…Leader of bandits once vowed
…Why peace initiatives failed
BY NASIR MUHAMMAD GUSAU
The genesis of armed banditry could be traced to 2011, when the peasant farmers and Fulani herders in villages of Zamfara and its neighboring states started witnessing cattle rustling which Later transformed into the most dreaded and deadliest armed banditry that had never been experienced within and beyond the walls of the State.
The brunt of the violence and orgy of blood-letting galvanized the members of the vigilante groups who were brought in by hapless communities who were at the receiving end of this crime. The vigilante groups popularly known as “Yansakai” deviated from their rules of engagement by resorting to extra judicial killings of any suspect in their sights instead of arresting and taking them to law enforcement agencies.
The scenario at Chali Market in Dansadau Emirate council when some suspected Fulani herders were arrested and gruesomely murdered by the vigilante groups for alleged involvement in the cattle rustling in 2011 had actually sent a wrong signal to other vigilante groups in the neighboring villages across the state. This led them to resort to adapting similar measure of searching for imaginary enemies from one weekly market to another, inflicting cold – blood murder on them in an open market.
The worst of all these circumstances was when on July, 2012 three suspected cattle rustlers were manhandled and cremated at Kasuwar Daji market in Kaura Namoda Local Government Area of the state. However, the jungle justice of Local vigilante groups has made several number of Fulanis who spent decades of years in Zamfara to flee from the state for the fear of unknown.
When the cattle rustlers realized how their Fulani folks were being killed brutally on daily basis, they changed tactics and started to launch reprisal attacks on peasant farmers. The first most deadliest attack by the cattle rustlers was when they attacked Guru Village and killed twenty eight people including some vigilante members who were believe to have participated in the murder of some Fulani natives along the area.
Less than a week after the Guru attack, similar attack was launched at the neighboring Tungar Baushe and almost twenty six or seven lives were lost to that ugly attack. While people, were mourning the attacks, the same suspected hoodlums re-grouped and attacked Lingyado where they killed twenty five people and the Scenario from there continued to take some brutal dimension as it kept re-occurring from time to time and from one settlement to another.
Kizara village was also attacked when the hoodlums numbering over hundred engaged the vigilante groups and members of the community, killing over fifty five including women and children. From Kizara attack, over one hundred communities were either attacked for the first time or re-attacked by the suspected cattle rustlers. In those attacks thousands of cows were rustled away, while hundreds of lives were lost and property worth millions of Naira were destroyed.
The killings at Yargaladima in Dansadau Emirate council where the suspected cattle raiders ambushed the Local armed vigilante groups during a meeting organized by the leaders of the later and Chali Massacre remained the most brutal and deadliest attacks in the History of armed banditry in Zamfara State. More than 200 people lost their lives in the resultant massacre.
As part of its concerted efforts to resolve and quell the cattle raid and armed banditry, Zamfara State government under the leadership of Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar employed and devised different means and measures to address the ugly situation. Are they succeeding or being overwhelmed?
SECURITY MEASURES THAT FAILED
Since 2012 when the conflict reached an advance stage, security measures have been put in place to contain the monster and to a large extent the State government intimated the police force headquarters and other sister security agencies to support the state in the fight against the cattle rustlers. In his quest to defeat the hoodlums and bring peace in the state, Governor Yari adopted stick and carrot approach by releasing chunk and colossal amount of money to security agencies in order to nib in the bud the aforementioned insecurity.
During the 2014 budget presentation the governor made it categorically clear that the state government spent over Six Hundred Million Naira monthly in supporting the police and other security agencies in order to degrade and decimate the miscreants. The government of Zamfara State also went further to hire a helicopter and police jet to comb and shelve the forest as well as providing police reinforcement in some red zones.
However, when the government realized that the security measures it put in place could not deter the hoodlums and contain the excesses of these security challenges, it opted for community dialogue approach.
Governor Yari established a peace security and reconciliation committee under the leadership of his Deputy Malam Ibrahim Muhammad Wakala that would engage the villagers, Local armed vigilante groups and the cattle rustlers into peaceful dialogue. As a result of this, the then Zamfara State Commissioner of Police, CP. Ahmad Ibrahim had visited almost all the seventeen Emirate councils twice in less than six month of his redeployment to the state and the objective was principally to intensify more on community dialogue between the Local farmers and Fulani herdsmen.
BANDITS REJECT DIALOGUE
Interestingly, the visit was more of an interface with the Emirs, District heads and even heads of the Fulani groups to digest issues on how to rebuild the confidence of the two aggrieved parties.
As the bandits refused to succumb to the dialogue easily, Governor Yari used his influence as the chairman governors forum and requested the Federal Government to deploy troops and heavy weapons to the State in order to wipe out the menace of the ugly situation.
At the same time, the Peace and Reconciliation Committee was busy going to villages and hostile areas to negotiate for peace between the aggrieved parties. However, President Muhammadu Buhari answered the call of Governor Yari and personally launched a military operation code named “Operation Harbin Kunama in July 2016.
FROM OPEN ATTACKS TO KIDNAPPING
The operation according to Mr. President during the flagging off ceremony was aimed at launching military offensive against the criminals who had turned the state into a theater of war.
After the launching of the Programme in 14 July, 2016, the military moved into action and started launching systematic attacks on the hoodlums, blocking their roots, cutting up their supply and restricted their movements. All these intensive military offensives did not seem to move the bandits a bit. They only pushed them to device more sinister conflagrations as they resorted to kidnapping people and demanding huge amount of money as ransom.
Peace and Reconciliation Committee makes a mark
As the peace and reconciliation committee started to record some successes in disarming the bandits and the military’s ability of gaining ground against the insurgents, the Zamfara State government had towards the end of the last quarter of 2016 banned the activities of local armed vigilante groups in the state and declared that any member of the group that engaged in the extra–judicial killing of any body would face the wrath of the law. This action made a remarkable impact in the fight against the ugly satiation in Zamfara.
BANDICTS ACCEPT DIALOGUE
The peace initiative led by the deputy governor of Zamfara state, Malam Ibrahim Wakkala Muhammad started to gain substantial progress after intense military operations and hot chase by the Army in all the locations of the criminals compelled the bandits to remain in their hiding place and submit to the dialogue.
Subsequently, a dialogue which was facilitated by security agencies was held at Gobirawa Chali village of Dansadau Emirate council, Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara state. It was led by the deputy Governor on 14th December, 2016. In attendance were, traditional rulers, security agencies that included GOC I Division, Kaduna, Major General Adeniyi Oyabide, Sokoto Brigade Commandant of the Nigeria Army, Brigadier General G. Nwosu, Zamfara State Commissioner of Police Mr. Alkali Shaba as well as suspected cattle raiders including their leader, the notorious Buharin Daji where the suspected rustlers stated their grouse. The grumbled against wanton attacks and killing of Fulani by the unauthorized vigilante groups.
Another meeting with the Local armed vigilante group was held at Emir of Dansadau’s Palace and a commitment to stop the reprisal attacks on communities was signed.
After the truce was brokered, normalcy returned to the state as Fulanis continued to patronize local markets and farmers cultivated their farms without any fear.
Peace continued to reign until after seven months of the dialogue when families of Buharin Daji, that included his Father, Wife and Son embarked on Pilgrimage in 2017 and were arrested by the DSS at the Sokoto Airport on their return from the holy land.
WHY BANDICTS RENEWED ATTACKS
Buharin Daji who felt betrayed by the government after the arrest decided to call his gang to renew systematic attacks on communities and abducting people for ransom.
The leader of the dreaded armed bandits in one of his audio clips made a frightening statement, warning the people of state that Borno would be more peaceful then Zamfara.
As he went almost berserk sacking one village after the other, his own groomed boy Dogo Bangaje turned his weapon against the leader and killed him instantly. The news of Buharin Daji’s death spread in the state after his copse was brought by Soldiers to authorities in the state for confirmation on 9th march 2018.
Some days after his death, there were frequent attacks on every angle of the state. Villages like Bawar Daji, Jarkuka, Tangaram, Kawaye in Anka local government Area, Mutu, Unaware, Mada towns in Gusau and Tsafe Local Government Areas respectively and Birane, Dolen moriki and other villages in Zurmi local government Area of the state were all attacked and hundreds of people were killed.
Kidnapping became a business as no one could hardly spend a day without hearing of or witnessing cases of kidnapping.
The ugly affair has resulted to the blame games between the government, security agencies and traditional rulers. Few months ago, there were about four district heads who were arrested for their alleged involvement in the heinous activities. Even recently, the Minister of Defence, Brigadier Mansur Dan Ali (Rtd) was on the air accusing traditional rulers of aiding the criminals.
The traditional rulers in aquick reaction at a press conference in Gusau, challenged the minister to name any culpable traditional ruler. The minister has not been able to do so. The villagers also accused the Nigeria Air force of mistakenly bombarding innocent people of Dumburum, Mutu and Tangaram villages. The rage is still on in Zamfara.