace of Boko Haram and new forms of terrorism once and for all, they should be removed and replaced. During Jonathan, the then inspector general of police Hafiz Ringim was sacked over his alleged lackadaisical attitude that resulted to the first suicide bombing in the country that took place at Nigeria police headwaters in Abuja and the escape of the Madallah bomb blast perpetrator Kabiru Sokoto under police custody.

Finally, the president heeded the calls and appointed new security chiefs. Though, the president claimed that the service chiefs had all resigned. Whatever it is, new security chiefs have emerged in view of the clamour by Nigerians. They are; General Lucky Irabor as chief of defence staff, General Ibrahim Attahiru as chief of army staff, Air marshall Isiaka Amao as chief of Air Staff and Rear Admiral Auwal Gambo as the chief of Naval staff respectively.

A good Friday they say is perceived from Wednesday. I am optimistic that the new service chiefs will come up with new ideas, tactics and strategies to combat Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers across the country and solve the myriad of security problems once and for all.

This is because the new security chiefs know that the nation has much confidence and expectations on them. They are aware that they have been appointed to consolidate on the gains of their predecessors and as a matter of fact, with high hope that they will outdo them.

One of the first Initiatives that aroused my attention and encouraged me that the new service chiefs can do better is the decision by the chief of army staff General Attahiru one day after his assumption of duty, to deploy female soldiers to combat bandits and kidnappers on our roads especially on the notorious Kaduna and Abuja roads.

This is a good idea as I believe that they are equal to the task. They are more trained than criminals. I remember the Hausa adage that says “Barawo a gidan mata” (Thief in the hands of women). This means that if women catch a thief, they deal with him mercilessly. Women dislike thieves such that if a thief is caught in the house, they use all the available utensils like pestles, pots to beat him. With their firepower and training, the 300 female soldiers released by the army can deal decisively with the bandits in Nigeria.

Over the years, male soldiers are overstretched. Let the men fight the horrendous Boko Haram militants while our women deal with the bandits. In the past, women seemed not to have serious roles in the military. Most of them served as nurses, physicians, administrative officers, clerks, cooks and ushers. But Attahiru said that since they have guns, they can also be posted to take charge of some war zones.

With the new role assigned to them by the COAS, female soldiers can prove to the world that what a man can do, a woman can do even better.

Najib, a journalist and author writes from Bauchi, 08086352355.


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