Urgently Needed: State Of Emergency In Zamfara
If any place in Nigeria deserves the urgent declaration of a State of Emergency, Zamfara State is it. Armed bandits, cattle rustlers, robbers and kidnappers rolled into one have turned almost the entire state into a living hell, robbing, kidnapping and killing at will. Where once they stormed isolated villages, farms and quarries, they are now audacious enough to storm markets, towns and block highways, and they kill people by the dozens. It did not happen overnight. According to Daily Trust’s report published in our special edition on insecurity, this morass dates back at least to October 2011 when bandits killed 23 people at Lingyado village in Maru LGA.Since then, there have been regular or periodic attacks on villages, towns and markets all over the state. Worst hit are Maru, Zurmi, Anka, Maradun, Shinkafi, Tsafe, Gummi, Gusau and Birnin Magaji LGAs. That’s nine LGAs out of only 14 in the state.
Since January this year, 388 people were killed in attacks on at least 33 rural communities of these local government areas. Matters came to a head on Monday last week when residents of Tsafe town and neighbouring Kucheri village staged a violent protest, burnt the local government secretariat and blocked the Sokoto-Zaria federal highway for many hours, causing untold hardship to travelers on Christmas eve. They were reportedly protesting the numerous attacks on villages in the local government and the loss of many lives. Even though their frustration was easily understandable, it was a sign of the poor protest culture in this country that they burnt the local government secretariat when the chairman was doing his best to appeal to higher authorities and to cater for refugees.
Many people in and outside Zamfara State have blamed the rule of Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of laying the conditions for the escalation of the crises through its policies or lack of them, the governor’s propensity to travel, and his tendency to attribute man-made calamities to supernatural forces. He was not even around during the latest escalation and he handed over the state to the Speaker, instead of to the Deputy Governor, because the two are not on speaking terms due to politics, even though they both belong to APC. His administration however recruited 8,000 local vigilantes to help address the problem. These vigilantes, armed with sticks, spears, bows and arrows are no match for the bandits who sport AK47s smuggled in from Muammar Gaddafi’s old armoury.
Whatever were the contributions of the state government to the crisis, the responsibility for protecting citizens and combatting banditry is that of the federal government, which controls all the security forces. It is instructive that the military Operation Harbin Kunama which President Muhammadu Buhari personally launched in the state in 2016, and Operation Diran Mikiya which was launched last July, have all failed to stem the killings and restore peace to the state. Nor is the recent “order” to the Chief of Air Staff to relocate to the state likely to improve the situation.
It is time for President Buhari to do more, much more. He should declare a state of emergency in Zamfara State. Unlike what many Nigerians believe, emergency does not entail the removal of the Governor or the State Assembly. That matter was settled eleven years ago by a Supreme Court ruling.What it should entail is the massive movement of troops, weapons, aircraft, helicopters, police special units and other security agents into the state to speedily rout the bandits, destroy their camps and apprehend them to face stern justice.
As we saw in the North Eastin May 2013 when President Jonathan declared a state of emergency, local people have all the information about the bandits and will readily make it available to the security agents, provided they are made to feel safe enough. There is no time to waste. Unless something drastic is done, even the upcoming elections may not be feasible in many parts of Zamfara State.