Bandits have been operating in most of the North- western states for more than a decade, but the situation has deteriorated in recent years. Kidnapping, cattle rustling, mass abduction, arson, and even armed robbery are all classified as banditry in the region.
It began as a dispute between farmers and livestock herders but has since escalated into terrorism. Since January, bandits have kidnapped over 1000 people after shooting down an air force jet.
Despite efforts by security authorities and local vigilante organisations, as well as attempts by some governors to appease the robbers, the attacks have continued.
Sokoto Communities In Uncertainty And Fear Over Failure To Pay Bandits Tax
Uncertainty, anxiety, and bewilderment have engulfed villages in Sokoto’ s Sabon Birni Local Government Area following the bandits’ seven- day ultimatum to people to pay levy or face attack.
Locals were given a week ultimatum by bandits operating in the area, which recently expired.
The bandits in Sabon Birni local area and neighbouring councils have imposed a charge on no less than ten communities where bandits conduct repeated operations.
The bandits, they claim, set the tax based on the community’ s population, farming capability, and the number of weekly market days. According to the source, inhabitants of the communities contribute under a structure in which youths provide N1, 000 and household leaders each contribute N2, 000 to settle communal levies.
Our correspondent learned that the bandits have been imposing levies on individuals and towns for the past year and that many locals have been forced to pay funds to them regularly to avert attacks.
This, they claimed, was the most expedient method to restore calm and solve the issue of bandit attacks and other crimes plaguing the region.
Residents also expressed their dissatisfaction with the spread of insurgent operations in the area, stating they agreed to pay the levies since the government had failed to solve the issues. Similarly, other localities that have yet to begin remitting levies have been given a deadline to comply.
Those who refuse to comply, according to local reports, fear being attacked. Tagirke, Baure, Dogon Marke, Mallamawa, and Makuwana are among the localities said to have paid a fee of N2 million apiece in the past.
Hon. Almustapha Gobir, a member of the state House of Assembly who represents Sabon Birni Local Government, confirmed the bandits’ introduction of the levies, saying that some of the communities have agreed to pay the money so that the bandits stop attacking them.
Alhaji Idris Ahmad Gobir, the former chairman of the area, revealed that the bandits have begun collecting the tax from many communities in the area.
He added that the majority of the locals who could not afford to pay the bandits’ levies have fled to safer havens in nearby villages and border settlements in the Niger Republic.
” The insecurity situation in the area is fast taking a more pathetic dimension because the bandits have occupied and taken control of the area, ” Gobir said. He added that the threats by the bandits to attack communities for failure to pay the levies did not come to the affected communities as a surprise.
” The threats should be taken with all seriousness considering their antecedents as on several events, they mean their words, ” said he. However, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Kamaluddeen Kola Okunlola, despite the claims, said such a statement is not true.
Bandits imposed a levy on no village in Sokoto, according to Okunlola. Residents in the affected districts have also urged the government to reconsider their approach to fighting insurgents, claiming that the current strategy isn’ t working.
The communities also urged the three levels of government to intervene by protecting citizens’ lives and property, as well as resolving the insurgent issue once and for all.
Bandits Collecting Taxes Doesn’ t Mean They’ ve Taken Over– Lai Mohammed
It’ s noteworthy to recall that the Information Minister Lai Mohammed on Thursday, October 28 said violent extremists collecting taxes from citizens across the northern parts of the country constitute the same security threat as street thugs extorting cash from citizens in the southern parts of the country.
The minister said bandits and terrorists operating across the northern region should not be seen as running their enclaves outside federal jurisdictions just because they can amass financial gains through violence and intimidation.
” The issue is not about bandits collecting taxes, ‘ ‘ Mr Mohammed said. ” But that’ s not the same as saying there is a new caliphate. ”
Mr Mohammed said there are several communities across the South where armed thugs impose levies on residents without consequences.
” Do you know how many places in this country where area boys collect taxes and there is no banditry there?
” I don’ t want to mention names. In many of our cities, they carve out their territories. So what they are writing is nothing. It is not indicative that the bandits have taken over, ” the minister said at a press briefing in his office on Thursday.
Whereas there are street thugs in Lagos and other southern cities, they operate largely under the shadows. But insurgents and bandit gangs in northern communities often sack security forces and introduce quasi- administrative roles to government trapped locals.
Mr Mohammed’ s comments come as the regime ramps up its pushback against The Economist’ s latest issue that criticised President Muhammadu Buhari. The publication noted that under Mr Buhari, Nigeria had become a crime scene of destructive magnitude on the African continent, pointing out that terrorists and armed bandits are running wild because the president is corrupt and lazy, failing to do anything but render lip service following every deadly attack.
The minister also criticised the Nigerian media for publishing Western outlets.
” The point is about you (Nigeria media) swallowing hook, line and sinker, a report by a foreign organisation, which you have not even interrogated yourself, that’ s my problem, ” the minister said.
Mr Mohammed’ s new position on the credibility of Western media marked a stark breakaway from his days as opposition spokesman, especially between 2013 and 2015 when he was in charge of talking points for the then- opposition APC.
State Legislators Ask FG To Declare Bandits As Terrorists
Recall that the State Legislators of Nigeria, an umbrella body of the Speakers of the 36 State Houses of Assembly have called on the Federal Government to declare banditry and kidnappings as acts of terrorism.
According to the lawmakers, this will lead to the solution to the insecurity challenges facing the country.
The request formed part of the resolutions reached during the 2021 Third Quarter General Meeting of the Conference of the State Legislators of Nigeria held at the Katsina Government House last month.
The Chairman of the Speakers Forum and Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Abubakar Suleiman, while reading a communique produced at the end of the meeting, decried the spate of insecurity in the country.
According to the communique, the lawmakers resolved to work out legislative frameworks to complement the efforts of the Federal Government to fight insecurity in the country.
He added that the conference also resolved to make appropriate laws to address fundamental issues such as unemployment.
The meeting also called for financial autonomy across the country.
” The conference while commending the governors who have given assent to the fund management bills passed by respective state assemblies called on other state governors who are yet to do so to give assent to the bill for effective and efficient implementation of financial autonomy across the nation, ” he said.
Earlier, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, who declared the conference open, called on the Federal Government to declare a State of Emergency on National security to bring an end to the loss of lives and property across the state.
Reactions To Lai Mohammed’ s Claims That Bandits Collecting Taxes Doesn’ t Mean They’ ve Taken Over
Reactions continue to trade a statement attributed to Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the fact that bandits are imposing levies in some communities in the North does not mean they have taken control of the state.
The minister added it takes place in many parts of the country, including in the South where touts commonly referred to as ‘ area boys’ , impose levies.
Reacting, Daily Digest on October 29, callers had a lot to tell host, Wemimo Adewuni, one caller said Agberos (touts) should not be compared to terrorists that maim and kill.
He however noted that something significant in the Minister’ s statement. According to him, the Agberos could become bandits in the future if not checked.
” How will you be driving your car and somebody will say you cannot pass here unless you pay. We have to listen to Lai Mohammed In that area, ” he added.