LAST week, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had declared Zamfara State a “No-fly” zone as a means of curbing terrorism and banditry there. The president also suspended all mining activities till further notice.
“Private jets and helicopters” are alleged to supply arms to outlaws and illegally evacuate the gold mined in the state to some Middle Eastern countries. Many analysts see this measure, including the “shoot on sight” order against carriers of AK-47 assault rifles in the forests, as a positive sign that the Buhari government is finally going all-out against armed hoodlums wreaking havoc on innocent citizens from their forest hideouts.
These new directives, however, leave a whole lot of questions desperately begging for answers. The “Zamfara bandits” who have now spread to other states such as Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto and Niger, have been operating for years. They were allegedly camped in those areas by evil politicians to fight their political enemies but they turned the armaments they were given to criminal and terrorist use. Zamfara also became attractive as their staging base because of the lucrative gold mines.
Now our questions: Why did it take almost six years of the Buhari presidency to declare this no-fly zone? Could this be part of the new ideas coming from the new Service Chiefs? What reasons could be adduced for allowing unauthorised flights into any part of the country, especially when they helped to exacerbate the security problems of those areas? What were the security, intelligence and military authorities doing all these years while these armed terrorists killed people, destroyed communities, abducted people from their homes and the highways and held communities and state governments to ransom?Why wait for a special presidential order to do their routine assignments?
Zamfara State is not the only place under the siege of armed hoodlums and terrorists. The aforementioned adjoining states have also suffered mass abductions of innocent citizens, particularly boarding school pupils. Is it because of the gold that Zamfara State’s case is different?
What about the ethnic armed herdsmen who have similarly been occupying the forests in the North Central, South East, South-South and South West, killing people at will, raping, kidnapping and making territorial claims? There have also been allegations of “helicopter drops” of arms and other supplies in hundreds of their illegal forest camps. Who owns these helicopters, and why are they allowed to operate? The Federal Government has yet to address these concerns.
The Zamfara no-fly zone, in our view, is not holistic enough. Even if it solves the “banditry” in the state, what about other areas besieged by armed herdsmen and Boko Haram-like “bandits”? A security strategy that appears to target Zamfara alone, apparently because of gold, is not good enough!