The Security experts have suggested that the bandits operating in the North-West and North Central parts of Nigeri, particularly in Zamfara State and along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, should be declared and treated as terrorists.
In separate interviews with our correspondents on Friday, the experts said kidnapping for ransom was a common way terrorists raise funds to launch their ultimate agenda.
They said the earlier the Federal Government designate the marauders as terrorists and provide the military and police with sophisticated weapons to fight them, the better for the country.
The Chief Executive of Security Watch Africa, Mr. Patrick Agbamu, said the bandits could even be an extension of Boko Haram terrorist group.
“I believe these are not just ordinary bandits, they are terrorists and the earlier we act on this, the better for us,” he said.
He added, “The bandits are starting with kidnapping and doing so for ransom in order to raise funds. You know Boko Haram in the North-East is being decimated and the region is no longer safe for them to operate in, so most of them have started migrating to the North-West for survival and this is why we are seeing an upsurge in kidnappings there.”
Agbamu said military intervention alone was not enough to solve the security situation in the North-West, but rather the government should support the police to effectively tackle banditry.
Similarly, a United-Kingdom trained criminologist and Chairman of Puma Eye Security Services, Mr. Pedro Ayandokun, said the government should designate the bandits as terrorists.
“We should tag them as terrorists. This is how terrorists always start their operations before they become fully-fledged terrorists. These bandits are terrorists,” he said.
The security analyst also believed the bandits could be an arm of Boko Haram or planning to build a more powerful terrorist group than Boko Haram.
“If the government refuses to designate them as terrorists now and fight them as one, they would wreak havoc on the country later,” he said.
A former Director of the Department of State Services, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, also said going by the manner in which the bandits were operating, they deserved to be treated like terrorists.
“What is the meaning of terrorism? Is it not to create fear and panic? They (bandits) are terrorists; there is no other name to give them and they should be classified as such,” he said.
Ejiofor called for a state of emergency in security, clarifying that a state of emergency declaration did not mean the governor of the affected state should be relieved of their job.
He said, “What I mean is to take security as a priority and get it properly funded. Without that, you cannot continue to fight this (insecurity) with soldiers and policemen, some of them already compromised, conspiring with the bandits and working together.”
Similarly, a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, General Idada Ikponmwen, said he did not see any “significant” difference among the bandits, herdsmen and the Boko Haram terrorists, whose activities had all led to a breakdown of security in the country.
“I strongly believed that the security apparatus in this country has failed very woefully. I am not saying that all the heads are inefficient,” he said.
Also calling for the designation of the bandits as terrorists, security consultant, Mr John Eweliku, said there was the need to recruit more personnel into the security agencies, adding that efforts should be made to beef up security at all the borders.
He said, “Look at our borders; we hear that there are over 1,400 illegal entry points into Nigeria. How do you man them without adequate personnel?”
Security professional, Mr Chigozie Ubani, said beyond the name the bandits were called, they should be dealt with in accordance with the law, noting that law enforcement and judicial institutions seemed to be weak.
“The first thing should be to apprehend these people and deal with them according to the law,” he said.
Commuters shun bus parks, besiege Abuja train stations
Following the spate of kidnapping on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, checks by Saturday Punch on Friday indicated that the residents have shunned the bus parks and have opted for trains.
Meanwhile, Abuja bus drivers have lamented the lack of patronage from commuters following the insecurity on the highways which they said had affected their income.
They stated that kidnappers operating on Kaduna-Abuja; Zamfara-Sokoto; Kaduna-Kano and Abuja-Lokoja Highways and other inter-city roads, have almost destroyed their livelihood.
Checks also showed that the hitherto busy Utako park, was now a shadow of itself as only few passengers were seen boarding the buses.
The Deputy State Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, FCT branch, Alh. Ibrahim Gaji, said the insecurity on the highways had severely impacted the transport business, adding that passengers were scared of travelling by road.
Gaji explained that bandits who hitherto attacked commercial vehicles have turned to kidnapping which they felt was more lucrative.
He added, “People are no longer travelling by road because of the rise in kidnapping on the highways. This wasn’t happening under the previous administration, it appeared that some people were using the criminals to sabotage this government.
“Five vehicles hardly move out of the park daily. Now, only few vehicles travel to Kaduna daily because passengers are scared of travelling by road and this has affected our business.”
Gaji stated that the union had reported the development to the NURTW National President, Najeem Yasin, who he said had conveyed their concerns to President Muhammadu Buhari.
A Lokoja bus driver, Ibrahim Isah, also decried the poor security on the highways, noting that bandits still operated on Abuja-Lokoja road, particularly between Abaji and Koton-Karfe.
He narrated how a fellow driver collided with another vehicle while attempting to escape from a robbery attack around Koton-Karfe in Kogi State.
Isah lamented that the volume of travellers had reduced following the incessant attacks on the road.
He said, “The criminals are still active on the road despite the presence of security operatives. The policemen stayed at a location, extorting motorists instead of patrolling the road. Their presence has not provided any succour or safety to road users.”
Our correspondent who visited the Idu train station observed a huge crowd of passengers struggling to purchase unavailable tickets. It was learnt that the Kaduna tickets had sold out, but desperate passengers were waiting in a long line to buy tickets which would enable them to stand for the two-hour trip.
A legal practitioner, Murja Audu, said she had to be in Kaduna for her weekend programme, explained that she wished to buy the ticket regardless of the fact that she would have to stand for the duration of the journey.
According to her, the rowdy situation in Idu was not different from the Rigasa train station, Kaduna, where ticket racketeering and rowdy booking system was the order of the day.
She said, “I have been waiting at the station for over two hours and the ticketing officers were not selling tickets. The government should sanitize the booking system, make it online and ensure that bulk purchase is tied to the customer’s identity card to prevent racketeering.
“We also need more coaches because people preferred using the trains on account of the security situation on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.”
An architect, Muhammed Sani, who rued the rowdy booking system and the hassles of getting tickets at the Idu and Rigasa stations, stated that his decision to travel to Kaduna by train was informed by the kidnapping on the road.
He called on the government to introduce online booking system, adding that the security network on the road and across the nation should be strengthened.
Another commuter, Victor Ojion, expressed frustration over his inability to get a train ticket, noting that there was no information from any official about the time tickets would be available for the teeming passengers.