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Insecurity in North West: How it all started


President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

Less than 10 years ago, the North West zone, comprising Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states had been the peaceful geo-political zone of the country. In those days, the major crime witnessed in the zone was armed robbery and the victims were mostly rich targets.

Despite the prevalence of crimes of robbery and burglary, the people of the zone believed that they were safe and never imagined they could face security threat that could sack a whole community, ward or council area. But now, the situation has changed. The people no longer feel safe, as they live in fear of being attacked by armed bandits, with the attendant loss of lives and properties.

The physical and psychological toll on residents of these states is high. They now sleep with one eye open; no one really feels safe in most communities of the zone. In fact, the situation has deteriorated that some communities in the zone now experience weekly invasion by gunmen, who abduct residents and take them to unknown destination.

Today, Zamfara State, which before 2010, was regarded as one of the peaceful states in Nigeria has been witnessing incessant attacks by armed bandits. Hitherto, it was asafe environment for citizens to live without fear of attack by any group of criminals; armed robbers, Fulani Herdsmen or whatever form of criminals,

Until 2010, many residents of the state, particularly in the rural communities slept in the open, without fear of attacks. But after 2010, there was upsurge in criminal activities characterised by armed robbery, cattle rustling, burglary, raping of minors, kidnapping, ritualism and political thuggery. Killings of innocent citizens started when clashes began to occur between suspected cattle rustlers and the Fulani herdsmen. At that point, there were series of complaints by the Fulani herdsmen that some criminals, armed with sophisticated weapons, had invaded the state and to disposes them of their cattle.

With the support of vigilante groups, the Fulani herdsmen carried a search of their neigbourhood, during which they identified some suspected cattle rustlers and in the process slaughtered them in the presence of their families. Some Local Government Areas, which witnessed this slaughtering of suspected cattle rustlers, are Maru, Birnin Magaji, Bukkuyum, Zurmi, Shinkafi, Tsafe, Anka and Gusau.

As at today, cattle rustling constitute the major threat to peace and security in the state. They however, have extended their activities to other states in the Northwest. They operate uninhibited because of the lackadaisical attitude by the government and security agencies.

The cattle rustlers were said to be well organised, that they set up their own courts to try offenders of their law, and sentenced them to various forms of punishments, including fines and flogging. They were also alleged to have got support from security agents, who provided them with ammunition, which they used in their operations.

Dansadau Emirate in Maru Local Government Area of the State is one of the hardest hit areas by the activities of armed bandits and cattle rustlers. In April 2014, more than 100 persons were killed by bandits in Yargaladima. The latest incident of insecurity that attracted national concern, is the attack on some communities by unknown gunmen, which led to killings of 183 citizens. The killings were perpetrated by suspected cattle rustlers and bandits.

According to the state governor, Abdul’aziz Yari Abubakar, apart from loss of lives and property, these acts of banditry have caused untold hardships leading to heavy psychological trauma inflicted on the people. Since the emergence of cattle rustling, which was alien to the people, economic activities in various parts of the state have virtually come to a standstill.

The governor said: “Agriculture, which is the mainstay of our economy and generates employment for the largest proportion of our population, has suffered a drastic setback. This is currently posing a threat to food security and commercial activities all over the state.”
He noted that about 53 people were killed in Shinkafi, 50 in Maru Local Government, 37 in Maradun, and 15 in Zurmi Local Government Areas of the state in the recent waves of attacks, bringing the total figure of those killed by these bandits to 155 people.

‘This menace of banditry has various dimensions ranging from brutal assaults such as we have witnessed in the towns mentioned to kidnapping of men, women and children for ransom. To date, a total of over 50 People have been reported kidnapped across the state. This wave of kidnappings has become so alarming to the extent that movement of individuals from one part of the state to the other is greatly hampered.

“I also want to assure our people that this administration will continue to do everything humanly possible to ensure justice for the families of the departed souls. Since the onset of this new crime, government has mapped out strategy in collaboration with the Federal Government and the neighboring states facing similar challenges to tackle the problem.

“With the current resurgence, we have mobilised the security agencies in the state and given them all the support they require in arresting the situation and bringing the perpetrators to book. We are resolutely committed to restoration of peace and tranquility in all parts of our state,” he said.

Apart from the criminal activities of the cattle rustlers, there was also the reported operation of Boko Haram insurgents in the state. Intelligence reports had it that the insurgents were using Zamfara as recruitment ground. However, after the persistent complaints by residents of the affected communities, security operatives were deployed and this led to the destruction of their training camp.

A member of the State House of Assembly who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that they were briefed last year by a top political office holder in the country that intelligent report linked the activities of cattle rustlers to Boko Haram members
operations in the state.

Another major crime experienced in the state is abduction and kidnapping of notable individuals. Many people from the zone had fallen victim kinappers, including an Emir , a serving senior military officer in Kaduna, a corps member and the Secretary General of Jama’atu Nasral Islam (JNI), Plateau State.

The Guardian noted that the gunmen that abducted over 46 people recently have released their victims following the fulfillment of their conditions. The abductors earlier asked government to return the 400 cows that were seized from them by security operatives if they want the victims to be released.  After consultations, government ordered the return of the 400 cows to the suspected cattle rustlers, which eventually led to the release of the victims.

In July this year, President Muhammadu Buhari officially launched ‘Operation Harbin Kunama’ in Dansadau forest, Zamfara State, to arrest the growing challenges of insecurity in the zone. The military operation was assigned the task of flushing out armed bandits and cattle rustlers, who have been terrorizing farming communities in the state. But that is yet to curtail the activities of the marauders. They are still invading communities, killing and destroying.

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