That Nigeria is threatened by multi-faceted challenges, with insecurity very prominent on that list is trite. That this escalating insecurity is clearly gnawing away at the already very taut threads of our nationhood cannot be overstated.
Nigeria’s gamut of security challenges have become epitomised in the Boko Haram terrorist group. The human, political and economic toll from their vicious and murderous activities, coupled with their territorial ambition, have proved the greatest threat to peace and security in Nigeria in recent years. The Federal Government has done a commendable job of degrading the threat posed by this terrorist group, which has resulted in the reduced audacity, frequency and impact of their attacks.
While these encouraging advances against Boko Haram by the Nigerian Government are being celebrated in some quarters, what started as the “occasional” clashes between nomadic cattle herdsmen on the one hand and subsistence farmers in communities on the other, along the cattle grazing route in Nigeria, have taken a very disturbing and alarming turn to a murderous frenzy around the North Central and South East geo-political zones.
Groups of heavily armed marauders have audaciously invaded peaceful communities, unleashing mayhem with assault rifles and machetes, assaulting, murdering, raping, torching and sacking these communities with reckless abandon. With each incident that goes without any arrests or expected and decisive counteraction by our law enforcement agents, these terrorists in whatever guise they operate seem to have become more emboldened, leaving sorrow, tears and blood in their trail.
The news is widespread about the Agatu community in Benue State which had been under sustained ambush and attacks, usually in the dead of night, with over 500 people reportedly killed and houses, huts, farmlands and properties worth several millions of Naira destroyed.
On 26 April 2016, the serenity of the Nimbo Community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State was wantonly violated, again in the dead of night, with over 100 community members reportedly slaughtered in a most gruesome and barbaric manner. In the course of this attack, several residential houses were razed down, vehicles and motorcycles were destroyed and even domestic animals killed.
The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity is deeply concerned and exasperated that Nigeria’s security agencies have been inept at confronting these rampaging marauders before, during or after each orgy of wanton and well-orchestrated killings. Violent extremism and insurgencies fester and proliferate when treated with levity and nonchalance by government and its security agencies. The ´kwanta-Kwanta” group that robbed and terrorised traders and road users along the Biu-Maiduguri axes in the early nineties and the Boko Haram now terrorising the North East are clear cases in point. We, in NAS, are concerned that history may repeat itself, if the murderous menace of these rampaging marauders is not tackled boldly and decisively.
It is pertinent to point out the tendency we have as a nation to pass buck and use stereotypes to either do nothing or absolve criminals of responsibility for their crimes. Cultism has been a toga used severally by our security agencies and government to describe murder, armed robbery, arson, rape, aggravated assault and other felonies, just because they may have been committed by students on or off our tertiary institution campuses. This is wrong and has been responsible for the impunity exhibited by the perpetrators of these crimes.
We as a nation are faced with an escalating clear and present danger posed by these rampaging murderous marauders. There must be no ethnic colouration for crime, especially now we must collectively work assiduously towards nation-building. The confidence of the Nigerian citizen is not gained by rhetoric, rather it is earned when government acts as expected and decisively in matters of security and law; protecting its citizens and bringing to book those who have so dastardly violated the laws of the land and raped our collective sensibilities.
It is hardly encouraging and quite disappointing that no arrests have been made since the invasion of Nimbo Community just as Bishop Shanahan hospital morgue in Nsukka continues to be filled with the corpses of fellow Nigerians murdered in their homes as they slept.
A befitting memorial to them is to ensure that those who took their lives are brought to face the full wrath of the law by the same government who failed to protect them in the first instance. No less is expected. Therein lies the very core of the social contract between the individual and the state, without which we may be ebbing towards anarchy.
We must call a spade by its name and take our law enforcement agencies to task. Crimes should and must be punished!
Any attempt to use any stereotype or ethnic colouration to absolve these rampaging nomadic marauders of the killings and wanton destruction they have wreaked on peaceful farming communities all over Nigeria in whatever guise, will only succeed at heightening ethnic tensions, mistrust and highlighting the fault lines of our nationhood.
On a final note, the lives of ALL Nigerians remain sacrosanct; their trade, creed or location notwithstanding. Whether they are itinerant or nomadic; communal or settled, they have rights enshrined in our Constitution and deserve equal treatment and protection under the law. To ensure sustainable peace and unity in the country, government must use the immense coercive powers at its disposal to put an end to this avoidable bloodletting.
May the souls of the departed have peaceful repose.
Prince Ifeanyi Onochie
National Association of Seadogs,
30 April, 2016