We are greatly encouraged by Federal Government’s decision to assemble and dispatch a 1,000-man military and special forces to tackle the persistent violence in Zamfara State. Nigerians appreciate this gesture as a visible effort to curb if not end the mayhem.
We hope such a combination of forces from the Army, Air Force, Navy, State Security Service, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps would succeed and serve as an example to remind trouble makers about the Federal Government’s will and muscle to deal with provocations and criminal behaviour.
The elected leaders of Zamfara State have not minced words about the problems of the State. Governor Abdul’aziz Yari had expressed his helplessness in the face of recurring killings when he said: “In spite of being governor and the chief security officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err…”
Senator Kabir Marafa (Zamfara Central) took to the Senate floor to vent his frustrations, sometimes, on the state government, a government that said it had spent N13 billion in five years on security and had purchased 427 Hilux vans to help various security formations in the state. At one forum Marafa said although he would not accuse anybody he said “the state government knows who are perpetrating these heinous crimes and they are doing nothing. Nobody was prosecuted. I still stand by what I said and I still maintain if after this retreat somebody comes up and said ‘look, Marafa, what you said is not true,’ I will resign.”
It is thus apparent that neither the governor nor the senator knows for certain the sources of Zamfara’s violent afflictions. While we laud the government’s deployment, we think the first thing to do is to conduct a thorough fact-finding about the underlying causes of the Zamfara killings.
The Amnesty International has placed the number of casualties close to 2,000 since January. The state is 99 per cent Muslim, thus the religious factor seems minimal. Now and then reports are made of bandits and their leaders. Is the state under the siege of criminal gangs? If so, what are their underlying grievances, what is at the root of the violence, is it economic, social, political or cultural? Why is the state being terrorised? Ransom has been paid. Is it a kidnapping ring?
We think a special department should be set up to gather all the intelligence necessary to attempt an effective solution. Nigerians know the roots of Niger Delta violence; they also know the motivations of Boko Haram in the North East. The grazing issues with Myetti Allah are well known in the Middle Belt. The Zamfara violence is ill-defined and it is our candid opinion that unless we are fully conversant with the root causes, any solution would merely be a palliative.
Zamfara State needs all the help it can get. In a recent speech on health, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, spoke about the vulnerabilities of the state to all kinds of diseases. It is among the least developed states in the Federation. Last week, another outburst of violence led to the deaths of 15 persons and displaced 20 communities who fled because they were afraid that more attacks might follow.
Members of these communities are now refugees in the internally displaced person’s camps. While we are encouraged by the military’s efforts to get rid of the bandits, we urge the government to conduct a detailed study of the actual reasons for the violence in Zamfara State in order to have an effective solution and the return of lasting peace in the state.