The Battle Against Banditry In Zamfara: Questions Need To Be Asked! Written By Khalid Ahmed Mohammed

Absence of security and humanitarian intervention has left the state of Zamfara in a hazardous condition. The killings of innocent people in the state has made it unsafe and without security for at least four years. Experts have cited the continued carnage to the poor handling of the affairs by the government. As the primary actors of peace and tranquility, the Federal Government has neglected its responsibility to protect. Regional organizations like the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States have also shown little interest in tackling the issue. Hence, locals are left defenceless and vulnerable to attacks by bandits.

According to the state government, there are 2,000 soldiers mobilized to fight the conflict in the state, however local sources have said as much as 5,000 bandits are operating within the Anka Local Government alone. Therefore, the prospect that 2,000 can defeat 5,000 is unrealistic at best. For long, the media and the government have cited religion to be the main reason behind the insurgency. However, that view is not shared among the locals. One of the people affected by the insurgency reported that the fight has nothing to do with religion, rather it is ethnical.

According to a local, Fulani herdsmen rear their cattle on Hausa farmland and damage their crops and kill all those that resist — this he said is the root cause of the conflict. He added that Hausa farmers have not been inciting violence in the state, yet the nomads cause havoc as they travel through the states. In defence of the nomadic bandits, they are a product of their environment and condition. It was the systematic neglect of cattle rustling that has turned nomadic Fulanis into hardened criminals in Northern Nigeria. However, to many the conflict has lost reason and has no cause, bandits are now using the ethnic issue as a pretext to incite violence in the state. Failure of governance by the state governor and lack of interference by Nigeria’s Defence Minister (who happens to be from Zamfara) has left the state in a numb situation.

A review of several military operations across the north western part of Nigeria like operation Sharan Daji launched in October 2016 shows that the military lacks strategic intelligence to end the banditry across the state and North-West in general. Clearly, the military intelligence unit still hasn’t recognized the magnitude of the crisis. Understanding the sociological underpinnings of the various emergencies of the crisis is vital to ending the conflicting. Who are the people fighting? Why are they fighting? These are essential questions that must be asked and answered. Absence of comprehension of fundamental issues implies that the issues are dealt with responsively and symptomatically instead of meaningfully and effectively. The absence of Nigerian Air Force is hindering the military from capturing the perpetrators of the act and rendering the fight inefficient. Both the state and federal government have not come forward to condole with those affected. The poor masses have little to nothing to survive on.

Another pressing matter is the issue of funding and weapons. Where are the bandits getting their funding and weapons from? The bandits engage in kidnappings and they are being paid ransom to release hostages; that alone is enough to fund their operations. Hence, the government needs to find a way to cut out their funds by tackling security in the state more vigorously.

By all counts, and with proven results, the government and the military need to take drastic and effective measures by ensuring peace and development on all platforms. If this issue is not addressed with vigor, it will likely cross over to nearby states as we have seen happen with Boko Haram.

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