The killings and banditry in Zamfara have gone on for too long and has become even more unmanageable in recent weeks. The government and security agencies appear unable to get to the root of the problem.
Instead, what has been happening is a blame game among senior government officials, politicians and the traditional institutions in Zamfara state.
The Blame Game
Minister Of Defence, Dan Ali Accuses Traditional Rulers
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, who is from Zamfara State, had on April 9, 2019 revealed that some unnamed highly placed traditional rulers in restive communities’ aid bandits to perpetrate criminal activities.
He said the Federal Government was working with the military to tackle the banditry and killings in the State and the entire North-West region, but didn’t say what was being done apart from deployment of the military.
The minister also accused the traditional rulers of compromising military operations in the state, warning that the armed forces would go after “any person or group of persons who choose to connive or sympathises with bandits to perpetuate crime against law abiding citizens.”
He said the military had been directed to deal decisively with anybody identified to be helping the bandits under whatever guise, “no matter how highly placed the person or persons may be.”
The minister expressed concern about the security challenges in the North-West region and particularly, in states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Kaduna states, but has refused to disclose the traditional rulers behind the bandits.
Although the minister said the government is also addressing the remote and immediate causes of banditry in these states, Nigerians are not availed of the steps being taken.
Zamfara Emirs Counter Accusation
The Zamfara Council of Chiefs on Thursday, April 11, 2019 challenged the minister of defence to immediately name the traditional rulers supporting banditry or withdraw his allegation.
The traditional rulers stated further that unless he mentioned names, his allegation would be considered false and “an attempt to tarnish the image of the traditional rulers and thereby making them scapegoats for the inability of the military and other security forces to end the scourge.”
Innocent Civilians Paying The Price
The council also said many innocent villagers had been killed in misdirected air strikes by the military in the ongoing fight against bandits in the state.
It was reported that the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru made the disclosure at the end of an emergency meeting of the council, in Gusau, the state capital.
He said, “The council noted that airstrikes undertaken by the military did not hit the main camps of the bandits.
“Reports from Mutu in the Gusau and Tsafe Local Government Area, Tangaram in the Anka LGA and Dumburum in the Zurmi LGA, among others, indicated that the areas shelled were not the actual hideouts of the bandits and the victims were innocent civilians.”
The council said efforts to end banditry in the state would only be achieved “if the main camps of the bandits are taken over and security personnel stationed there for a considerable period of time. This will deprive the bandits territory, mobility and supply routes, thus securing all surrounding areas.”
Politicians Promoting Zamfara Banditry-Senator Kabiru Marafa
A very vocal serving senator representing Zamfara Central, Kabiru Marafa, has also weighed in on those behind the crisis in his home state.
Senator Marafa had pointed accusing fingers at politicians in and outside the state.
The lawmaker revealed in an interview with Premium times published on January 30, that members of the APC in the senate and in the state were behind the banditry.
He said some of these politicians allegedly sabotaging the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and leaders of the party, were also responsible for instigating the murder, rape and kidnapping going on in Zamfara State.
He had said: “Like Senator Adamu Aliero, he is one of the people that did all the ground work to make sure that Ahmad Lawan lose and today he is at the forefront of fuelling this crisis in Zamfara because he is a contractor there and he and his co-travellers, the body of former governors and everything.
“They are using their kinsmen in the government circle to ensure that our people are enslaved, maimed, killed, our women are raped, our children are orphaned all because they want to continue to steal the resources of Zamfara. We are not afraid of them, we are going to face them and challenge them. If God is the God of justice, we will surmount them,” he said.
Cost Of Crisis
The senate this week approved the inclusion of ten billion naira as funds for the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons in Zamfara in the 2019 budget. This is an addition to a budget which is already heavily burdened by the new minimum wage.
Who Will Help The People?
Last week, popular television host, Kadaria Ahmed, was among protesters who marched to the Presidential Villa to air their grievances against the Zamfara State and Federal Government’s response to the crisis.
“We are calling in President Muhammadu Buhari to show the people of Zamfara the same regard they have shown him. For two elections, they have come out in large numbers to vote for him. Can he also show that he cares about them?” she asked.
It is time for President Buhari to act and go beyond giving orders to military chiefs to deal with bandits.
It is obvious that what is happening in Zamfara is far more deep-rooted that the government is admitting.
Perhaps, an independent panel should be set up to investigate the remote and immediate reasons for the deteriorating security situation in Zamfara.
Many are of the opinion that the ministers of defence and that of internal affairs have failed the people of Zamfara and Nigerians by their inability to locate the root of the Zamfara problem. The impression created in the minds of discerning Nigerians is that they may be part of the problem.