Fear has gripped residents of Zamfara State after government raised the alarm over possible Boko Haram attacks on some locations in the state. Residents who spoke to our correspondent said they were apprehensive.
“Since the authorities issued a red alert that Boko Haram insurgents could strike in the state, I have been living in fear. I can’t understand why Zamfara would remain the target of armed men.
“Although the state has experienced a series of deadly assaults by armed men, people should understand that the mode of attacks by bandits is quite different from that of Boko Haram. While armed bandits are usually raiding rural communities, Boko Haram, apart from attacks on rural areas, also raid towns and cities, using explosives,’’ a Gusau resident, who simply identified himself as Badamasi, said.
Another Gusau resident identified as Hassan said he could not comprehend why the state government raised such alarm after a peace deal with bandits in the state, which is already yielding positive results.
“After years of traumatic experience owing to the incessant horrific assaults by armed criminals in the state and we have started enjoying relative peace, suddenly, authorities came up with this terrifying information that Boko Haram is planning to attack the state. It is really bad,’’ he said.
In Talata Mafara Local Government, a town identified as one of the targets of attackers, residents told Daily Trust on Sunday that they were frightened over the alarm, adding that they would remain vigilant and cautious about people’s movement in the town.
“Our fear is that Boko Haram elements are using dangerous devices, such as explosives, and no one would know when and where they could strike. Unlike bandits whose attacks are concentrated on rural dwellers, Boko Haram insurgents do not spare towns and cities,’’ he said.
A resident of Anka town said the state government shouldn’t have made the information public, in the first place.
“Raising the alarm this time around can only aggravate the situation. People are not yet out of the horrible experience of deadly raids on the state and the authorities are coming out to add salt to injury,’’ he said.
A worshipper at Gusau Central Mosque, Sani Hamisu, said although he knew about the alarm, nothing would stop him from going to the mosque to worship on Fridays. He said he had prayed in the mosque for more than 40 years.
“I see no reason why I shouldn’t go to the mosque for Jumaat prayers. The alarm shouldn’t deter worshippers from going to the mosque. Evil will never triumph over good. Those trying to attack innocent souls should understand that the day of reckoning is coming and they would fully account for their deeds,’’ he said.
But some residents said the alarm raised by the state government was only a political gimmick. They expressed surprise that such piece of information was made public when peace was returning to various communities in the state. They also wondered why the state government did not raise an alarm when the people suffered terrible attacks by armed groups in the past eight years, saying there’s no need to politicise security matters.
However, the special adviser on security matters to Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle, Alhaji Abubakar Dauran, told our correspondent that contrary to the fear being nursed in some quarters, that the peace process in the state may collapse due to the alarm on possible attacks by Boko Haram, the deal is intact and successes are being recorded every day.
“The deal is intact and we have recorded a huge success. You are a living witness that we were able to recover 49 rifles from repentant gunmen, and more are being surrendered. We are always in touch with leaders of the repentant bandits.
“I can, therefore, tell you that our alarm has nothing to do with our successful peace initiative. We are on top of the situation, and I can tell you that some politicians in the state are behind all these things.
“When we got the information, we called leaders of the repentant bandits and they expressed surprise, saying they knew nothing about possible attacks by Boko Haram elements.
“They said if there’s any threat of attacks they would be in the position to know about it. And let me remind people that repentant bandits are now our ears and eyes, especially in the forests. So the people shouldn’t panic over this piece of information,’’ Dauran added.
Asked about the role played by Dogo Gide, who killed the notorious cattle rustling kingpin, known as Buharin Daji, Alhaji Dauran said that he (Gide) sent representatives during the peace deal and affirmed his support.
“Shortly afterwards, reports available to us indicated that Dogo Gide renounced cattle rustling and kidnapping and migrated to the neighbouring Niger State with herds of his cattle.
Our correspondent, on Friday saw a large convoy of well armed security operatives, comprising of the Police, Army and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, patrolling the streets of Gusau, the state capital to forestall any possible breakdown of law and order. This is in addition to the deployment of security operatives to other public and strategic places, including mosques.
In the meantime, there’s no information about people fleeing their homes because of the threat of attacks; instead, people are going about their normal businesses in Gusau and other towns.
Last Monday, the director-general, press affairs, Alhaji Yusuf Idris, in a press conference, said the state government was in possession of credible intelligence reports suggesting that some disgruntled politicians of the state origin were making clandestine moves to destabilise the state.
“Their intention is for sinister and personal gains. They are collaborating with dispersed elements of Boko Haram to launch a series of attacks on innocent and peace-loving people of the state to scuttle the relative peace being currently enjoyed as a result of the peace process initiated by the present administration.
“According to the intelligence report, the cruel and mischievous elements have perfected plans to launch the attacks in seven local government areas of the state and other strategic places within the state capital. According to the report, two important personalities of the state are also targeted for elimination should this dastardly act succeed.
“The targeted local governments include Gusau, the state capital; Tsafe; Talata Mafara; Anka; Zurmi; Maru and Maradun. The strategic places targeted are Gusau Central Mosque and Gusau Mami Market, where soft targets are known to gather at day and night,’’ Idris said.
He said Boko Haram elements were said to have been recruited from far and wide to carry out these heinous acts slated between Monday, September 23 and October 25, 2019.
According to him, because Governor Bello Matawalle has prioritised security of lives and property of the people in the state, he found it very imperative to alert them, especially those in the listed local government areas. He did that to make them very vigilant and promptly report any suspicious movement to security agencies nearest to them for immediate action.
He said the governor had noted with total dismay, the unpatriotic attitude of some politicians and their collaborators, who are determined to cause mayhem in the state and destroy the lives and property of innocent citizens, ostensibly to gain personal relevance. According to him, such people forget that security is a collective responsibility of all well-meaning citizens of the state, irrespective of political affiliations.
The governor further appealed to people of the state, particularly operators of commercial vehicles and motorcyclists, to be more security conscious and vigilant while carrying out their legitimate businesses, as well as report any suspicious movement of persons, groups or goods to security agencies in the state.
He said they should not panic as government and the entire security agencies in the state had taken all necessary steps to address the situation. He assured that more security reinforcements, 24-hour surveillance and other precautionary measures were being put in place in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
He also appreciated repentant bandits and the Yansakai for embracing the peace process of his administration, which resulted in the restoration of peace in the state, and appealed for more support and cooperation in that direction.