When I heard over the grapevine that twelve soldiers from a special detachment of troops were killed by scores of bandits a couple weeks back in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, I shrugged it off, partially hoping it was just a rumour. After all, the area has been under serious security challenges for over 10 years. But sadly, it turned out to be true. In the past one year, more than 30 communities in the LGA have come under various forms of attacks from hoodlums who seized residents’ cattle, took away their valuables, collected their money and most times killed and burned their houses.
To his credit, the Emir of Birnin Gwari, Malam Zubairu Jibril Mai Gwari II, has said been harping on the need for drastic measures. He is a king under siege, and many of his subjects and others continue to be killed and terrorized on a daily basis. I was shocked to read that by between January and now, 64 persons have been killed in one form of attack or the other.
But the attack which left a dozen soldiers dead has introduced a new dimension into the crisis, with criminals taking the security apparatus of the state head-on, without scruple. I was shocked to read that the bandits targeted a military camp and in one fell swoop shot and killed 12 soldiers. Push has indeed come to shove, and security agencies should act fast, lest they be seen as weak.
The hoodlums, who are said to most times come from the bush between Birnin-Gwari town and Buruku, usually do so at random, striking when most convenient for them. How this is allowed is beyond me, and any sane person. I heard that the soldiers sent there are mostly young ones who passed out of the Depot NA in Zaria not too long ago. What is needed are experienced, war-ready special forces soldiers, who will get in, clear the criminals, and get out, almost surgically. We know such soldiers exist, so why can’t they be deployed in Birnin Gwari?
Business men on the way to Lagos, teachers travelling through the route, foreign engineers and market women, all suffer from the armed bandits. They also kidnap locals, rape them while in captivity, and do all kinds of heinous crimes. Really, must we sit down and wring our hands hopelessly? This, specifically, is for the Minister of the Interior, Abdulrahman Dambzau: Oga, please stand up and do something! Visits are good, yes, but action is better.
And when I saw the big deal being made about the deaths of the soldiers and their burial, I felt better. In the sense that they were buried with respect, and dignity, which is something we hardly do in this country. But the real poser, is ‘should they have died at all?’
The roads around the Birnin Gwari axis are a major contributor to the activities of the armed robbers, too. It has helped the insurgents to do what they like. But the Kaduna State government is trying, even though I’ve read that the governor is tired of the situation. Oga El-Rufai, if you’re reading this, please do not tire. Birnin Gwari, even though with a king, is your domain too. The Emir has said living there is comparable to living in hell. While the comparison is figurative I’m sure, I can understand the parallels.
Look at Benue, Taraba, Zamfara and other places: The president visited those places but only Dambazau has visited Birnin Gwari. Why is it so? Once-bubbling Birnin Gwari used ti be bubbling with life, but today residents say life usually appeared normal in the daytime but after dusk, nobody is ever sure what would happen next. Many groups and individuals have tried to call the attention of the government to what is happening in the local government. Why, I repeat, is it so?
The Emir of Birnin Gwari has resorted to the pages of newspapers to beg for what should be the right of all Nigerians: Security. I almost shed tears when I read the following words from him in Daily Trust: “What we want is for the soldiers they brought earlier to return. When they were here, they arrested some people and dealt with them, things started to become normal and all of a sudden, they were withdrawn. I am advising government to bring security agents who will come and work until they finish the bad people, we know the areas and we have been telling them where their locations are, but they rather pick wrong people to show them their hideouts, they do not come to me, they would find some people they like in the villages and towns and say they are their scouts, they are the people who will give them intelligence reports.”
The Emir is clearly a leader under strife. And enough is enough, so government should heed his call and end the bandit problem of Birnin Gwari, once and for all before a new Boko Haram is born.
Jameel wrote in from Tudun Wada, Kaduna State.