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Monday, July 22, 2024

Karimi as an example amid the reality of our collective insecurity

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By Tunde Olusunle

Commuters on the “Trunk A Road” as it was labelled, traversing Kabba-Aiyetoro Gbedde-Mopa-Isanlu-Egbe communities in Kogi State must have observed frenetic construction activities at the Egbe section of the road abutting Kwara State. I’m told vehicular movement is infrequent these days because of the decrepit condition of the road, its attendant loneliness and its susceptibility to the murderous rascality of criminals. Travellers to parts of Kwara, Oyo and Osun, from parts of the North notably Nasarawa, Benue, Kogi and the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) these days, prefer the Kabba-Omuo Ekiti road which is marginally less degenerate. Okun-Yoruba people domiciled in their traditional abodes desiring to conduct business in contemporary Kwara State to which they once belonged, however, are left with no option but to ply the road under discussion. For them it will be easier to catch glimpses of ongoing construction in the area I previously alluded to.

There is a signpost with the inscription Ido Egbe in the part of the expansive Egbe community where the said development is proceeding. A luminous perimeter fence covers the generous hectarage being developed at the said site. One particular structure rises sky high above the several others all capped with lemon-green aluminium roofing. The buildings vary in shape and size even as they are at various stages of completion. A long vehicle rests around the ongoing development, obviously one of many others feeding the project with its needs. You cannot but ask yourself whether the complex is a creation of the federal or state government, or a private investor desirous of doing business in the community. Or could it be a model residential estate?

The project under reference is a Military Foreward Operating Base, (FOB), being developed by Sunday Karimi, the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial Zone. Over the years, parts of the district have come under premeditated attack by armed robbers, kidnappers and unfeeling herdsmen. At various times, cold-blooded robbers have attacked banks operating in several communities in the zone. In every instance, they left behind a trail of crimson blood, sorrow and tears. From Kabba to Aiyetoro-Gbedde to Isanlu, to Odo-Ere and Egbe in Kogi West, the pattern of the hoodlums have been pretty much the same. They launch surprise attacks on the police stations in each community. They thus neutralise the capacity of the law enforcement agents to engage them when they eventually swoop on their major targets, the banks.

First Bank, Mainstreet Bank, United Bank for Africa, (UBA) and Access Bank at various times have been robbed by the hoodlums, during banking hours. The callousness of the nonessentials was so grave on every occasion that it spiralled down the subsistence economy of the locals. The banks shut down for long spells ostensibly to rethink their continuing operation or not in the district vis-a-vis the losses they incurred. They equally evaluated the costs of rebuilding decimated structures and facilities in each instance relative to whatever fiscal trickles they earned, juxtaposed with the costs of providing services to their predominantly low income customers. We are talking about farmers, small scale entrepreneurs, school teachers and local government employees mainly.

More recently, kidnapping for ransom, a trend hitherto heard about from very distant ecologies, has become another dimension of criminal pastimes by faceless groups. Sleepy communities in Yagba East and Yagba West local government areas basking in their rustic innocence and quietude, have been rudely violated by harbingers of grief and lachrymose. In January this year, six people were kidnapped within a space of 48 hours, around Isanlu, headquarters of Yagba East. Three of them lost their lives trying to escape from their abductors. Two women were picked up from Ejiba in Yagba West last May, by a gang of one dozen gun-toting brigands. Okunland, which previously epitomised the purest innocence, calmness, serenity and safety, has been grievously intruded upon. This is not forgetting the impudence and insult of having irreverent Fulani nomads marching their herds through our farmlands destroying the subsistence investments of the people.

As a fairly regular visitor to my home community for sundry events and programmes, I’ve often been very concerned about the inadequacy of the capacity of security operatives at the local levels. I speak here about insufficient personnel and armament wherewithal in our localities. Isanlu for instance is the headquarters of Yagba federal constituency which aggregates Yagba East, Yagba West and Mopamuro local governments. It is host to the area command of the police and oversees the three local government areas in question. I will be amazed, however, if there are up to 150 officers and men, or half that number of serviceable armaments in the armoury of the area command. I had reason to request for police cover for a family event we hosted about six years ago. The police apologetically replied and alluded to the inadequacy of manpower. I resorted to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC) as backup plan. I was told straight up that the entirety of my local government area was served by 15 civil defence personnel.

Critically, I was informed that most of the men had indeed been taken up by traditional rulers in our parts. The kings as it were desire that their royalty be heralded at every stop, courtesy of state uniform-wearing operatives functioning as human furniture, who sit on the front seats of their vehicles The royalties resorted to civil defence staff in the absence of police personnel to serve in as orderlies. Such are the confounding statistics and realities of the security architecture in our sub-urban communities. Let’s be reminded that hoodlums perfect their operational strategies before they take on a target, institution or community. This, of course, includes distilling the prevailing personnel and armament strengths of their targets. This explains why police stations in rural communities are almost always first targets where security personnel are neutralised and the armouries accessed and looted to strengthen their own capacities.

Against the backdrop of such embarrassing and condemnable state failure at the very centre to protect and secure its citizens, this very basic constitutionally non-negotiable responsibility has had to be taken up not by subregionals, but private individuals. This is the new normal as we find in the example under interrogation. One has heard elsewhere of privileged Nigerians or organisations partnering security and intelligence services in the provision of operational needs and infrastructure. The Military Forward Operating Base in Egbe, however, is one hundred percent privately funded by Sunday Karimi. He has taken a broader view of the concerns of his people, with the aim of assuaging their overwhelming security worries. It is definitely a tall and ambitious project daring to conceive and build from foundation, a complex which can probably pass as a modern military barracks, but Karimi has confronted the challenge headlong.

The Foreward Operating Base project under review is without doubts a visionary concept. It has the “observatory,” the tall structure which dwarfs the rooftops in the upcoming premises, where soldiers on guard duties will get a good view of the area and sensitise ground troops in the event of a possible threat. There is a security post and a mini-administrative block. There are also two blocks of 12 rooms each all ensuite, which come to 24 rooms for the “rank and file,” the junior officers. Boreholes have been drilled and will pump water to overhead tanks which will service the facilities and premises, downstream. Two units of three bedroom bungalows are provided for officers, while there is also rendezvous spot, an “officer’s mess” as is tradition with the military. Hopefully, a skeletal “mammy market” for the junior officers will spawn when the facility in its wholeness is operationalised.

Expectedly, Karimi has either engaged with the military high command for the adequate manning of the facility, or has prioritised this now that the Egbe project is nearing completion. This again is part of the systemic dysfunction consuming our nation and we the citizenry. Why should government departments have to be begged and lobbied to do their jobs? This again beggars the question of either unthinkable complacency or pure lack of capacity in statecraft. On account of his present effort in helping to secure the lives and belongings of his people, Karimi deserves our collective applause. Like Leke Abejide his colleague in the House of Representatives who has championed impactful causes for his people, Karimi in this instance, has chosen to deviate from the despicable practice by some of our representatives, who have gleefully weaponised poverty. These are the mindless politicians who waylay our hapless rural folks with sachets of salt and packets of pasta on polls day.

Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)

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