The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) believes measures being taken by some state governments will compound the desperate conditions of living of many communities in the North. It is referring to suspension of markets, restrictions on sale of petrol, closure of schools and some roads, declaration of curfews, and restriction on movement of cattle. The forum also fears that the Federal Government’s plan to restrict communication “will only do more harm to the people”.
NEF made its position known in a statement by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed. It said it was closely monitoring the conditions of many Northern communities “that have become particularly vulnerable to attacks and abuse by bandits, kidnappers and related organized criminals”. While cautioning against those restrictions, NEF said “those who have powers to impose them also have clear ideas over what they could achieve and when.”
The forum pointed out that the restrictions would result in economic and social lockdowns on people who had been at the mercy of criminals for a long time. “Unless they are accompanied by an aggressive and effective assault on the banditry and kidnapping industry, they will merely add to the misery and hopelessness of our communities,” the statement said.
“Worse, they could further embolden the bandits and the kidnappers when it becomes clear that government and security agencies cannot go beyond lockdowns on communities. Communities themselves will lose even more faith in the capacity of the Nigerian State to respond to their desperate circumstances.
“The perception that communities are on their own must never be allowed to take deeper roots, but it will when people see only the bandits and the kidnapper winning.
The Forum calls on the federal government to assist the States to relieve communities that are now living under additional pressures. State governments imposing additional hardships on communities must know that the measures they are introducing must produce tangible results within a period that makes them meaningful and tolerable.”
For once, the NEF is making some sense. Notorious for its unreasonable confrontation against President Muhammadu Buhari and his central APC government, the forum fears, genuinely, that the measures state governments are taking to combat banditry and kidnapping suggest desperation, not thoughtfulness. If the latter were the case, then the governments would accompany those restrictions with sustained onslaughts on “the banditry and kidnapping industry”. But this is not happening. Rather, the measures have hemmed communities in, making them easy picks for bandits and kidnap kingpins, Definitely, this cannot be the intention of the state governments. But this is what desperation does. Please, let thoughtfulness now take over.