By Prof. Mahmoud Hamman
The most serious security issues facing this country today are insurgency and banditry and both involve heinous atrocities like terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder which inevitably lead to massive displacement of communities and the dislocation of the economy.
For over a decade now, the various security agencies particularly the Nigeria Army and Police, have been tackling the perpetrators and degrading their capacities, but they are still active and causing havoc, especially in the Northeastern, Northwestern and parts of the North central geo-political zones of the country.
The pertinent question is, why are the insurgents and bandits still active in these areas in particular in spite of the tremendous efforts of the security agencies to contain them?
The answer to this question may be found in our recent history.
1. The Collapse of Public Administration at the State and Local Government Levels, c.1980 to Date
The foundation of peace and security in every society is effective governance as reflected in the extent to which the constituted authorities have clear knowledge of the day to day affairs of the people under their jurisdiction and developed appropriate policy mechanisms to regulate their conduct or behavior. Until the 1980’s, the Northern States of Nigeria were known for their relative stability and peace compared to other parts of the country. This was partly the result of the development over the centuries of state systems that were characterized by well-defined hierarchy of authority from the center to the lowest level of society.
This historical heritage survived British colonialism and continued to influence political and administrative developments in Post-Independence Nigeria.
Against this enviable historical background, one may wonder what went wrong in the management of the societies of the Northern geo-political zones of the country that have now become hotbeds of insurgency and banditry.
2. The weakening of public administration at the State and Local Government levels in the North began to manifest in the early 1980’s as a result of some monumental errors in political and administrative decisions of the Northern states.
For example, in 1980/81the Government of Kaduna State under Alhaji Balarabe Musa of the PRP decided in the context of the oil boom euphoria and the restoration of democratic practice in the country to abolish the Jangali (Cattle Tax) and Kharaji (Poll or Head Tax) ostensibly to reduce economic burden on the masses.
Shortly thereafter, the various governments of the Northern states followed suit, obviously for political reasons. However, it did not occur to them that throughout history, exactions like tax, tributes, levies etc that are imposed by states or sovereigns and which have economic value, are fundamentally instruments of administrative and political control that serve to maintain the loyalty and obedience of the subjects and hence their sudden and uncritical abolition may have even security consequences for the nation-states.
In the case of the states of Northern Nigeria, this oversight by their governments in 1980 has today proved to be extremely costly in terms of security of life and property. This is because the annual collection of both Jangali and Kharaji was usually preceded by various processes and procedures that have very important security implications for the states if only because they effectively checked the excesses of the highly mobile and restless herdsmen and sedentary rural and urban dwellers.
To begin with the Jangali, the process started with the enumeration of cattle population across the entire Northern region on the basis of individual herds under the jurisdiction of Native Authorities (NA’s). During this exercise, the herdsmen and their settlements (ruggage) were registered. The size of each herd of cattle was determined by counting the animals therein. The migratory orbit of each pastoral family was also documented on this occasion.
This exercise constituted the first phase of official contact between the herdsmen and local authorities. After a few months, the actual cash payment was made by individual herdsmen as per the registered cattle population of each herd.
This exercise involved the District Heads, the Village Heads and the various Ardo’s (pastoral leaders) of the herdsmen and it constituted the second phase of official contact between the herdsmen and various Local Authorities.
The third phase of official contact between them was when the annual compulsory but free inoculation of cattle was conducted by vetinary personnel against epidemics like Rinder Pest and Bovine Tuberculosis. Every herdsmen would naturally want his herds to be inoculated and therefore needed no persuasion.
3. As a result of all these annual official contacts, every herdsman and his residence were documented and information on them was available in public records. So, no herdsmen would think of committing heinous crimes and expect to get away with them undetected by public authorities and therefore criminality amongst them was reduced to the barest minimum.
However, since 1980/81 i.e for 40 years now, with the abolition of Jangali in the Northern states, no public officer would know the identity and whereabouts of the herdsmen and hence they operate as faceless freelance and can commit any offence in one area and escape to another undetected.
It is, therefore, no wonder that going by the testimonies of the victims of banditry in the Northern states, the herdsmen seem to be some of the principal actors in this matter. One may therefore recommend the restoration of Jangali with all its annual protocols and procedures in all the Northern states of Nigeria as a solution to the problem of banditry which the obscurity of the herdsmen over the last forty years has facilitated.
However, it is pertinent at this juncture to draw attention to the issue of pastoral infrastructure whose provision will definitely enhance the containment of crimes perpetrated by herdsmen.
All grazing reserves in the country (415) should be revived and forests which now serve as safe havens for bandits should be reclaimed by government to create new grazing reserves in order to accommodate the numerous herdsmen in the country and promote the modernization of the country’s meat and dairy industries which had engaged the attention of the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, since 1964.
In order to achieve these objectives which have a bearing on the security situation of the country, one is strongly recommending the creation of a new ministry from the present Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to be known as The Ministry of Animal Health and Pastoral Affairs.
The main task of the new Ministry would be to organize the pastoral industry in conformity with present day realities and enhance scientific processes and procedures in the management of this vital National resource and stabilize the communities deriving livelihoods from it.
In the case of Kharaji or Poll Tax, it affected adult males only, i.e men above 18yrs old and were registered annually on the basis of Wards (Unguwanni). Every Ward Head (Mai Unguwa) with the assistance of a scribe was responsible for the annual registration of the residents of his Ward for purposes of tax collection.
Like the Jangali, the Kharaji collection was also preceded by some procedures and processes that had very important security implications
4. Regarding the identity, address and occupation of the eligible citizens of the ward. The Ward Head and his scribe would conduct the annual registration exercise by moving from one part of the ward to another and after some months would collect the taxes from individual tax payers. The tax register of the Ward could also be used for other purposes requiring some information on the residents.
Thus, the Ward Heads and their scribes knew all men above 18 in their Wards by name and address and hence it was easy to detect the identities of criminals amongst them. However, since 1980/81, i.e when the poll tax was abolished in the Northern States, most Ward Heads do not know their residents because the annual tax registration exercise has been stopped. Hence the male inhabitants of the Ward both young and old can now easily operate in their neighborhood or elsewhere as criminals and gangsters undetected since the Ward Heads, not to talk of the District Heads and Local Government Chairmen and Councilors, have no official basis of interaction with them and know their identity.
Against this background, one may also recommend the restoration of Kharaji and all its annual protocols and procedures throughout the Northern States in order to enhance the formal interaction between the populace and constituted authorities even for reasons of security alone.
In the same vein, the issue of marginalization in local administration and security architecture of traditional rulers at District, Village and Ward levels since the abolition of Jangali and Kharaji in 1980/81must be addressed.
The phenomenon of redundancy of traditional leaders at the grassroots level obviously have grave security implications. The common adage that ‘the ideal mind is the devils workshop’ applies here. These traditional leaders have not only political and administrative value in modern administration but even more seriously security/intelligence relevance throughout this country because they are closest to the people.
Hence, the attention of the Northern states in particular should be drawn to this reality. With regards to the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, the incorporation of local hunters in the military effort is relevant especially in the Sambisa forest which have been their hunting grounds for centuries.
However, the announcement by Yobe State Government that it would not repatriate the Almajirai to their various states of origin and reunite them with their parents is counterproductive as it would only facilitate the recruitment of Boko Haram foot soldiers in the state.
Indeed, the practice of Almajiranci in the whole of the North-east geopolitical zone should be banned in order to deprive the insurgents of the opportunity to reinforce their ranks.
5. Accelerated Introduction of Community Policing in the Northeastern, Northwestern and North central Geopolitical zones. The issue of community policing has been debated in this country for long and there is now apparent consensus on its necessity.
The question, however, is how quickly could it be implemented especially in these zones where insurgency and banditry are rife?
The significance of community policing in the context of overall improvement of the security architecture of the country would be as follows:
a. To strengthen intelligence operations based on their deeper knowledge of the Local environment.
b. To reduce the bureaucratization of security matters by eliminating red-tapism in security reporting and enhancing response time to emergency alerts.
c. To identify the bases and networks of criminals in their locality and their methods of operation.
3. Tactical Issues on Banditry. It is widely reported that the most important vehicle for bandits in the North-western and North-central geopolitical zones now is the Motorcycle. When they embark on major operations against targeted rural settlements, each motorcycle carries up to three armed riders and scores of these machines are usually deployed for that purpose.
It is reported that one of the tactics of the bandits in using motorcycles even in rugged bush terrains is to reinforce their tyres with dry camel or donkey skins by inserting their tubes inside the skins before inflating the tyres.
This tactic enables them to operate even on the roughest bush paths and on top speed, thereby eluding security agencies easily.
In view of this development, one is recommending a complete ban for several months on the use of motorcycles by everybody in the states where banditry has assumed serious dimensions so that the movement of the bandits can be detected and reduced to the barest minimum, thereby diminishing their ability to elude security forces.
Secondly, one would recommend that the security agencies in areas of operation should minimize their visibility and therefore predictability by bandits on their strategic moves.
This would entail various disguises like the use of nonmilitary vehicles and mufti instead of service outfits in order to enhance surprise assaults on the bandits.
As for their weapons of destruction, one would recommend that the country should be zoned according to the gravity of the security situation in the various areas. Metal and weapon detectors
6.should be deployed to comb the zones for weapons recovery. Some of the bandits captured by the security agencies in the past have confessed that they keep their weapons in holes dug in the bush.
Although, this information may lead to a wild goose chase, the appropriate deployment of modern technology may expose the secret locations of weapons caches.
It is also important to understand the organizational structure of the bandits and their modus operandi. For instance, it is said that the bandits who bedeviled the Kaduna-Abuja-Kogi axis have partitioned the area into a number of operational blocks and each block of territory is assigned to a particular gang of bandits. Any violation of this division of operational territory is not tolerated and it could lead to inter-gang warfare.
It is, therefore, important for the security agencies to employ undercover tactics to identify their bases, leadership, methods of operation and recruitment. For instance, it is said that the bandits who dominate the Abuja area are imposing a levy of young boys on the various pastoral families in their areas of operation. Each family is supposed to send one boy to join their gang or else their security and that of their cattle could not be guaranteed.
The life of the Ardos (pastoral leaders) of the herdsmen who seem to be cooperating with the security agencies in their moves against the bandits are also threatened and some have even been killed already.
The bandits are also said to have started interfering with the social life of the pastoral communities by compelling some girls to marry people who are associated with them. If the parents of such girls resist, their security and that of their cattle will be in jeopardy.
It is therefore very necessary and even urgent for the security agencies to devise ways and means of penetrating the pastoral communities and detect the bandit masterminds by trailing their recruits and other associates through the forced marriages.
4. Image Building The security agencies in the country are now facing a serious challenge in terms of public confidence in their ability to contain the insurgents and bandits because of the increasing frequency and ferocity of their attacks in virtually all the conflict zones of the country.
To reverse this development, a number of drastic measures can be taken in addition to what the agencies are already doing: a. North-western zone (Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara) i. In addition to the concentration of counter-insurgency forces in Katsina, Zamfara and other parts of this zone, and in close consultation with the state governors and
7. traditional rulers, the principal means of mobility of the bandits (motorcycles) should be banned immediately for everybody both in urban and rural areas until further notice.
The States and Local Governments should be advised to hire and deploy public means of transport like Keke Napep and buses to assist commuters in their areas of jurisdiction between 8.00am and 5.00pm daily. Helicopters and other surveillance aircrafts should be deployed for reconnaissance to monitor the movement of motorcycle riders, especially in convoys in the countryside and report to ground bases of the security agencies for quick action against the suspected bandits. ii. Small Military Units (25- 30) in conjunction with community police contingents should be deployed to village areas where most of the banditry occurs instead of concentrating them in urban and semi-urban parts of the states.
Some of the units should patrol highways incognito in order to apprehend bandits that mount roadblocks and kidnap travelers for ransom and murder.
iii. The sources of food and medical supplies and other logistics support of the bandits should be detected and blocked immediately. The corporation of shopkeepers, pharmacists and small traders in the various localities should be sought for by drawing the attention of the security agencies to bulk purchases of medicines, prepared food, water and drinks.
b. North-eastern zone (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa) i. In the North-eastern zone where Boko Haram insurgents are active, it will be advisable for the Nigeria Army to overwhelm them by massive mobilization of troops both on the ground and air in the Sambisa forest and Lake Chad region.
A whole division should be deployed against them at once in each of the theaters of war. That means encircling the insurgents by about 10,000 troops in one fell swoop.
This strategy worked in the Republic of Chad when under the Command of their President Idris Derby, 9,000 soldiers swept across the lakes in response to Boko Haram attacks. By the end of the operation, over a thousand Boko Haram insurgents of the AlBarnawi faction were eliminated and thousands of firearms were seized.
It is reported that many of the insurgents escaped into the Nigerian territory as fugitives in Sambisa and other parts of the Borno area.
A similar move on the part of the Nigeria Army in concert with their multi-national allies could easily mop them up and bring to an end the menace of the insurgents in the North-eastern geo-political zone. The 7th Division of the Nigeria Army based in Maiduguri in conjunction with the Air force and Navy based in Lake Chad could prove handy for this mighty operation and the whole world would appreciate and applaud the Nigeria Army for that effort.
Going down memory lane, the present President of the country, His Excellency, General Muhammadu Buhari as the then Commander of the 3rd Division of Nigeria Army, once swept across the Nigerian/Chad border in pursuit of the Chadian rebels who infiltrated Nigerian territory in the Borno area.
When Nigerian journalists asked General Buhari to explain his purpose for doing that, he said he wanted to show the Chadian rebels ‘a bloody nose’. History can still repeat itself in the context of the current operations against Boko Haram and their foreign sponsors.
ii. The Adamawa/Taraba axis of the North-east is also experiencing very serious security issues but perhaps because of its relative remoteness, it is not getting adequate media coverage and publicity and the security agencies are blamed for their predicament. For instance, when in 2016/17, a major confrontation took place in Zamfara State between the Joint Security Forces and bandits, only the DailyTrust reported the migration after the incident of over 100 ‘herdsmen’(actually bandits) to the Southern part of Adamawa State apparently untrailed by security personnel. Some concerned citizens of Adamawa State alerted the local authorities in Jada and Ganye L.G.A’s about this ominous development but the Zamfara migrants pretended to have relocated from their state in order to escape the crisis there.
However, after two years or so, this Zamfarawa resumed serious banditry activities in Adamawa, especially kidnapping and cattle rustling almost on daily bases across the Ganye, Jada and Toungo Local Government axis. They are now reported to have expanded their operations to the area between Numan and Mayo Lope on the Jalingo road where they established bases on the hills to the east of the highway.
iii. Another development that is seriously tarnishing the image of the security agencies and even the Federal Government itself is the terrorism that is perpetrated by ethnic militia in Taraba State in particular. The Tiv-Njukun crisis, characterized by mutual 9 terror and arson since 1989 has rendered the Wukari-Takum axis in Taraba State and the neighboring L.G.A’s in Benue State, a permanent warfront where lives and property are never safe in spite of the military bases or barracks in Takum and Serti.
The generality of the citizens in this area expect very drastic measures to be taken against the perpetrators of this crisis both at the level of their political elite and local perpetrators.
Similarly, but on a more serious and devastating scale, the terror and arson perpetrated by the Mambila ethnic militia on the Mambila Plateau against the pastoral Fulani community since 1979/80 culminated in the June, 2017 genocide that claimed over 1000 lives of pastoralists and about 25,000 of their cattle killed or rustled without any consequence so far. More than 25,000 refugees escaped into the Cameroons and so far many of them have not returned to Nigeria.
This scandalous incident was the most documented of its kind in the history of this country and its gravity was first brought to the notice of the world by a very senior Military Officer, namely Brigadier General Benjamin I. Ahanotu, GOC 3rd Division, Nigeria Army, Jos, who was dispatched by the Federal Government to stop the carnage.
In spite of the directive given by the then Acting President, Prof. Osinbajo in Jalingo a few days later when he visited Taraba State on this issue, none of the perpetrators was apprehended and prosecuted as he directed.
The well known leaders and masterminds of the Mambila militia, both in the Taraba State Government and the Sardauna Local Government Area Council, and their principal foot soldiers and field commanders during the genocide are still walking freely and openly boasting that they will still do it again. Neither the State Government nor the Federal Security Agencies are treating the matter with the seriousness it deserves.
This unfortunate situation may be sending the wrong signals to trouble makers in the country. Such heinous offences should not be left hanging for too long because they may provoke counter measures by victim communities. Hence it is very important that the Nigeria security agencies revisit this spectacular incident and bring the culprits to book as a deterrent for criminality in the future.
Prof. Mahmoud Hamman is of History Department Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Phone No: 08072650497