The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural and political organization, Afenifere, has called on President Bola Tinubu to urgently convene ‘Meetings for Understanding and Peaceful Co-existence’ among local leaders so as to stem increasing terrorism and banditry.
In a press statement issued by the organization’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, Afenifere said that the immediate reason for this new call were the terror acts unleashed in Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Borno, Sokoto, Niger, Ondo, Katsina, Rivers States etc. lately.
He stated that the need to tame the monster is compelling as unchecked terrorism in any part of the country is putting pressures on other parts of the country hitherto considered as safe.
He added that Afenifere, being an organization that has empathy, has always felt the pains of those who are at the receiving end irrespective of where they are from “especially since we are bound together as Nigerians”.
It would be recalled that about 200 people were reportedly killed on Christmas eve in three local government areas of Plateau State while over 10,000 were rendered homeless.
On the same Christmas eve, 12 people were reportedly killed by suspected gunmen in Kurya village, Rabbah Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
This was in addition to some killings and kidnappings that took place in the same state earlier in December, 2023. That of Borno was typified by repeated assaults in Chibok.
In the last week of the year that has just ended, detachments of security agencies were in Igbeti and Sepeteri, Oke-Ogun, Oyo State to thwart the plan by suspected bandits to unleash terror in the area.
People of Akoko and Igbara Oke etc in Ondo State are afraid of armed herdsmen. Just as residents of some parts of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are now living in fear of kidnappers.
The Rivers State Police Command confirmed the kidnapping of some travelers last week Wednesday along Obiri-Ikwerre – Airport Road in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state by some gunmen.
The following day (Thursday) a sister of the paramount ruler of Idah kingdom in Kogi State, Mallama Meimunat Opaluwa-Sani, aged 75, her daughter, Hajarat Usman Sani and her five years old granddaughter, Onechojo were set ablaze by suspected arsonists in the early hours of that day at her residence in Oketekwe, Idah.
The International Centre for Investigative Reporting in a report disclosed that at least two people die daily as a result of violence in the South East, with over 1700 deaths documented between 2021 and June 2023.
There also are reports that bandits launched attacks on some communities in Zamfara and Kaduna States because the people there ‘failed’ to pay the ‘levies’ imposed on them before they (the locals) could harvest items on their farms.
According to Ajayi, the list appears to be endless.
“Thus, we don’t want the statistics to continue. This is why we are now coming up with suggestions on steps that need to be taken to end terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.Careful appraisal of the ogre of terrorism etc. indicated that the incidents can be categorized into four. Those being carried out for the purpose of exhorting money from people (manifesting in kidnapping). Those being carried out for territorial reason. Those being carried out for ideological reason and those being carried out with the encouragement of external interests as a result of mineral resources available where the victims domicile.”
He then stated that for steps being taken to be effective, the above classifications must be taken into consideration.
“Since the motives are not the same, strategies to tackle them too must be stratified in a manner that would be appropriate for the particular ones being dealt with. Of course, there can be extrapolation as some of those acts of terrorism can be inter-related. For instance, those who set houses ablaze could be doing so for both economic and territorial reasons etc”.
Afenifere spokesman then urged President Tinubu to consider taking the following steps.First is to identify areas that have mineral resources as those areas appear to be targets of those who want to take over the land and/or exploit the resources beneath the lands.
After identifying those areas, government should ensure that the presence of Ministry of Solid Mineral Resources and security agencies is felt in a manner that the resources would be mined to enhance the socio-economic conditions of the people.
Meetings should be convened with local leaders. Representatives of youths, religious bodies, artisans including representatives of identified marauders in the areas where those unfortunate incidents are taking place should also be invited to the meetings.
At such meetings, a carrot and stick approach has to be employed.
Participants must be made to know that going violent against one another is self-destructive.
Whatever is the bone of contention must be identified and be dealt with in a manner that would uphold justice and fairness. And the government must let it be known that anyone who violates the rule would be dealt with. And it must follow this warning with action when necessary.
Ajayi added that those who are sacking communities and taking over their lands must be stopped and dealt with accordingly.
The laws of the land make provision for how to acquire lands peacefully and legally. Such path is what should be followed. Anything short of that must be severely punished.
On the propriety of the said meetings, Afenifere maintained that most of the terror acts (or their perpetrators) are known to some leaders in the given areas hence the need to engage them frontally.
“The security agencies too need to buckle up more. It was reported for instance that those who operated in Plateau State carried out their dastardly act for hours without being checked. Army spokesman actually blamed the delay in their response to the distress calls received on the topography of the area. It is surprising that the army would consider any area in the country as difficult to navigate in view of the various trainings and exercises that they always carried out.
“While all the foregoing is being actualized, President Tinubu should come up with a Presidential Order proclaiming State and Local Government Police. Modern security technologies must also be acquired and deployed to various parts of the country without further delay”, he concluded.