The Kalare syndrome is still a major threat to security in Gombe Northeast, writes correspondent OhOnba Vincent
Apart from the plain tension and fear created by the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast sub-region, another major security challenge peculiar to Gombe State is the notorious political thug group popularly known as ‘Yan Kalare’ or simply Kalare
This dreaded Kalare group, which made life difficult in Gombe State in the past, staged a come back to the socio-political terrain during the 2015 electioneer activities, forcing residents to imagine if the resurgent group could ever be annihilated in the state.
Since then, gruesome murder, maiming, stealing/dispossessing people of their possessions at streets corners and dark lonely spots, have once again become common incidents in the state.
The Command recently paraded 24 suspects, apprehended for terrorising, killing, snatching of people’s bags and burglary, arrested at different locations within Gombe metropolis, using dangerous weapons to collect their victims’ belongings.
Some of the suspects interviewed confessed to have committed the offence they were suspected to have committed. Aminu Abubakar particularly said he was a member of Kalare group and that they were involved in killing, snatching and breaking into people’s houses at night and in some cases, in the day.
Ruben Lazarus said he and other members of his gang were also engaged in breaking people’s houses, adding that luck run out of them when the police arrested them while they were coming out of a Bank manager’s house after they successfully disposed of his belongings.
This violent and notorious political thug group became a nightmare on the citizenry between 2003 and 2011 in Gombe State; so violent and reckless in their ways that their fear was the beginning of wisdom.
The lives and property lost to their activities remain unquantifiable. The group was immediately decimated by the Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo administration on inception of office in 2011, through outright ban and subsequently, rehabilitation efforts.
However, events in the state in recent time shows that except tackled properly, the very vicious group are bent on further destruction of lives and property.
This is because the political thugs, dislodged from the state, re-announced their presence prior the 2015 elections with the slaughtering of two members of Gombe State Corps Marshal behind the Emir’s palace in Gombe metropolis, after a chronology of activities which suggested their return to business.
The marshals, said to be on their way to a near-by tea joint, were found with their throats slit open at about 9:00/10:00 pm on a certain Sunday, an eyewitness had said.
Worried by the increasing rate of the Kalare push to reinvigorate their activities in the state, Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo cried out that “Our major challenge in the state now is the return of Kalare activities.”
He therefore, implored the good people of Gombe not to wait for government before they attempt to help. “People should not hesitate to report to the security agent anywhere they see them (kalare) carrying out their nefarious activities. I am calling on our people to wake up from their sleep and help government to arrest the situation,” he said.
He also urged parents and guardians to warn their children and wards strongly to desist from the acts, as his administration would not hesitate to make anyone caught to face the law.
The International Human Rights Commission, IHRC, in its report on a petition to its office on the alleged politically motivated extra-judicial killings in Gombe State between 2003 and 2009, revealed the uncovering of over 70 cases.
But on the whole, killings ascribed to yan kalare towers that figure because they equally attacked people who had what they wanted and anyone who knowingly or unknowing stand in the way of their despicable activities.
The thugs interestingly maim and kill one another over women and other interests, because over the years, they fragmented into rivalry groups and chose masters, even among members of the same political party, that commanded their loyalty.
According to the IHRC report published in select media on January 6, 2014 and signed by its Nigerian Ambassador, Mr. Abdulrazaq O. Hamzat, the Yan-Kalare thugs harassed, intimidated, assaulted, tortured and brutally murdered many innocent citizens of the state.
Due to the grave allegation surrounding the Yan Kalare group, signs of their revival in the state caused ripples in the pre 2015 general elections era, with accusing fingers pointing in the direction of Senator Danjuma Goje.
The Gombe State government, through the state’s Agency for Social Services and Other Related Matters, pledged resistance to any move to resurrect kalare in the state, alleging that about 30 youths were alleged to have been re-recruited from the agency.
Loyalists of the former governor alleged that the said 30 youths were on the contrary, sacked from the agency because they said they could not break ties with their alleged benefactor, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje, who is being arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged embezzlement and mismanagement of the state’s resources.
Recently, precisely on October 29, during his trial on the case, scores of youths who admitted to be kalare in Gombe, carried placards with diverse inscriptions and stayed opposite the Federal High Court’s entrance gate in protest.
They, among other unpalatable utterances, accused the Senator of luring and indoctrinating them into kalare and therefore, demanded that the former governor returned their (State) money he allegedly stole while in office for their rehabilitation.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, youth leader in the state, Alhaji Kabiru Bappa Jauro, said the return of kalare, if unchecked, was capable of compromising the Dankwambo administration which had invested huge sum of money on the eradication of kalare in Gombe with over 3,000 of them reformed and offered jobs, and living happily with their families.
Lending its support on the government’s position, the Gombe Youth Development Forum called on the Police Commissioner in Gombe State and other stakeholders to halt the alleged reinvention of Kalare, saying the ugly trend of the past must never be allowed to come back.
But the All Progressive Congress, APC, in Gombe also criticised the PDP for insincerity on the issue.
The then Gombe South zonal vice chairman of the party, Julius Ishaya, in reaction to activities of restive youths in the state, said “for people to be clashing and killing themselves in the name of politics is not a good development. APC is against it and we will never encourage our youths to engage in any form of restiveness or thuggery.”
He acknowledged that youth restiveness popularly called Kalare in this contest was not peculiar to the state, adding that there were measures government could take that would go a long way to mitigating the phenomenon. “The truth still remains that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he added.
But the Dankwambo-led government has, as part of the efforts to reduce idleness, engaged about 3,000 youths under the rehabilitation and reorientation scheme; it procured and distributed over 1,000 cars and tricycles to youths as revolving loan.
It partnered with Bank of Industry on a N 3 billion loan to boost commerce, gave soft loans to market traders to galvanise commerce and enhanced the capacities of hundreds of youths through training on reusable energy and sponsorship on courses overseas among other
youths’ friendly initiatives.
Government has also introduced various sustainable academic programmes to mop up and continually cater for youths who cannot further their education due to deficiencies in their Senior School Certificate results and established state owned College of Education.
Just last week, the Gombe Police Command revealed that it was currently making efforts to rehabilitate over 400 drop-out-of-school youths under its ‘Gombe State back to school programme’ with a view to reducing crime rate in the society.
The new Commissioner of Police in the state, Austin Iwar, said the aim was to address issues causing deviance among youths as part of the Command’s efforts to improve on its proactive policing measures.
“As a committed and proactive police command, we realised that security problems, like any other problem, which if it must be solved the root cause need to be identified and dealt with.
Iwar said the police have been collaborating effectively with the state ministry of youth empowerment and poverty alleviation, ministry of education and other major stakeholders in organising workshops and awareness campaigns in this regard.
He said the command had recorded just 87 cases of crimes between September and October 2015 as against 246 crimes and 53 accident cases recorded in July and August 2015.
If not nipped in the bud, it is being suggested that Kalare group was capable of exploding into another Boko Haram as politicians tend to abandon them after elections.
Also, the need to review the criminal justice system is of utmost necessity because, the problem with taming these youths have always been lawful punishments that bear corresponding weights to their crimes, hence they get arrested today, face prosecution tomorrow and start to walk tall in the streets again soon after.
Very importantly, there should be the political will to decisively deal with exposing the big hands pushing the restive kalare youths from behind because the courage and drive some of them have is that their benefactor is always there to speak for them.
But in the interim, if they could kill extra-judicially, they could also be jailed long enough to serve as deterrent or engender repentance as long as their guilt is ascertained.Opines Malam Musa Maikano