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A note on Zamfara banditry and Plateau killings

There is no way Zamfara and Plateau can expunge themselves from the list of Nigerian states ravaged by insecurity. The two have, in recent years,…

There is no way Zamfara and Plateau can expunge themselves from the list of Nigerian states ravaged by insecurity. The two have, in recent years, been contending with violent activities of armed bandits and marauding herdsmen/gunmen.

Many citizens and residents of the two states have been sent to their early graves by those merchants of death. Having deserted their ancestral homes in the wake of the senseless attacks by these sworn enemies of Nigeria, thousands of others have since become refugees and displaced persons in Gusau and Jos, the capital cities of the two states.

The Zamfara situation is somewhat aggravated by the illicit mining of gold, but as for Plateau, the orgy of killings has little to do with the battle over natural resources. But lives are being lost almost on a daily basis, and that is what matters, and should worry us as citizens.

The statistics about the Plateau carnage are quite alarming. At least, 346 persons have been killed within three months in eight local government areas of the state, according to a human rights organisation.

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The organisation, Gideon and Funmi Para-Mallam Peace Foundation, in a report released in July, said out of the number, over 200 lives have been lost to sustained violent attacks in Mangu LGA alone, as of Saturday, July 8, 2023.

The founder and executive director of the foundation, Rev. Dr. Gideon Para-Mallam, who gave the figure in the report, said in the killings which took place between April 17- July 10, 2023, there were currently about 18,751 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in 14 camps in the state.

Para-Mallam, a peace advocate, said 17 people were killed in Bokkos, while those of other LGs are as follows: Mangu 234; Barkin Ladi 39; Riyom 36; Jos North 5; Jos South 9; Mikang 5 and Bassa 1.

He said the 14 IDP camps are hosted by the Church of Christ in the Nation’s local church councils, adding that a breakdown of the IDPs showed 2,081 widows and 6,066 orphans between the ages of 0-5 years.

The activist added that old people account for 1,057, while teenagers and adult orphans are 828.

He said a total of 6,603 households are currently affected by these deadly attacks.

While stressing that the harvest of deaths in Mangu LGA must be treated with the utmost urgency it deserved, Para-Mallam said the inaction by the federal government to tame the killings suggested looking the other way, while the current inhumanity continued.

Speaking further, Para-Mallam noted, “The burden of these killings should not rest only on the shoulders of the new Governor of Plateau State, Caleb Muftwang. The burden should not also rest only on the shoulders of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In fact, the burden rests on the shoulders of all Nigerians. 

“What is happening in Plateau State has an impact on Nigeria. What’s more, what is happening in Nigeria has global consequences in the medium and long run. It is time to act and stop localizing Plateau’s killing fields. The time to put an end to violence in Plateau State and Nigeria is now.”

Like Plateau, Zamfara is another theatre of war, where life has become short, nasty and brutish, owing to the gruesome mayhem frequently launched by bandits.

These terror merchants in Zamfara, and other North West/Central states, together with non State actors like Boko Haram/ISWAP/Ansaru and IPOB, made Nigeria fetch the eighth position in the 2023 Global Terrorism Index – having ‘slaughtered’ no fewer than 63,111 citizens, between 2015 and May 2023.

Known for violently rustling livestock and estimated to have a population of 120,000 members, bandits in the country, for almost a decade now, have been operating in Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina and Kebbi states, with reckless abandon. They are also entrenched in Niger, Plateau, Taraba and Nasarawa states.

In finding a permanent solution to the security woes of their states, the duo of Governor Dauda Lawal Dare of Zamfara and his Plateau counterpart, Caleb Muftwang, have been forging collaborations with security agencies and other critical stakeholders. They were at the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, in July.

But in their separate parleys with the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, General Christopher Gwabin Musa, they canvassed the Nigerian military’s intervention for the security challenges wreaking the economy of their states.

Governor Lawal Dare said escalating banditry is affecting meaningful development and making governance almost impossible in Zamfara. While Governor Muftwang expressed firm belief that the CDS, as a brilliant senior military officer, will deploy his combat experiences to help tackle Plateau’s security crisis, warts and all.

In response, Gen. CG Musa acknowledged the exigent task of taming the criminals holding the two states to ransom. He, however, disclosed that the Nigerian Armed Forces is determined and committed to ensuring peace is restored not only in Zamfara and Plateau but across the federation.

The defence chief pledged the DHQ’s readiness to provide every necessary assistance to states battling terrorists, armed herders and other criminal groups. “We shall also ensure that troops are on top of their game, even as we are making assiduous efforts towards enhancing the synergy between the Nigerian military and other security agencies.”

The deliberate actions of the Zamfara and Plateau governments to lobby the support of the Nigerian military are critical to accelerating socio-economic development in the two states. Governors Lawal Dare and Muftwang deserve plaudits for seeking a permanent solution to their states’ insecurity, which predates their assumption of office.

That they did so, less than two months after their inauguration as governors, is heartwarming. Another effective measure they have both taken to boost security in their domains is providing patrol vehicles and other logistics to security agencies operating in their states. Local security networks in the two states are not left out.

They are also beneficiaries of the governors’ benevolence to the personnel securing lives and property in both Zamfara and Plateau. Many attacks in the two states have long been aided by informants and collaborators.

Though successive governments in Zamfara and Plateau often sanction traditional chiefs and citizens identified as allies of terrorists and gunmen, Governors Dare and Muftwang should go beyond that.

They should ensure persons discreetly working with violent groups to continuously wreak havoc in Zamfara and Plateau communities and villages are diligently prosecuted. They should be made to languish in our gulags for donkey years, if not permanently condemned to the hangman’s noose.

As for the Nigerian military and Gen. Musa, I have this to say. First, our military hierarchy needs to do everything possible to boost the morale of combat troops in troubled parts of the country, so that they can be mentally, physically and psychologically prepared to take on adversaries of our dear nation.

How about developing a robust and actionable intelligence mechanism for the Nigerian military? It is direly necessary. This will enable the Nigerian Armed Forces to always be a step ahead of terrorists, gunmen and bandits, together with their diabolic plots.

What else? Make good your promise of ridding Zamfara and Plateau of criminal elements, like you courageously did in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, while serving as the Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, between July 2021 and June this year. Currently, there are troops of Operations Hadarin Daji and Safe Haven fighting the anti-banditry and other wars across the North West and Central.

But additional troops can be deployed to Zamfara and Plateau, in particular. Their terms of reference should be simple: mercilessly pound gunmen and terrorists giving the two northern states a bad name. Deny them even a little space for breathing – just like they have been depriving thousands of innocent Zamfara and Plateau masses. There should be no peace for the wicked.

Mahmud is the deputy editor of PRNigeria and wrote in via [email protected]

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