Retired Brigadier General Idris Bello Dambazu, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Managing Director, Kano State Consumer Protection Council, speaks with KOLA OYELERE on issues bordering on insecurity, rampant substandard products in the country, bandits’ amnesty, among others.
As a retired military officer, what can you say are the causes of the rising spate of banditry, insurgency, kidnapping and other social ills in Nigeria and how can they be effectively curbed?
The insecurity challenge in Nigeria is very daunting, because it becomes more complicated every day. However, there are many reasons for this security challenge, and they are mostly socio-economic in nature. One of them is the joblessness of millions of Nigerian youths. An adage says, “The devil finds work for idle hands”. Therefore, any unemployed youth will become resistive and frustrated. In most cases, they are easily tempted to engage in crimes, such as drug abuse, which later lead them into petty stealing, armed robbery, banditry and insurgency.
In most cases, bandits do make a huge amount of money, when they kidnap one person; they would demand millions of naira as ransom and in just a very short time, they become millionaires. This is a point of attraction for the unemployed youths, because they could be easily dragged into the unholy business.
Another issue is that some of the insurgents are usually being used by politicians to win political positions. The millions of naira that the politicians pay the thug too do encourage the employed youths to consider banditry.
The manner governments handled security challenges in the past also contributed to the problem. For instance, during former President Goodluck Jonathan tenure and that of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, some Boko Haram leaders and followers, unarmed, were attacked and killed. This gave rise to insurgency.
It will also be recalled that during the Ibarahim Babangida military government, there was an issue of the so-called Hausa/Fulani settlers in Southern Kaduna, when a group led by a retired General mercilessly attacked and murdered some people.
The culprits were arrested and tried before a competent court in the land. The court sentenced them all to death, but the judgment was not implemented. It is this injustice that has now snowballed into the crisis we are witnessing till today, because innocent people were killed. People had thought the arrested culprits, who never faced the consequences of their action, were untouchable, but the people of Plateau State are doing the same thing now. It is the same for the Fulanis, who were peacefully inside the bush, while their cows were killed. As a result of that, he had no means of livelihood and he became a refugee in his own country.
If you will recall, the victimised people started to avenge what had been done to them in Southern Kaduna and Plateau State, before some other people joined them in the game of revenge. It was then they realised the benefit of banditry. So in my opinion, this is why we are having the current challenges confronting the country.
How can we address this problem?
There are many ways we can address it. First and foremost, tackling the issue will involve more than one arm of security agencies, because it is a war that must be fought by all the security agencies, and the first thing they should address is the strength of the security architecture. If you go through the list or the total number of security agencies we have in the country, you will discover that they are not up to two million, whereas the population of the country is about 200 million and our borders keep getting wider and more porous.
With this, we need to recruit more people. The youths are there looking for jobs. They should be employed into the security agencies, so that the operatives can have sufficient manpower to cover the necessary places, because it was lack of adequate security personnel that made the Abuja-Kaduna road vulnerable to banditry and kidnapping.
To me, if there is adequate security on ground, I see no reason they should not be deployed to every five kilometres on the road to avert unnecessary attacks on innocent citizens plying the roads. If a battalion of soldiers is deployed to that very area, it will go a long way in taming the frequent attacks by the bandits and kidnappers.
The second is capacity building. When recruiting, select qualified people, train and equip them well with all necessary weapons, because without weapons and training, there is no capacity.
For the third strategy, we have well experienced and trained security operatives that have retired. Some of them are still between the age brackets where they can still give a contribution. The government should recall them out of retirement. I know in the armed forces, when you retire, there is a period of six years in which you can still be called back to service in case of an emergency. Such officers can still be called back to defend the country. Though some may not be physically fit to participate in practical operations, they can participate in giving out training or giving pieces of advice. We definitely need to recall this category of military personnel. I believe that if these are done, things will drastically change as more security operatives will be available to counter the enemies of progress.
Regarding the recent attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), people are saying that no place is safe again in the country, what is your take on this?
Of course, what is happening in the country is making people believe that no there is no safe place any longer. In the past, when you were in the army barracks, you felt safe, but these people are proving that no place is free from their attack. It is a very disturbing development, and it needs to be tackled as soon as possible.
Many repentant Boko Haram members are being granted amnesty, even after they had killed many people. What can you say on this?
Historically, this is like the carrot and stick approach. As much as your security agents are doing their best in taking the battle to face the insurgents, you also want to beat them to surrender, because the fewer they are, the better it will be. And when you now have people from their side that are ready to surrender, there is nothing bad in that, because by giving them amnesty, they will be able to give you some necessary and important information needed to curb the activities of the other side which will help the country.
Granting amnesty to the repentant terrorists will pave the way for the government to get the information needed to track down those still actively engaged with Boko Haram. Look at the Afghanistan issue, despite the fact that America, being the most powerful nation on earth negotiated with the Taliban, it is completely surrendering and pulling its citizens out from the country, because it is convinced that it is not only war that can win in that situation; there is the need to dialogue as well.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta militants committed similar crimes against the country, but when they were granted amnesty and compensated, peace returned to the region. Did they (Niger Delta militants) not kill and destroy the economic situation of this country? However, when the amnesty was granted to them, they laid down their arms and I think they were even compensated. Now you can see that peace has prevailed in that zone. It is very necessary to have this amnesty as it will greatly be of help.
Do you think the military is capable of winning the war against terrorism and kidnapping?
As I said earlier, to have a final solution to the bedevilling issue is not a task for the military only; it must be fought by the entire security agencies, and the government will have to provide the necessary equipment to win the war. As of now, we do not have enough security personnel. If we had enough, we could have stationed security officers at every junction in the country. But we don’t. Whenever the insurgents and the bandits launch an attack, they do come en masse. Sometimes, they number about 200. So if you can have a battalion of soldiers all over the place, there is no reason the attackers will not be defeated.
Recently, the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, said ransom should not be given to kidnappers in an attempt to get their victims released. Do you subscribe to this?
To me, in the absence of not giving ransom, what is the alternative? Will you rather allow your sibling or family to be killed for nothing? This is because these bandits will give you certain time to pay, and if you do not pay, the people they kidnapped may be killed. Again if the government decided to pay all ransom, what money will be left in its coffers and how can it finance the security agencies to succeed in the anti-terror fight? But the government has to make policies. If you remember, the Americans used to say that they will not negotiate with terrorists, but now, they are negotiating with the Taliban. There are necessary policies to make. There are things the government can do and those they cannot do, so the solution to wipe out the banditry is what the government should concentrate on.
You have just been appointed as the Managing Director of the Kano State Consumer Protection Council. As you know, there are many fake and substandard products being used in the state, what factors do you think have contributed to this?
It is typical of Nigerians. The manufacturer of a product wants to make more than the maximum profit on it; yet, the people won’t buy the product if it is expensive. So, he or she will make fake products and avoid the proper procedure of registering the products, where his secret would be open. You always find this attitude even in well developed countries. But the trend is limited there, because their governments have agencies that carry out proper monitoring. But it is a lot different here, because we don’t carry out proper checks.
But anybody, who brings fake or substandard goods, is not only cheating Nigerians, but also cheating the citizens of our neighbouring countries. This appointment is a privilege and by God’s grace and the collective support of the masses, I will not disappoint them in working towards taming this menace in a bid to protect the people from consuming hazardous products.
Kano State was noted for leading other states in illicit drugs selling and consumption in the past, but this has reduced. What are the steps taken by Governor Ganduje to achieve this?
This is as a result of the pre-emptive actions taken by Governor Ganduje. This agency, in the past, was inactive. But it is rejuvenated now, due to the governor’s good intention in fulfilling his electioneering promise to ensure that the people are protected, especially the youths. Here, we work with the Ministry of Health and Environment, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), among others. There is a synergy between the agencies, which is good, so as to curtail the spread of illicit products. For instance, if NAFDAC or any other agency goes out to raid or seal any place where these fake products are kept, they notify our agency and we usually follow them. They also equally follow us when we call on them.
There have been many calls for secession from various ethnic groups in Nigeria; are you not worried that the country may eventually break up if the calls continue unaddressed?
During a wedding, it is often said that “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. It is God that put us together. Allah knows the reasons it was like that and no man can break us. But unfortunately, most of these youths that are initiating the separation issue are highly misinformed. They do not know what transpired during the civil war as most of their elders lied to them. Assuming they have been telling them the truth and the suffering of the civil war, where many lives were lost, there will be no agitation. However, as I said earlier, most of these issues are arising, because of unemployment.
It was unfortunate that we have not engaged our youths properly and we have not made them busy by empowering them. There is the need to educate and enlighten our youths on the effect of going to war, and most importantly, they should be empowered, because the devil will find work for their idle hands.
The present administration will soon come to an end. What are the qualities you want in the next governor of the state?
In most situations, it is the head that makes the office. If a dynamic person is in charge of the office, there will be dynamism in his administration. If an experienced person is in charge, the experience will be evident in his administration. If you also put a mediocre, his mediocrity will also be displayed. However, Governor Ganduje, without making a mountain out of a molehill, is a well experienced person. He has gone through the civil services. From the beginning when he finished his schools, up to when he was the Permanent Secretary and Commissioner till he joined politics and served as a deputy governor. He once served as the Commissioner for Works for about eight years in Kano; he was in the Federal Capital Development Authority, among others. All these are the important experiences he has acquired over the years and which he has brought to bear in the state with a lot of massive development in its nooks and crannies. We are hoping that whoever will succeed him will be as experienced and dynamic and capable of emulating him in respect of the laudable projects he has executed.
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