Resurgence of armed banditry in Zamfara State is a very disturbing phenomenon that must be tackled with all the seriousness it deserves. On Friday November 17, 2017 suspected armed bandits attacked villages northern in Zamfara State, killing 23 people and burning down houses and grain silos. Five villages including Mallamawa, Barka da Yabo, Tungar Kahau, Maikamar rimi and Gidan Anna in Shinkafi Local Government Area were attacked in broad daylight.
The attackers, in their dozens, stormed the villages on motorbikes and opened fire on residents. They torched houses and destroyed stored food items after the villagers had fled. Some of the communities were invaded when the residents had gathered in a mosque to observe the congregational Friday prayer. Some of the gunmen reportedly traced their victims to their farms and shot them dead. Many corpses were recovered from the bush. The gunmen blocked all escape routes and killed whoever tried to flee. At least 17 persons were killed at Tungar Kahau village alone.
Governor AbdulAzeez Yari of Zamfara State said in a broadcast after the attack that 155 persons were killed by bandits in less than a month in the state, adding that over 50 persons were also kidnapped during the same period. He said although the federal government launched a military operation against the bandits, the criminals regrouped and returned with vendetta, killing and kidnapping innocent people. He also announced that the state government had set up a Crisis Management Committee to assess damage caused by the hoodlums to enable government assist the victims.
It would be recalled that last year, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the military to launch Operation Harbin Kunama in Zamfara State to flush out the bandits. The continued loss of lives compelled the Zamfara State government to dialogue with the bandits in a bid to end the carnage. The amnesty programme of the state, which culminated in many gunmen surrendering their weapons in return for money, allowed peace to return to many to the state’s rural communities but only for a while.
Governors of the five states bordering Kamuku forest where bandits take refuge also met last year to prevent the place from becoming a breeding ground for terrorists. The governors were those of Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Zamfara and Kebbi states. Their meeting which was attended by heads of security agencies in the five states brainstormed on how to end the menace of banditry, cattle rustling and loss of property in the region. This synergy is believed to have practically collapsed which possibly aided the return of bandits.
Last week President Buhari again gave marching orders to the military to crackdown on the Zamfara bandits. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu said “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the request of the Minister of Defence, Brig-General Mansur Dan Ali (rtd) for the stationing of a full battalion of Special Forces in Zamfara State”. Shehu added that the President also approved the movement of the Nigerian Army’s 1 Brigade from Sokoto to Gusau upon the take-off of the 8 Division established to tackle Boko Haram terrorists in the North-east.
While we call on governors whose states are bordered by the Kamuku forest to renew their efforts at tackling banditry, we advise the federal government to increase recruitment into the military. The many operations of the military in recent times including Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Sharan Daji, Operation Awatse, Operation Shirin Harbi, Operation Harbin Kunama I and II, Operation Crocodile Smile, Operation Egwu Eke (Python Dance) I and II and Operation Dokaji have overstretched its manpower and equipment to breaking point.
We urge the federal government to effect the movement of 1 Brigade to Gusau as fast as possible to secure the lives and property of defenceless citizens in Zamfara communities. It would be necessary for government, after effectively containing banditry, to uncover the root causes of these criminal tendencies with a view to addressing them with practical solutions.