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The evolving calamities in Zuru Emirate

The recent harvest of deaths and criminality unleashed on the vigilantes and security personnel in Zuru emirate by a handful of seemingly unstoppable bandits is…

The recent harvest of deaths and criminality unleashed on the vigilantes and security personnel in Zuru emirate by a handful of seemingly unstoppable bandits is a very sad milestone in the history of the emirate; but it did not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with scenarios that led to the gruesome killings. It was a culmination of betrayal of the people by a government that is either inept or irresponsible, thus shirking its responsibility of safeguarding the lives and property of its people.

The banditry attacks across the country, especially in the North West and North  East that cost innocent lives and inestimable property daily is no news anymore. The menace has grown steadily and exponentially because the bandits and kidnappers were left unchecked or treated with kid gloves.

While many communities in different parts of the country relied on authorities and law enforcement officials for protection against the terrorists, some patriotic and selfless men in Zuru emirate came together, at the outset of the scourge, and formed local vigilante groups known as ‘Yan Sa Kai (volunteers) to protect people from the menace of the bandits. With improvised local weapons and information sharing as well as knowledge of the emirate’s terrain, they dislodged the bandits and inflicted devastating defeats on those who dared to launch attacks on the people or rustle cattle in any part of the emirate.

Their operations and intelligence were so robust that they could ‘smell’ the bandits several kilometres away and nip their evil intentions in the bud by taking the fight to them and launching pre-emptive strikes that usually left the terrorists dazed and stupefied.

The vigilantes also checkmated informants who lived within communities but worked in cahoots with the bandits, and the sell-outs were treated like bandits. Many criminal elements or people with criminal histories were also not left out by the vigilantes, a situation that forced lots of them to either flee their localities or renounce their criminality. The relentless onslaught by the vigilantes sent the bandits scampering into neighbouring states, and people went about their activities relatively peacefully.

The ‘Yan Sa Kai operated with limited resources from donations by well-meaning individuals  with little or no assistance from government. And with the meagre resources, they were able to keep the bandits at bay and ensured peace and security in the emirate.

But when the emirate was savouring the relative peace and security as a result of selfless services of the ‘Yan Sa Kai, a rude awakening order came from ‘above’ that the vigilantes must lay down their ‘arms’ and stop their operations!

To ensure that the vigilantes complied with the ‘order from above’, heads of Nigeria’s security agencies visited the emirate several times and series of security meetings involving ‘everybody who was somebody’ in the Nigerian security system were held at the emir’s palace in Zuru. The sole aim of the meetings, led by the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was to disarm the ‘Yan Sa Kai on spurious allegations that they engaged in selective and extrajudicial killings.

But the testimonies of those with inside knowledge of their workings disproved the false allegations and established  that the vigilantes operated on the strict policy that anyone found guilty or complicit in banditry or kidnapping was meted commensurate punishment, whatever his status, connections or background.

Following the meetings and endless pledges and assurances that the government would ensure security and peace in the emirate, the vigilantes, in obeisance to the rule of law and deference to the elders, reluctantly laid down their ‘arms’ and disengaged from the  patriotic defence of their communities.

But as soon as they complied, some of their leaders were arrested and detained. Predictably, the terrorists resumed their evil enterprise and unleashed terror on the people mostly in Danko-Wasagu and Sakaba local government areas almost unchallenged. The volunteers had been disarmed and the government did not keep its pledge of maintaining security in the emirate.

Some parts of the emirate became killing fields by the bandits as they ravaged and ransacked villages and communities. They destroyed homes, farmlands and foodstuffs; they engage in orgy killings and slaughter of men, women and children.   Although the vigilantes later regrouped, they were ill-equipped to confront the bandits effectively like before.

Despite their limitations, the Yan Sa Kai gave the bandits a good run for their money in different parts of the emirate. Sadly, betrayal and indifference by the authorities led to the massacre of scores of them last week. Their mass killings and the killing of military and police personnel must now serve as a wake-up call to the government and relevant authorities to take appropriate actions to avert the evolving calamities that could engulf the emirate, Kebbi State and Nigeria as a whole.

The looming food insecurity is another reason why the government must bring the menace of the bandits to an end. The heartless terrorists have displaced people from their homes and villages, burnt their crops and foodstuff and made it impossible for them to engage in agricultural activities. The situation, if not reversed, would lead to acute shortage of food and famine that could bring about new and dire security and banditry challenges.

Most of the atrocities perpetrated by the bandits in the emirate went unreported, but they left carnage and havoc in their wake. The ensuing penury, deprivation and trauma that the victims went through created climate of despair and despondency that is gradually developing into psychological catastrophe that could be detrimental to our dear country.

When a man’s pride and dignity are bruised, he could act or react in unimaginable and unpredictable manner. The banditry attacks and the conditions created therein have bruised and tarnished the pride and dignity of many a man in Zuru emirate, who would rather engage in hard labour in defence of such pride and provide for his family than stoop low by accepting doles, donations or gifts with ‘demeaning’ strings attached.

The victims of the banditry scourge are now forced to live in sub-human conditions and beg to stay alive. The psychological effects of such a situation are better imagined than described. Someone once stressed: “It’s a tragedy for a good man to turn bad, because he will be worse than the bad”.

The government must wake up from its slumber, levity, ineptitude, indifference and irresponsibility and live up to its basic duties of providing and enforcing security, peace and stability in the country. The whereabouts of these criminal elements, be they bandits, kidnappers, militants, insurgents, separatists or terrorists are well-known and their nefarious acts would be eliminated promptly if those entrusted with the tasks lived up to their oaths of office.

Ibrahim Chonoko sent this via [email protected]

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