Army Negligence under Buhari Administration Gives Way to Vigorous Pursuit of Bandits
By Mike Odeh James
[Kaduna] Following the killing of kidnapper Nazifi Ibrahim and his cohorts in the southwest sector of Katsina State, Nigerians and analysts are beginning to hope the Nigerian military – long criticized for turning a blind eye to crimes by Fulani terrorists, –is confronting the terrorists headlong.
The death of Nazifi Ibrahim and some of his gang members on November 11, 2023 in Ugwuwar Tsamiya Village in Faskeri County followed a prompt response by the Nigerian Army to the villagers’ alarm about Nazifi’s activities in the area.
Nazifi Ibrahim is among several Fulani-tribe terrorist kingpins killed by the military in recent months. Since Bola Tinubu became Nigeria’s President in May 2023, the military has silently ramped up campaigns against Fulani terrorists in the Northwest and North Central States
GOING AFTER TERRORIST KINGPINS
Before Nazifi was killed,a notorious terrorist, Ahmed Dauda was killed in a security operation at Sangeko Forest in Kebbi State, and suspected members of his gang were also arrested during the operation on October 31 in Kebbi State.
The most powerful Fulani terrorist leader, Dogo Gide, reportedly was wounded on October 30, 2023, when a Nigerian Army unit launched a massive attack on his camps, according to Army spokesmen. TruthNigeria has not independently confirmed the claim.
Three of his men were killed, and a number of motorbikes and sophisticated weapons were seized.
Gide, who was wounded in the attacks, escaped with multiple gunshots, the Army spokesman claimed.
“The attacks on Gide’s camps in Zamfara and Kebbi States were well timed and aimed at taking him out once and for all,” said a defense analyst, who asked not to be named.
Following the downing of an Nigerian Air Force Helicopter on Aug.14, allegedly by fighters employed by Dogo Gide, which killed more than 20 military officers, the Nigeria Defense Chiefs vowed to avenge their deaths and targeted Gide.
Captain Ibrahim Yahaya, the Spokesman for Operation Hadin Daji confirmed to TruthNigeria the attack on Gide via a telephone chat.
“Our men raided his camps, and after fierce exchanges, Dogo Gide was wounded, and three of his men were killed while trying to assist him in getting away, but we shall get him and other terrorists either way.
“The Nigeria Army is currently conducting both land- and air operations in the Northwest States of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Katsina states, Yahaya said, adding, “We are also cooperating with other military formations in the North to smoke out the terrorists.”
Even before Gide’s camp was attacked, the Nigerian Defense Headquarters announced the killing of more than 100 terrorists in various air strikes carried out on the border between Niger and Zamfara during the third week of October.
The statement from the Defense Headquarters reads:
“Fighter jets conducted air strikes on bandits; I’m sure more than 100 were killed and almost twice that number were badly injured,” said one of the military officers involved in the operation.” TruthNigeria has not independently confirmed the claim.
Another air strike, which was carried out on Tuesday, Nov. 14, was the second most intensive aerial operation against bandits in Zamfara since 2015, when the military deployed to fight the gangs, according to the military authorities.
TERRORISTS IN PLATEAU, KADUNA BAUCHI POUNDED BY ARMY
The military has taken the fight against terrorists in Kaduna, Bauchi and Plateau states. The bands of militia, sometimes called “bandits”, are currently referred to as “terrorists,” instead of “unknown gunmen” as spokesmen called them under the Buhari Administration.
In Kaduna, the Nigerian Army reported on November 4, 2023, that it killed 7 bandits in Birnin Gwari and recovered motorcycles and other dangerous weapons used by the terrorists.
The Army also invaded terrorist camps in the Chibiya Forest in Kajuru, killed three terrorists, and seized a number of motorcycles and weapons on November 13.
Troops tasked with keeping peace in Plateau and parts of Bauchi and Kaduna States, have killed four terrorists and apprehended 17 others over various crimes within their areas of responsibility, according to Captain James Oya, the media spokesman for the units involved.
Oya explained that the suspects were arrested during a special operation conducted by its troops between Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.
NIGERIA’S MILITARY REFOCUSES ON BANDITS
Why the Turnaround?
Nigeria’s previous President, Muhammadu Buhari, did not want the military to tackle Fulani bandits because he is of their stock and religion, according to former Army Col. Hassan Stan Labo.
“The body language of the Former President did not suggest that Fulani terrorists be eradicated, so, the military commanders took a cue from their commander in chief, Labo told TruthNigeria.
“In fact, the former President was responsible for the escalation of the Fulani terrorists attacks, said Mordecai Funom, a retired military officer, in an interview with TruthNigeria.
“He [Buhari] was constantly in denial of Fulani terrorists, and he refused to allow the military to go after them. Even when the civilians formed their vigilante groups to defend themselves, the military would step in and disband them,” according to Funom.
There are indeed renewed efforts by the military to take down marauding terrorists in the Northwest and North Central, according to former Commissioner for Internal Security and Humanitarian Affairs in Niger State, Emmanuel Umar.
“Going by the persistent onslaught of the military against the terrorists in the Northwest and North Central, one would agree that the new Chief of Defense, State General Christopher Musa, is going all the way out to deal with the terrorists once and for all,” Umar told TruthNigeria.
He added that there are challenges.
“At the outset, the military needs to tackle the issue of ungovernable spaces both in the forest and with the need to have more security and military boots on the ground in the Northwest and North Central.
So far, the government under President Bola Tinubu is doing well regarding security, according to Umar.
“The federal government should go the whole hog and bomb all the forests in the Northwest and North Central,” according to Funom, who today is a journalist in Kaduna city.
“Former Governor Ahmad El Rufai had proposed a similar thing: that the Nigerian military should bomb all the forests if it wants to end the situation. There would be collateral damage, but carpet bombing by these guys would solve the problems,” said Funom.
BREAK FROM THE PAST?
In what seem to be a departure from his predecessor, President Bola Tinubu has said that the trial of terror suspects shall commence openly and virtually.
Nigeria’s Attorney General, Lateef Fagbemi, made the surprising announcement on November 16, 2023 during a meeting of heads of intergovernmental agencies in Abuja.
Reacting to Fagbemi’s shocking announcement, Funom said,
“This is the first hint that the government is ready to break with the past .Unlike the Buhari administration where bandits and Boko Haram are pampered and given amnesty, this won’t happen again”.
Mike Odeh James is a conflict reporter in Kaduna and covers crime and terrorism for TruthNigeria.