Banditry Report: Two ex-Govs incriminated, another for trial, 15 Emirs to be removed

Two ex-Governor of Zamfara, including the immediate past governor, and other notable leaders have been incriminated in the reports on o sponsoring banditry and conniving with his sponsors. According to Vanguard news

Arising from the alleged roles of the former governors in fuelling banditry in Zamfara, the report said:

“The committee recommends that the immediate past Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari Abubakar and his aides (immediate past Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Bello Dankande Gamji, and Alhaji Sani Gwamna Mayanchi) be arrested and prosecuted for alleged multiple culpable homicide due to his acts of commission and omission”.

The committee established that whereas some traditional rulers were complicit in the escalation of banditry in Zamfara, many were negligent in their responsibility of ensuring security in their respective domains.

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In fact, were the recommendations of the committee to be implemented to the letter, no less than 15 of the 17 emirs in the state would be deposed.

The story of the alleged collaboration of the Emir of Maru and a District Head with bandits was told by the Zamfara SSG, Alhaji Bala Bello Maru, in his testimony before the committee.

The report, quoting the SSG, narrated: “The Secretary to the State Government informed the committee that, they received a report that armed bandits had planned to attack some villages within the emirate and security operatives were informed accordingly.

“He further stated that, in that night, Rayau, Mahuta, Talli and Dutsin Gari villages of Kanoma District in Maru Emirate were attacked by armed bandits and 17 people were killed and many others injured. “On the following day (5th June, 2019), all the Emirs in the State paid Sallah homage to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Zamfara State, Hon. (Dr.) Bello Muhammad, MON, Matawallen Maradun.

“Thereafter, the Executive Governor stated that a visit to the affected villages which were all under Kanoma District should be made in company of the Honourable Member, Zamfara State House of Assembly representing Maru North, Hon. Yusuf Alhassan Kanoma, Alh. Bala Bello Maru, the Secretary to the State Government and all the security heads among other entourage.

“Then the suspended District Head of Kanoma below the hill was invited to make his own welcome address as his counterpart on hill made.

“As he started making his own welcome address, there were a lot of grumblings and shouting by the villagers.

“In the same development, the Emir was to make his speech and welcome address but there were a lot of shouting and disorder by the villagers and all efforts made to allow the Emir to speak failed woefully.

“On seeing the disorderly crowd, the Executive Governor addressed the gathering of the villagers and there was a lot of applauds and chanting of goodwill messages to him.

“After the Executive Governor and his entourage left for Gusau, the crowd of villagers attacked the District Head of Kanoma and injured him badly.

“It was for the timely intervention of the Hon. Member House of Assembly representing the area, the mob would have killed him. “Simultaneously, security operatives started shooting in the air and throwing teargas canisters to disperse the mob.

“The mob also started throwing stones at the Emir’s official car with a lot of commotion. “When the Governor arrived Gusau with his entourage, people started to allege that the Emir was collaborating with the suspended District Head of Kanoma and armed bandits.

“Therefore, according to the Secretary to the State Government, there were strong suspicions among public opinions that the Emir of Maru and the suspended District of Kanoma are in complicit in cases of armed banditry activities being perpetrated in the area. “Already, in the Governor’s entourage, there were the Commissioner of Police, Director of State Service, Brigade Commander who the Executive Governor sought for their advice of what to do in such ugly circumstance, which they unanimously pointed out that the episode was a big embarrassment to the government and there was the urgent need to take decisive action by suspending the duo (the Emir of Maru and the District Head of Kanoma South) pending the determination of investigation to be carried out.

“Three days after the killing of 17 people mentioned earlier, the armed bandits returned and burnt down the village.

“There was also the issue of 5 million naira ransom which was allegedly paid to HRH, the Emir of Maru through the District Head of Kanoma South.

“However, the Secretary to the State Government informed the committee there was no formal reports or petitions against the Emir from any quarter, but an isolated information from a member of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Yusuf Alhassan Kanoma, and other unspecified sources”.

Startling revelations

Zamfara State Commissioner of Police, CP Usman Nagogo, also indicted the Emir of Karu in his testimony to the panel, according to the report.

The report quoted him as saying that in 2016 when CP Shettima Istifanus was the Zamfara State Commissioner of Police while he (Nagogo) was the Zamfara State Deputy Commissioner of Police (Finance and Inspection), then government appointed him as the Peace Ambassador and Chairman to head Amnesty Committee.

“According to him, he visited Dokani forest where he saw arms and ammunitions with over 1, 000 bandits. Buhari Daji surrendered 13 AK47 assault rifles and a rocket launcher as a sign of his confidence in the amnesty programme”, the report said.

“He stated that his concern was not to wage war against the bandits but to enter into dialogue and reconciliation because even if government should deploy one million soldiers, they would not be able to defeat the bandits as they were so many with sufficient and sophisticated weapons to counter any attack on them.

“The bandits had informants everywhere and could pay as much as N500, 000 to an informant.

“He then advised then Executive Governor of Zamfara State that the government should direct the release of Buhari’s wife.

“According to him, then State Director, State Service truncated all efforts put in place by the Amnesty Committee.

“In his view, the main cause of the crisis was the Yan Sakai, Civilian JTF and vigilante groups in that whenever a Fulani man was killed, Fulani would attack the whole village killing several people and leaving scores injured.

“Finally, when he met with the Ardos and other Fulani leaders, their complaints were that they were deprived of attending markets, mosques etc. and whenever Fulani were killed, government did not visit and console them.

“However, whenever the Hausas were killed, the government visited and consoled them”.

Boko Haram/ISIS infiltration

Also testifying, DSP Hardo Abubakar Abdulqadir, Sector Commander in charge of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Kaduna states, according to the report, revealed that there was infiltration of Boko Haram and ISIS elements in Dangulbi and Dansadau forests.

“He informed the committee that his squad arrested an armed bandit at Danjibga village who had an ISIS head band and who informed the squad that there were 15 in number and were invited from Niger Republic”, the report said.

“According to the armed bandits, some of them had since moved to Sokoto, Tangaza, Gudu, Illela etc”.

17 Emirs

The report found most of the 17 emirs in Zamfara and several of their District Heads either neck deep in banditry activities or negligent in their responsibility of securing their people while others were interdicted for absenteeism.

In fact, one of them was accused of being away while 840 of his subjects were killed; two others to answer murder charge.

Only two of the monarchs got a clean bill, according to the report.

Whereas one was recommended for national honours in appreciation of his efforts to secure his subjects despite raging banditry, another was asked to be commended by the President for similar feat.

And to sanitise the traditional institution in Zamfara, the report recommended an overhaul and restructuring in such a manner that it will reflect the true tradition of the institution and be at par with its peers in north-western states with no regard to individual, group or political interests. The panel also recommended that emirates in the state be compressed from 17 to three.

Cover up

The report has no good words about the police as it noted that there was no witness that appeared before the committee who was asked about the cause of the escalation of the security crisis in Zamfara that did not point accusing fingers at the police for lack of diligence and thorough investigation, conspiracy to cover up suspects and indiscriminate and rampant releases of suspects.

It also slammed the military. It said: “It is ironic that when President Muhammadu Buhari deployed additional 1, 300 troops to Zamfara State early 2017 under the command of a Major General assisted by a number of Brigadier Generals in addition to 350 troops under the command of a Lt. Col, the security situation in Zamfara State worsened and became more complicated.

“A month before the deployment of the additional troops, a little over 100 people were kidnapped in Zamfara, while one month after their deployment, over 200 were kidnapped with owners of livestock complaining of the worst situation they ever found themselves. “Many Fulani and owners of livestock accused the troops of attacking, killing and impounding livestock of innocent Fulani and claiming success over bandits and recovering stolen cattle from them.

“Traditional rulers at different levels had complained bitterly about the sarcastical attitude of the soldiers that whenever they were directed to the point of potential attack by bandits, they deliberately divert to a different direction and attack innocent Fulani or give excuses of they had not been given order from above.

“This unpatriotic and unprofessional behavior, according to the accounts of many witnesses and complainants, complicated and worsened the security situation.

“There are also a number of complaints and allegations against the military personnel of fraudulent management of redeemed livestock from bandits and those impounded from innocent owners.

“The committee received many reports and allegations of conspiracy between some fraudulent military personnel, traditional rulers and Civilian JTF members of missing redeemed livestock; there abound, as well, complaints of fraudulent military personnel releasing bandits arrested by vigilante groups or Civilian JTF that were handed over to them.

“Such complaints and allegations came before the committee from across all the strata of the society”.

The report mentioned the case of one army captain who was handed over four arrested bandits by the vigilante group from a village in Zurmi local government Area, saying two days later, the handed-over bandits attacked the village of the vigilante group.

It noted another officer who witnesses in Zurmi accused of collecting regular levies of about N2million per bandit according to the account of a traditional ruler.

“He is obviously one of those officers accused of attacking innocent Fulani, killing, arresting some of them and commandeering some of their herds of cattle and claiming success in the fight against bandits”.

The report listed 10 military officers for “dirty involvement in escalating the menace of armed banditry, mismanagement of recovered livestock and unholy relationship with criminals”.

Three categories of bandits

It identified three categories of bandits as (a) Hardened criminals who, years before the advent of armed banditry in Zamfara, had been involved in armed robbery on the highways and other heinous crimes, (b) Those who have been forced into banditry by different circumstances, such as depletion of their herds of cattle and poverty, those whose herds of cattle had been rustled and had nothing for livelihood, those who had been pushed to the wall by atrocities of fraudulent traditional rulers, court officials and security agencies who regard banditry as easy means of building large herds of cattle, (c) Those invited from neighboring countries to assist indigenous Fulani in their battle for survival, saying about 90% of (b) above, have repented and very much desirous of integrating with their various communities to resume their normal and legitimate life and over 90% of (c) have since returned to their various countries.

“However, only a negligible number of (a) have or are willing to repent”, the report said.

It recommended the design of a special programme for rehabilitation of bandits and other repentant criminals in order to integrate them into the society and make them adopt legitimate means of livelihood while waging a serious war against unrepentant bandits/criminals.

Under its general observations and recommendations, the committee made 16 notable observations among which is that the usurpation of local government funds by state governors is substantially responsible for high level of poverty and unemployment at the grassroots level, adding: “This phenomenon has been identified as one of the major causes of drug abuse and armed banditry”.

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