THE resurgence of mass killings of innocent citizens including children and pregnant women in parts of the country including Rivers, Benue and Kaduna states by yet –to- be identified gunmen within 48 hours into the New Year is not only barbaric and condemnable but should be seen as a national threat that requires urgent solution. We demand an immediate end to such extra-judicial killings.
Nigerians were shocked to their marrows with the news of three separate bloodletting incidents, the gunning down of least 17 worshippers returning from church on the eve of the New Year by assailants at Omoku in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (ONELGA) Local Government Area in Rivers State; the killing of the Etum Numana, His Royal Highness, Gambo Makama and his wife at their residence in the early hours of January 1, 2018 by yet unknown assassins in Southern Kaduna as well as the massacre of another 17 persons in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Regrettably, however, according to media reports, in all three dastardly attacks, no single assailant has been apprehended by the security agents, an ugly trend that had dogged previous killings in the affected states before now.
For instance, in the case of Benue, the Governor, Samuel Ortom, alleged that security agents were informed ahead of time before the suspected Fulani herders came to massacre the people.
”The security agencies of this country are aware of what is happening in Benue. So many people are being killed, many houses destroyed, some innocent children were slaughtered, other sliced in the throats just because they want to be law abiding.
“Even among the livestock guards, who were there to ensure that there are no clashes, nine of them were killed and innocent women and children were killed. This is not fair”, Ortom said, while addressing journalists after visiting some of the victims receiving treatment at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH, Makurdi, the state capital.
Elsewhere at Omoku, Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike during an on-the-spot visit to the scene of the killings, offered a N200million bounty to anyone with information that would lead to the apprehension of those who murdered the people in cold blood.
In the two aforementioned killings, we believe that the number of casualties would have been drastically reduced if the security agencies were on red alert and fully conscious of the responsibility of securing lives and property, which is the primary purpose of government since the two states have a history of bloodletting.
Therefore, we demand that no stone should be left unturned in arresting and bringing to book the masterminds of the latest killings to serve as deterrent to other criminals as no citizen should take the law into his/her hands.
Similarly, we challenge the Federal Government, which is fully in charge of the current security architecture of the country, to adequately fund the security agencies for them to effectively discharge their constitutional obligation of protecting citizens’ right to security, life and liberty.
We further demand a probe into the allegation by Benue Governor that the security agents had intelligence information about the impending attack and yet did nothing about it before the assailants struck with a view to unraveling the truth about the matter.
The recent massacre of dozens innocent lives is one too many and all hands must be on deck to avert future occurrence as the current situation whereby most citizens of the two affected states can’t sleep with their two eyes closed is totally unacceptable and demand an end to the senseless killings.
We caution against reprisal attacks especially in Benue State where the farmers have been on the receiving end from Fulani herdsmen and totally agree with the stand of Governor Ortom for President Muhammadu Buhari who is also the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces to do the needful and immediately intervene to stop further shedding of innocent blood.
According to Ortom, “Nigerians must rise up; the Federal Government must rise up to protect us because this is not right. They (FG) own the security apparatus. The ones that are here (Benue) are doing their best but there should be more and that is what we are calling for”.
We further call on the 36 states and Abuja to redouble their financial and logistics support to security agencies while citizens should volunteer information on the movement of criminal elements to the Police who should treat same in utmost confidentiality.
It goes without saying that mindless slaughtering of innocent citizens by gunmen across the country has given impetus to ongoing debate for a restructuring of Nigeria for states to be able to create their Police Force since it is glaring that the existing central police cannot adequately police the country even with the massive material and financial support given to the NPF by most states.
Therefore, we challenge the National and State Assemblies to jointly reopen discourse on a possible amendment of the 1999 Constitution to pave way for legal backing for the creation of State Police to further boost the security architecture of the country.
The argument by opponents of State Police that Nigeria is unripe for it because governors will abuse it and use the Force against political opponents, in our view, no longer holds water if the truth must be told as no serious government anywhere in the world should watch innocent and defenceless citizens slaughtered on daily basis by rampaging gunmen who may never be apprehended to face the full arm of justice after committing such heinous crime.
We further note that it will be foolhardy to expect meaningful socio-economic development take place and investors whether local or foreign come and invest their hard-earned money in a country like Nigeria where lives are no longer sacred and secured by the state which primary responsibility is the safety of lives and property as the recent killings in Benue, Kaduna and Rivers have portrayed.
We expect President Buhari to walk the talk when in his New Year message to Nigerians he declared that “Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises”. It is only by so doing that the anticipated development in the economy after the recession can take place and life made meaningful to the average citizen.
For a better society.