Who will guard the Guards?January 11th, 2022
Armed bandits are wreaking havoc on Nigeria’s north-western region, hurting communities and driving fear into citizens. As 25-year-old Nigerian correspondent Adedoyin Ajayi points out, the situation is becoming even more complex as the criminals have begun to target the very people who are charged with ensuring the safety of others. But, what does this mean for the country if law enforcement cannot protect itself?
Who will guard the guards?
One might think of this question in relation to controlling the excesses of those in power and examining how to hold them to account. However, in North-Western Nigeria, it is a question that might simply be interpreted in its literal sense due to the ugly spate of events that have transpired in the beleaguered part of the country.
Bandit attacks have dotted the landscape, and sadly, are fast becoming what the region is known for. Their organized attacks on homes, farmlands, villages and communities have become commonplace. Countless lives have been lost and many others are displaced. And even as citizens cower in fear, those in law enforcement are struggling to effectively serve and protect as they, too, are under siege.
While the scourge of the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, runs riot in the North-East, bandits have been a bane in the North-West. As used in this context, ‘bandits’ loosely refers to armed groups which carry out dastardly attacks on communities. Their repertoire of ugly acts largely involves (but is not limited to) sacking villages, killing, looting and kidnapping.
The North-Western states (Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano and Kebbi) have been hit hardest. Unlike Boko Haram, these bandits are neither considered to have affiliations with international terrorist networks, nor do they have religious extremism at their core. While unarmed citizens have been their main targets, it seems they are unlocking a new and possibly more dangerous level of criminality, with the Nigeria Police Force now in the firing line of their onslaughts.
On July 18, 2021, thirteen police officers were murdered, as a unit of mobile operatives was ambushed while responding to distress calls in Kurar Mota, a village in Bungudu Local Government Area, Zamfara state. It is believed this attack was intended to prevent the police from liberating the besieged community.
Frighteningly, there was a separate attack just five days later on Maraban Jos divisional headquarters in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna state. Armed bandits stormed the police headquarters, opening fire with the intention of overpowering the officers and looting the armoury. Although no one died, an inspector and two other officers were wounded. Community attacks, admittedly, are more common, but what would push bandits to attack a police headquarters? Was this a one-off event or would it become the norm? More worryingly, what hope can exist for everyday citizens if the guards themselves are under siege?
The apparent inability of the Nigeria Police Force to effectively curb the menace has left the general population fearful for their safety. The seeming indifference that the federal government has adopted towards the situation has sparked whispers of tribalism which have created further panic. The attack on the police HQ was to loot the armoury. Was it also to create yet more fear among the people? Was the audacity shown by the bandits to open fire on a police headquarters borne out of a belief of superiority?
Clashes between these bandits and the police have shown that the gunmen make use of sophisticated weapons and utility vehicles. It has long been debated that the inability of law enforcement to effectively deal with the challenge is due to their inferior weaponry. It is worth stating that some skirmishes between the police and these bandits have ended in victory for the police. However, the thought that armed bandits roam about the North-West, wielding weapons more sophisticated than law enforcement officers is indeed harrowing.
The future of citizens and arguably the police appears shrouded in uncertainty as the police look ill-equipped to handle the criminal situation, let alone ensure their own safety. So, who will guard the guards if the guards are unable to defend themselves?
Photo Credit: The Guardian Nigeria
About Adedoyin Ajayi: He studied Economics from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and graduated with first class honours. He likes reading and writing on issues pertaining to developing countries. He has published two academic papers on tourism and its interrelated factors in MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). In addition to academic papers, he loves creative writing, and some of his literary works have been published in online African literary journals like Brittle Paper. He aims to further his education with a postgraduate degree in Development Economics.