The Menace of Bandits and Unknown Gunmen By Chukwuanu Okoli
While Tracy Chapman – “All that you have is your soul”, resounded through my speakers, the inconclusive cases of Bola Ige and Funsho Williams came to mind, as I reflected on series of daytime assassinations in southeastern states. It seems hard to understand the motive behind the public assassinations in the state, it has become an area of concern knowing that there are several inconclusive murder cases, which make perpetrators invisible. The ineffectiveness of the state and security agencies to safeguard lives and property is an enabler to the breakdown of law and order. Recent reported assassinations in the South-East started on the 30th of May 2021 in Owerri and Enugu with the murder of Gulak[i] and Nnaji[ii]. The recent daytime assassinations in Owerri and Enugu were attributed to bandits/unknown gunmen. Watching with horror, a short video clip of the assassination of ex-Enugu high court Judge Stanley Nnaji in May 2021[iii]; disappointed as a Police officer entrusted with the security of citizens, turned around to murder five (5) and injure four (4)[iv] on 20th June 2021. It is difficult to construct a mental picture of Mr. Ifeanyi Okeke – CEO AutoEase Services[v] who was assassinated in the presence of his 7-year old son on 5th July 2021, the assassination of Prof Samuel Ndubuisi -SEDI DG[vi] on 7th July 2021, Philip Udeala on 13th July 2021[vii]; Igwe Alex Edozieuno[viii] as well as, Dr. Chike Akuyili[i]. I shudder at the would-be mental health of the bereaved families, most especially the 7-year old who was exposed to unimaginable mental distress.
The difference between ideal and real situations is understood, in light of human rights violations by non-state actors. Students of politics, who have been taught about the state having monopoly over the use of force should question such knowledge in light of recent happenings in Nigeria. Given that criminal activities are attributed to bandits/unknown gun men, understanding who a bandit is, becomes imperative. Bandits are outlaw who belongs to a gang and operates in a lawless area for economic, political or other benefits. Is Nigeria a lawless state? Has the country manifested various trappings of a failed state? It is local parlance that the law is made for the poor and not the rich. One of the theories of state formation popularly known as the social contract theory argues that in a bid to prevent chaos, citizens surrender their rights to the state and expect that the state institutions will preserve their rights from being abused. If the law is made for the poor and the state is unable to preserve the rights of citizens, what is the fate of the man in the street?
One question which has eluded most Nigerians is the “fruitless effort” of the current administration towards curbing criminal acts. Every criminal act is attributed to bandits and unknown gunmen, which further conceals the perpetrators. More destabilizing is the statement attributable to Kaduna State Governor[ix], who maintained that banditry is a business in the Northern part of Nigeria, and this affirms the indifference or helplessness of state actors to criminal acts in the country. Drawing from the argument by the Governor of Kaduna state, the state has been criminalized for profit. Why will crime and assassinations of citizens stop when those with the willpower to address issues relating to the security of lives, property and enforce individual’s right to life, view criminal acts from a commercial standpoint and not human rights abuse? Assuming the leaders at the various tiers of government are willing to curb insecurity in Nigeria, Police tracking devices would have been in shape for proper use[x]. Swift actions of state Governors in addressing issues relating to internally generated revenue (IGR) bring to the fore that the state is not weak, rather leaders choose their battles, if security were one of their interest, it would have been addressed, “a Prince will always be a lion and a fox”.
Within three months, eight (8) reported residents of Enugu state, were assassinated, one (1) in Imo state, three (3) in Anambra[xi], without mention of abductions and those killed by stray bullets, as well as, unreported cases. The above figure speaks volumes on the porous security architecture in the states and country. Where can someone find safety? While the state is blamed for the porous security structure and the breakdown of law and order, citizens commit these despicable acts, someone or a group is responsible for these actions.
It may be a coincidence or calculated that the above assassinations occurred in transit. Before now, with an air-conditioned car, one is invulnerable of petty theft in traffics, not anymore with glass wound, criminal elements now threaten to break the car glass if passengers do not cooperate in winding down the glass. Irrespective of having a Police escort Prof. Ndubuisi and Udeala were attacked and murdered, where is safe in Nigeria? While family and communities grieve, don’t look the other way thinking it doesn’t directly affect us, these incidences happened on the roads we all ply, the assassins must have passed Police checkpoints while going and coming from their operations. The negative effect of security checkpoints on cost of transportation and products is well known to every road user, these checkpoints have little or no benefit. There is no better time to believe that the “Nigerian roads are a death trap”.
Create an image of various benefactors of slain individuals, some will have difficulty surviving, emotionally, economically, and otherwise, lives have been lost, never to be seen again, someone made that decision over another’s life, in saner climes, murder is a crime against the state, as it is the responsibility of the state to preserve the sanctity of lives and property.
Live every day like it was your last, those assassinated in the past months planned their day and assured someone of a meeting and loved ones of their return after the day’s business. “If God keeps us alive” is a biblical injunction that tomorrow is not guaranteed and a new slogan for a failed state.
Ma Chineke dobe anyi ndu,
Idan Allah ya barmu rai da lafiya
Ki ọlọrun pawa mọ