Costs Of Banditry And Terrorism In Northern Nigeria, By Femi Agbedejobi

The foundation of the crisis we are experiencing in the northern parts of the country today started many decades ago. A few years before and after independence of Nigeria, northern leaders saw large population as political advantage and so they encouraged their people to have as many children as possible without planning for the up-bringing of the children. They got the political advantage, but they did not realize that large populations have huge social responsibilities.
If northern leaders have provided basic education and vocational skills for the young men who roamed the streets few years back, today there would have been large numbers of productive men contributing to the development of the nation from the region. The exploitative and oligarchic leadership style of the north is partly responsible for banditry and terrorism confronting the nation. Even though we are supposed to be practicing democracy, political leadership in the north is most often determined by the privileged few.
Population is only an advantage when citizens are educated and skilled, by so doing every citizen contributes to the wealth of the nation. When you encourage children to roam the streets begging for food without governmental and parental care, after a while these children will grow and become adults. When you have a large number of uneducated, unskilled and unemployable youths in any society, you have serious problems.
The North West has the highest poverty rate in Nigeria, as of 2019, all seven states in the zone had poverty levels above the national average of 40.1 per cent, led by Sokoto (87.7 per cent), Jigawa (87 per cent) and Zamfara (74 per cent). Millions lack access to basic health care, clean water, and immunization coverage is far below national rate. Lack of adequate investment in education over the decades have contributed to a literacy rate of 29.7 per cent. The zone currently has the highest number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. On top of those who do not attend school at all, millions of children are in the ill-supervised Quranic school system, or almajiranci, which produces cohorts of unskilled youths.
In many parts of north-western Nigeria, violence has deeply unsettled the economy. Agriculture, on which about 80 per cent of the population depends for livelihoods, has been particularly hard hit. For several years, farmers in the affected areas have been abandoning their fields for fear of attack or kidnapping. In Zamfara state, over 13,000 hectares of farmland have been either destroyed or rendered inaccessible as a result of attacks by herder-allied armed groups and criminal gangs. In Sokoto state, the State Emergency Management Agency reports that as of October 2019, some 21,316 hectares of farmland across five local government areas remained uncultivated, as 80,000 intimidated farmers stayed away. Huge numbers of livestock have similarly been lost: from 2011 to 2019, about 141,360 cattle and 215,241 sheep were rustled in Zamfara state, for example. These disruptions have impoverished farmers and herders alike, created food shortages in some communities, and aggravated malnutrition particularly among children.
Thousands of shops and other businesses in the rural areas in the north-western Nigeria have shut down due to attacks and kidnappings. Commerce has been disrupted. Thousands of shops and other businesses are in ruins or have shut down due to direct attacks and kidnappings of businessmen, which have fed rising fears of insecurity. Significant private property has been lost as of April 2019, Zamfara state reported “more than 10,000 houses, shops and silos” destroyed. With road travel hazardous, local traders are afraid to transport farm produce to markets. Investor confidence has also plunged. In May 2019, the National Trade Fair hosted by the state of Niger’s government recorded a very poor turnout, a situation that the president of the state’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Abdulkadir Hassan, attributed to would-be participants’ fears of bandit attacks and kidnapping.
It is a serious crime against humanity to bring forth children into the world without taking up the responsibility for the up-keep of the children. Both the Christian and Islamic religions instruct parents to train their children so they could grow with the knowledge and fear of God. Children abandoned to grow up on the streets without proper care will become social delinquents and dysfunctional citizens. This is what we are experiencing in the north today.
Presently the activities of the bandits are limited to the rural areas, however, the likelihood is that as the trend continues, a time will come when these activities will spread beyond the rural areas to the major cities. When the bandits become more sophisticated in their operations, they will become more daring and move their activities to the cities and then there will be no place to hide for the rich. If education is not provided for the children of the poor, a time will come when the neglected poor children will become bandits and terrorists that will kill the children of the rich who deprived them their rights to education.
Political leaders in the north keep making serious mistakes, they persuade bandits to drop their arms and then give them vehicles and huge sums of money. This approach cannot be sustained, what the northern governors should do is to establish farm settlements and vocational training centers across the region to provide crash programs for these people to learn trades and acquire skills that will make them productive citizens. Repentance without a source of livelihood is not sustainable, when they finish the money, they will go back to their trade.
Now we have these children in major cities all over the nation, nobody seems to be concerned with their presence, a time will come when they will grow up and become threats to the communities where they are located. The question of Almajiris in major cities should be a serious concern to both states and federal government. As a nation, we owe these children the responsibility to bring them up properly, it is only by so doing that Nigeria as a nation can harness their potentials for national development and have peace and security in the future.
Most of the problems confronting Nigeria today are results of improper planning, maladministration and corruption. The resources of the nation that should have been used to provide free education, affordable health services, infrastructure and jobs have been diverted into private hands. Millions of youths have no marketable skills, millions of graduates have no jobs, added to all of these covid-19 pandemic has rendered many more millions jobless and miserable. This is definitely not the best of time for Nigeria.
There is an urgent task at hand, as a matter of national commitment we must develop strategies to urgently put in place programs of trainings in agriculture, trade and societal integration to accommodate these unfortunate citizens who have become delinquents and criminals by reason of failure of governments at all levels in Nigeria.
We can still get it right if we re-set our national priorities with serious commitment to education, agriculture, job creation and social security…….


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