LG funds for ransoms

VICE chairman of Shinkafi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, Alhaji Sani Galadima, recently disclosed to the Minister of Interior, Lieutenant-General Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), that his administration had been paying bandits and kidnappers huge sums of money on a daily basis. Dambazau was in the area to assess the security threats being posed by banditry to the people of the state. Galadima said: “Six members of the Civilian JTF were attacked and killed by the bandits after receiving their pay from Shinkafi town and on their way back to their villages. Even yesterday, these bandits sent a letter to the district head of Shinkafi town saying that they were coming to attack the town. This ugly situation is very disheartening; every day we pay millions of naira in ransom to these bandits. We really need government’s urgent support to end this problem.

“Our women also suffer a lot because the bandits attack communities and abduct ladies from their parents’ homes. People no longer sleep with their two eyes closed in Shinkafi. We want the government to resolve the issue of shortage of troops and police. We only have 19 soldiers in this town. We all know the camps where these bandits stay; even the security men are aware of the camps. Our major concern is that security personnel are not getting to these bandits.” In reaction, Dambazau said: “It is the responsibility of government to ensure that lives and properties are secure. That is why we must do everything possible to ensure the end of this situation. We commenced this process by meeting with the leaders of Miyetti Allah; we are going to consult with traditional rulers and governors of the most affected states.”

When a legitimate government pays any form of recognition to bandits, the authority relationship is tacitly skewed already. Without doubt, the ransoms being paid to criminals by Shinkafi local government confirm its acknowledgment of their superiority. What that means is that the bandits are in charge and they receive payments for the safety that only they can guarantee. If taxes are typically paid to higher authorities, it means that the government has willingly conceded its legitimacy to the bandits.

This is even more lamentable considering the dilemma involved in retiring such expenditure. Under what vote was the money used in paying ransoms withdrawn? How was it expected to be retired? Without any form of documentation, the claims of the payer must be taken as the truth. It is indeed pertinent to ask who has been paying the ransoms in the many high-profile incidences of kidnapping involving government officials as victims. Couldn’t the figures have been hiked by devious officials intent on making a heist from the ugly but desperate scenario? The implication, quite simply, is that the current situation provides ample opportunities for corruption to thrive.

Banditry is a self-inflicted woe. The government obviously fostered the menace through its refusal to implement social intervention programmes in critical areas. It is therefore no surprise that it is being constrained to offer the money it once refused to spend on social services to bandits and kidnappers.  It is totally unacceptable for criminals to be the recipients of the people’s patrimony. But the government they voted for has failed to perform its statutory duties. The security situation in the country has reached an awkward height that has left those in charge quite confused. Even their suggestions on the roots of the problem and the solutions to it are laughable, if not tragic outright. Regardless of the embarrassment to the government, the only reasonable conclusion to be derived from the narrative is that the country has started manifesting the symptoms of a failed state, if in fact it is not too far gone in that direction already.

A government so compromised to the point of paying ransoms to bandits actually has no business being in existence. Under normal circumstances, the government official with this kind of narrative ought to be in jail, but the lives of people in Shinkafi are under threat and the chairman obviously has to intervene in whatever way he can. His excuses can therefore be tolerated on the basis of exigency. In any case, if even state governors are not in charge of the security arrangements in their respective states, what is a local government chairman expected to do? The Federal Government has treated the cases of banditry and other similar manifestations of a failed state with kid gloves for too long, leaving the citizenry to wonder who actually is in charge between it and bandits. Worse still, it has remained trenchantly opposed to state police and the restructuring of the country. The situation can therefore only get worse.