The Senate ad hoc Committee on Security Infrastructure was yesterday greeted with horrifying tales by the Zamfara State government and residents of some communities in Zumi and Maradun local government areas of the state.
The committee, during a two-day fact-finding visit to the state, was informed by the state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, that security agencies, like the Nigeria Police Force and the Army were unable to contain the atrocities of bandits due to lack of ammunition and insufficient personnel. The lawmakers were told that the bandits, who wreaked havoc on communities in the state, consisted of heavily-armed herdsmen and fleeing Boko Haram insurgents.
According to accounts by the deputy governor, Ibrahim Muhammad, the crisis, which has engulfed Zamfara, “has the potential of consuming the state and escalating beyond its borders,” if not nipped in the bud by the federal government.
The deputy governor, who chairs the reconciliation and disarmament committee, disclosed that the state government had, in the past, negotiated with bandits following the kidnap of 40 persons.
He added that the reconciliation process, which led to the disarmament of Boko Haram insurgents and bandits, resulted in short-lived normalcy that was truncated by some challenges and frustrations.
He said: “Some bandits and Yankasai willingly surrendered their weapons to the committee. The last count indicated the receipt of over 3,000 weapons, which included a large number of AK-47 rifles, SMGs, pump-action, G3, long dane guns, locally-made guns and cache of arms; all the weapons were handed over to the Army for custody.”
He, however, stated that, “in spite of all the aforementioned achievements of the committee, its assignment had to be halted as a result of some challenges and even frustrations.”
Secretary to the state government, Prof. Abdullahi Muhhamad Shinkafi, said that over 10,000 houses were destroyed and over 200 persons abducted by bandits. According to him, over 2,688 hectares were also destroyed, 1,321 persons killed, and 1,181 injured in the attacks.
The Senate ad hoc committee, in a separate meeting with traditional rulers, stumbled on horrifying details, which shocked members of the panel. According to a resident, Abubakar, the killings by bandits, whom he said consisted of Boko Haram members, did not start recently, but as far back as 2012. He disclosed that, despite the killings in the past, the state government and some key political figures in the state refused to speak up out of fear of losing their popularity.
Abubakar disclosed that over 30 miners were brutally killed by bandits in Bindi community in 2016. He said that scores of women, consisting of married women and teenage girls, were abducted and raped repeatedly by the bandits who brandished their weapons in public while moving in broad daylight on motorcycles.
He added that residents of the various communities, in a bid to escape the wrath of the bandits have resorted to taking safety in deserted locations in the bush, away from their villages.
The Speaker of the Zamfara State House of Assembly, Sanisu Garba Rikiji, said that over 20,000 residents across the state were displaced due to the bloody activities of the said bandits.