Senators yesterday reviewed the security situation, submitting that people in many parts of the country, especially the North, were at the mercy of hoodlums.
They said banditry and kidnapping were now the order of the day, with the rich and the poor fallen prey.
The senators were contributing to a motion on “Senseless killing of a Briton and the abduction of three others in a holiday resort in Kaduna State by armed bandits”, sponsored by Senator Shehu Sani and 108 others.
Painting a grim picture of things in Zamfara State, which is fast becoming the epicentre of banditry, Senator Kabiru Marafa said over 3000 persons were in bandits’ den.
Stunned by his revelation, the Senate summoned the Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to brief it next week on measures being taken to address the problems.
The invitation followed the adoption of the prayer of Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who noted that kidnapping of expatriates had pushed up the cost of construction in the country.
Foreign firms, he said, were building funds for ransom payment into their contract bids.
To lend credence to his claim, two Chinese nationals were yesterday kidnapped at a construction site in Ebonyi State.
Also yesterday, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) urged President Muhammadu Buhari to overhaul the security agencies over the security challenges.
Marafa, who noted that businesses and other sources of livelihood, including farming had collapsed in most northern states, warned that Zamfara might collapse in the next few years, if measures were not taken to battle what he called the suffocating banditry there.
The government, he said, should, as a matter of urgency, engage the youths who are involved in banditry and other acts of criminality.
He said: “There might be no Zamfara State in the next two years if something is not done about the insecurity in the state. I saw a video from my state where children of about 11 years are wielding AK47. This is the reality on ground in my state.
“In Zamfara State, there are over 3,000 kidnapped victims in the dens of bandits. Banditry is not reducing. It has become a business. There is technically no business in the north, except kidnapping.
“People have abandoned their farms in the North. There are no more peasant farmers in the north. They are being kidnapped by these bandits.
“I disagree with my colleague from Katsina. All businesses in the north are dead. The government must employ people or they will join these bandits. The reason behind this problem is corruption.
“We cannot employ enough security personnel to man every community in this country. Where are we going to? With due respect to my colleagues, with the kind of leadership we have seen in some states, we cannot solve this problem.”
Senator Sani (Kaduna central), in his lead debate, said some parts the north had become killing fields, with bandits and other criminal elements carrying on with reckless abandon.
He said it was regrettable that despite repeated bandits’ attacks, no one has been brought to book.
This, he claimed, had emboldened the bandits and other criminal elements to conduct their heinous crimes audaciously.
Marafa said: “In recent times, the attacks on individuals, houses and villages have become one too many and there is no single person that has been brought to book as a result of the wanton killings. So much talked about efforts at combating the banditry and crime are not yielding results.
“We are worried about the fact that perpetrators of these heinous activities tend to be gaining more courage to carry out their dastardly acts without fear of confrontation due to their acclaimed superior fire power.
“In the unfortunate event of 19th April, 2019, gunmen raided a resort called Holiday Resort in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State; a Briton, Ms. Faye Mooney and a Nigerian, Mr. Matthew Oguche were killed and three others abducted. This has put more fears into Nigerians.
“Ms. Faye Mooney was a humanitarian worker with a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Mercy Corps, who had worked in war-torn countries like Iraq and Kosovo helping the needy, the vulnerable and internally displaced persons.
“Recall that earlier in the year, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered senior security chiefs to curb kidnapping in the region when two Americans and two Canadians were abducted in Kaduna in an ambush in January that left two of their police escorts dead.
“Banditry has reached a tragic level in Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states. It is not an overstatement to say that the country is at war. Kidnapping has reached such a tragic level that people are losing hope about the ability of government to protect them.
“It is unfortunate that this has continued despite all sorts of operations launched by security operatives. It has reached such a level that highly-placed persons have abandoned the roads for the train. We have all seen how the seed of destruction has moved beyond Zamfara State to other parts of the north.
“We can no longer afford to fight 21st century crime with 20th century system. The idea of keeping police men to open boots at check points can no longer suffice in the north.
“The problem used to be for only poor people. Now it has moved to the upper class of people. If this trend continues a time will come when all people in the north will move to Abuja because Abuja is where the paradise is. As time goes on, there will be no heaven in Abuja.
“We must begin to tell truth to power. Zamfara has become a cancer spreading to other parts of Nigeria. The blame should be on every person who has the opportunity to speak truth to power and refuses to do so.”
Senate President Bukola Saraki said the country must find lasting solution to the problem.
He said: “When we talk about the way forward, we must be true to ourselves. In discussing this issue, we must be frontal. We need to tell ourselves where this started from. We must not see it from the eyes of political parties or anything sentimental.
“There was a time when we could not even talk to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) for over a year. He refused to honour our invitation. We need to be serious whether we want to find a solution or just play to the gallery.
“I am aware that people have now deserted Kaduna Expressway because of insecurity. In the past, kidnapping was done in the city. Today, it is different. Nowhere is safe anymore. We need to tell ourselves the truth and find a way out of this mess. We must find a solution.”
The curious aspect of the motion was the listing of jailed Senator Joshua Dariye as one of sponsors.
Dariye, who is representing Plateau Central Senatorial District, is serving a 14-year-jail term, following his conviction for money laundering by a Federal High Court.
Sani jokingly told reporters that Dariye’s name was not on the Order Paper he used to move the motion.
The senators, who observed a minute silence in honour of the dead, urged security agents to intensify their search for the killers so as to bring them to book.
They urged the government to set up an inter-agency task force to tackle cases of banditry and kidnapping in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger.
The Senate also urged security agencies to give special cover to foreign workers and tourists as well as to immediately deploy the use of drones and interceptors in tracking kidnappers.
It implored community leaders, traditional leaders and all stakeholders to co-operate with security agencies, adding that telecommunication firms should provide agencies with information in areas where there is kidnapping.
The Senate resolved to send a delegation to condole with the British Embassy over the Briton’s death.