President Muhammadu Buhari’s attitude towards the Northern bandits is strengthening the perception of a Presidency that is showing favouritism towards the area of the country where he comes from, says Menas and Associates in its Nigeria Politics & Security, a weekly intelligence report on Nigeria.
According to the political risk consultancy, ‘’like so many others in Nigeria, the past week has been dominated by security. Although they were released late on March 1, the February 26 kidnapping of 279 girls from a government boarding school in the North-west’s Zamfara State was the fourth such incident since December 2020.
‘’President Buhari said that the government is not using heavy-handed tactics against the armed bandits operating in the region because of fear that such tactics will cause collateral damage to innocent civilians. His position sounds hollow, however, when compared to how the authorities handle dissent in the South.
‘’In several incidents in the South the army has shown little or none of the current restraint that is now being preached by the Presidency. From Lagos State in the South-west to Rivers and Imo states in the Niger Delta, the army has brutally crushed any dissent or criminality.
‘’There is no good reason for the government’s decision to show any restraint in trying to dislodge the bandits from their forest hideouts. They are sparsely inhabited and are usually surrounded by farms rather than by densely populated communities so the army could successfully launch attacks against them if it chose to do so.
The government’s failure to act against the bandits has only emboldened them to carry out fresh attacks. While they are releasing some abductees — often only after ransoms have been paid — new attacks are being staged and it is becoming an endless cycle of kidnappings and releases.
‘’Because of the escalating insecurity the North’s state governments are being forced to close the state boarding schools which only compounds the educational and socio-economic consequences for the country’s poorest region.
The series of student abductions is increasing the pressure on President Buhari to act to curb the rising lawlessness across the country. Failing to act quickly could see copycat criminal gangs take advantage of the situation and start to focus on schools in the South where there are much more valuable targets in both public and private schools.
‘’Meanwhile, Niger Delta militants are also keen to take advantage of the growing lawlessness which is consuming the country. A group of militants calling themselves the Supreme Egbesu Liberation Fighters have threatened to attack public and private infrastructure in Lagos and Abuja because of the marginalisation of their region.
‘’In reality, however, they are actually angry after missing out on contracts to protect the country’s waterways. The president cannot afford to cannot completely ignore their threat because of their mastery of the terrain in the oil producing Niger Delta.
‘’Buhari is additionally in a bind over fuel prices because the rise in international crude oil prices is putting pressure on him to allow prices to be adjusted upwards. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is currently bearing the growing cost of fuel subsidies but he is afraid to increase prices because it is likely to lead to street protests that could be even worse than those against police brutality last year.’’