9:59 AM September 17, 2021

Kaduna: When a military fortress becomes the playground of bandits



The irony is unnerving and incomprehensible. What should be clearly taken as a fortress has been reduced to a playground for criminals, bandits and terrorists! Kaduna State represents a worrisome case in Nigeria today. It’s painful though that it has come to this given the fact that it hosts the highest number of military formations and institutions with lethal weapons and fighting men.


The terrorists, variously called bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers, have become so bold and daring that they have taken their act of criminality to the military establishments in the state. The whole world was shaken in disbelief when the sad news broke on Tuesday that the terrorists successfully broke into the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, in Kaduna and killed two officers before making away with one other.
 

It was initially treated as a ‘fake news items until the spokesman for the NDA, Major Bashir Jagira, confirmed in a statement later in the day that the security architecture of the institution was compromised, enabling bandits to gain access to the well-fortified institution. “The security architecture of the Nigerian Defence Academy was compromised early this morning by unknown gunmen who gained access into the residential area within the Academy in Afaka. During the unfortunate incident, we lost two personnel and one was abducted,” Jagira said.

But the development has raised serious questions as to the preparedness or seriousness of the institutions to respond to the rising security threats in Kaduna and the Northern part of the country. While the state and its people should be thumping their chest in adulation of the large number of military formations and resources there, the continued invasion of public institutions and the harassment of travellers into and out of Kaduna has raised fears as to whether the fortified state is really protected from its foes.
 

Check the figure: First Division, Nigerian Army; Nigerian Defence Academy; Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji; Nigerian Air Force Base; Air Force Institute of Technology, AFIT; Ground Training Command; the Army Training Depot in Zaria; the Nigerian Military School in Zaria; Defence Industries Corporation, DICON; Nigerian Army School of Artillery in Kachia; Nigerian Navy School of Armament Technology; Command Engineering Depot and Command and Staff College and several other military formations. Kaduna State is also host to the State Security Service Training Academy, a Police College, the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, NCAT, in Zaria and Borstal Training College, among others.
 

Given the sheer number of military establishments in the state, Kaduna is supposed to be a no-go-area for bandits or terrorists. But the reverse is actually the case! This is because the state has more or less become a playground for bandits and kidnappers, who have now graduated from stealing of cows and overrunning of villages, to attacking military personnel, travellers on the Kaduna-Abuja highways and taking them hostage for money.

When the criminal elements discovered that they could steal, rob and kill without any challenge from the avalanche of military personnel spread across the state, they upended their game by invading vulnerable schools, churches and institutions and embarking on wholesale seizures of students, staff and individuals with ransom value.

In some cases, the enemies deliberately killed their victims without asking for any ransom for reasons that may be more political than pecuniary.
 

What is happening in Kaduna today does not add up in any way. The Emir of Zazzau, Ambassador Ahmad Nuhu Bamalli, was so upset the other day when top military officers visited his palace that he questioned why bandits had continued to hold sway in the state despite the presence of many military institutions.

The situation is so bad that from Kaduna to Zaria, Birnin Gwari to Kachia, the bandits appear to have taken control of the state with the security agencies doing little or nothing about it. The records of kidnap, killings and destruction do not help at all.
 

Before attacking the NDA on Tuesday this week, the daredevils had brazenly invaded the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, which is located close to the permanent site of the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna and abducted a number of students who were in their captivity for about 55 days without any challenge from any quarters before ransom was paid and they were freed.
 

As if that was not enough, the hoodlums struck at the Greenfield University located along the dreaded Kaduna – Abuja highway and seized 20 innocent students, five of who were brutally murdered before parents paid ransom for them to release the rest.

Yet, there was no response from the military. Then, the criminal elements abducted nine students and a lecturer from the Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic in Zaria and only released them after receiving N10 million ransom a month after. As in previous cases, there was no challenge from the security agencies. The parents had to yield to the demands of the kidnappers by paying the sum demanded for the release of their children.
 

In Kajuru, a few days back, the bandits attacked the Emir’s palace, abducted the monarch and 13 other members of his household. Although the 85-year-old emir was released a day later, the members of his family are still in captivity. Apparently emboldened and convinced that they are virtually dominant and untouchable, the bandits went wild and extended their onslaughts to other vulnerable targets for pecuniary gains. This time around, they struck at the Bethel Baptist High School along Kachia Road and reportedly killed two military men before making away with no fewer than 121 students. They have refused to release them until their N60 million ransom demand is paid by the parents.
 

President of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Akanji, has said that although the church is opposed to the payment of ransom, they have been boxed into a tight corner by the kidnappers and they might be forced to source for the ransom and pay the kidnappers to free the innocent children. He regretted that despite their cry for help from the government, nothing was forthcoming.

These attacks coupled with the routine conflicts in Southern Kaduna, particularly Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, which is rife with unceasing ethnic and communal clashes between the native Atyap and Fulani, exacerbate the sad tales of death, maiming, accusations of cattle theft and burning of communities. Despite the deployment of female soldiers to provide security on the Kaduna-Abuja dual carriage way, there are still incidents of kidnapping along the way, forcing many to now opt for rail transport.
 

While presenting a security report for the second quarter of 2021 to the state governor last week, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, said 774 people were kidnapped and 222 killed from April to June, 2021 in Kaduna State. He said that Kaduna Central and Kaduna South senatorial zones recorded 159 and 54 deaths respectively, while Kaduna North had nine.
 

In his first quarter report, Aruwan indicated that 323 people were killed and 949 others kidnapped by gunmen within three months in the state. He explained that scores of bandits were, however, neutralised via about 150 targeted aerial missions conducted by the Nigerian Airforce during that period under review. As the state governor had observed, Kaduna Central Senatorial District remains the most impacted by insecurity, going by the Security Incidents Reports.
 

According to him, security incidents occurred all over the state from April to June 2021, even as the state’s considerable investments in security are yet to manifest in the defeat or at least the considerable degradation of the criminals that menace the people.

He said they have consistently supported the federal security agencies deployed to the state with logistics and equipment, and apart from these recurrent expenses, the Kaduna State Government has undertaken capital expenditure to provide facilities that can multiply the capacity of security agencies to deter crime and conduct effective investigations of those that do occur.
 

The governor, however, regretted that they have also seen at close quarters how the federal security agencies were limited by manpower deficits, as there were simply not enough boots on the ground to have credible deployments in most places to protect communities, deter crime and enforce law and order. “The state government must be empowered and supported by the Federal Government to make up the manpower deficit in the security sector,” he said.
 

Commenting on the activities of bandits bedeviling the state, the Archbishop of Kaduna Diocese, Anglican Communion, Bishop Timothy Yahaya, said that the Federal Government should open recruitment depots across the country to recruit thousands of police and soldiers so as to wage war against the bandits because the criminals in the bush have outnumbered the security men fighting them.
 

Kaduna State chapter Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Joseph Hayab, decried the killing of clerics in the state, saying that four pastors were killed while 18 were kidnapped since banditry began in the state. According to him, in 2019, CAN published records of kidnappings where it recorded a total of over 500 Christians who had been kidnapped.
 

While on an operational visit to the state, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Usman Alkali had described Kaduna as a dynamic state which has a population of people from various walks of life. He said policing in the state was challenging and daunting and required more dedication, professionalism, respect for human rights and commitment to doing the right thing from the police personnel, adding: “while we know that this job is very challenging, we may not have the complete tools to work with, but we can manage with what we have if we have a change of attitude towards our job.”

The IGP, however, assured the Kaduna command of more support and increase in deployment of personnel for security of the state and the country in general.
Apparently upset by the attack on the NDA, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, has ordered a probe into the incident with a view to unravelling the attack. 
Before now, the CDS had said that efforts were being made to checkmate terrorism in all forms in the country through the deployment of appropriate modern tools.
 

“The involvement of the military in containing asymmetric security threats in the past few years has highlighted the need to acquire new operational capability for the Armed 
Forces of Nigeria to deal with emergent threats. Accordingly, we are developing new capabilities in intelligence and surveillance, which are critical for staying ahead of terrorists and insurgents, and other criminal elements in the society,” Irabor said.
 

How soon that assurance translates into concrete terms by way of appropriate weapons, men and equipment to deal a lethal bow to the bandits and give a new lease of life to the inhabitants and travellers to and out of Kaduna State, remains to be seen.

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