Following the brutal murder of residents in some communities in Zamfara State, the Senate recently constituted an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the growing threat that has claimed lives and displaced many since 2012.
EZREL TABIOWO reports.
Beyond tale-induced anger
The Senate Ad-hoc committee on security infrastructure, led by Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan, were last week greeted with horrifying tales by the state government and residents of some communities in Zurmi and Maradun local governments in Zamfara state.
Recall that the Senate President had on Monday last week, mandated the adhoc committee to immediately investigate some disturbing allegations raised by a lawmaker representing Zamfara Central, Senator Kabiru Marafa, on the floor a week earlier during plenary.
The committee, during a two-day fact finding visit to the state last week, was informed by the state Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, that security agencies such as the Nigerian Police and Army were unable to contain the atrocities of armed bandits due to lack of ammunitions and insufficient personnel.
Cowed by bandits
Members of the investigative panel were told that the armed bandits who wrecked havoc on communities in the state consisted of heavily armed herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents.
According to accounts by the Deputy Governor, Malam Ibrahim Muhammad, the crisis which has engulfed Zamfara “has the potential of consuming the state and escalating beyond its borders”, if not nipped on the bud by the federal government.
The Deputy Governor, who chairs the reconciliation and disarmament committee, disclosed that the state government had in the past negotiated with armed bandits following the kidnapping of 40 persons.
Consequently, the governor sees nothing wrong should the federal government decide to follow the same path, if peace must reign.
He added that the reconciliation process, which led to the disarmament of Boko Haram insurgents and bandits, resulted in shortlived normalcy that was truncated by some challenges and frustrations, which he refused to disclose.
He said: “The peace process of our committee was launched at a place called Gobirwa Chali, where the representatives of the bandits were met.
After that, another meeting with the side of Yansakai was held at Dansadau.
” “At a point the reconciled communities even arrested some Boko Haram insurgents, along with their weapons which include sophisticated rifles, bullets, and bombs.
The captives were taken to the custody of His Royal Highness, the Emir of Zurmi, Alhaji Abubakar, who in turn handed them over to the military.
“Some bandits and Yankasai willingly surrendered their weapons to the committee.
The last count indicated the receipt of over three thousand weapons which include a large number of AK47 riffles, SMG, Pump action, G3, Long den guns, Locally made guns and cache of arms; all the weapons were handed over to the army for custody.
” He, however, stated that, “in spite of all the aforementioned achievements of the committee, its assignment had to be halted as a result of some challenges and even frustrations”.
No kid gloves for destroyers of 10,000 houses
In a presentation to the senate ad-hoc committee, the Secretary to the State Government, Professor Abdullahi Muhhamad Shinkafi , said that over 10,000 houses were destroyed, with over 200 persons abducted by armed bandits.
According to him, over 2,688 hectres of land was also destroyed, 1,321 persons killed, and 1,181 injured during the attacks.
The senate ad-hoc committee, in a separate meeting with traditional rulers, stumbled across horrifying details which shocked members of the panel.
Our reporter, while speaking with some residents of the communities, who refused to be quoted for fear of being killed, was informed that the police and army are aware of the locations of the armed bandits but cannot act out of fear of being overpowered and killed.
According to another resident, whose first name is Abubakar, the killings by armed bandits, whom he said consisted of Boko Haram members, did not just start recently but started as far back as 2012.
He disclosed that despite the killings in the past, the state government and some key political fi gures in the state refused to speak up out of fear of losing their popularity.
When confronted about the recent move by a lawmaker, Senator Kabiru Marafa, to expose the nefarious activities of armed bandits on the state, Abubakar further disclosed public utterances of the senator was basically done with the intention to spite Governor Yari and bring him to disrepute.
The resilient invariably wants the senator’s position and in fact utterances discountenanced because it has political connotations.
Abubakar, a resident of Gusau, told our reporter during the course of investigation that over five communities in the lawmaker’s senatorial district were attacked in the past, and nothing was said about it then by Senator Marafa until he fell out with the state governor.
In one instance, Abubakar disclosed that more than 30 miners were brutally killed by armed bandits in Bindi community in 2016.
He said that scores of women, consisting of married women and teenage girls were abducted and raped severally by the armed bandits, who brandished their weapons in public while moving in broad daylight with motorcycles.
Other communities in Senator Marafa’s constituency that have been under attack are: Kizare, Kabaru, Yargaladima, and Yarkatsina communities in Maru local government area, and Kuramota in Bungudu local government, respectively.
It was gathered that the armed bandits killed the miners because they were informed that they had at diff erent times tipped off security agencies about their activities.
Informants in communities
Blueprint also learnt that the vicious bandits also have informants in the various communities under siege, making it diffi cult for residents to volunteer information to the police and army.
He added that residents of the various communities in a bid to escape the wrath of the bandits have resorted to taking safety in deserted locations in the bushes away from their villages.
In another presentation to the panel by the Speaker of the Zamfara State House of Assembly, Honourable Sanisu Garba Rikiji, over 20,000 residents across the state were displaced due to the bloody activities of said armed bandits.
‘Zamfara wasted N15bn on security’
Another government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that over N15 billion has been spent by the state government on security with no result whatsoever.
Traditional rulers on their part, who converged at the palace of the Emir of Gusau, lamented that they have been stripped off their rights to be actively involved in the security of their communities, a development that has contributed to, and heightened the spate of insecurity in the state.