The security agencies could do more to contain the violence

Mr. Shaba Alkali, the Police Commissioner in Zamfara State, last week announced the rescue of 41 persons, including a police officer abducted by armed bandits in Manu Local Government Area of the state. According to Alkali, all the kidnapped persons “were returned in good health and without ransom paid.” But an earlier report said the abductors pointedly told Governor Abdulaziz Yari that they would release the victims on the condition that some 400 cows recovered from them by security forces were returned.

Armed bandits are on the rampage in Zamfara State. Indeed, the state has long been a fertile ground for all kinds of crime. In less than one month, the bandits have slaughtered about 155 persons and kidnapped more than 50 others. In the last few weeks, their activities were concentrated in four local government areas of the state – Shinkafi, Maru, Maradun and Zurmi councils. Besides, cattle rustlers had been carrying out series of deadly raids on farming and herding villages in the state, forcing the dwellers of those communities to abandon their farms and flee for their lives.

As things stand, some 250,000 hectares of land reportedly may go uncultivated in the state during the farming season because of the growing menace of cattle rustlers and sundry criminals. Secretary of All Farmers Association of Nigeria in the state, Alhaji Sa’idu Tanko Kura said that small holder farmers who constitute the majority of the farming population in the state depend on animal traction to till their lands. But this farming method is at risk owing to the unending cattle thefts in the farming and herding communities.

Earlier in the month, some 36 people were gunned down when a band of bandits attacked a mining site in Bindin in Maru local council. The bandits were evidently after the miners. Last week, Governor Yari pressed home the weight of the security challenge in a statewide broadcast. The governor said that though the federal government launched a military operation to rout the bandits last July, the criminals regrouped and returned with vendetta, killing and kidnapping innocent people and demanding large sums of money as ransom. “The brandits launched attack after the military withdrawal. They know the military will not be there forever,” he said.

Indeed, President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier sent a special military unit to fight the armed bandits based in the forests of Zamfara. And in a follow up official visit to the state, President Buhari said: “Part of the reasons I am personally here in Zamfara State is to flag-off the military operations aimed at rooting out the menace of cattle rustlers and armed bandits not only in Zamfara State but the entire axis of North-west. I also wish to reiterate to the people of Zamfara State and to Nigerians in general the commitment of my administration to restoring sanity in governance.”

The recent killings and kidnappings of innocent people in the state are dark testimony that the security services have more work to do to rout the criminals who are increasingly making parts of the state inhabitable. The state government has set up a crisis management committee charged with the responsibility of assessing the damage caused by the activities of the hoodlums and to enable the government to come to the aid of the victims.

As good as that may sound, it carries no promise that more violence will not be visited on the people in future. What is perhaps urgently needed is the deployment of more security agencies to contain the activities of the brutal bandits. That will enable many of the outraged and frustrated rural populace, driven out of their settlements and farms, to return.