The Vice-Chairman of Shinkafi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, Alhaji Sani Galadima, on Monday said bandits killed six members of the Civilian Joint Task Force in the area, adding that the council pays the hoodlums ransoms daily.
Galadima said this when he received the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdurrahman Dambazau, who was in the state to assess the security threat being posed by banditry and listen to the challenges facing the people.
Dambazau also visited the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru, in his palace where stakeholders expressed their travails at the hands of bandits operating in the state to the minister.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Galadima after highlighting the challenges being faced by the people of his local government area as a result of banditry said every day “we pay ransom to bandits.”
He said, “Six members of the Civilian JTF were attacked and killed on Sunday by the bandits after receiving their pay from Shinkafi town and were on their way back to their villages.
“Even yesterday (Sunday), these bandits sent a letter to the district head of Shinkafi town (saying) that they were coming to attack the town.
“This ugly situation is very disheartening; every day we pay millions of naira in ransom to these bandits. We really need government’s urgent support to end this problem.
“Our women also suffer a lot (because) the bandits attack communities and abduct ladies from their parents’ homes. People no longer sleep with their two eyes closed in the night in Shinkafi LGA.
“We want the government to resolve the issue of shortage of troops and police. We only have 19 soldiers in this town.
“We need urgent intervention from the government; we are not satisfied with the efforts and strategies of the security agencies.
“We all know the camps where these bandits stay; even the security men are aware of these camps; our major concern is that security personnel are not getting to these bandits. We are hoping that with this visit, this problem will come to an end.”
According to Galadima, at least 98 communities in Shinkafi LGA have been deserted due to the activities of bandits in the state.
Dambazau said, “This is not my first visit to Zamfara; we started this process to ensure lasting solutions to these problems, not only in Zamfara State.
“President Buhari asked me to visit Shinkafi and Anka emirates in Zamfara to carry out the assessment and discuss these issues. The President also expresses his condolence over loss of lives and destruction of properties as a result of insecurity.
“It is the responsibility of government to ensure lives and properties are secure. That is why we must do everything possible to ensure the end of this situation.
“We commenced this process by meeting with the leaders of Miyetti Allah; we are going to consult with traditional rulers and governors of the most affected states.”
The Emir of Shinkafi, Alhaji Muhammad Makwashe-Isah, who praised the minister for the visit, urged the Federal Government to do more in fighting banditry in the state.
At Anka, the stakeholders bore their minds on the security situation in the state to Dambazau.
The Emir of Anka and Chairman of Zamfara State Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad, told the minister, who paid him a condolence visit over the killings in his domain, that no fewer than 13,000 people had fled villages in his domain because of attacks by bandits.
The traditional rule said the Federal Government must act fast to enable the people to farm this season.
He stated, “We are happy that the Minister of Interior has come here to see us and to condole with us over the tragedy we are experiencing. Now that you are here, our hope of getting rid of these criminals has been rekindled.
“We have witnessed a lot of killings and abductions of our people. As I am talking to you now, we have more than 13,000 people who have left their villages and relocated here (to Anka town). There are many others at different towns and villages. Some of them have even left the state.
“So, the issue of farming is not possible because the people have deserted their villages and unless Federal Government does something urgent and in time, many people would not have the chance to farm.”
The minister warned the bandits operating in Zamfara to either surrender immediately or be killed.
Dambazau said the Federal Government had made adequate arrangements on how best to tackle banditry and other insecurity issues affecting the state.
The minister maintained that the Federal Government would soon deploy adequate security personnel to root out bandits from Zamfara.
He told the emir that President Buhari was very much worried over what was going on in the state and promised to get rid of the bandits within the shortest possible time.
“President Buhari is much worried about what is currently happening in Zamfara and that is why he sent me to visit you,” Dambazau said.
He explained that the Federal Government had mapped out strategies on how best to tackle the security issues in the state, calling on the people of the state to have patience.
“I want to assure the people of Zamfara State that the Federal Government would very soon end the killings and kidnappings in the state. Once again, warn the bandits to either surrender or face the wrath of the law.”
Meanwhile, some survivors of banditry and kidnapping, who are taking refuge in various internally displaced persons’ camps in the North-West, have explained how their communities were attacked.
While most of the IDPs in separate interview with newsmen claimed their attackers were Fulani, others stated that bandits levied villagers to avoid attacks.
In Plateau State, although the survivors were not in the IDPs’ camps, they also claimed their attackers and abductors were Fulani.
In Sokoto at the Gandi Primary School IDP camp in Rabah, Salish Ibrahim from Warwanna village, said security officials failed to arrest the bandits when the villagers complained about their activities.
Ibrahim, who is a member of the vigilante group in the village, said, “The bandits attacked our village because we did not cooperate with them nor accommodate them. There were times they came to buy foodstuffs, petrol, call cards and other items.
“Our people stopped selling these things to them when we discovered their identities and we reported to the government. The government sent security officials but no arrest was made. That was the only problem we had with them.
“We are left with no option but to form a vigilante group because in our village we don’t have any security presence.”
Also at the camp, Ahmed Sidi, a resident of the Kursa village, lamented his idleness as the planting season approaches.
Sidi said he was returning from farm when his village was attacked, adding that “When we saw them in large numbers armed with guns, nobody told us to take to our heels. We cannot return home for now because those that attacked us are still loitering around our villages.”
But a resident of the Aljimma village in the Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that the bandits levied five villages in the area N20m.
He said the bandits asked the villages to pay the money to avoid attacks.
He stated, “They would send a representative to our communities asking us to pay a certain amount of money running into millions of naira as a condition for living in peace. It has happened to our village and other neighbouring communities.
“Let me give you a breakdown of villages and the ransoms paid. They placed N10m ransom on Gora community, N5m on Faru village, N1.5m on Gidan Isah community, the people of Ilankwai village had to pay N2m while Gidan Baushe village was levied N2.5m . All the villages paid the levy but I’m not sure whether Gora people were able to meet the demand.
“I was part of the team that took the ransom put on our village to the bandits inside the forest. We had to mobilise ourselves by going from house to house to collect the money in order to meet the demand. Failure to do so would be very calamitous on us.”
Narrating his ordeal, a journalist working with Zamfara Radio, Mallam Adamu Kanoma, told newsmen that his son, Nura, spent many days with the bandits because of non-payment of ransom.
He expressed happiness that the boy finally escaped from his abductors.
On how to tackle banditry, the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said all stakeholders must be involved in solving the banditry problem.
“Everyone, including the security agencies, government and traditional rulers, must play a role aimed at bringing this criminality to an end. Failure or otherwise cannot be attributed to the security agencies alone,” he said.
In Plateau State, investigations by newsmen showed that in the past one month, over eight kidnapping cases were reported in Jos metropolis alone.
The Village Head of Dong in Jos North Council Area, Augustine Agwom, in an interview said, “We have not recovered from the shock of the kidnap incident of an 11-year-old boy at Barkin Ladi only for us to hear again of the abduction of Master Obedience Ishaya, a pupil of the Government Primary School, Dong. I’m not happy that since his disappearance more than one month ago, he has not been found.”
Also residents of Rukuba Road community in Jos North said nearly every night, bandits struck and kidnapped people.
A nurse in the community, Naomi Ezekiel, explained how she was kidnapped and released after her husband paid ransom to her abductors.
She said, “We were already sleeping in the house around 12.30 am when we were woken up by a loud sound at the door. Before I knew what was happening, three men, two of them bearing AK-47 rifles had entered our house.
“They demanded money and when my husband and I gave them all the money we had with us in the house, they said it was not enough.
“They said they would go with my husband claiming that they were sent by somebody to kill him, but my husband, who had agreed to go with them, escaped before they left the compound and they came back to the house and abducted me.
“We trekked from the compound to the bush and after we passed the School of the Deaf; they took me deeper into the bush. I slept on a mountain inside the bush.
“The people that abducted me were Fulani from the way they were looking. I don’t like to mention the amount we paid them to release me but it was in hundreds of thousands of naira, which my husband provided.”
In Zamfara, it was gathered that the local governments worst hit by the menace were Maru, Maradun, Zurmi, Shinkafi, Gusau, Kaura-Namoda and Anka.
A resident of Maru, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, the bandits that were attacking his people were Fulani herdsmen.
“Many of them are non-Nigerians living in the forest areas of the state. Although some of the Fulani are indigenes of the state, the majority of them come from neighbouring countries of Niger, Mali and Cameroon,” he added.
He reasoned that the Fulani’s decision to join banditry could be blamed on cattle rustling.
He said. “One reason is the stealing of their animals by rustlers, who are also Fulani people from other countries. Many Fulani lost almost all their animals to rustlers, as such they were left with no option but to join the bandits since they could not farm or do any other business to survive.
“The kidnappers have become so daring nowadays. They send letters to villagers demanding huge amount of money. They go to collect the money knowing full well that nobody would dare them.”
But the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has denied the allegations against its members that they demand money from communities to avoid being attacked.
The National Secretary, Miyetti Allah, Mr Saleh Alhassan, in an interview with newsmen, said herdsmen should not be confused with bandits.
Alhassan said, “I don’t think it’s true. Where? Who? Was it reported to any security agency? With all this misinformation going on, is it from a reliable source? Is it the DPO of a village or a local chief? Are the so-called Fulani herdsmen with herds of cattle or are they referring to bandits and nobody knows their identity?
“We must be careful because there is this stereotyping going on. Do we have ungoverned places in this country? I am not aware and I don’t think it’s true because every inch of this country has leadership, either traditional, the DPOs or local government chairmen. We have councillors.
“We must be very careful with the kind of information we take as serious news. If somebody says someone is paying to access his land, where? Which northern community? People just want to raise unnecessary information but we know it’s all part of the larger politics.”