as Buhari decries killings, orders military assessment today, tomorrow
By Clifford Ndujihe & Johnbosco Agbakwuru (with agency report)
ABUJA—UNABLE to bear any longer, the unceasing killing and kidnapping of their relations for ransom by bandits, residents of some parts of Zamfara State, yesterday, trooped out in protest against the worsening insecurity in the state.
As the protest assumed a riotous dimension, the Zamfara State Police Command restricted movement in Tsafe Local Council, the epicentre of the protest.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, expressed sadness over the rampant killings in Zamfara and neighbouring states and authorised an assessment trip to Zamfara and Sokoto states by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Baba Sadiq, today and tomorrow.
He reassured residents of states plagued by armed bandits, including Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger and Taraba, that his administration was committed to their safety and will continue to ensure that security agencies work round the clock to protect local populations.
No fewer than 500 people have been killed by bandits in Zamfara State in 2018, as many others have been kidnapped for ransom.
Last July, Amnesty International, AI, said the killings in Zamfara were under-reported, saying as of then, 371 people had been killed in the state and at least 238 of these killings took place after the deployment of the Nigerian Air Force.
“The government is still neglecting the most vulnerable communities in this region,” Amnesty International said in the report by Osai Ojigho and recalled that on Friday 27 July, 18 villages in the Mashema, Kwashabawa and Birane districts of Zurmi local councils were attacked, leaving at least 42 people dead.
“On Saturday 28 July, President Buhari announced the deployment of 1,000 troops to Zamfara. This is the third time since November 2017 that the authorities have deployed the military in response to attacks, but villagers told Amnesty International that this has not translated into protection for remote, vulnerable communities.
“Previous military interventions have failed to end the killings, especially in rural areas of Zamfara.” said Osai Ojigho.
Last Saturday, no fewer than 18 people were killed in Birane village in Zurmi Local Council and hundreds were displaced.
On Sunday, the bandits also carried out similar attacks on Sauna village in Tsafe Local Council and Magami community in Faru District of Maradun Local Council.
The latest killings forced the protesters, mainly residents of Tsafe Local Council, to barricade the Gusau-Zaria highway linking the state to Kaduna, Kano, and Abuja, yesterday morning.
The protesters, who came from surrounding villages, reportedly converged on council headquarters where they joined other villagers who had been taking refuge in Tsafe since their communities were sacked by the bandits.
An eyewitness told Premium Times that the protesters destroyed political billboards of President Buhari and Governor Abdulaziz Yari before the protests later degenerated into a riot, leading to the burning of council secretariat and newly acquired motorcycles meant to be distributed by the local government chairman.
“The protesters began by blocking the highway and burning tyres, but as we speak, the local government secretariat in Tsafe is on fire,” the eyewitness said.
According to the eyewitness, the protesters chanted derogatory songs against the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, who is from Zamfara, and the state governor Abdulaziz Yari.
Some of the worst affected local governments in Zamfara are Tsafe, Zurmi, Shinkafi, Maradun, Maru and Birnin-Magaji, which is Dan-Ali’s hometown.
Council boss speaks
Tsafe Council Chairman, Aliyu Abubakar, yesterday, told BBC Hausa about the worsening insecurity in the state and appealed to the federal government for urgent intervention.
Recalling how the bandits on Saturday night killed a district head and burned houses at Asaula community, he said no fewer than 2,000 people were taking refuge in Tsafe, apart from those staying with their relatives.
Apart from Tsafe, other Zamfara local governments most affected by the attacks include Zurmi, Shinkafi, Maradun, Maru and Birnin Magaji.
Police restrict movement
To prevent the crisis from escalating, Mohammad Shehu, Zamfara State police spokesperson, said the state Police Commissioner, Usman Delel, and the heads of other security agencies in the state had visited Tsafe to help restore normalcy.
Shehu announced that movement had been restricted between 6pm and 7am, adding that the restriction will be in force till the security situation improves.
He said the police commissioner has deployed more mobile police officers to complement the efforts of the existing security officials in the area.
Stating that the protest was championed by some miscreants, Shehu, however, said that no death was recorded and the police had arrested many miscreants with dangerous weapons, and that an investigation was ongoing.
Killings horrendous – Buhari
Reacting to the attacks in the state yesterday, President Buhari vowed to stop the killings, which he described as horrendous.
In a statement by his his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari said: “These horrendous acts of violence are crimes against humanity. This violence must stop.”
While expressing his deep condolences to the families of those killed in the attacks in Tsafe and Maradun, as well as to the government and people of Zamfara State, the President also wished those injured a speedy recovery.
Steps taken to end the killings
“The President, who has authorized an assessment trip to Zamfara and Sokoto States by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Baba Sadiq, on Christmas and Boxing Day, reassured residents of states plagued by armed bandits, including Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger and Taraba, that their safety was an enduring commitment of his administration and that he will continue to ensure that security agencies work round the clock to protect local populations.
“To this end, a major operation by the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, Department of State Services and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, is being considered to restore peace and stability in the region.
“President Buhari conveyed his strong support to the Nigeria Police Force, which has already deployed Special Forces in each of the local governments in Zamfara State and the Defence Headquarters’ deployment of a Special Military Intervention Force, comprising more than 1,000 personnel, to respond to the security challenges in the North Central and North West.
“These measures, among others, will be intensified to flush out the bandits from wherever they are,” the statement said.