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FG should come to our aid as Kaduna Government has failed us — Zubair Abdurra’uf Idris, Dan Massani Birnin-Gwari

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Recently, Palace Watch had an interview with Zubair Abdurra’uf Idris, who is Dan Massani of Birnin-Gwari Emirate in Kaduna State on the deteriorating security situation in his domain and surroundings, as well as the untold anguish his people are experiencing.

What is the position of Dan Massani in Birnin-Gwari Emirate?
The title of Dan Massani in Birnin-Gwari Emirate means a very senior chancellor and Special Adviser to the Emir on issues affecting the emirate, as well as the official spokesperson for the Emirate.

So, what has been happening in Birnin-Gwari?
What has been happening in Birnin-Gwari is outright anarchy and lawlessness of the greatest order. A group of bandits has constituted itself into sole authority in charge of the areas surrounding Birnin-Gwari. They have been operating unchallenged. Presently, a lot of our people are killed daily. And sadly, the state government is looking the other way, while all these destructions are going on; hence my decision to cry out before we all get killed. All of us, including our neighbours cannot sleep at night and during the day. That is how grievous the situation is.

For the past 10 years, Birnin-Gwari has been experiencing what I call “terror attacks” in the name of cattle rustling, and nobody is doing anything about it. It all started with cattle rustling, but the bandits later graduated into full-scale armed robbers, engaging in kidnapping alongside other sundry crimes.

The bandits started operations precisely on December 29 and 30 2012. They have since metamorphosed into a terrorist organisation. Their method of operation is similar to that of Boko Haram.

From the night of December 29 to early morning of December 30 2012, the group raided all the banks in Birnin-Gwari, unchallenged. During that operation, they deployed all manner of arms, including dynamites to gain access into bank vaults. The Nigeria Police Station in Birnin-Gwari was burnt, with all the arms and ammunitions carted away. And because of that ugly experience, the banks have refused to return to Birnin-Gwari, except for Unity Bank that was lucky to have escaped the attack.

About three weeks after that operation, they went to Dogo-Dawa village, where they killed 26 people, who were saying their early morning prayers sometime in January 2013. Since then till now, these bandits have been killing people unchallenged.

And Kaduna government is not doing anything about all this?
There is nothing to pretend about. All past Kaduna State governments have refused to do anything concrete to solve this problem. They have only been paying lip service. I am saying this because if the situation had been tackled from embryo stage, these bandits would have long left these areas. From the administration of former Governor Yakowa, to that of Muktar Yaro, and incumbent Governor Nasir El-Rufai, nothing tangible has been done to stop the bandits.

When Governor El-Rufai came to campaign, he told us that security in Birnin-Gwari would be his priority. But what happened after he won the election? He simply abandoned us to our fate. A year ago, he came to Birnin-Gwari for Salah celebration. Since then, neither him nor any of his officials has visited Birnin-Gwari, either to sympathise with or pay condolence for all the killings and maiming that have been going on. That is why we are now calling on Federal Government to come to our aid. Because of lack of care, we the people of Birnin-Gwari are feeling abandoned and rejected by Kaduna State government. Hence, we are now making preparations to defend ourselves, whenever such a situation arises again.

What is the Emir of Birnin-Gwari’s reaction to all this?
He asked people to form vigilante groups to defend themselves and help provide the much-needed security, since the state government has refused to protect us. The Emir had an interview with one of the national dailies and two days after publication, the Minister of Interior, Retired General Danbanzuo, in the company of Deputy Inspector General Operations and the Kaduna State Police Commissioner came visiting in a helicopter. They came straight to the Emir’s palace, where we received them. Do you know what? Since that visit, nothing has happened to change the ugly situation.

What would you say is responsible for insurgency in almost all parts of Northern Nigeria?
Mal-administration. What do you expect, when government officials are busy looting resources meant for the masses? They live in affluence, while the rest of us are suffering. Able-bodied men and women that cannot find legitimate work to do engage in all manner of crimes. This is the situation in the north.

With regard to current situation in Kaduna State, I would say the country’s economic situation is responsible for the ugly situation. Many people in these areas are economically disadvantaged. Most of these armed bandits are not spirit; they live among the people around. But in order to survive, some people whose cattle have been stolen have taken to crimes and become very vicious in the process. According to the investigations we conducted sometime ago, some of these bandits had their cattle stolen by other bandits that came to Birnin-Gwari from other areas in the North. The initial group of bandits that came to steal cattle and people’s properties in Birnin-Gwari are a combination of Fulanis from Niger and Mali, as well as robbers from other countries in West and North Africa. They are mostly Fulanis that are aided and abetted by some people in Nigeria.

This buttresses President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement that armed banditry all over Nigeria is due to ripple effects of Muamar Gadhafi’s failed government in Libya. Many mercenaries used by Gadhafi during his reign were either from Chad, Niger or Mali. These groups of bandits returned to their various countries after Gadhafi’s death, with all the arms they had, hence, the proliferation of all manner of arms in these regions. These are the groups unleashing terror everywhere. If one is opportune to witness their methods of operations, you will see that there is no difference between them and Boko Haram.

Are you saying some of these people could be operational officers of Boko Haram?
That will not be far from the truth. You should have witnessed what happened the day some members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and 12 other persons were abducted by this group. My brother, you would have been frightened to the bottom of your soul. During that operation, they took people and asked them to recite certain portion of the Qur’an. Those who were able to recite it, which included the Fatia, were allowed to go, while those unable to do so were given 16 strokes of cane each. From this, you can see there is some kind of correlation between Boko Haram and these bandits.

If I may ask: “What is the connection between armed banditry and recitation of the Qur’an?”
On the day of the ugly incident, which happened along Birnin-Gwari/Kaduna Road, the bandits were stopping commuters, forcing them to disembark and recite portions of the Qur’an. In the process, they took away two brides from Nngwa Laya, just six kilometres from Birnin-Gwari. This has been happening almost on a daily basis. There is never a day we have been able to sleep peacefully in the whole of Birnin-Gwari territory. In broad daylight, these thieves storm villages and carry out all manner of atrocities unchallenged. For how long are we going to continue to live with this? The way things are now, it is either government starts to protect us, or we prepare to defend ourselves.

Were you to advise Kaduna State government, what is the right approach to curb this menace?
As Executive governor of Kaduna State, El-Rufai should come and take charge of state affairs. As far as we are concerned, he is not in charge of Kaduna State’s affairs. So far, he has not exhibited control in the area of security. Since these ugly incidences have been happening in the state, I am yet to hear of a statement issued by government condemning these acts of terrorism.

About a month ago, 11 soldiers were killed in Birnin-Gwari territory, and up till now, there has been no statement from Kaduna government condemning it. The state government does not think people of Birnin-Gwari exist.

Birnin-Gwari are the only people in the state with no representation in El-Rufai’s cabinet. Secondly, as the state governor, El-Rufai should have liaised with security agencies in the country to carry out aerial bombardments on the bandits’ camps, because we have already identified the areas where they operate. This is what we want. As a matter of urgency, Kaduna State and the Federal Government should do all within their powers to repair the roads from Birnin-Gwari to Kaduna, Birnin-Gwari to Funtua and from Birnin-Gwari to Jebba. These roads are the economic roots and life wires of our people. They are all in deplorable conditions, which is why these armed bandits are having a field day.

Responding to the allegations, Samuel Aruwan, Chief Press Secretary to Kaduna State government said: “The Kaduna State government has invested considerable resources in bringing security to Birnin-Gwari. Within the first month of Governor Nasir El-Rufai in office, he went on an aerial assessment of the area, accompanied by security chiefs. Following this, the governor contacted governors of other states within the axis of Kamuku/Kuyambaba expanse forest to find joint solution to criminal activities, such as armed robbery and cattle rustling that were rampant.

“Kaduna State, along with five other North Western states and Niger provided funds for military operation to dislodge criminal elements in these areas. Kaduna State government has continued to invest in supporting security agencies to stamp out banditry. Also, the governor has moved the entire state cabinet and state Security Council to hold meetings in Birnin-Gwari, all in an effort to demonstrate government’s concern to the people in these areas.

“In spite of the killing of some security personnel, which included soldiers, the state government ensured that security personnel are deployed to continue security operations in that axis, as part of government’s obligation to protect lives and properties of citizens.

“Security is a pressing challenge. We need more boots on the ground to assert the state’s prerogatives and enforce order across every inch of the state in particular and Nigeria in general. But the scale of the challenge requires more personal, equipment and technology.”


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