By Suleiman Umaru
Bello Matawale, governor of Zamfara state, described as home of the Bandits, appears to have found solution to the incessant Bandits attack in the state over the last one year. The Bandits may have played into the hands of the Zamfara state governor, who had introduced some stringent measures, including banning of the sales of Petroleum Products, particular, Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol in filling stations and by the roadside in the flash point Local Government Areas, in the state, to ensure that the criminal elements and their Collaborators do not have access to petrol to power their vehicles and motorcycles, to launch attacks in the state.
The governor may have taken advantage of the shutdown of major weekly markets in the state to curtail supplies of food and other essential services to the bandits in their respective Camps. Indeed, vehicles conveying food, fuel, drinks and other essential. Materials to the various Camps of the Bandits camps were said to have been intercepted in the recent time. The fallout was that the Bandits have been hit by biting hunger that they do not have the strength to mobilise to attack any Community as was the case in the past,let alone secondary and tertiary Institutions to kidnap students for ransom.
The andits situation may have been worsened as President Muhammadu Buari, a retired army General, directed Ali Isa Patami, minister of Communication and Digital Economy and Umar Garba Dambata, a Professor and Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Nigerian Communications to give a matching order to the Telecommunications Companies shutdown their operations in the state as requested by the governor.
Acting on the ministerial directive, MTN, and the other service providers were said to have shut down their operations in the north west state, which shares boundary with Katsina Buhari, home state and Kaduna as the Bandits lost contact with each other in their various Camps due to lack of Communication.
Recall that Ibrahim Dorsara, the state Commissioner for Information had said that there were over 100 Bandits Camp, scattered all over the forests in the state with 30,000 armed followers thus, making it possible to spread their atatcks to Kaduna, Kebi, and Sokoto ,the Caliphate state, including Niger, home state of Ibrahim Babangida, a retired army General and the first Jackboot former Head of state to proclaim himself a’’ military President’’.
Although, the Zamfara governor may have introduced the stringent policy measures ‘‘to curb the killings, kidnappings and other security challenges in the state’’ , but the reverse appears to have become the case as the populace are also facing severe economic hardship.The situation is so worrisome that Matawalle, who is not happy that Banditry had resurfaced in the state barely one year of taking over power , had constituted a state Relief Materials Distribution Committee, ‘’to reduce the economic hardships faced by the people’’.
The governor had admitted that the recent measures taken to bring lasting solution to the lingering banditry in the state it had also taken a toll on the people, particular, the common man at the grassroots level in the state’’. It was therefore not surprising why the Zamfara governor may have considered it necessary ‘’to source the essential Commodities for distribution to these common people across the state, with a warning to the Committee members ‘‘to conduct the distribution exercise properly with a view to ensuring justice and fairness’’, irrespective of their political affiliation. The Committee members may have gotten the message right that anyone found violating the distribution exercise would be dealt with to put their house in order.
Between June and August 2021, the Bandits had intensified their attack in the state that the people had called on the governor and the military for help to save them from the riggler -hungry Bandits who are forcing the farmers to make available their produce to them or be killed for their refusal to do so.
The Zamfara state governor may have finally cut the wings of the Bandits when the Katsina state born Nigerian President gave Patani, the minister of Communication and Digital Economy to shutdown Communication facilities in the state, in the first instance, for two weeks. It was a masterstroke. Matawalle had said that that it has been easy dealing with the Bandits since the Telecommunication facilities in the state were shutdown. Between September3, 2021 and now,there had been few attacks on Communities in the state.
Even, Muhammed Shehu, the Zamfara state police Command, spokesperson, was said to have also corroborated the governor’s views , stressing that the only time they have heard of any such attack in the recent time was at Shikanfi town, on Friday, September 24, 2021, but ‘‘it was proactively repelled by Police and military operatives stationed in the town’’.
He had said that with the casualties figure suffered the Bandits during the attack at Shikanfi town, they may not want to dare the Nigeria security Operatives may not to attack in the town again. He notedthere was no loss of life either from the security operatives’ side or the inhabitants’ side, unlike inthe past, where the Bandits would kill and kidnap the people to demand for ransom, which many believe were used in buying arms to sustain the tempo of their attacks in the state.There is no gain saying the fact that the security agencies personnel are now able to deal decisively with the agents because the new security measures introduced by the government are being ‘’enforced effectively in the town’’.
Prior to the recent attack on the shnkafi town, the Bandits had attacked a military base in the state on September 12, 2021, killing no fewer than 12 security personnel while three others were said to have been wounded in the forward Operating Base in Mutumji, Dansadau Local Government Area.
They were said to equally attacked a Government Day Secondary School at Kaya, Maradun , the governor’s home town on September 1, 2021, for daring them with his stringent policies which had somewhat crippled their operations in the state.It was reported that over 100 students were kidnapped in the September 1, 2021, attack, in Maradun.
In spite of the fact that Bandits have continued to launch attacks since the shutdown of Telecommunication facilities in the state by the service providers, an elated Matawalle, had said the security operatives are paying back to them in their own coin.
. He had attributed the success achieved by the military and Police , in dealing with the Bandits in the recent time to the support of the ulamas, traditional rulers, civil servants, security operatives and other well-meaning people of the state who had contributed in no small measure in giving out information about the locations of the Bandits. Which was said to have helped the security agencies personnel to do their job, forcing many of them to the neighbouring West African country of Niger and other countries in the Sahel region.
Informed sources told The Value News that some suspected Collaborators of the Banks have been arrested by the Task Force personnel in the state and handed over to the police for further investigations while those with light offences were said to have tried by the mobile Court established by the Task Force enforcing the se the new security measures in the state.
Not many were surprised that Matawalle, the Zamfara state governor, had decided to go tougher on the Bandits operating in the state to give the people a breather. This is because he had given his words to implement the report submitted to him in 2019, by a Committee, headed by Mohammed Abubakar, a one-time Inspector General of Police, IGP, which was very revealing but he was reluctant to implement it.The Committee had reported that ‘‘some traditional rulers in the state were colluding with the bandits in their operations because of their pecuniary gains’’.
The Abubakar led Committee had reported that over N3 billion was collected by the bandits as ransom from the relatives of 3,672 persons abducted between June, 2011 and May 2019, during the Administrations of Abdulaziz Abubakari Yari and Shariman Marafara, who was said to have been on the Seat just for few months before he was kicked out by the Supreme Court, for Matawale ,of the Opposition , People’s Democratic Party. PDP, to step in but he has decamped to the ruling All Progressive Congress, ASPC, under pressure from several quarters in the region.
Given the fact that the bandits are gradually losing their strong hold in the north west state, may have informed why Matawalle, had declared that ‘’the state government is no longing interested in dialoging with them as they had rejected the olive branch extended to them the past’’, insisting that there would not be no such opportunity again.
He was optimistic that ‘‘the Force and the military would flush out the Bandits in no distant time from the state to give the people a breathing space’’.
Appealing to Politicians in the state ‘‘to fear God and stop buying motorcycles to distribute to the people who in turn, sell to the bandits to perpetuate other evil acts’’, he had vowed to deal with such people.
While the Bandits are no longer finding it easy to regroup and attack any Zamfara state Community in the recent time, they may have resurfaced in Kaduna, a neighbouring state, to launch their attacks. The state Police Command had reported that the Bandits had attacked and killed one ECWA Church member and left several others seriously wounded at Gabaciwa village in Kachia Local Government Area of the state on Sunday, September 26, 2021, during the morning service.
An aggrieved Nasir El-Rufai, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and now governor of the north western state geo-political region, who may have taken advantage of the fragile peace provided by the security agencies personnel ‘‘to build and Commission a tomato processing plant in the state last Friday, with a promise to make the state an industrial hub’’, has urged the Bandits ‘‘to stop leveraging on religious sensitivity to attack Worshippers’’. He believes that the continued attack on soft targets would discourage investors from coming into the state.
In a related development, Ndudi Elumelu, the Delta state born politician, and the Opposition PDP, Caucus , Leader in the Femi Gbajabiamila, led House of Representative , had taken to the cleaners the Nigerian President speech at the United Nations General Assembly that terrorists have been weakened in Nigeria that they are now attacking soft targets, ‘’when in reality the Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, Insurgents have become so emboldened under his close watch’’.
The Lawmaker would want the international Community to know that the Insurgents are now ‘’attacking military formations, kidnapping and killing the nation’s gallant officers while overrunning Communities and ordering the innocent citizens to do their bidings without restraint’’.
He had expected the retired army General to include in his speech presented at the United Nations General Assembly, ‘‘the closure of schools and crippling of education in the north, particular, Borno, Yobe, where the Insurgents, had been on ground over the last 12 years. Zamfara and Kaduna states, where the notorious Bandits are making life uncomfortable for the people by attacking schools and kidnapping students for ransom.