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The Katsina massacre

On Wednesday, March 12, 2014, unknown terrorists attacked several villages in Faskari and Sabuwa local government areas of Katsina State. They left behind burnt houses, vehicles, markets and other properties.  Residents were thrown into anguish and sorrow.  Over 126 individuals were feared dead or reported missing during the incident.
Although  there had been skirmishes between farmers in the local villages and Fulani herdsmen in the past, none of those

conflicts had been on the same scale as the incident of March 12 2014.  This has fuelled speculations about the people involved in the imbroglio. Indeed, the senator representing the district at the National Assembly, Senator Abu Ibrahim, had stated that foreigners were involved and that the attackers used AK-47 rifles and a helicopter to attack the villages.
It is clear that the perpetuators of the crime must have used the Federal Forest Reserve which covers Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Kebbi states, up to some parts of Niger State, as a camp or hideout from where they attacked the villages. It is also clear that it was an organised attack.  The success of the attack and the level of destruction recorded show the weakness of  the security arrangement in that area.  It is equally embarrassing that such blatant breach of security occurred at the time the President was on a visit to Katsina State.

There is a real and present danger  and a grave threat to  peace and stability in Katsina State. The situation will aggravate if the government does not take significant steps to look into the issue. First, the government must take immediate action to find out the real situation of things. The security agencies  must find out who was responsible for the killings and devastation. Are they locals or foreigners? Was there really an helicopter attack?

With the Boko Haram insurgency, there is a tendency to attribute all incidents of violence to Boko Haram. To succeed in providing meaningful security, such a tendency must not be allowed to permeate those responsible for security in Katsina and elsewhere. Also, in flash point locations, the security forces must establish early warning systems to apprehend  any trigger of conflict. The situation in Katsina shows that there has not been an early warning system in place in the local governments where conflicts between herdsmen and locals have been a recurring decimal. This is unfortunate  and has been partly responsible for the massacre.  Lastly,  intelligence is very central to addressing security operations. The massacre is also partly the result of the failure of intelligence.

The nature of the security challenges facing the country today raises fundamental questions about the conduct of internal security in Nigeria. Internal security has traditionally been the preserve of the police. But with the increasing complexity of crimes in terms of the equipment and weapons available to perpetrators and the increasing sophistication in the organisation of crime, joint operations involving the police, the State Security Service (SSS) and the military have become common.  However, most of these arrangements have been ad hoc. There is the need for a systematic appraisal of the evolving situation to enable the government to develop a national security policy that will provide a framework for dealing with security issues, including the role and use of various security agencies in internal security operations. Today, the Boko Haram counter insurgency has been conducted with joint task forces in which the Army is in control.  A division of the Army has been established in that North Eastern part of country. Nigeria has also worked with neighbouring African countries to collaborate in the fight against Boko Haram.  

In the process, a lot of issues have emerged. The first is that the complex nature of contemporary security challenges requires inter-agency collaboration not only at the theatre of operation, but also in intelligence gathering.  In the recent past, there have been issues of conflicting information about events among the security forces, demonstrating that inter agency cooperation and collaboration  does not come easy. This has been informed by the lack of clarity of roles in such operations. In addition, the military has become overstretched as a result of its involvement in several conflict situations across the country. Nigeria therefore needs to rethink its strategies and methods of managing internal security. Is the military fit for policing?  Is the present model of policing appropriate for the nation’s contemporary challenges? We call for a national security policy that would address these issues and provide a basis for the reform of the security sector to assure peace and stability in the country.


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