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  • Bandits’ seizure of a Katsina 13-year- old girl suggests urgent security cordon for Nigeria’s far-flung areas

Editorial

It was another depressing news that tortures our common humanity: Khadijah Muttakha Kurfi, 13, innocent, beautiful and helpless, just got kidnapped by some bandits, in Kurfi, headquarters of the Kurfi Local Government Area of Katsina State.

According to news reports, Khadijah, at around 9:31 pm, got seized by alleged bandits tumbling down their mountain hideout, but mingling with the residents, shooting indiscriminately to create panic. Aside from the 13-year-old, another victim was Ibrahim Yar-Garshe, who the bandits shot on the legs, aside from the fleeing households, who lost looted foodstuff and livestock, to the rampaging band.

Reports also say the Operation Puff Adder security team, led by its area commander at Dutsin-ma, mobilised to face the bandits. They however fled back into the mountains with most of their loot, and kidnapped humans. Gambo Isah, the Katsina State Police Command spokesperson, confirmed the security breach.

This hit-and-run bandit raid confirms an earlier complaint by Aminu Masari, the Katsina State governor, that his state’s far-flung areas were lean on security personnel cover. Despite Operation Puff Adder, a special central security shield to face-off bandit menace, therefore, local areas ought to be fortified with reasonable security, embedded in each locality, and capable of instant reaction to bandits’ threat, before calling for reinforcement.

If these local cadres are put in place, and they are well trained and well armed, raids by bandits should reduce, other things being equal. That urgently should be done. But the challenge is how to get the personnel and the equipment, given dwindling cash. Still, even that challenge can be met by Federal-Katsina State collaboration, since the central security architecture appears over-stretched.

Katsina, with other northern states under the yoke of banditry and Boko Haram, should erect a local parallel to the federal infrastructure, by setting up security cadres, in terms of civilian joint task forces (JTFs), and recruiting a corps of local hunters that know the terrain very well. With good short-term training and even better motivation as paid jobs, such cadres would be the face and the teeth of Operation Puff Adder in each far-flung neighbourhood.

It could also serve as a rich source of intelligence-gathering. That these latest Kurfi attacks came from the mountains seem to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s assertion that Boko Haram/bandit attacks are gradually being reduced to stragglers raiding for food; and kidnapping, to raise illicit money.

Still, stragglers or an organised band, a good and vibrant local intelligence-gathering corps would sniff them out for the big guns to move in for the kill — long before they hit the helpless local populace, with opportunistic strikes.

Such an initiative could have averted the Kurfi raid. That is why the authorities must move fast. A chain, after all, is as strong as its weakest parts. As long as Nigerians in far-flung areas are at the mercy of bandits, no one, in all good conscience, can claim the country is safe. It can only be, if it is safe for all, barring occasional glitches.

Which is why the fate of Khadijah must worry everyone. Is this adorable child vanished forever, to be converted to premature wife and mother by criminal gangs? Will her life ever be the same again, even if she somewhat gains early rescue, after facing the horrors of the mountains? Will she be the next toy in the hands of bandit-paedophilles, who can virtually do and undo, in their mountainous dens? Poor child!

Long after Boko Haram is defeated, and these bandit raids become distant history, the sheer horror of child seizure will linger in the Nigerian consciousness — yet-to-be rescued Chibok girls (2014), the Borno Garkin Fulani 20 (2014), and the un-rescued Dapchi Six (from the 104 kidnapped in their girls boarding school in 2018), among others.

Will poor Khadijah be the last of such unfortunate count? The authorities should work hard at it being so, while working even harder to secure her release, and re-unite her with her traumatised folks.

 

 

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