IN a felonious move that portends virtual loss of official control of the security situation in Zamfara State, terrorists have reportedly demanded the sum of N12 million from rural farming communities in the state before they can farm. This may appear rather audacious and bizarre, but that is the unwarranted burden that some violent non-state actors have reportedly foisted on the people. Actually, the state has been paying ransom to terrorists, and perhaps is still committed to doing so, but there has been no respite on violent actions by the bandits to justify further payments. If anything, cases of killing, kidnapping and extortion have been on the rise. In fact, many of the supposedly repentant bandits who surrendered just a little fraction of their weapons and munitions to the state government in exchange for amnesty and rehabilitation have since gone back to the bush to resume their criminal enterprise.
The kind of intrepid and disconcerting demand reportedly made by the terrorists in Zamfara is the height of lawlessness and brazen disregard for constituted authority. And that can only happen in a political space that has a grave leadership problem. Zamfara State, and indeed Nigeria as a whole, has a seemingly intractable leadership challenge. There are so many ungoverned spaces across the land where outlaws are literally having a free rein, and it is axiomatic that when malefactors rule, the government’s legitimacy whittles. The state government must have resorted to the use of carrots, that is, paying ransom and granting amnesty to brigands, because the security agencies could not wield the stick to rein in their heinous activities.
The payment of ransom to bandits signifies partial surrender of authority, but the bandits imposing a levy on citizens/communities is symptomatic of near total takeover of state control, and that is really terrible. Sadly, the Federal Government, which is in total control of the country’s security architecture, seems to have been overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the worsening security challenges in the land, yet it is unwilling to allow the sub-national entities to have a measure of control over the enforcement of law and order within their territories. It has consistently opposed the formation of state police, whereas the current centralised structure has failed woefully to ensure law and order. It continues to hold onto the monopoly of violence to the exclusion of other tiers of government, even when it is evidently incapable of optimal deployment of its overbearing control of the security apparatus in the overall interest of Nigerians.
Certainly, that bandits and terrorists are demanding N12 million ransom or any other arbitrary levy for that matter from Zamfara State communities to guarantee them peaceful farming activities is a pointer to the total failure of government in the country. The various governments have shown their inability to stop bandits and terrorists from operating and functioning the way they want. Pray, would terrorists and brigands have the effrontery to demand ransom from free citizens who are also their compatriots if they reckon with a veritable risk of governmental clamping down on them? But because they are well aware of the weaknesses of the government, they have decided to continue to have a field day, literally crossing the line without let or hindrance.
Unfortunately, the payment of ransom by the Zamfara communities would not likely lead to the cessation of banditry: those already used to that criminal way of life would not want to depend on farming to eke out an existence, as farming does not guarantee the easy and humongous funds that bandits obtain from banditry. And that should be expected because anyone who has tasted the lip of a cow in pepper soup is unlikely to savour a delicacy prepared with the head of a rat. In essence, Zamfara State communities would just be left at the mercy of the terrorists who would make unending demands on them, should government at the state and federal levels, as usual, fail to address the situation decisively. We, therefore, call on the governments to hearken to the cries of the people in the various communities and act as they should to provide real security, so that they can go about their farming and other lawful businesses free from the fear of being harassed, kidnapped, extorted or killed by terrorists and bandits.
The governments are also urged to make a clean break from the past by ensuring that this premonition/warning from the bandits is not followed by a disaster before they do what is apposite in the circumstances. The farming communities of Zamfara State deserve to enjoy their fundamental right to life and freedom to engage in a legitimate business under the law.
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