On Sunday last week, Acting Police Inspector General Mohammed Adamu announced a ban on mining activities in Zamfara State as part of measures to tackle banditry in the state. Miners, including foreigners, were given forty-eight hours to vacate the mines. According to the IG, the measure was taken because of intelligence reports that suggested a connection between mining activities and banditry in the state.
Many observers wondered if there is such a connection because banditry in Zamfara State started about eight years ago as small-scale cattle rustling. It soon snowballed into clashes between rustlers and vigilantes, and still later graduated into wholesale kidnappings and mass killings in rural communities. Some clerics especially alleged that VIP figures in the state owned the mines and had a hand in the banditry. They did not provide concrete proof to back up their claims. If the police have information that anyone is connected to the bandits, however highly placed, he should be apprehended immediately and hauled before the court. It is important to establish the truth of this matter quickly because shutting down an industry in these harsh economic times, without justification, can only aggravate the problem in Zamfara State.
Even before this matter could be resolved, Defence Minister Mansur Mohammed Dan-Ali opened another front in the Zamfara blame games. He said in a statement signed by his special assistant Colonel Tukur Gusau that some of the state’s traditional rulers were helping bandits to attack communities. He said, “In spite of the concerted efforts of the Armed Forces and other security agencies, 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.” The minister neither provided evidence to support his allegation nor did he mention any names.
The next day, Zamfara State Council of Chiefs called on him to, “as a matter of responsibility and urgency, name the traditional rulers colluding with armed bandits in the state.” Their communiqué was signed by Emir of Anka and chairman of the state’s council of chiefs Alhaji Attahiru Muhammad Ahmad and read by Emir of Bungudu Alhaji Hassan Attahiru shortly after an emergency meeting in Gusau. They described the allegations against them as reprehensible and an attempt to tarnish their image. The defence minister, a retired Brigadier General, is from Birnin Magaji in Zamfara State and an unsuccessful governorship aspirant.
The royal fathers also described the allegations as an attempt to make them scapegoats for the inability of the military and other security forces to end insecurity in the state. They said they have over the years cooperated with the state government and security agencies by providing information about location, routes and names of persons involved in armed banditry and cattle rustling. The royal fathers then upped the ante by saying air strikes conducted by Nigeria Air Force did not hit bandits’ camps. They said reports from Gusau, Tsafe, Anka and Zurmi indicated that the areas bombed were not bandit camps and the victims were innocent people.
NAF promptly responded and asked the monarchs to produce evidence that innocent people were killed in the air raids. NAF said it “finds such reports rather ridiculous because most of the locations attacked are within the Rugu, Sububu and Kagara forests, which are known bandits’ hideouts that have been attacked in the past, without any outcry. NAF’s target selection for operations is particularly rigorous in order to ensure a proper target identification to prevent strikes on wrong locations.”
There are now four major allegations generated in Zamfara State within a week, against miners, against traditional rulers, against Nigeria Air Force and against the Defence Minister. All four are very troubling. We urge the Federal Government to probe all four allegations immediately and anyone who told a lie in this dire situation should be brought to book immediately.
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