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The New Year horror in Rivers, Kwara, Benue and Kaduna states -Tribune Editorial

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On New Year Day, more than 40 persons were killed in separate attacks in Kaduna, Rivers, Kwara and Benue states. The attacks aggravated the mental and psychological torture inflicted on Nigerians by the  scarcity of petroleum which left holes in their pockets. It is indeed saddening that as 2018 dawned, a criminally- minded few chose to inflict severe wounds on the soul of the nation. In Southern Kaduna, gunmen dispatched a traditional ruler, Gambo Makama, (Etum Numana 11) and his pregnant wife to their early graves when they invaded his residence at about midnight on New Year day, just as the traditional ruler in Ikulu, Yohanna Kukah, was kidnapped with one of his guards on Wednesday. The most frightening episode of the killings was however witnessed in Rivers State, where more than 17 persons were mowed down by rampaging gunmen. The son of Eze S. U. Emerisi, the traditional ruler of Ogogburu in Egiland, who was said to be returning home from a crossover night service with his friend, was shot dead. Also killed were a man, his wife and five children, while no fewer than 52 persons were left injured.

Kwara State, one of the few states which had hitherto remained relatively peaceful and insulated from brigandage, had its ugly share of the New Year tragedy as gunmen invaded a crossover service, leaving 10 persons dead. Some youths descended on worshippers with weapons, causing  severe injuries. The destruction of invaluable property in an obvious sectarian violence was quite wanton. Contrary to the claim of the police that the attack was devoid of religious undertones, all accounts on the tragedy punctured the official position. The vicious cycle of violence also spread to Benue State, a veritable bedlam in 2017, between Monday and Tuesday. Herdsmen once again went on a killing spree, hacking down 30 persons in six communities. The Benue State Grazing Law that came into force in 2017 to check the excesses of the herdsmen had not gone down well with them, even though their activities had been a source of misery to the natives who are mostly farmers.

Just like his counterparts in Rivers, Kaduna and Kwara states, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State appeared to have resigned to fate in the face of the Federal Government’s ambivalent attitude to the herdsmen’s crisis. We believe that this is not the solution to the resurgence of killings in the land. It portends danger. The situation requires collective and decisive action by all the agencies of the government, especially the Federal Government and  its security apparatus. The undue celebration of negligible successes in the media by the security agencies should give way to real action. They should take the battle to the dens of the criminals behind the dastardly acts. Rhetoric has only led to a heap of unresolved killings.

Behind the dizzying scale of killings is the failure of governance with its calamitous toll on economic growth and development. The situation is exacerbated by the collapse of societal values, proliferation of small arms and ammunition and weak policing and security architecture, particularly in the area of intelligence. There is a glaring disconnect between the intelligence gathering mechanism of the Nigerian State and the general public. While a few non-conformists to societal values have continued to exploit the laxities in the nation’s security network, the utterances of some political demagogues, religious bigots and ethnic jingoists constitute a threat to communal harmony and tranquility. Many of them lack the conduct and comportment of statesmen and leaders in all ramifications. It is inciting and treacherous for anyone who lays claim to leadership to put up an advocacy for jungle justice and other forms of extrajudicial killings to settle scores in whatever matter. The undue politicisation of issues will only serve as a keg of gunpowder.

Nigerians should, in retrospect, ask themselves why the nation is so religious, yet utterly ungodly. Does anyone have a divine mandate and right to play God or fight for Him? Where has the spirit of love and brotherhood gone? Where lies the conscience of elders, religious and community leaders who used to be role models in the society? And if some people now resort to the use of the sword instead of the holy books and other time-tested home-grown mechanisms to settle scores, just why should they not get their just deserts? The resort to  self-help, with all the associated elements of bestiality and savagery, must be adequately punished.


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