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The unending killings in Katsina and Zamfara states by so-called bandits will persist for a very long time if political leaders and security agents continue to act in support of the warring factions. This is the crux of the matter. Let me break it down. What is happening in Katsina, Zamfara and to some extent, Sokoto, is war between Fulani herders and Hausa farmers, over grazing land. The bandits are Fulani militias. They fight for the herders that want unfettered access to farm lands. Herders often call the militias when they suffer casualties. The Hausa farmers also have their militias called Yan Sakai. They retaliate for Hausa farmers when their farm lands are destroyed and farmers killed. It is one big mess compounded by politicians and security agents that have refused to act dispassionately. This is why hundreds of lives have been consumed by this disaster in these states, in the last five years or thereabout. The states mentioned hitherto experienced very tiny crisis between the herders and farmers, prior to Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as President. But immediately he became President, the Fulani herders were emboldened, because “our brother is now in charge,” and the drive for unencumbered access to farm lands assumed a frightening dimension. Of course, security agents also became lackadaisical when called upon to respond to attacks by Fulani militias.
Let me buttress it with this attack. On November 20, 2018, a clash between herders and farmers in Gora Village, Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State, left scores of people dead. The violent clash started when a herdsman pushed his cows into the plantation of a farmer who was harvesting his beans. The farmer violently pushed the cows back and the herder resisted, killing the farmer in the process. The relatives of the farmer retaliated and also killed the herder. When the relatives of the herder got the information that their brother had been killed, they trooped to Gora, with Fulani militias, and started shooting at sight. At the end of the day, scores of Gora villagers were killed and several others injured. A team of security men comprising soldiers, police from anti-robbery squad and operatives from the State Security Service arrived the scene almost 24 hours after the damage had been done.
As for politicians refusing to dispassionately respond to the crisis in the North-west, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State is the biggest culprit. He has persistently been taking sides. This is why his hopeless amnesty programme for bandits in the state is not working. I will cite the example of the killings by Fulani militias in Tsauwa and Dankar villages of Batsari Local Government Area of the state. 30 people were slaughtered here by Fulani militias on February14, with several houses razed and animals burnt. The District Head of Batsari who is also Sarki Ruma, Tukur Muaazu, described the incident as horrible: “I have never seen this type of destruction in my life. The bandits arrived in Tsauwa about 7pm on Friday when Muslim residents were about observing Magrib prayer. Some were also preparing to sleep. The bandits laid siege to the village, killing and destroying anything they sighted. I appeal to Governor Aminu Masari to come to the aid of the victims. I am also appealing for security in the community to be strengthened.”
The reaction of Masari, from the comfort of his office, was to say that two Fulanis were killed in Tsauwa and Dankar villages, and that the Fulanis simply retaliated. He pretends to be unaware that those who killed innocent human beings are as guilty as those who retaliated. Majority of the victims in the villages attacked were old people and children. Eight days after the killings, this governor has not deemed it worthy to pay a condolence visit to the traumatised residents of Tsauwa and Dankar. I remember hearing Masari saying that he had banned Yan Sakai in Katsina State. But he is yet to ban the equally violent Fulani militias.
As for the police in Katsina State, eight days after the attack in Tsauwa and Dankar, they have only succeeded in arresting just one man in connection with a crime that was perpetrated by over 100 people on motorcycles. For the Army, they recovered nine motorcycles belonging to the “bandits” but they were unable to arrest a single “bandit” involved in the crime. I suspect those who were riding the motorcycles escaped, leaving behind their motorcycles. What a country!
Commissioner of Police, Katsina State Command, Sanusi Buba, after visiting the two villages, said security operatives were already after the bandits. Anybody expecting a good result would most likely wait till eternity. If those who carried out the attacks in Tsauwa and Dankar had been arrested and put on trial, it would have sent a strong signal to all the warring factions that government is serious about ending the crisis. But it did not happen. Just as in numerous previous cases, it may never happen.
Even President Buhari was busy analysing the “retaliation” in the Tsauwa and Dankar killings, saying the killings were done in reprisal for what the farmers had done to the bandits earlier. He said bandits had been subjected to jungle justice by the affected communities, causing the miscreants to return to the communities to wreak havoc. Buhari, however, condemned the attacks, insisting that no one had the right to take laws into his own hands. He added: “Local communities that catch bandits should hand over the suspects to law enforcement authorities instead of meting out capital punishment, leading to a cycle of revenge and counter revenge. The authorities must be allowed to investigate and deal with any breach that occurs. There is no place for violence in a decent society.”
My dear President, if justice had been served to the killers, there would probably be no retaliatory killings in these troubled communities. This violence will continue if criminals are not punished. I have not heard of a single bandit convicted in Zamfara or Katsina state, since this crisis escalated.
In Zamfara State, when it comes to political leaders not responding dispassionately to the herders/farmers crisis, former governor Abdul-Azziz Yari remains the biggest culprit. While his reign lasted, Zamfara was a killing field. Yari supposedly backs one of the warring factions. Even now that he is out of government, he is still suspected to be fueling the crisis. Incumbent Governor Bello Matawallen of Zamfara State has to do more, to prove that he is willing to tackle the problem impassively. Killings by bandits have only slowed down in Zamfara. Matawallen should aim at ending it. Killers must be made to face the full weight of the law in order to end retaliatory killings. Bandits must not just be punished. They must be seen to have been punished.
For the herders looking for unfettered access to farm lands, they must be told that this is unacceptable. The way to go is ranching. For peace to reign, herders must be compelled to cuddle ranching. Governors in the North-west have enough lands for this. They should further provide technical and financial support to the herders to settle in the ranches.
APC Government and Protest against Insecurity
The federal government has alerted the nation to a protest, still at the planning stage, which may see about 2,000 persons matching on Abuja, to call for the removal of the service chiefs. The protest, according to the Presidency, was supposed to take place last Monday. Well, it did not take place as forewarned. We were told the protest “is aimed at embarrassing President Buhari, misleading the public and inciting protests against the heads of military institutions.”
This alert is absolutely unnecessary and silly. When has it become an offence to stage a protest in Nigeria? Demonstration is legitimate, constitutional and a key part of any democracy. Is this government unaware that our law court has affirmed the right to assemble and protest peacefully in the case of All Nigerian People’s Party Vs Inspector-General of Police in 2008? Nigerians have the right to protest against anything. It is a fundamental right. The only condition is that it should be peaceful.
Buhari and his cohorts benefited unhindered, from this fundamental right, while still in opposition. Not once, not twice but many times. I can clearly remember how Buhari and other frontrunners of the All Progressives Congress, like Rotimi Amaechi, John Oyegun, protested against insecurity in November 2014, without interruption by the Jonathan government. Now, it amounts to “incitement” for traumatised Nigerians to protest against crippling insecurity in the country. This statement against the planned protests is an indication that Buhari and his people are freaking, no thanks to the ineptitude of the government. If the protest eventually takes place, I expect the police to steer clear of the protesters. As lawyer and human rights activists, Femi Falana, stated early this week, “The authorities of the Nigeria Police Force are urged not to harass aggrieved Nigerians for protesting against perceived injustice in the country. Since Nigerians have the fundamental right to demonstrate for or against the federal government without official fiat, the Presidency has no power to stop any peaceful protest in the country.”
Bayelsa Verdict and Oshionmhole Infantilism
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole, and his party, are still going about their juvenile argument that Duoye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party failed to meet the mandatory requirement to become the governor of Bayelsa State. Oshiomhole is demanding for a fresh election, saying that the swearing-in of Diri was unconstitutional. He has since sent a letter of appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), requesting for the conduct of fresh governorship election in Bayelsa State. Oshiomhole said the court judgment did not void the votes that the APC polled at the election and the implication of this is that the votes of the party must be reckoned with, in arriving at the “spread” for Diri.
I am surprised that Oshiomhole and the APC are still talking about Diri not meeting the required spread. The judgement nullifying the victory of APC’s David Lyon, is straight forward and devoid of ambiguity. The candidate sworn-in, Diri, met the mandatory requirements for becoming governor, because “spread” was determined after removing the votes of Lyon, which had become invalid. Since the Supreme Court had decided that Lyon’s candidacy was invalid, because of the excess luggage of his deputy, it is preposterous for Oshiomhole to be talking about Lyon votes again.
Once the participation of a candidate in an election is invalid, all votes secured become a waste and deducted from total votes cast, before arriving at “spread.” This was exactly what INEC did, and subsequently issued Diri a Certificate of Return, as governor-elect. Diri now has the highest number of votes, with the required geographical spread.
Oshiomhole’s argument that the Supreme Court did not specifically rule that the votes of Lyon be invalidated is childish. It is crystal clear that the votes had become invalid. Votes of an invalid candidate are automatically invalid. The law is very clear on this. Oshiomhole and his APC should learn to swallow the bitter pill of not winning Bayelsa State and stop heating up the polity.