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Enough is enough, our communities must be mobilised and empowered to defend themselves

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Communities
1. Nigeria’s National security is the collective responsibility of all its citizens. Today, I write to make a case that the time has come for the government to facilitate the mobilisation and empowerment of our communities to defend themselves against the relentless attacks, arson, rapes, killings and kidnappings by bandits and Boko Haram insurgents. We must advocate for new community based strategies to deal with the insecurity ravaging our communities.
2. The worsening state of insecurity in the nation has made it abundantly clear to all citizens and government alike that things are not working and that a different and drastic approach must urgently be taken to stop the slide. We will be deluding ourselves to think that there will be any positive change by maintaining the status quo. These are extraordinary times that require extraordinary but strategic measures.
3. Nigeria’s political class never cease to amaze me, here we are, first year into a four-year term, at a time when the ship of state is drifting, when the nation is facing the worst insecurity of our lifetime and it’s people are suffering excruciating economic hardships, governance has been put on hold for the scramble for offices in 2023. They seem uncaring, oblivious to or in complete denial of the mortal danger that insecurity poses to the survival of this nation.
 4. The news cycle is dominated by issues like #ENDSARS, restructuring, rotation and which ethnic group the next President should come from. I have said this before and will say it again, if urgent action is not taken to halt this dangerous slide into the dark abyss, there may not be a country to restructure or a Presidency to rotate and the year 2023 may very well be a bridge too far.
5. On 4th August 2020, the President had one of his regular meetings with Service Chiefs of the Security Agencies, in a press briefing after the meeting, the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President assured the nation that the government would “Re-Engineer the Security Architecture of the Nation” to help fight the worsening state of  insecurity. Four months hence, Nigerians have not seen any positive change in their security instead, the carnage continues unabated.
6. Nigeria’s security challenges have become intractable in spite of over forty (40) security operations launched by the Nigerian Military over the last five years. It  is incomprehensible that a nation with standing armed forces, police force, intelligence and other paramilitary agencies is terrorised and held hostage by a bunch of untrained ragtag bandits carrying nothing more than rusty AK47s and machetes. Everyday, we are told that the terrorists have been “decimated”, “degraded”,  or so many have been killed and a lot of weapons seized.
7. On 28th November 2020, in one of the most horrific mass murders in the history of the insurgency in North Eastern Nigeria, Boko Haram terrorists massacred forty three (43) rice farmers by beheading. Many were injured and still many are unaccounted for and assumed dead or kidnapped by the insurgents. This barbaric incident happened in Zabarmari village in Jere LGA at the outskirts of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
8. An eye witness described what he saw at the scene as; “Hands tied, throats slit, heads cut off and placed on the bodies”. Video clips of the aftermath of the attack posted on social media are too gruesome to watch. The war with Boko Haram has been going on for twelve years costing over thirty six thousand lives and displacing over three million people internally and to neighboring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroun Republics.
9. Less than 24 hours after Boko Haram terrorists beheaded forty three (43) farmers in Borno State, bandits slaughtered seven (7) farmers including a nursing mother and abducted thirty (30) people across three (3) communities in Sabuwa LGA of Katsina State. Today, people  live in constant fear as these bandits now carry out attacks in broad daylight. They kill people, cart away their property and kidnap as many as they can. There is no day that bandits don’t attack one community or another and people no longer sleep in their houses.
10.. On Saturday 28th November 2020, Daily Trust Newspaper reported on its front page that no fewer than 1,570 Nigerians were kidnapped in eleven months between January and November 2020 in 366 reported incidents. The kidnappers were reported to have made over N311 million from ransom paid by the victim’s relatives within this period. These payments did not include millions of naira paid by some families who chose to keep quiet because of threats of reprisals or simply wanting to move on with their lives..
11. There is hardly a person now in the North that has not been personally affected by this senseless terror. I personally know a gentleman whose six (6) family members including a very pregnant woman were abducted at night by bandits when their village was attacked ten (10) days ago. The kidnappers are now demanding a total of N60m as ransom from a man that does not have N5,000 of his own.
12. The story is the same all across the three geopolitical zones in the North. An already poor, mostly rural  population is increasingly made poorer  by Bandits and Boko Haram. Villagers are forced to sell their meagre holdings of Cattle, farm products, farm land and houses to pay ransom or taxes imposed by these terrorists. While the terrorists are getting richer and bolder every day, our people are getting poorer, hungrier, angrier, hopelessly more despondent, less secure and feeling abandoned by the government that they voted for and that is supposed to protect them.
13. This tragedy has caused unprecedented sufferings and social dislocation in the region that has never been seen in our lifetime. Recently in Kanoma village in Zamfara State, bandits attacked a mosque in broad daylight during the weekly Friday Juma’at prayers killing five (5) worshippers and abducting the Imam and forty (40) people. This type of  brazen attack can happen in any city in Northern Nigeria.
14. His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has broken his silence by adding his powerful voice by speaking up publicly about the sufferings and frustrations of his people. He narrated how seventy six (76) villagers were massacred in one day by bandits in Sokoto State. By speaking up, the Sultan was doing his sacred duty as the leader of a large population of people terrorised and under seige. I commend His Eminence for speaking up and pray that Allah will reward him abundantly. I call on all our traditional and religious leaders to emulate the Sultan and be the conscience of the people by speaking up because on that day that is certain (Yaumul Qiyamah), they will surely be asked to account for their silence.
15. Our political leaders and all those saddled with the responsibility of securing our people need no reminding that they will undoubtedly be asked to account for every bloodshed, every innocent life lost, every family bereaved, every woman raped, every person kidnapped, every ransom paid, every cattle rustled, every orphan and widow displaced to IDP camp and every family that goes to bed hungry on account of their actions or inactions during their stewardship.
RECOMMENDATIONS:
{A}. The President: At a time of any national tragedy and crisis, every nation expects to hear, see and feel the empathy of their leader. It is inexcusable that in spite of the mounting death toll in the north, our President has said little or next to nothing and what was credited to have been said by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity is so insensitive to be dignified by repeating it here. Our people are angry and feel abandoned and taken for granted. The President needs to take charge, listen to the people and change tact urgently because the responsibility is his and his alone.
{B}.  Presidential Task Force on Homeland Security:
The President should consider setting up a task force to help in the war effort. Its role would be to continuously interface with all affected communities and stakeholders to understand the local cultural, socio economic, religious and political issues that fuel insecurity and make recommendations to the President. This task force should complement and not be seen as being in competition with any security agency.
{C}. Stakeholder involvement for a blueprint:
The causes and solutions to any insecurity are almost always local, so the current practice where solutions are brought from Abuja without local involvement needs to be changed. Traditional, Religious, Community, Youth leaders, Politicians and Security Agencies  need  to be engaged to come up with a community-based self defense plan that will work for them.
{D}. Community Defense Corp: Local Youths should be trained, armed and supervised by the Military to defend their communities. The use of irregular outfits like this to help the Military is not new. The UK created the British Home Guard during WWII from 1940-1944.
It was an armed citizen militia that supported the British Army during the Second World War. It had 1.5 million local volunteers who were otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those who were too young or too old to join the regular armed services. Their role was to act as a secondary defence force in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany.
{E}. Forest Rangers: I have in several of my previous write ups advocated for the creation of Armed Forest Rangers using local youths to police our forests that have now become hideouts for bandits. No nation can be said to be secure if it does not have full control of its Forests, Highways, Waterways and Air Space. This will also provide employment to our restive youths and help the local economy devastated by these terrorists.
{F}. Military Contractors: Nigeria does not have enough security personnel to successfully tackle its current security challenges. The Military is increasingly taking the role of internal policing which is not what it is trained for. Military Contractors have been used with some success in the fight against Boko Haram in the twilight years of President Goodluvk Jonathan’s regime. Even the mighty American Military had to resort to using Military Contractors during the war in  Iraq largely for the same reasons. I would highly recommend that Nigeria engage reputable ones for training and operational purposes with clearly spelt out rules of engagement.
{G}. Nigeria Police Force:  The police to citizen ratio in Nigeria is grossly inadequate to meet the nation’s security challenges. The need to urgently increase the manpower of the Police can not be overemphasized.
{H}. Block Unregistered SIM Cards: It is a sign of failure on the part of the Government to have allowed bandits and kidnappers to continue using these cards for their criminal activities. All unregistered SIM Cards should therefore be blocked with immediate effect and any mobile network operator that does not comply should be sanctioned.
{I}. Use Drone Technology: Nigeria should invest in Drone technology to help in the tracking and neutralisation of these terrorists
{J}. Citizens Must Continue To Speak Up and Demand Better From Our Leaders.
Silence In The Face Of Evil Is Itself Evil.
Usman Yusuf is a Professor of Haematology-Oncology  and Bone Marrow Transplantation

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