President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union, Samuel Tabara, shares his thoughts with AYOOLA OLASUPO on the spate of kidnapping and killings in Kaduna State, the security situation in the country, among other issues

Kaduna State Government recently inaugurated a 10-man committee to look into the return of displaced residents of Southern Kaduna back to their homes. What is your take on the initiative?

It is a good thing. Certain forces drove you out of your home and here you are; hopeless and depressed. Suddenly, the government decides to restore you. This is restoration. Who will not be happy? For me, I’m very happy and the people concerned are happy. It is something that one should applaud this governor, who from all situations has demonstrated his goodwill to the people. Yes, it is good.

Do you think the committee will be able to approach the task with the level of urgency that it requires?

Well, nothing good comes easy. The important thing is to start doing that which is good. This life is about striving; so, I believe that it’s a matter of time; the people will find their feet.

 How will you describe the recurrent rate of killings and kidnappings in the state?

Well, it is depressing but all the same, there is light at the end of the tunnel since the government is doing something about it both at the federal and the state levels. The government is working around the clock to ensure that this problem is tackled satisfactorily. There will be problems here and there. Yes, no doubt. You know, it’s easy to destroy but to repair takes time. So, that is what we are witnessing. For me, I can only say that we will continue to be positive and hopeful about this government and give them all the support they need to succeed.

For normalcy to be restored back to places affected by insecurity, the measure has to start from the grassroots. So, what roles do you think traditional rulers and traditional institutions have to play at the grassroots to improve the situation?

First of all, you know that traditional rulers don’t have constitutional roles. The best they can do is to get information and pass it to the appropriate authorities. Now, what these authorities do with this information is another thing altogether. I do know whether the traditional rulers are up and doing in this regard but as I said, they are limited to passing information to the appropriate authorities.

So, don’t you think there is a need for the constitution to be amended to accommodate the traditional rulers and give them constitutional roles and duties?

Sure, there is a need for it. To have ignored the traditional rulers in the first place is to assume that nobody owns the land and anybody who will rise up and tell you that this thing belongs to nobody in the first place; that person is just admitting that he doesn’t own it. So, as long as there is a property, there must be an owner. The traditional institutions are the owners of the land. They are the custodians of the people and when you say you make a country, who are those that make it? It is these people, the traditional rulers, their people, and their territory. So, if you establish a country and you say you don’t have a role for them, what you are saying is that they don’t exist. There must be, and I pray that in this next constitutional amendment, they will identify the role of the traditional rulers in it. I mean, we can’t run away from that and that would go a long way in also addressing our security challenges.

What do you think can be done to address the issue?

Number one; we need local government police. Number two is that the full autonomy of the local government should be granted and practically be seen granted. There are a lot of things the local government can do but their joint accounts with the state governments have rendered them impotent. So, local governments should resume their full responsibilities through the granting of complete autonomy to them. The local government should be able to establish local government police and there’s nothing wrong with local government police. I can only say that there is everything good about local government police. Let’s have local government police alongside the state police. If you go to other advanced countries, you will see that they have county police.

There are cases whereby the state governors have been accused of withholding the allocations belonging to their local governments from the federal joint accounts, and the claim is that it is affecting the performance of the local government chairmen. What can you say about that?

First and foremost, you cannot say that we have three tiers of government as provided by the constitution, and at the same time, the local government is tied to the state government: the governor in particular. When this money is paid, it is paid into a joint account and until the state government decides, no money goes to the local government. To make matters worse, you have Section 6, subsection 6C of the constitution which had been the basis of impunity in governance. Now, these governors, by way of the immunity they enjoy from the constitution, do whatever they like. They know very well that even after they depart from office, nobody can prosecute them. So, the impunity continues.

In this kind of environment, you tie the local government to the whims and caprices of the governor. It’s not good. Whatever informs that provision in the constitution is counterproductive. It is practically saying that the local governments do not exist. Give them their money. Let the people at the local government level hold the chairmen accountable for the use of their resources. And this Section 6, subsection 6C in the constitution should be looked into and amended. Today, the former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is in prison. If they had this clause in their constitution, he (Zuma) would have enjoyed his life.

For goodness sake, to whom much is given, much is expected. So, if you are given the mandate to manage the human and material resources of the people. There must be also a room for you to give an account. If that is done, I am telling you, a lot of sanity will be brought into governance. Nobody will lie after having enjoyed being in your government for four or eight years, and tomorrow, he is in the dock and possibly end up in prison. Nobody will want that, and even the people will behave better. There will be more prudence in governance. But what we have in governance today is impunity and absolute impunity for that matter. We should run away from that.

Should the Federal Government seek international intervention to address the issue of insecurity?

Yes. What is wrong with that? If for 20 years, you have been tackling or battling with insecurity that you have not been able to surmount, and there is a provision where you can get international support. Why not? Only a madman will see his house burning, and neighbours will want to come and help in fetching water to quench the fire and he is telling people to keep off. Only a madman will do that. So, I give the government 100 per cent support to go for international intervention in tackling this insecurity.

How will you rate the performance of the former governor of the state, Nasir El-Rufai?

For me, in a simple sentence, I would simply say that the Kaduna State people, particularly the Southern Kaduna people, were simply unfortunate to have somebody like Malam El-Rufai as governor of the state. This is a man who sees himself as God over the people. He sees himself, first of all, as God over the people he was governing at that time. But thank God; God is not a respecter of man. He never expected that these eight years would come and pass and today, he is a former governor.

We have a governor who is a Fulani man like him, but doing the opposite of what he did, and he is doing well in the state, I’m telling you that Southern Kaduna people are in love with the current governor. So, I can only say that we thank God that we have a clean and clear departure from El-Rufai. But on the other hand, I don’t blame him. If not for Section 6 Subsection 6C of the Constitution, I’m sure he would not have done most of the things that he did. So, that is it. On one hand, I blame him and on the other hand, I say well, the operating environment gave him (El-Rufai) the latitude to do whatever he did.

You mentioned that Malam Nasir El-Rufai did some things to the people of Southern Kaduna. Can you mention some of those things?

The first thing he did when he was inaugurated was to say arbitrarily that there are only 30 per cent of Christians in Kaduna State. The next thing he did was to dethrone church leaders. The next thing he did was to begin to label people as troublemakers instead of looking at their problems and how to solve these problems. Ordinarily, before the coming of El Rufai, Christians and Muslims were living relatively in peace, harmony, and all that. He did not see the entire people of the state as his family.

So, he did some other things. Up to a few days before the expiration of his tenure in office, he went out demolishing people’s homes. He retrenched workers without paying them their entitlements. How long did it take, His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Uba Sani, to settle the workers’ entitlements? How long did it take him? In less than no time, he released over N3bn. I stand to be corrected. Kaduna State is on record today as being among the top three states doing well in dealing with retired personnel welfare. I mean, we can’t ask for more. If he continues this way, we are sure that he will take us to a place. I told you earlier that we had a clear departure from El-Rufai.

Why do you think children have been the major targets of the kidnappers in recent times?

Well, first of all, children are a soft spot, and you know terrorists like soft spots. Secondly, children will draw attention and sympathy from across the world. These people want themselves to be in international recording, but international recording for the wrong thing. In my opinion, this is why they go for children. Tell me that father, mother, brother, and sister who can go to sleep when his child is in captivity. Tell me that community that can go to sleep when their children are in captivity. They want the devastating impact of their actions to be felt locally and internationally. This is my opinion.

Some people are saying that the kidnappers and bandits have political sponsors and that there is a political undertone to it. What is your take on this claim?

I wouldn’t dismiss that because let me remind us of one famous statement from the late General Sani Abacha, which says that if insurgency lasts more than 24 hours, the government must have a hand in it. That statement kept on resonating, and we have seen a few cases where some people in the security agencies have been complicit. Now, you don’t rule it out. Yes, these people have sponsors. Some people may use them for power bargain and politics. So, we don’t rule it out.

For me, I would have said, let there be a forensic audit of the movement of arms and ammunition in all security agencies of the government. I’m sure that there will be quite some revelations from there. Don’t forget that not too long ago, one of the Arab countries also sent a list of the names of people behind terrorism in Nigeria or something like that. So, what came out of that? Did we take action? Did our government take action? That tells you that there are bad eggs in the government and the civil populace that are sponsoring this. Now, until the government sits up to fish out these bad eggs; wherever they are, whoever they are, fish them out, we may not see the end of this thing in sight.

Should we blame the children’s parents or the government for making pupils more vulnerable to kidnapping by not providing them with the necessary safety measures they need?

Well, not just the parents or government alone. It’s a breakdown in our societal responsibility. There’s a breakdown in societal responsibility.

Both the government and the people didn’t do enough. It’s not a matter of parents and not a matter of community. Government and the people didn’t do enough but the larger blame goes to the government for their inability or not doing enough to identify the bad eggs in the system. That has been frustrating their efforts. So, until these bad eggs are fished out and appropriately dealt with, the results from the good intentions and actions they have been carrying out may not give the desired results.

Nigerians in the North and other parts of the country are currently struggling with the high cost of living but amid this, some traders are exporting rice and some other food items to other neighbouring countries because of the rise in the exchange rate of cefa to naira. What is your advice to the Federal Government on this?

Well, we have all the border security. I don’t have the facts of the border, but if it is true, what is the border security doing? That means there is a failure at the border security. The government should overhaul border security otherwise, we will end up in a situation where people will go to market and won’t be able to buy anything. You will remember that in the days of COVID-19 when some government officials didn’t distribute these palliative materials, people ran into some of these warehouses because they were loaded with palliative materials. They broke into the warehouses and carted everything away. If we are not proactive, we may end up in a situation where people will go to markets, break their shops, and cart away food items. They will go into supermarkets, break them, cart away groceries and it may extend to attacking people in their homes.

People have started taking someone else’s farm to harvest or steal crops because they can’t afford to buy expensive food items anymore. Don’t you think it will further worsen the security situation?

Yes, because that in itself is a security challenge. So, if this thing is not arrested, what it means is that it will degenerate, and I can tell you that the elite of the Nigerian society will have no hiding place because the masses will perceive them as their enemies and the root cause of their calamities and will confront them. You have a house and one fine car; they will go after you. In that state of anarchy, all it takes is for one of the rioting youths to say, ‘Look at that house’. So, the elites of this country should realise the fact that there is danger knocking on our doors. There is a very grave danger knocking on our doors.

Should the government start arresting anybody found moving food items outside the country when there isn’t enough to eat?

Of course, the government should stop that. That is why we have border security. People should know that we are not eating enough but we are taking it out to the neighbouring countries thereby escalating our food crisis. People in that state should be arrested.

What role do you think communities can play in reducing insecurity in their states?

The community can organise itself into lawful vigilante groups. That will complement the policing in the community because the present strength of the police is inadequate. Lawfully constituted vigilante groups are required to help. So, we need more vigilante groups.

Southern Kaduna is notorious for illegal mining by unlicensed miners. How can the government address the issue?

I do not have first-hand knowledge of illegal mining going on in Southern Kaduna but let’s assume that it is going on. It simply means that there is a failure of security architecture. Mining is not something you just go one-off, one-close. It is a continuous thing that involves the movement of heavy machinery. It also involves the movement of the products. How are they getting across all the checkpoints and taking them to their destination? So, what it simply means is that it’s not just inadequacy of security. There is complacency in the security architecture of the region. That’s what it means.

Does that mean that some security officers are also complicit in contributing to these criminal acts?

Of course, when you start from Kafanchan to Kaduna, you know how many security checkpoints you will cross. These products pass through all these security checkpoints, and you say there is no compromise? Do we need an angel to tell us that there is a compromise?

What is your reaction to the Federal Government’s rehabilitation and reintegration of repentant terrorists into society?

That is suicidal. That is my simple reaction.

People have said that reintegrating them into society is dangerous and should rather be killed because those repentant terrorists go back to their crimes. How will you react to that?

No! For me, if people repent, there should be something like a reorientation of their psychology, and of course, that is when they have assessed satisfactorily that these people are in the right psychology to be in society. Now, they will be systematically released to the society and placed under supervision. There will be surveillance over them. What I will never support is the idea of integrating them into government agencies like security, and armed forces. That is what I mean by suicide. It will be suicidal. Any terrorist can just decide to say, I repent, and just wait to be absorbed into one of the security agencies, and they go there and take over our armoury. Then you can imagine what they will do. That would be disastrous. Repentance and integration, yes, but with exceptions; they must not be admitted into any government agency or security agency of the state and there must be supervision over them.

In 2023, SOKAPU raised the alarm that there were deliberate plans to exterminate the ethnic group and that international communities should set up a peace enforcement operation in the area to stop incessant attacks and killings. Why did you say so, and did you suspect any foul play?

Of course, it was self-evident. When communities are particularly targeted, sacked continuously, often with the perpetrators not being apprehended. So, is that not sufficient evidence that there is a plan to exterminate the people? The facts speak for themselves.

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