Bandits have reportedly levied three communities in Shinkafi local government area of Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria, N3 million each (about $ 3,000 USD) to be paid to a notorious bandit kingpin, known as Dan Bokolo, to avert attacks by the group terrorizing the communities.
According to reports, the levy is a fine against the communities for providing information to security operatives by residents in Kamarawa, Sabuwar Kamarawa, and Gebe, which led to the arrest of Dan Bokolo’s brother, Abdullahi.
The payment of the protection levy is against the stand of the governor of the state, Dauda Lawal, who maintained the state government would not dialogue with the terrorists.
A resident who spoke anonymously said the arrest of Abdullahi triggered tension in the communities with Dan Bokolo claiming that individuals from the communities betrayed his brother.
In an effort to broker peace, community elders engaged in negotiations with the terrorists. Eventually, Dan Bokolo agreed to accept a reduced sum of N3 million, from his initial demand of N6 million, as compensation for the perceived betrayal.
“That was the beginning of our troubles. “Dan Bokolo was angry because he was told that it was people from any of these three communities that gave information that led to the arrest of his brother,” a resident told PREMIUM TIMES.
The terrorist was planning to attack the communities when elders in the area decided to reach out to him for a peace deal.
“Our elders were able to convince some Fulani elders that Abdullahi was arrested by the security agents and it was not anyone from our community that gave out the information. He (Dan Bokolo) was convinced that our people didn’t “betray” his brother but he still said we must buy peace from him.
After a series of negotiations, the terrorist, Dan Bokolo agreed that the three villages should pay and fine of N3 million for telling on his brother. He had originally asked for N6 million.
Basharu Guyawa, a peace advocate and a human rights activist, said payment of protection levies has become a norm in eastern Sokoto and Zamfara.
He said he spoke to various residents in Kamarawa who told him the communities have raised the money the terrorists demanded.
“Bello Turji [another notorious terrorist] had to intervene for Dan Bokolo to even listen to the people of the communities. The problem is how sure are we that he is going to keep to his promise not to attack the area?” Mr Guyawa said.
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to Zamfara governor on broadcast and public affairs, Mustapha Jafaru, said the state government was not aware and was not a part of the agreement.
“We’ve always maintained that we’ll not dialogue with terrorists in Zamfara State. Dauda (the governor) has always said that he would not negotiate with them because they’re criminals. So if the communities are discussing with bandits, we don’t have anything to do with that arrangement and we’re not part of it because that’s not our style.
“Ever since we came onboard, we’ve been trying to curtail the activities of these terrorists through different ways but dialogue is not one of the ways we’re following. We’ll continue to protect the people of Zamfara State as we’ve been doing,” Mr Jafaru said.
He said during the campaign, Mr Lawal promised to tackle the insecurity and he has been doing that.
For over a decade, terrorists have been operating in the northwestern part of the country. Their activities snowballed after the 2019 general election when they began attacking travellers on major highways in the region, especially on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
The intensity and frequency of their attacks on rural communities in the region increased. Livestock rustling, abductions and mass killings sometimes of entire communities – were reported almost daily.