Harbin Kunama: Can Buratai Make Another Difference?

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By Justice Abayomi

It is quite heartbreaking to know the absurdity that every geopolitical zone in Nigeria, with the exception of the Southwest has its peculiar insecurity challenges. In the South-South, it is militancy; violent secessionists have their abode in the Southeast; farmers/herders crises are rooted in the North central; Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast; while the rave of the moment, armed banditry, cattle rustling, kidnappings and killings is the latest nightmare of people in the Northwest.

And in the last four years, Nigerians in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states in the Northwest have been major victims. What has tainted the conscience of leaders is the glaring failure of the political class in the various states to tackle these security threats. They have allowed these violent criminality to gain currency and stabilized into the monster it is today. The leaders preferred to make political capital out of the daisy insecurity situation; but reality now stares everyone in the face.

This much could be inferred by the recent desperate wailing of Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who plainly begged President Muhammadu Buhari to impose a state of emergency on his state because of the insecurity. Likewise, his Katsina state Governor-colleague, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, also moaned that, “Today, reports I received from security agencies are all about threats of kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry. It is now a daily occurrence as no day passes without a case recorded.
It is not even rustling of cows, but now kidnapping of people.”

Masari further paints the gory scenario in these words; “Our state is currently under serious siege by armed robbers, kidnappers and armed bandits who arrest rural people at the grassroots at will and demand ransom, which if not paid, they kill their victims.” It is painful and touchy, to say the least.

But unfortunately, at various times, the onus of taming the crises has always fallen on the shoulders of the Nigerian Army. The truth which has failed to prick the conscience of these political leaders in the affected states is their obvious slack, which reverses the gains the Nigerian Army makes each time the FGN permits the intervention of soldiers.

The Army’s Operation Sharan Daji in the same Northwest, in 2016 , effectively tackled the menace of armed banditry and cattle rustling. But the gains were sooner reversed by the ineptitude and indifference of the state governors towards securing the lives and properties of their people.

Perhaps, some Nigerians may not be adequately informed about the severity of the scourge of armed banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, killings and cattle rustling which have cumulatively sapped the human and economic lives of the people. A recent report by a security analyst paints the picture dreadfully.

Quoting local sources, in Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara state alone, there are an estimated 5,000 armed bandits domiciled in the area and terrorizing the people. Now, if a single Local government area could harbor such stunning number of bandits, a census of their population in the entire state and added with the bandits in Katsina and Sokoto states would reveal staggering and appalling figures.

It implies that the scale of violence visited on hapless, innocent citizens is significantly high. It necessitated the launch of Operation Harbin Kunama III, commencing from April 1 – 30 June 2019. But the fundamental question is; with the horrible insecurity situation, does the COAS and henchman of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai and his troops stand a chance of repossessing Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states from the jaws of armed and violent criminal gangs as done before? No doubt, Gen. Buratai is one exceptional Army General who doesn’t fail in any assignment,

The gallant Nigerian soldiers have never faltered in such national assignments in the past because they assume it a challenge to their ego and pride in the nation. Incontestable records indicates that Nigerian troops have always triumphed against enemies’ of the state and the people.

Soldiers have not only decimated and defeated Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast; but they have frustrated and curtailed the capacity of fleeing remnants of terrorists from regrouping and executing co-ordinated attacks on local communities. Terrorists have been restricted to a few obscure areas in the region, where they sneak to commit atrocious acts on the populace.

And Operation Python Dance I & II in the Southeast finally buried the ghosts of armed criminal gangs who operated as armed robbers, kidnappers and violent secession agitators. Peace and security has returned to the Southeast and law abiding citizens are no longer freely molested, harassed, intimidated and gruesomely murdered by armed gangs.

Soldiers replicated similar feat in the South-South where bitter militancy disrupted the economic life- wire of Nigeria. Several special military interventions like “Operation Crocodile Smile,” have berthed the desired respite in the once restive oil-rich region. And the multiplication of several militant sects have been unable to break the resolve of soldiers and the security architecture erected by the Army in the region.

The violent farmers/herders skirmishes in the North Central part of the country have been served the same dosage by soldiers. Respite has descended on communities in Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states, with launch of several operations like “Operation Whirl Stroke,” Harbin Kunama I & II. Therefore, the war on armed bandits in the Northwest is not an exemption. And Gen. Buratai and his troops are prepared to go the extra mile to dislodge the armed criminal gangs domiciled in the forests and caves of the affected states.

At the official launch of Operation Harbin Kunama III at the 1 Brigade Complex Headquarters, Gusau on April 1, 2019, Gen. Buratai’s speech indicated a deep understanding of the security threats, manifest in the menace of armed banditry, killings, kidnappings and destructions to properties.

He said; “… the menace of banditry activities has continued to persist in some parts of the North West region and along the border areas. The unwholesome and dastardly acts of these bandits have adversely affected the socio-economic activities in these areas with attendant effect on human and economic security. It has also led to deaths and maiming of innocent people with the attendant wanton destruction of properties.”

He added; “Harbin Kunama III is planned to mitigate the current threats to security in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States. Specifically, the exercise is designed to decisively eliminate all forms of banditry activities with a view to ensuring lasting peace in the affected areas. I wish to assure the good people of Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara States that the NA will carry out its constitutional mandate professionally and within the ambit of the law while adhering to the ROE(rules of engagement)”

Again, soldiers have stepped out on the podium and into the battlefields to war with another sinister security threats. They deserve support and cooperation from leaders and the natives, especially on information gathering.

All must know that the general elections have come and gone and it behooves on all political actors, covert or overt to support the Army in order to remedy permanently the scourge of armed banditry and killings in the Northwest. These politicians must allow the Army to do its job professionally and efficiently. No one should meddle into the exercise. Surely, the sponsors of the killings have known now that the game is up for good.

Abayomi is convener, global human rights project, Rome.

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