That an AK-47-wielding teenage herdsman was arrested last week in a forest in Ogun State is a very sad commentary on the current state of security throughout Nigeria.
The very young suspect was arrested following a tip-off given to the Divisional Police Officer, Imeko Divisional Headquarters, that two young Fulani men were sighted at CAC Oha Forest, Iwoye Ketu in Imeko Afon Local Government Area, wielding an Ak-47 rifle.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, had said in a statement, “Upon the information, the DPO quickly mobilised his men, and other stakeholders like the hunters, vigilante men, and other corps and stormed the said forest.
“After hours of combing the forest, one Mohammed was seen hiding in the bush with one AK-47 rifle, and he was promptly arrested.
“The arrested armed boy is strongly suspected to be a member of a kidnap syndicate which has been terrorising the area for quite some time now.”
Yes, the state police commissioner has ordered a “discreet investigation” as usual, but one is not overly optimistic about what the outcome might be. Of course, it would be wrong to pre-empt the result of the police investigation in this matter. One is, however, hopeful that this “discreet investigation” will assist in holding to proper account the teenage suspect and expose whoever his sponsors are. The police will also do well to track down his fugitive accomplice. Allowing such a dangerous individual to continue to lurk somewhere in our rural communities poses a serious threat to the security of innocent residents. The earlier he’s apprehended, the safer the defenceless people in these areas would feel.
Ethnic and political interests as well as undue influence have stood the truth on its head in Nigeria. Isn’t it long overdue for our government and security agencies to rescue hapless and defenceless Nigerians from these marauders disguising as herdsmen?
Above all, one hopes the last has not been heard about this particular matter. Whatever has happened to President Muhammadu Buhari’s well-publicised shoot-on-sight order against anyone found illegally wielding such assault weapons as the AK-47 found with this teenager, remains stuck in our guesses.
I pray an order does not come soon from “the above” to set the dangerous boy-herder free and even return the now confiscated gun to him.
Of course, concerns have been expressed in some quarters, too, that the armed boy-herder may not even be a Nigerian citizen, after all. This suspicion calls for a thorough check on the part of the security agencies to ascertain the suspect’s true nationality. His claim to being a Fulani herder should not be enough reason for him to be in illegal possession of a dangerous and prohibited arm.
The germane question is: How did we descend to this abyss of the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is now nastier, more brutish and shorter? The story is so far-fetched that the answer is now blowing in the wind. Or so it seems. But one sure thing is that these wanton killings have left a sour taste in the mouth of all Nigerians.
Unfortunately, in our own clime the situation seems like being a herdsman confers the right on you not only to own, but to also openly brandish and use assault weapons against defenceless locals. Our government and security agencies have continued to live in denial about the reality concerning today’s herdsmen – that they maintain their own arsenal of sophisticated arms and ammunition, despite the huge public backlash from residents of their host communities.
It defies belief that a teenager could be found with an AK-47 assault rifle in a forest that notoriously serves as a den of kidnappers, but merely told the police that he’s a herdsman. That the security agents failed to apprehend his other comrade-in-crime, who vanished into thin air, so to say, is an indictment on the capability of our policing system!
There’s no doubting the incontrovertible fact that such dangerously armed individuals as the arrested teenage herder and his runaway accomplice have and continue to put hapless and defenceless populace in many of our rural communities on permanent knife edge. The people of Igangan know better, having been attacked on different occasions by suspected militias of the herdsmen under the nose of the police and other security agencies, who themselves have become adept in arriving at the scenes of crime long after the criminals must have wantonly wreaked havoc and safely taken their exit, unchallenged by anyone. It is even the culture in Nigeria for security operatives to drag their feet in the face of an emergency. With the police, it’s either their operational vehicle has no fuel to run to crime scene or the vehicle itself has become disused due to some “mechanical faults.”
This is not just wrong, it is the exact opposite of the reality in saner climes, where security operatives are vigilantly alive to their responsibility of keeping the entire population safe. Recently, we unbelievably hear even our defence minister advising Nigerians to resort to self-help to defend themselves against attacks by bandits and other criminals. Of course, there cannot be a clearer indication that the security of Nigerians can no longer be guaranteed by those elected to constitutionally carry out this most important responsibility. So, ours is now a case of ‘every man for himself and God for us all.’
Yet, we are in a country where everything is being done by the authorities and security agencies to criminalise dissenting voices and agitations for rights while nothing is done to rein in the dangerous tendency of non-state actors, especially the ubiquitous heavily armed herdsmen, openly brandishing sophisticated assault weapons such as AK-47 and AK-49 with which they often wreak havoc in many of our rural communities across the country.
Ethnic and political interests as well as undue influence have stood the truth on its head in Nigeria. Isn’t it long overdue for our government and security agencies to rescue hapless and defenceless Nigerians from these marauders disguising as herdsmen? Unfortunately, insecurity continues to surge as government and our security agencies shamelessly look the other way. Let’s all pause for a moment, reflect and consider the current security (or is it insecurity?) situation in different parts of the country. Does it not call for sincerity on the part of those running the affairs of this country? Let’s try and pair the current situation with our sincere thoughts. We’re in extraordinarily dangerous times! If we all continue to play the ostrich as our leaders are wont to do, will Nigeria be better for it? Certainly not!
Indeed, the arrest of the AK-47-bearing teenage herdsman is a tragedy and an evidence of the progressive failings of our security system and agencies. It has laid bare the hypocrisy, nay incompetence of our security agencies.
Our slumbering politicians, too, need to wake up now, shake off lethargy and be alive to their responsibilities to the people they unabashedly claim to serve. A reckoning is closer than they think.
Certainly, it’s about time government took decisive action on the worsening insecurity across the country and closed the book on this dark period in our history.