As the Nigerian Air Force Tuesday launched Operation ‘Tsaftan Daji’ in North west, the federal government has said highly placed traditional rulers in the north are behind the spate of killings in the region.
The position came as Governor Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara state, a hotbed of violence, said over 3,596 innocent citizens lost their lives to banditry in the state from 2011 to date.
Similarly, residents of Banono and Ungwar Aku communities in Kufaana district of Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state Tuesday fled as gunmen killed 27 persons in fresh attacks.
Amidst all these, President Muhammdu Buhari has given a marching order to security agencies to move against persons responsible for the regime of violence in all the affected areas, including a resurgence cult-related clash in Rivers.
FG’s ban on mining
Some states in the north, including Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Sokoto among others, have come under serious attacks from gunmen with residents being killed in droves.
These killings were outside of violent attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents which have continued unabated in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, with thousands losing their lives.
Not even the incessant deployment of the military and police to the trouble spots by government could curb the dangerous trend.
At the height of the killings in Zamfara state for instance, the federal government ordered the suspension of mining activities in the state and asked foreigners engaged in the activity to quit under 48 hours.
Advancing reasons for its decision, the government said it had information the attacks had links to illegal exploration of solid minerals in the area.
Traditional rulers as culprits
However, going a notch higher, the Minister of Defence, Brigadier-General Mansur Dan Ali(retd), Tuesday said fresh intelligence had exposed the complicity of some “highly-placed traditional rulers” in the ongoing killings across the northern states.
In a statement issued in Abuja, Dan Ali, who though did not name names, said government had identified high profile traditional leaders as being the brains behind the dastardly acts, saying they would be brought to book.
He said locals, especially in Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and other parts of northern Nigeria ravaged by faceless gunmen, should “rise in unison to support all government’s efforts” at addressing the crisis.
The minister said the job of securing the country and ensuring residents’ safety must not be left for soldiers and other elements in the armed forces alone.
He said: “It is instructive to mention here that insurgency and terrorism are global phenomena that cannot be addressed through military actions only.”
“However, in spite of the concerted efforts of the Armed Forces and other security, some unpatriotic persons including highly placed traditional rulers in the areas were identified as helping the bandits with intelligence to perpetuate their nefarious actions or to compromise military operations.”
He said government’s decision to suspend mining in Zamfara state was amongst several measures being put in place to ensuring the restoration of sanity to the region.
Yari on casualties
Meanwhile, Governor Yari of Zamfara state has said from available records, over 3,596 innocent citizens lost their lives to banditry from 2011 to date in the state.
The governor said this at a town hall meeting with the acting Inspector General of Police Muhammed A. Adamu on security situation in the state.
Yari, who was represented by Secretary to the State Government, Professor Abdullahi Muhammad, said from 2011 to date, over 500 villages were affected by with bandits’ attacks, 2,019 persons sustained various degrees of injuries with over 10,000 people rendered homeless.
“Over 13, 000 hectares were uncultivated during the years under review as we submitted over 7,000 compendium reports to approximate authority for prompt action on the matter,” Yari said.
He said about eight bandits’ camps were currently discovered living freely in the state, stating that security operatives should rededicate their commitment towards ensuring total illumination of them as quickly as possible.
The governor said his administration had early this year, recruited over 8,500 civilian joint task forces to assist security operatives detect bandits’ hideouts in the state.
He said his government would ensure synergy with the federal government in its efforts to fight against banditry in the state.
In his remarks, the acting IGP Adamu said the essence of the meeting was to identify a strong mechanism between the police, traditional, community and religious leaders in the state on way out of the menace.
“The federal government’s recent ban on mining activities across Zamfara state is aimed at assisting security operatives to fight the dreaded bandits who terrorise the state,” IGP said.
He said residents of the state should endeavour to cooperate with police and other security operatives by giving positive information about criminal hideouts and strange movements by any suspected undesirable elements for prompt action.
Fresh Kaduna killings
In a related development, residents of Banono and Ungwar Aku in Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state have fled their villages to more secured towns.
This followed attacks by unknown gunmen which left 27 people dead in its wake, while several others were injured and 50 cows rustled.
The state police command, however, confirmed the killing of 21 persons and rustling of 50 cows Monday by armed bandits on motor bikes in the affected areas.
Police Public Relation Officer in the state, DSP Yakubu Sabo said, “At about 0930HRS, we received a distress call that a group of armed men in large numbers on motor bikes entered Banono and Anguwan Aku; both are remote neighbouring villages in Kufana district of Kajuru LGA.
“The attackers started shooting sporadically attacking the villagers and in the process shot and killed 21 persons, injured three others and torched 10 houses. The bandits also rustled about 50 cows.
“Combined teams of PMF personnel, conventional police, army and the local vigilante were promptly mobilised to the area, repelled the attack and evacuated both the dead and the injured to hospital.
“While efforts are on to apprehend the fleeing criminals, reinforcement of more police operatives have been drafted to the area for intensive combing and patrol with a view to forestall further breakdown of law and order/reprisal and arrest the perpetrators.
“The Commissioner of Police, Ahmad Abdurrahman is saddened by this attack and has reiterated the command’s commitment to apprehend the culprits. He sincerely condoled with the affected families on the irreparable losses.
“The command appeals to members of the public to continue to assist the Police with useful information that could help in addressing these challenges and for the possible arrest of these criminals.”
Buhari condemns Kaduna, Rivers violence
Meanwhile,President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the latest Kaduna killings.
In a statement Tuesday by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mr Garba Tuesday, the president also condemned the resurgence of cultist killings in Rivers state and ordered for increased community and law enforcement action against its escalation.
He called for peace and decried the ongoing culture of ‘an eye for an eye’ that has fuelled a number of attacks and reprisal attacks, with the two communities at different times, suffering casualties in Kajuru and Kachia local governments in Kaduna state.
The president also appealed to indigenes of Kaduna and other Nigerians to refrain from comments in the traditional and social media, especially by people who have little knowledge of the history of the longstanding conflict.
Such comments, he said, could further fuel conflict in the area and between the two warring groups.
He also called on traditional and religious leaders to be cautious with their comments on the conflict, saying whatever words they share publicly should not be inflammatory but be inspired by an interest in peace.
“The entire nation grieves with you. The Nigerian army and police are already in the area to ensure that peace and security are restored,” he said.
In response to reports of the resurgence of cultism leading to loss of lives in Rivers state, the president called on law enforcement agencies to intensify efforts at ending the menace before it further escalates.
He also called for quick and effective intervention by community and civic leaders in support of law enforcement efforts in all areas bedevilled by cultist attacks and inter-communal violence.
NAF launches operation
And in what appears a response to presidential directive, the NAF has launched operation “Tsaftan Daji” (clean forest) to flush out bandits in the North-west.
Launching the operation in Katsina, Air Officer Commanding, Special operations command, Air Vice-Marshal Napoleon Bali, said the operation was drawn from “Diran Mikiya” operation of the NAF.
He said the exercise was also designed to add value to the existing operation “Saharan Daji” for the ground forces.
“You are all aware of what is going on in the North-west; the security forces have been putting in their best.
“However, the bandits have been changing their tactics thereby killing and kidnapping innocent civilians.
“The Chief of Air Staff decided that there is the need to get more air access in Katsina so that the air planes will be able to reach areas where these bandits are hiding.
“We are going to dominate the air and simultaneously pound bandits’ hideouts to make it easier for our ground forces to go in and flush out bandits and criminals terrorising people.
He pointed out that the emphasis was on the forests surrounding Zamfara and neighbouring states.
The AOC said people should continue to give security agents necessary information to assist them in safeguarding their lives and property.
He said that NAF had reserved enough aircrafts and fighting equipment to ensure success of the operation.
“We want to ensure that by the end of the operation, we have either eliminated or reduced those unnecessary and deliberate attacks on innocent civilians in those states. For the time being, we will be here until our aim is achieved.”