The Nigerian government says the killings by bandits in Zamfara State have reduced drastically, following its delibrate concerted and committed action.
The Minister of information and culture Lai Mohammed said the situation would continue to improve until the violence is put to a halt.
Mr Mohammed was speaking in Gusau the Zamafara State capital during government’s special town hall meeting on measures to curb insecurity.
The Minister said it was unfortunate that this achievement has not received the kind of media coverage that was given to the killings before the security intervention. He then appealed to the media to correct it.
According to him, Measures taken to curtail the farmers-herders clashes, cattle rustling and other acts of banditry include: Deployment of a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, and working in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
He also said the Establishment of the Army’s 2 Battalion Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kanfanin Doka Village, Birnin-Gwari, in neighboring Kaduna State has helped as well.
He mentioned the Establishment of a new Area Command and two additional Divisional Police Headquarters in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Also the establishment by Nigerian Air Force of Quick Response Wings (QRW) in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States, and deployment of Special Forces to these Quick Response Wings.
He said all these were strategies put together by the Nigerian government to curb the spate of killings in the State.
’’I have no doubt that the good people of Zamfara can testify to the drastic reduction in the activities of cattle rustlers and other bandits in the State since the Government assembled a 1000-strong military force, comprising the army, air force, police and the civil defence, to launch fierce attacks on the bandits terrorising the villages and towns of Zamfara State. The situation will continue to improve until the violence has stopped.
Also the inauguration, by the Nigeria Police Force, of a new Mobile Squadron in Takum, Taraba State. And Operation ‘Whirl Stroke’, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits will go a long way to deal with these violent conflicts.
The killings that we have witnessed in the country have nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. As I have always cited, those rustling cattle in Zamfara are largely Hausa/Fulani and Muslim. Those whose cattle are rustled are largely Hausa/Fulani and Muslim. Where is ethnicity? Where is religion in this? And in Kebbi, more than 70 per cent of inmates in the state prison are there because of farmers-herders clash. Yet, the farmers are mostly Hausa/Fulani and Muslim, and the herders are mostly Hausa/Fulani and Muslim. Ethnicity and religion play no role!
Those who are bent on exploiting our national fault lines have distorted the narrative to give the killings ethnic and religious coloration, and this has aggravated the killings. We must repudiate them, even as the Federal Government continues to consolidate on the successful efforts to end the killings,’’ the Minister said.
The Zamfara State governor, Mr. Abdullaziz Yari who revealed some serious statistics about the Zamfara crisis said it has negatively affected the State and the citizens economically, psychologically and otherwise. He described the Zamfara conflict as pure banditry and criminality which should be treated as such.
“The crisis in Zamfara has nothing to do with religion and ethnicity because the perpetrators and the victims are all Muslims with the same culture,” the Governor said.
He then called on other States facing similar challenge to come together and share experiences and information.
The governor also revealed that the killings in Zamfara State was much more than that of Plateau, Benue and Taraba put together.
The governor who applauded the Nigerian government for their security intervention which was presently yielding result also appealed to the government to refund the State the sum of N14 billion spent so far to tackle insecurity.
Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali said the Government was doing everything possible to restore sustainable peace in Zamfara State.
He called on the State government to look into the area of justice because peace and justice are two sides of the same coin.
He also called on the citizenry to work together and assist the federal and State government to restore sustainable peace.
He said the government was working very seriously in boosting the capacity of the country’s security architecture with a view to help curb these incessant security challenges across the country.
He affirmed that the government has created new military formations as well as put in place so many other measures to tackle the conflict.
A Political Scientists, Dr. Abubakar Sadique from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria who was also the paper presenter at the town hall meeting poised that the Zamfara conflict was pure banditry.
The University Don said there was an urgent need to put the concept in the right perspective so as to get the matter and the solutions correctly.
He said it was unfortunate that politicians and the media have manipulated the conflict because of their different parochial interests.
He then called for the formation of a special security force to tackle the rural banditry and other related security challenges, stating that the existing security architecture was not specially trained for that and in some cases they are being overwhelmed due to capacity or other peculiar reasons which the new force can be created with a view to take care of such.
The crises in Zamfara State has already displaced over 1 million people since 2009.It has also witnessed over 60,000 attackers in different communities with over 25,000 cattle rustled, couple with over 2,000 deaths so far among other tragic damages.
The Nigerian Government’s Town hall meeting is an engagement forum between the government and the people of Nigeria where views are aired,ideas shared and feedback receive from the populace without any barrier or restrictions.