Ur­gently Needed: State Of Emer­gency In Zam­fara

Sunday Trust - - PAGE 4 COMMENT -

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.

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