By Fredrick Nwabufo
On Wednesday, June 12, Adenipekun Ademiju, a staff member of Atakumosa West Local Government Area of Osun State embarked on a journey of no return. It was a quotidian day like any other, and there was nothing betokening tragedy. He boarded a bus from Osun town heading for Ibadan. On the expressway around Ikire community, a group of bandits emerged from the stout bushes and pumped a volley of bullets into the bus. Ademiju was unlucky.
On Friday, 58-year-old Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Reuben Fasoranti, a leader of Afenifere, was killed in a similar manner. She was coming from Akure and heading for Ore Junction when some bandits emerged from the cover of vegetation and pummelled her vehicle with bullets.
Also, three days ago, there was a video in circulation showing the scene of a “sibling” crime on Ore road – cars riddled with bullets from bandits and commuters in a state of higgledy-piggledy. And a day before that, there was another incident. As a matter of fact, travelling on this road may now be the quickest exit out of the world of the living.
But this tragedy is not discriminate or selective. It is omnipresent. According to a report by the Vanguard entitled, ‘Kidnapping, banditry, killings: 133 highways of terror’, major roads in the six geopolitical zones in the country are swamped with the violent crimes of kidnapping, banditry and killing. Specifically, 133 highways were reported as routes of death.
In the south-south, “28 major theatres of operation” were listed; in the north-west, 20 “dangerous roads” were reported; in the north-central, 33 “volatile roads” were listed; in the southeast, 11 flashpoints were outlined, and in the southwest, 41 “roads of terror” were reported.
The report deduced the reason for the ubiquity of these bandits in these words: “Specifics show that there is little or no presence of security agents in places where crimes like kidnapping and banditry occur. Oftentimes, security personnel arrive at such places after suspected criminals must have concluded their operations.”
We have a large swathe of unsecured spaces, and we have a diminutive number of security personnel to secure these spaces. Intelligence gathering is scarcely a yielding routine because of the disconnection between the police and the locals, who would rather want to secure themselves by forming vigilantes. This is the problem, and this is one strong point for the establishment of state police.
Although I had argued against the establishment of state police; it is becoming ludicrous to hold this view, considering the seeming intractable security challenge. Our security agencies are overstretched, kidnappings, banditry and killings are unabating; there is a cumulus of fear hanging in the air, and some Nigerians are resorting to self-help.
Policing must be local because crimes have residency. But I maintain that even with this arrangement, the control of the local force must not be exclusively in the hands of governors.
In addition, our police are obviously not very effective, but it will be uncharitable to put all the blame for the unchecked reign of terror on a force of which rank and file are unmotivated, badly trained and ill-equipped. The tardiness of the government in the face of this affliction cannot be discounted. When it appears the authorities are now awake and ready to do their job, after a reckonable name becomes a victim of bandits, they slither into somnambulism as soon as the outrage tapers off.
The current insecurity is depressing, but we must not for any reason make it about an ethnic group. Crime has no ethnic face. Individuals commit crime, not the ethnic group. And the motivations for crime do not come from the ethos of any group, but from personal greed and intent.
I say again, state/community policing, without exclusive governorship control, could be the answer to this malaise.
*Nwabufo writes via Twitter @FredrickNwabufo