Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin-Kebbi

The people of Zuru kingdom, comprising Dakarkari, Hausa, Fulani,Yoruba and even Igbo elements, have been living in peace for ages. Consisting of Muslims and Christians, they mix and relate well with one another as brothers and sisters.

Found mostly in four local government areas of Kebbi State, namely Zuru, Fakai, Dankowasagu and Sakaba, they are presently in the news for the wrong reasons. As recent statistics indicates, there has been an upswing in criminal activities in the kingdom, a situation that has been a source of worry to many in the state

Some of the everyday crimes that have defiled solution included rape, kidnap, banditry, theft and tribal exploits. Despite the formation of vigilance group, Yan Sakai, the situation has remained the same or even worse. In fact, the emergence of this counter-force, provided a fresh ground for renewed hostility as well as inflamed clashes between those suspected to be behind the crimes and those inaugurated to check them.

In a petition to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) by Ibakkana Association Zuru Emirate signed by its chairman and secretary, Alhaji A. G Milai’ilu and Alhaji Usman Sani, the association accused the Fulani bandits of terrorising the law-abiding citizens in emirate: “They became so fierce that they will visit a village, when the residents flee, they will gather their children and set them on fire.

“In November 2019, at about 18:00 hours in Gulbin Kuka Audu Jri village Fakai LGA, one Alhaji Maidamma was kidnapped by Fulani bandits and N3 million was paid for his freedom. On January 16, 2020, armed bandits attacked Maidanga village in Bantu ward, in Fakai LGA, killing many people and burning down the village. 

“On February 17, 2020, two attacks were carried out in Sabon Tunga. One Alhaji Noma was killed and about 400 cows were taken away. In Shengel village, Wake ward, Danko/Wasagu LGA, one person was killed and a 15-year-old girl was raped.

 “She was at first taken to the General Hospital, Ribah for treatment and later transferred to the University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, for further treatment. In that attack, houses were bugled many cows were taken away. The same February 17, 2020, Fulani armed men attacked Munhaye village of Malekaci Bena District, killed one Pastor John and kidnapped his brother.

“In the Sakaba LGA, some women were kidnapped, when they claimed they are AIDS carriers. The Fulani bandits inserted about seven battery cells into their vaginas. These women were rescued and taken to General Hospital, Diri Daji, for treatment. The women are still alive to testify.”

Chairman of Yan Sa Kai, Mani Giwa, said the Zuru people were known for their hospitality and peace-loving attributes: “What is happening in Zuru today is that some people have taken up arms for the past three years, killing our farmers, destroying their farms and houses, raping, kidnapping and displacing them. The lack of media focus might be the reason our voices were not heard until we resorted to self-defence.

“We have documented some crimes and atrocities committed by these armed bandits, documented evidence where they killed many, made hundred orphans and widows and have displaced thousands, who have migrated to other regions. We don’t want to believe that Miyatti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), have hand in this.

“Since the emergence of Yan Sakai as a self-defence group, we have only engaged and arrested individuals that have direct or indirect links with these criminal gangs that cut across all tribes and cultures within and even beyond Zuru Emirate.

“We are dismayed over MACBAN’s reaction by allowing its platform to be used as a tool for propaganda, as if the only criminals being engaged and arrested are their members. We want to appeal to the leadership of MACBAN to dissociate itself from criminals as it is done by other socio-cultural groups such as those of Lelna, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.

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“Socio-cultural groups like MACBAN should avoid using their platforms to cover the crimes of some individuals. Criminals are not peculiar to any tribe. Yan Sakai only engages criminals in the battle, arrest their collaborators and informants that live within the society providing them with intelligence and logistics to carry out their criminal acts successfully, as we have seen in the cases of Katsina and Zamfara states.

“The general public should understand that these bandits, kidnappers or crime syndicates have targeted some successful businessmen, retired top civil servants or politicians in Zuru Emirate to be kidnapped and taken into hostage for ransom. It is the emergence of Yan Sakai that forced them to abandon their targets and run into hiding.

“We are not fighting against MACBAN members, rather we are fighting criminals who cut across all tribes and cultures within and beyond Zuru Emirate. Worthy of note is that almost all the kidnappers and armed bandits we have arrested and handed over to the police have now been released to the society. But some of our vigilance members arrested are still in detention in Birnin Kebbi. It is this kind of injustice that often escalates security challenges. 

“Also, in July, we arrested about six kidnappers and handed them over to the police,hence,we are monitoring to see how justice will deliver by ensuring that no – known criminal  escapes justice. “

Earlier, MACBAN president, Muhammadu Kiruwa, appealed to the security agencies to investigate the extra-judicial killings of 68 Fulani pastoralists in Zuru, Sakaba, Fakai and Dango/Wasagu local governments under Zuru Emirate. He alleged that the victims were killed by Dakarkari Yan Sa Kai:

“This dastardly act which started on April 29 continued unabated and no one is being arrested or being held accountable for this killings. The first murder took place in broad daylight at the premises of the Technical College, Zuru, where eight Fulani people were killed.

 “This trend continued in the communities of Danko, Maga, Ribah, Joli, Kadurga, Marafa, Kanya, Unashi and Ayyu, where 68 people were killed for no just cause other than being Fulani herders. This murderous gang is getting bolder and bolder by the day and if care is not taken the crises in these areas might snowball into a larger conflict.

“The silence and inaction of the traditional institution, the local and state government to deal with this lawlessness is capable of escalating insecurity in the North-West Region. As a responsible and law abiding association we will not allow the situation to deteriorate because we always believe two wrongs do not make a right.”

In this regard, a town hall meeting was recently initiated. It attracted Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, his deputy, Col Samaila Yombe Dabai (retd), Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu and Director General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Magaji Bichi. In attendance also were Emir of Zuru, Major-General Muhammad Sani Sami (retd), General Muhammad Magoro and other stakeholders.

Adamu said: “We have realised that most of banditry has international dimension. The bandits come from outside the country. We arrested Sudanese, Nigeriens and Malians, among other nationals. We also believe that because of what is happening in the North-East and the fact that the military troops are doing a great job in the fight against insurgency there, most of the bandits are running toward the North-West of the country and we have evidence.

“When we operated in Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, where we attacked a group of bandits, we realised that most of them came from Islamic State of West Africa, who are terrorists, kidnapping for ransom. So, the issue is not at the level you are looking at it, it is a big issue and we must work together to address it.

 “The security situation in the North-West and North-Central bordered on kidnapping, banditry and insurgency. When you look at what happened in Zamfara, it used to be the epicentre of banditry. When we tried to know the cause of the problem, we identified the cause and we said ok, let us go for solution.