Celebration of Democracy Day in this country two days ago was completely overshadowed by heinous insecurity episodes all the way from the North-East to the North-West and down to the North Central states.

The single worst outrage occurred on Tuesday last week when suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked Faduma Kolomdi village in Gubio local government area, killed 81 residents, injured 13 more and abducted seven others, including the village head. A man who escaped the attack told Governor Babagana Zulum that the terrorists arrived in gun trucks and armored tanks, operated for about six hours, disarmed the villagers of their local weapons, pretended to be preaching, and then opened fire indiscriminately. They also rustled 400 cattle heads.

Even though Boko Haram has committed many such outrages over the years, the Faduma Kolomdi massacre was the worst such massacre since last February’s attack at Auno town, near Maiduguri. Last week’s attack was all the more shocking because Army Chief Lt General Tukur Buratai had just returned from several weeks of leading operations in the North East. He briefed President Buhari and later spoke to reporters about the successes achieved in recent weeks. Most likely, the terrorists carried out the heinous attack at Faduma Kolomdi in order to send a message that they are not yet finished. To kill over 80 innocent women and children in order to “send a message” is animalistic, heinous, barbaric and a crime against humanity.

The army said it was “deeply saddened” by the incident and that it had sent its men after the perpetrators. However, many tongues are wagging as to the military and other security agencies’ very slow reaction time. There is an ongoing military onslaught in the region to finish Boko Haram once and for all. It is therefore inexplicable that the killings went on for six hours without the military intervening.

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Even before we recovered from the shock attack in Borno, news filtered in that bandits had carried out more outrages in six communities of Safana, Dutsinma and Danmusa local governments of Katsina State. Police said 47 people were killed in last week’s attacks but residents said they recovered 70 bodies. The bandits also set fire to villages, seized food items, money and cattle from the people. All these happened even though there is a military operation ordered by President Buhari to uproot the bandits from his home state. Katsina has recently become the epicenter of bandit attacks, but northern Zamfara and Sokoto states are also experiencing cruel attacks on isolated communities by the same bandits.

Also very worrisome in the past week was the situation in southern Kaduna State. Banditry as well as tit-for-tat inter communal attacks in Chikun and Kajuru local governments were compounded by fighting between tribal groups in Zangon Kataf local government, said to be over farmland. Between March and May this year, 92 people were killed in these local governments and the neighbouring ones of Birnin Gwari, Igabi and Giwa.

Neighbouring Niger State has also been in the grip of bandits for many months now, with deadly attacks on communities in Shiroro Local Government and the killing of scores of people. Kogi, Benue and Nasarawa states are also quite unsafe with bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers still besieging communities, blocking highways and kidnapping people in their homes. In the past week, clerics, politicians, legislators, activists and community leaders all over the region have been raising their voices over these killings across the North. The Borno Elders Forum even said “someone somewhere is bent on wiping out the Northern population.”

We do not believe that anyone is trying to do that but clearly, we have an emergency on our hands which requires the greatest concentration of the minds of our leaders. So far, there is no evidence of such. As a matter of top national priority, far more than was accorded to COVID-19, the security agencies must be reinforced, equipped and motivated to end insurgency and banditry once and for all. Without security, nothing else matters. We are disappointed that President Buhari did not pay it adequate attention in his June 12 speech and went on reeling “achievements” when lives are not secured.

*This Editorial was first published by Daily Trust on June 14, 2020.