Ilorin, Kaduna, Benin, Lagos, Katsina, Sokoto, Maukurdi, Jalingo, Abuja — Nigerians were piqued by last week's ominous signal from the Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa, Major General Dagvin Anderson, who warned that Al-Qaida and ISIS are deploying several strategies to establish themselves in Nigeria's North-West.
Major General Dagvin Anderson had warned that the Islamic State in West Africa and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and gradually taking over the West African region after losing ground in Syria, Iraq and in the Middle East.
But this was downplayed by the Nigeria's Defence Headquarters when the Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche, said the Nigerian Armed Forces was not oblivious of the potency of such infiltration, noting that it was the Nigerian military which raised alarm on movement of terrorists from the Middle East to West Africa and was conscious of it.
"For me", he said, "This is not the first time they are raising such an alarm. The alarm is as old as maybe five or 10 years ago and the armed forces and the country are conscious of it. When the conflict in Libya was declared officially that it ended, which did not end what happened? It was we, our NIA, state service and all that raised the information that these people are moving.
"Have we not captured foreigners among the people that have been terrorising us in this country? So it is just like a call to keep doing what you are doing, so the general public should know that the security agencies are on top of that one."
Enenche added; "Recently we captured some in Niger State, where are they coming from"? He said strategies had been put in place to halt them.
He described the warning as rather a call to sustain the onslaught against Boko Haram terrorists and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Terrorists are everywhere - Expert
Reacting, an international terrorism and development consultant, Dr. Amaechi Nwokolo, says members of Al-Qaeda are 'everywhere.'
He said the terrorists are in sleeper cells but dormant and waiting to be activated.
"They are in sleeper cells. They have infiltrated all nooks and crannies, all that the cells need is activation and they will hit us hard," he said, adding that plans of the terrorists are not connected to the ongoing unrest in the northern part of the country.
"We don't know what they may want to attack but that they are everywhere, the fact that they are not striking in Abuja does not mean they are not there. Are we ready for the next attack?" he queried, adding that there was a need for political will, investment in the public and intelligence gathering.
"Without robust intelligence, these guys might do us very dangerous harm sometimes in the near future. There is a role for the public to play in providing intelligence for our security agencies but the public cannot do it by themselves," he said. He said there was need to sensitise the public because the public is an important instrument in counterintelligence strategy but members of the public do not know much about how they could be involved.
"The public has a lot to provide in tackling terrorism in any nation but our public has been denied that needed information. We need to fund and arm our intelligence services," he said.
"Our security agencies need to do more on intelligence, involvement, and infiltration because these guys (terrorists) are everywhere trying to gather our movements and lifestyles, we too should adopt counterintelligence so that before they harm us we can get them," he said.
He said the country had been unsuccessful in its fight against terrorism due to a lack of political will and complacency.
"As a people and government, we need to re-jig and strengthen our resilience to be able to curtail and manage this thing. Each time we do something they come and harm us again that is why are going back and forth and our policing in this era is still weak, we need stronger policing and credible and robust intelligence with modern equipment, technology, and public," he said.
Military needs public support - Kontagora
Major General Anderson's warning was re-echoed by a former military administrator in Benue State, retired Colonel Aminu Isa Kontagora when he told Daily Trust on Sunday in Ilorin that every security watcher of events in the region should know that the insurgency would spread to other parts of the country.
"We should not forget that Boko Haram at the initial stage pledged allegiance to Al-Qaida. Unfortunately, the ISIS also established camps in Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria and other countries. I believe the military should have made preparations to contain these groups of insurgency particularly in the North-East, where they are likely to have alliance with Boko Haram.
"The military is trained to contain any form of insurgency. Already they have an existing group they are still battling with. The military can stand up to Al-Qaida, what they need to do is to adapt to their tactics to be able expunge them from any part of the country.
"Though their doctrine is different from that of Boko Haram, their spread to the North-West will only compound Nigeria's security situation but the military is capable of standing up to the challenge.
He said for the military to expunge the groups, the Nigerian public need to support them by giving them necessary information because the insurgents won't wear uniform, but live among the people in communities and even indoctrinate them.
"So people need to report strange faces or strange happenings in their localities to the authorities for it to be easy for the military to contain the insurgency groups in the country," he added.
The US warning might not be unconnected to the insurgents' quest for territorial expansion as had been the case in Iraq and Syria before being dislodged.
Despite the assurances from the Defence Headquarters, the country is riddled with motley of security problems as have manifested in different ways in several parts of the country through insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, and others, putting the citizens on edge.
Despite spending billions on security, Kaduna remains unsafe
The Kaduna State government says it has spent N16 billion to support security agencies and acquire technology and infrastructure to fight insecurity in the state, but several security breaches have resulted in the loss of many lives in the recent past, especially in the southern part of the state.
For instance, just when people were lamenting over the killing of several people in the area the previous week, on August 6, about 33 people were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked five villages in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of the state.
The attack happened a few days after gunmen attacked three herders in same area after grazing their cattle at Goragam Area of Zangon Kataf.
There was confusion in Udawa in Chikun Local Government Area recently when suspected armed bandits killed a businessman identified as Malam Jafaru Bello in his farm at Goluwa on July 31, and abducted three other farmers at Udawa which shares border with Birnin Gwari Local Government Area.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai told the state's council of emirs and chiefs that the money spent on security would have gone into developmental projects if the people had chosen to live in peace.
He noted that part of the misleading narrative on the crisis in southern Kaduna was the false claims of genocide and land grabbing, emphasizing that the claims had no basis whatsoever.
He said government would review and upgrade the chieftaincy system, adding, "A new law would be enacted to protect the traditional institution and ensure that, before any emirate or chiefdom is created, it will pass through the state assembly where the representative of the people will have the opportunity to vote and support it before it is done."
In Edo State, the crime rate has been on the rise with security agents continuously battling to curb it.
The prevalent crimes in the state are armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism and rape.
Between January and July, over 300 suspects have been paraded by the police over alleged involved in kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, and murder among others.
A Benin-based lawyer, Osiobase Omo-Iyoha and a former commissioner for youths and sports, Egbe Ediagbonya, were abducted and later killed by their abductors.
Ediagbonya was killed even after the kidnappers had collected a ransom from his family.
Last month, a Catholic priest, Rev. Father Amadasun Idahosa, was kidnapped along the Benin-Ekpoma road by gunmen and was released after one week.
It was learnt that in the last two three months over 12 persons had been killed in cultism related fights in the state.
The state government in its bid to check the trend, established a security outfit named Wabaiziga, but despite that, crime persists in the state even as the police spokesman, DSP Chidi Nwanbuzor, said the command was working to reduce it crime to the barest minimum.
Kidnapping persists in Lagos
Scores of people are kidnapped, robbed or attacked by different bands of criminals in different parts of Lagos.
Though, cases of kidnapping have reduced in Lagos in recent time, the rising cases of cult activities is said to be part of the organized crime, which the police command is struggling to contain.
Intermittent banditry in Katsina
In Katsina, banditry is being recorded intermittently across Jibia, Safana, Danmusa, Batsari, Dandume, Sabuwa, Kankara, Faskari, and Dutsinma local government areas.
Though residents admitted the presence of security personnel in most of the areas, bandits still carry out attacks that have led to mass relocation of villagers to places perceived to be relatively safe.
Many people have abandoned their farms for fear of being abducted by bandits.
Last Thursday, bandits ransacked several villages of Kureci, Giye, Gurza, Gurzan Kuka, Makanwaci, Didu, Ukalawa, Tsasr Mangwaro, Sanawa and Unguwar Bera, dislodging the residents and taking away their livestock and other valuables.
Last week in Garwa village of Batsari Local Government Area, one Malam Sadi was killed when bandits attacked Tudun Wada village, and also killed one Abdulhadi Husamatu.
This recent attack sparked protests by the villagers who blocked the highway to draw attention to their plight.
A visit to the areas showed women and children carrying what remained of their belongings and fleeing.
Fatima Abbas from Dogon Ruwa village said, "I fear for my life and have to move. Our villages came under attack and as you can see we are moving out."
Another woman, Barira Suleiman and her eight children from Kurechi village said, "I'm relocating to Karhi village to squat with a relation. I am lucky to be safe but I don't know what may happen afterwards"
In Sokoto, residents live in fear of bandits
Sabon Birni is one of the areas often infiltrated by bandits in Sokoto State. The place had in recent times experienced series of attacks which led to the destruction of lives and property. In one of the attacks at Gangara village, over 22 people were killed.
According to the report released by the State Emergency Management Agency, 105 persons including women and children lost their lives within two months in the area.
The report added that 12,753 were displaced from the 10 villages ravaged by the marauders.
The Director General of the agency, Alhaji Nasiru Aliyu, noted that 3,826 of the victims were females while 6,377 were children.
Aliyu added that 2,551 males were among the displaced persons taking refuge in several camps across the area.
Sabon Birni is neighbouring Isa Local Government Area which had also been attacked several times. It would be recalled that about 10 people were killed in several villages in the area last month.
The villages include Bafarawa, Arune, Suruddudu, Sabon Gari Lugi, Tsillawa, Gwalama and Dan Adama.
The attackers who were said to be retaliating the military onslaught on them took away livestock and looted every available shop in the villages, before displacing over 5,000 persons.
Other local government areas that had come under attack include Goronyo, Wurno and Rabah where dozens were killed and several livestock were seized.
It was generally believed that most of the bandits operating in the eastern part of Sokoto State, migrated from neighbouring Zamafara State and Niger Republic.
Isa Local Government Area has border with Shinkafi in Zamfara State while Rabah has border with Bakura, another local government area in Zamfara State.
However, there are many legitimate and illegitimate routes to Niger Republic from in that axis.
A Sokoto based security expert, Squasron Leader Aminu Bala Sokoto (rtd), observed that the attackers were Fulanis who were not happy with the peace deal in Zamfara State and as such migrated to Sokoto to continue with their operations.
"When Zamfara state government called for dialogue, they agreed and surrendered their weapons, but there were renegades among them who are now operating in Sokoto and deserve not to be given carrot treatment at all," he said.
Moreover, there were places in the northern part of the state which because of their proximity to Niger Republic also experienced attacks.
These places were Gudu and Tangaza local government areas where many residents, including the district head of Balle, the headquarters of Gudu Local Government Area were killed.
Daily Trust on Sunday however gathered that the attacks have drastically reduced because of the sustained military operations in the area.
The sole administrator of one of the local government areas who pleaded anonymity said the bandits were reduced to a mere gang of kidnappers who storm remote areas, pick one or two persons and demand ransom before releasing them.
Farmers/herders conflicts being checked in Benue
In Benue State, farmer/herders conflicts in over 12 local government areas had caused the displacement of thousands of rural dwellers who sought shelter in various Internally Displaced Peoples' (IDP) camps.
However, the situation has now reduced in some of the LGAs while there are still relatively low attacks on communities in fewer areas such as Guma, Logo and Gwer West.
The state currently battles with kidnappers, militia warlords, cultists and armed robbers amidst increase in communal clashes on many fronts across the senatorial districts.
Despite that the banditry persists under different shades in flash points across the state, security forces have not relented.
Kidnappers continue to operate in places such as Makurdi, Ado, Okpokwu and Sankera axis.
Furthermore, the consistent Tiv/Jukun crisis in Taraba State with its usual spill-over to border villages in Benue had left nothing but bitter taste for the inhabitants of Ukum, Kastina-Ala and Logo, all three local government areas which make up Sankera where the dreaded wanted militia kingpins including Terwase Agwaza (Gana) held sway.
The Benue State Security Council has approved the recruitment of 2,300 personnel of community policing and 460 community volunteer guards also known as vigilante, to complement the efforts of conventional security agencies.
Kidnapping, militia attacks worry Taraba
Kidnapping and attacks by militia groups have become major security challenges in Taraba State.
Findings revealed that activities of kidnappers in some local government areas of the state have forced many wealthy individuals to relocate from their residences and it has prevented many farmers from going to their farms.
Areas facing constant threats from kidnappers include Jalingo, Gassol, Lau, Ardo, Kola, Bali, Gashaka, Donga and Ibbi local government areas.
Daily Trust on Sunday findings revealed that in the last few weeks, over 25 persons were abducted in Jalingo, Bali, Gassol, Karim-Lamido and Lau local government areas.
Those abducted include a former senator, Zik Sunday, and the imam of the Taraba State Police Command, among others.
Millions of naira was paid as ransom for the release of those abducted.
Ismail Adebayo, Maryam Ahmadu-Suka, Usman A. Bello, Eugene Agha, Habibu Umar Aminu, Abubakar Auwal, Hope Abah Emmanuel, Magaji Isa Hunkuyi & Taiwo Adeniyi