It was commendable effort that the police repelled attacks from armed bandits at Mahanga Forest in Birnin Mogaji LGA of Zamfara State.
Ayo Oyoze Baje
“He who does not punish evil, commands it to be done.” – Leonardo da Vinci
As it has been with embattled Nigerian states such as Plateau, Bornu, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Benue and Kaduna, all turned into the horrendous, killing fields of our dear nation, over the past decade, so it is now with Zamfara state. The figures of causalities are simply frightening, igniting calls for the declaration of state of emergency. For instance, as at July 13, 2018 media reports claimed that over 3,000 helpless citizens had their precious lives wantonly wasted in the state, in two years, precisely between June 2016 and June, 2018!
Furthermore, some 682 villages and towns were literally sacked by the armed bandits with 2,706 farms destroyed even as 13, 838 cattle and 11,088 sheep and goats were carted away. They also succeeded in stealing 2,244 motorcycles. Many citizens have been kidnapped for ransom with several houses destroyed. And over N1.2 billion was paid as ransom to secure the release of residents abducted during the period. As expected, not a few of the residents took flight into the neighbouring states of Katsina and Kebbi.
There has been a ping-pong, blame-game between a former Senator, Sa’idu Dansadau who reeled out these mind freezing figures at a press conference in Abuja in June this year and Governor Yari’s special adviser on public enlightenment, media, and communication, Malam Ibrahim Dosara. On his part, Dansadau renewed his appeal to the president to “invoke his powers under Section 305 (3) (c) (d) and (f) & (5) of the Constitution and declare State of Emergency in Zamfara state to deal with the rampant, horrific, indiscriminate and daily killings and violations of innocent people of Zamfara by an emboldened band of criminals in order to restore normalcy.”
The governor’s aide, Dosara however, reminded the former lawmaker that removing officials democratically elected by people is not as easy as what Dansadau thinks it to be. He went further to accuse him as one of the people engineering the crisis in the state. That he has been sabotaging efforts geared towards ending the banditry, and should be ashamed of challenging both the federal and Zamfara state governments on the killings.
He admonished him instead to go back to his emirate and give his piece of advice. He also reminded him that the governor has set up “a committee of elders to fish out anybody involved in banditry in whatever capacity – be it informant or bandit. It is good for Dansadau.”
Meanwhile, characteristic of the recurring melodrama that often plays itself out in Nigeria’s effervescent political space, while they are busy chasing the shadows of who to blame for obvious institutional failures of governance , precious and priceless lives are being lost on daily basis. There the pain lies. It is curious for instance, that while on September 11, 2018 , Lai Muhammed, the Minister of Information and Culture was gleefully celebrating the so called drastic reduction in the number of killings in Zamfara state, the bandits were still out there preparing to wreak more havoc!
It was a good initiative that 1000-strong military force, comprising the army, air force, police and the civil defence were there to launch fierce attacks on the bandits terrorising the villages and towns of Zamfara State as Lai claimed. It was commendable effort that the police repelled attacks from armed bandits at Mahanga Forest in Birnin Mogaji LGA of Zamfara State.
That in the process they killed one hundred and four (104) bandits, destroyed over fifty (50) bandits’ hideouts in three (3) camps, recovered over five hundred (500) cattle and seventy-nine (79) sheep from the bandits.
But they could not stop the killings of not less than 12 police officers, contrary to the claim by the force spokesman, acting DCP Jimoh Moshood that the police lost only one officer and 12 persons were injured. According to Yemi Itodo, the sister to the late Sergeant Itodo this was revealed as the message she got from an eye witness account.
Whatever might have happened, who says that any Nigerian should die from largely preventable deaths? What is the statutory role of government if not to act as a protective father-figure; to ensure the security of every citizen, and provide for his welfare, irrespective of status as enshrined in Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended? Why has it been impossible to single out the mindless masterminds behind the Boko Haram insurgency which began with the Muhammed Yusuf altercation with the then government of Borno state and has since snowballed into a conflagration that claimed thousands of innocent souls? Where are the parents of these cruel youth whose voices are only heard when their people have fallen victims of their evil machination? Who are those arming these malleable and gullible youths with sophisticated arms and ammunition instead of with quality education delivery and self sustaining jobs? And why are they getting Scot-free with blue murder?
Worse still, on what moral ground does the government stand to grant amnesty to the so called ‘repentant members of Boko Haram’? Should we consider their lives more precious than the helpless others they have sent to their early graves? Would such an odious act not encourage other evil-minded youth to take up arms against the state, believing that some day they would also enjoy some spurious and unpatriotic amnesty? One cannot but also wonder what has delayed the release and judicious utilization of the One billion dollar fund to frontally tackle the rampaging monster of insurgency?
The ongoing debate over the declaration, of a state of emergency, or not is understandable as the governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, says he has relinquished his position as chief security officer of the state as he has no control over security agencies. And as the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has rightly observed, the killings continue to defy the presence of security personnel and is now affecting a North-Western state.
All these continue despite the assurance from the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), who has assured Nigerians of the Federal Government’s readiness to deploy additional security resources
A state of emergency means the federal government would take over governance in the state by massively deploying soldiers or appoint an administrator to maintain peace there. Coming close to an election year makes it more worrisome.
The time to put in place strong institutions of youth empowerment, poverty alleviation, job creation and infrastructural development, prompt information gathering mechanism and taking preventive actions to save lives will do us all a world of good. A stitch in time will surely save nine.
Baje writes from Lagos