For some, the actual identity of persons described as bandits is yet a mystery, a phenomenon that works quite well for these hard-hearted criminals as they thrive in the evil endeavour of striking terror in most parts of northern Nigeria.
There is even a well-favoured notion that bandits are foreigners who invaded the region through its increasingly porous borders and spread to places where the presence of the state or federal government is best not felt and at worst absent.
Whatever the case, at least they are humans and as such can be tracked, arrested, prosecuted, and jailed as they deserve.
As reported by BBC, these motor-cycle-riding insurgents who were once cattle rustlers often operate from some abandoned forest reserves, having discovered the new lucrative industry of kidnapping.
They are known to be the latest to join ranks of terrorist groups who have been in existence over the last decade with not less than 8,000 deaths on their account in many northern states, including that of President Muhammadu Buhari, Katsina.
Substantiating this claim, even the Katsina governor, Bello Masari, insisted that bandits are majorly Fulani Muslims like himself and added that he is careless about being attacked for making such a revelation.
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As part of its contribution to the anti-terrorism war, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently directed all telecommunications providers to shut down services in Zamfara (one of the hotbeds of bandit attacks) beginning from Friday, September 3, Guardian had reported.
Naturally, the aim of the NCC is to cut off the chain of communication among the kidnapping syndicates, thereby dousing the tension in affected spots.
This effective effort came on the heels of coordinated counter-attacks from the rejigged Nigerian military. A Punch publication noted that the result of this is that many of the insurgents from both Boko Haram and ISWAP are beginning to surrender to the armed forces as they can no longer contain the heat, while those who attempted to escape have been captured by troops.
However, this battle seems to be suffering some setbacks due to what some see as advocacy for the bandits. An embattled Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, comes to mind at this point.
Although Gumi has repeatedly rejected the designation of a mediator, some of his controversial remarks somewhat portray him to many Nigerian as been the mouthpiece of the criminals. He recently opined that continuous onslaughts against bandits can turn Nigeria into Afghanistan.
Quoting him directly, Punch said:
“Any more action will push them closer to religious fanaticism. It gives them protection from discrediting them as thieves and also reinforces their mobilisation of gullible young unemployed youth as we saw with Boko Haram.
“These measures I enumerated are cheaper, easier, and lasting than the kinetic approach which is now taking place. No military, especially of a poor economy, can win guerrilla warfare. The recent victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan is a factual warning for those that contemplate this.”
Despite the losses, destruction, maiming, and mindless killings by these men of the underworld, there is renewed hope that time is running out for them. The supply of arms and ammunition, including the reception of 12 Super Tucano fighter jets by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) from the United States (US) favour the government more than its avowed enemies.
Building on this and the repositioning of the military, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya has said that more than ever, troops of various units are inspired to take the battle to the enclaves of the bandits and put an end to their reign.
Yahaya also advised the armed forces to work in unison in depleting the ranks of these criminal elements.
“The earlier we all recognise that no service can do it alone, the better for us as armed forces and a nation to surmount the current security challenges.”
President Buhari holds closed-door talk with service chiefs
Meanwhile, President Buhari on Tuesday, September 7, presided over a security meeting being attended by some ministers and Nigerian service chiefs at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Among those in attendance are the minister of defence, Bashir Magashi, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami; and the service chiefs led by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor.
Also at the meeting is the minister of police affairs, Maigari Dingyadi and that of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, including the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama