The security situation in Zamfara State has deteriorated like an object on a free fall from a height, with armed bandits and cattle rustlers reigning supreme, a situation that forced many locals to relocate to neighbouring states.
Traditional rulers in the state were accused of being complicit in the insecurity in the area as they served as informants to the bandits.I n fact, sometime in April, the immediate past defence minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, pointedly said some traditional rulers in Zamfara and the North-West region aided bandits to perpetuate criminal activities in the area.
Even though this allegation was denied by the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs, the minister insisted that intelligence reports available to the Federal Government from the region showed that the banditry in the area was aided by some traditional rulers in the state. It was therefore, no surprise when troops of the Nigerian Army attached to Operation Harbin Kunama 3 arrested the traditional heads of Doka and Mutu villages in Gusau Local Government Area of the state for serving as informants to bandits, two weeks after the allegation by the then minister. This was not all. In July, when the state governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle paid a condolence visit to the families of 32 persons killed by the bandits, residents called for the removal of the Emir of Maru, Alhaji Abubakar Cika Ibrahim and the district head of Kanoma, Alhaji Ahmed Kanoma on the same allegations of aiding banditry in the area.
The residents had earlier rough-handled the two traditional rulers. Consequently, the two traditional rulers were suspended while a committee was put in place and charged with the responsibility of ascertaining their complicity or otherwise in the allegations. Following a report of that committee, the two traditional rulers were last week removed from office. This courageous move by Governor Matawalle is commendable as we have previously said on this page that until traditional rulers get involved in the security of their domains are held to account for crimes committed in those jurisdictions, we may never get it right with our security.
We have particularly cited the organised traditional chieftaincy hierarchy in the northern part of the country where they have leaders at every level, who know practically every one in their jurisdictions. We therefore, call on the Zamfara State government and security agencies to take this a step further by prosecuting the former traditional rulers to serve as a deterrent to others, while urging other state governments to emulate the Zamfara example.
We also commend other efforts by the Zamfara government to bring about a lasting solution to crime in the area, one of which is a recent peace meeting held with some identified bandits in the area, in Birnin Magaji Local Government Area of the state, at the end of which they promised to lay down their arms.
Present at the meeting were the state commissioner of police, Usman Nagogo, leaders of Miyetti Allah
Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria; a local vigilance group, Yansakai; Fulani Civilian Joint Task Force and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Abubakar Dauran. The meeting is already yielding positive results as, according to the police boss, 40 kidnapped people have regained their freedom, just as farmers and traders can now go about their businesses freely, without fear of attacks.
The governor has also announced amnesty for all bandits who will surrender their illegal weapons to the government.This carrot and stick approach, though commendable, for the gains it may bring, needs to be approached cautiously, lest the government is seen to be surrendering to the whims of criminal elements. The government needs to learn from the mistakes of other states where such amnesty declarations rather than stem criminality in those areas, emboldened the criminals to continue to terrorise the people and embolden others to venture into such crimes as a way of getting the attention of the government.
Law enforcement agencies need to be alive to their responsibilities by enforcing the law when criminals are apprehended, this will deter others from going into such crimes while local security, led by traditional rulers can also be deployed as a way of checking crime rate.