(Statement on Security Situation in Northern Nigeria in the Last Three Months Delivered at a Press Conference in Abuja on Wednesday, September 16, 2020)
In June this year, at the peak of incessant killings and general deterioration of security across the North, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) was compelled to commence a planned series of protests to invite attention to the dire state of security of lives and property in many communities in the region.
Two of such marches had held in Minna, Niger State and in Katsina after which plans to disrupt these peaceful protests and subvert their objectives in some parts of the North were uncovered.
Anticipating this subversive maneuvre to create a hostile environment that could have worsened the state of insecurity and divert attention from the goal of the protests, which was basically to urge government to take steps to arrest the bleeding in the North, the Northern Elders Forum and some religious leaders persuaded the CNG to suspend the marches.
It was however resolved that all state chapters of the CNG be mobilized to raise their levels of vigilance and organization to monitor the situation for the coming three months.
The three months waiting period had lapsed and in addition to specific observations, the CNG generally takes cognizance of some positive developments in some states since the Minna and Katsina marches.
1. General Observations
- For the first time, President Buhari summoned his Service Chiefs and expressed disappointment at their records and performance, and warned them to do better to protect our communities.
2. Specific Observations
We acknowledge that the reinforcement of forces had drastically reduced the regularity of wanton killings and complete destruction of entire villages around Katsina state with the exception of intermittent attacks and abductions in remote, far flung communities from cities and local government headquarters that still persist.
To some extent, the frequency of attacks in major areas of Sokoto state too had similarly reduced considerably in the last three months.
- Kaduna State communities of Giwa, Birnin Gwari, Igabi continue to face severe threats of banditry, kidnappings, tussling of livestock and complete sack of villages so that in Giwa alone, it is feared that more than 17 housewives and girls are presently in captivity in addition to hundreds killed and thousands displaced.
- In the Southern part of Kaduna, CNG had to embark on a peace mission to set an ongoing process in motion to halt the venting of pent up tribal and other communal jealousies that had assumed ferocious regularity over the period under review.
d. Niger, Nassarawa
In the last three months, communities in Niger and Nasarawa states have witnessed an escalation of attacks by bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers in addition to the scare of an emerging insurgency related threat.
Despite repeated claims by government that federal troops have decimated the capacity of the armed insurgents in the Northeast, the group has continued to show the capacity to launch attacks and overrun military formations, seize equipment and vandalize local communities.
Whereas the security situation in Zamfara state had considerably improved in the last one year, it is disturbing that unfolding scenarios have endangered those gains and peace is again eluding the state with disastrous consequences on communities and individuals.
The situation in Zamfara is becoming worse literally by the day, as bandits and internal collaborators appear to sense a huge vacuum in political will and capacity in high places of authority which they exploit to undermine security efforts in the following instances:
- Alerted to a plot to draft bandits to disrupt the coming House of Representatives bye election in Bungudu, the state government secured a court order in Kaduna on September 3, 2020, for the arrest of a suspected collaborator, Abdulmalik Zubairu Bungudu.
- The warrant was executed and the suspect moved to Gusau for prosecution but released on bail which he jumped.
- On Friday, September 2, 2020 intelligence intercepted a conversion about an arranged meeting between one Abu Dantabawa and a suspected bandit leader in Gusau.
- On Saturday, September 3, 2020, detectives raided the rendezvous and arrested the said Abu Dantabawa along with 17 other suspects.
- On Sunday, September 4, 2020, the Zamfara State Police Command set the principal suspect, Dantabawa free, ostensibly owing to pressure from powerful influencers from seat of power who are keen on blocking the prosecution.
Against the backdrop of these concerns and observations, the CNG, not willing to remain silent or passive and allow things that potentially affect the North to continue unchecked, hereby reaches the following resolutions.
- To demand the immediate rearrest and return to custody of the said Abu Dantabawa and all other suspected collaborators for proper investigation and appropriate prosecution.
- To demand full investigation into the circumstances that led to the suspicious release of Dantabawa and other suspects from lawful custody outside due process.
- To demand for transparent action to determine the extent of involvement of persons in power with the interruption of criminal proceedings against suspected bandits and collaborators in Zamfara and other places in the North.
- To address a strong petition to the President demanding urgent action to unravel the identities of individuals around him that sabotage the processes of justice by shielding suspects from the law at the expense of government’s integrity.
- The Zamfara state chapter is directed to liase with the national headquarters of the CNG to commence mobilization for a massive protest in Gusau on Monday, 21st September to force compliance with the demands for the rearrest and prosecution of Dantabawa and the other 17 suspects.
- To urge the security to adopt a more inclusive approach in dealing with the remnant of problems that persist in remote communities of Katsina and other places where the storm has calmed.
- To point at the necessity for the immediate deployment of more force in the identified vulnerable communities of Kaduna state while managing the Southern Kaduna conflict in line with the CNG peace initiative.
- To call for the deployment of similar force in Niger and Nassarawa states that are fast becoming hotbeds of bandit attacks and kidnappings.
- To impress the need to rededicate efforts for the total eradication of the overdrawn insurgency in the northeast and fast track the resettlement of displaced communities.
For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to be emphatic in reasserting the caution that the fight against the current security challenges in northern Nigeria must be isolated from partisan influence, and to insist that under no circumstances should it be compromised.
We restate that with northern lives at stake, we shall vehemently resist this, and further undue extra judicial interferences from any group or individuals no matter how highly placed.
Governments are important in deciding how we live, but citizens and communities who speak and understand each other have an inalienable right to adequate protection under the law without the need for such interference.