Zamfara Under the Servitude of Bandits

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Ring True 

By Yemi Adebowale;  yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521(text only)

As at press time, tears were still flowing in Magami village, in Maradun Local Government in Zamfara State where rampaging bandits killed scores of people nine days ago. The tears of many will evidently never dry, with most households losing their bread winners. Few weeks back, the bandits attacked three communities in Birnin Magaji Local Government Area of the same state, killing 25 people. The poorly equipped and poorly motivated military responded hours after the bandits had gone. Birnin Magaji is the hometown of our phony Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali (rtd). Most of the villages in Birnin Magaji LGA such as Ballaka, Tsalle, Gidan Kare, Katsinawa, Garin Boka and Garin kaka had been deserted due to repeated attacks by the bandits. Residents are taking refuge at the council headquarters and in other places in the state.

Dogon Maje, a village in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State was also attacked about the same time as Birnin Magaji. Bandits struck in this agrarian settlement, operated for hours, killing scores of innocent people. Homes were destroyed and animals stolen from the hapless villagers. Rayyahi, a son of one of the victims, Ibrahim Kuryan-Madaro said his father was killed by the bandits who severed his head. He said one of the bandits called him on his father’s phone to tell him “we have just killed your father, come to Dogon Maje tomorrow and take his corpse”. A combined team of mobile police and Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) arrived hours after the bandits left Dogon Maje. Not even one of the bandits has been arrested by security agents.

The situation in Zamfara State is hopeless, with the bandits roaming unhindered in many local governments.Tsafe, Zurmi, Shankafi, Maradun, Maru and Birnin Magaji LGAs are the most affected. In these LGAs, armed bandits and cattle rustlers slaughter scores of people daily.

Security agents have failed the people. They often arrive after the bandits must have crushed people and departed. Days after the Magami village massacre, the Police Command in Zamfara issued a statement, saying it had deployed another unit to the village, comprising Police Mobile Force, Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) and the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS). It was all razzmatazz. They are yet to arrest any of the bandits that sacked Magami village.

The killings in Zamfara in the last two years are frightening. Hundreds of innocent people have been sent to early graves by these terrorists. The truth that must be told is that the bandits have apparently overpowered our security agents. Recall that few weeks back, 18 policemen, who were part of a police anti-rustling team deployed in the troubled state, were killed in an ambush by the bandits. The police had to struggle to recover bodies of the dead patriots. What a country!

Frustrated residents of Tsafe LG staged a protest last Monday over the incessant killings in their villages. Security agents responded by pummeling the protesters.

A federal government delegation, led by Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, was in Gusau on Wednesday for an on-the-spot assessment of the activities of the bandits and ended with the usual rhetoric: “This administration will continue to go to any length to protect the lives and properties of the citizens because any single innocent life lost has a devastating effect on the nation and is unacceptable.’’ All motion, no movement. This is not the first time the traumatised people of Zamfara State will be told this kind of story.

It is also a big shame that the Nigerian Air Force’s newly-built base in Zamfara, established to curtail attacks by bandits, failed to respond to any of the outbreaks. Violence and killings have continued while the Air Force base looks the other way.

The National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwumadu, was apt when he remarked: “Section 15, 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution imposed a primary responsibility on them (FG) to secure the lives and property of Nigerians. The wanton killings in Zamfara are a direct assault to Section 33 of the constitution which guarantees rights to life and liberty.”

Governor Abdul-Azziz Yari has not helped matters in his state. The other day, he said he was resigning as the Chief Security Officer of the state out of frustration because of the failure of the federal government to curb the killings. Has this in any way stopped the killings? This governor is evidently a joker. He is hardly in the state despite the crisis. You will regularly find this governor in Abuja, London or Dubai. That was why elder statesman, Saidu Dansadau, petitioned Buhari in 2016, asking him to declare a state of emergency in Zamfara State. Back then, Dansadua remarked: “The governor hardly stays in the state as he prefers to travel all over the world at the expense of the state resources and safety of the people. All matters of state that require action are kept waiting until he returns to the state. Consequently, intelligence and security reports are kept in abeyance.” 

Yari has not changed one bit. As at press time, the Zamfara governor was on vacation abroad, leaving ‘acting deputy governor,’ Sanusi Rikij, to battle the mess. How can a governor go on vacation when his state is on fire? Yari’s leadership is laced with pride. He is also perceived as inept and vindictive.

The Zamfara debacle is one big mess and a big slight on the Buhari government that came into office with a promise to end terrorism within months. Rather than end violence, the situation continues to depreciate. The attacks have continued despite the deployment of thousands of security officials to the state. Our security agents are ill-equipped and ill-motivated. This is why hundreds of people have been killed by bandits in Zamfara State since 2016.

This is also why Boko Haram attacks have persisted in the North-east. Just on Tuesday, our soldiers ran into an ambush by Boko Haram on Damaturu-Maiduguri Road. Our gallant troops fought courageously to extricate themselves from the ambush but gloomily, 13 military and a policeman, including an officer lost their lives. Also this week, Boko Haram fighters attacked a military formation in Kukareta, Damaturu Local Government Area of Yobe. The casualty figure is still a closely-guided secret.

The point I am making with these narratives is that sub-standard equipment and poor motivation have hindered the ability of our security agents to effectively tackle insurgency and banditry across the country. Our soldiers have been fighting literally with bare hands, yet, they can’t access the approved $1 billion for equipment. The impact has been devastating. Eight months down the line, and days after Metele attack by Boko Haran that claimed the lives of scores of soldiers, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.  General Yusuf Buratai, confessed and informed a bewildered country that the Nigerian Army was yet to receive any fund or equipment purchased from the fund.Recall that the approval for the money was given after a meeting of the National Economic Council in Abuja in April 2018.

Things have just got to change in the real sense of it. Buhari must act very fast to change this narrative.

This Overzealous EFCC

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission often creates unnecessary scenes. The EFCC always wants to be seen working. The most recent was the childish confiscation of $2.8 million at the Enugu Airport, which the anti-graft agency claimed was laundered funds. Officials of Bankers Warehouse Limited, that moved the currency on behalf of Union Bank, were paraded like common criminals, even after showing necessary identity cards. The arrested staff also told the EFCC operatives that transporting the money through courier was not only legitimate, but also a normal business operation. Rather than double check, it was ignored.

The Head of Operations of Bankers Warehouse, Lawrence Ijebor, further wrote the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Adebisi Shonubi, stating that the two men, paraded by the EFCC as suspected money launderers, were staff of the company, on official CIT (Cash in Transit) movement, covered by a letter of authority issued by Union Bank. According to the company, the men were paraded and detained despite identifying themselves as employees of Bankers Warehouse with the identity cards.

Union Bank also admitted ownership of the intercepted money and denied wrongdoing, saying the practice was standard in the banking industry and its contractors were licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Yet, EFCC is still grandstanding that it had seized laundered money. It has even gone to court, asking for permanent forfeiture of money whose ownership is not in doubt. We have had enough of these shenanigans by the EFCC. They should concentrate on the terrifying sleaze in the likes of NNPC and NPA.

Buhari’s Relatives as New Billionaires?

I thought that by now, President Buhari’s media team would have reacted to allegations that the President has been illegitimately enriching some of his relatives. A spokesperson for the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential campaign, Buba Galadima, made the allegation on Wednesday on a television programme. I am shocked that there has been no reaction, four days after. Galadima declared that some individuals close to Buhari, who were poor in 2015 when Buhari assumed office, had somehow become owners of choice houses in the President’s hometown of Daura, Katsina State.

“The President has not shown any sign of integrity. Several of Buhari’s relatives have become significantly wealthier in the time he has been president. I can’t see any integrity whatsoever on the side of Mr. President. Which integrity? Somebody who condones corrupt people around him? We know of his relatives. We know of his friends who were bankrupt before 2015.

“We know of his relatives who took N2,000 transport money from us to go to Kaduna. Today, they are multibillionaires. They have assets all over the world. They have estates all over the world. I can show anybody that wants to know. So, the issue of integrity with this government is not an issue. Go to Daura GRA. When you go there, all the houses that make you feel as if you are in Dubai, London or Beirut were built by whom? To whom do those properties belong?

“So, please, I don’t want any All Progressives Congress man to talk to me about integrity. This should be the last time anybody engaging me in a debate would talk about integrity; I will take them to the marketplace,” said Galadima.

These are weighty accusations. Many are earnestly waiting for Buhari’s response to these allegations.