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Zamfara: Residents Sleep In Caves To Avoid Bandits

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Like people of the stone age era, not a few Zamfara residents in order to live to see another day have resorted to live in caves, bushes, while some others on trees. This is so as to avoid the bullets of bandits who have laid siege on the state in recent times. In this report. UMAR MOHAMMED takes a look at how the once peaceful people of Zamfara whose farming used to be their pride now have to seek shelter from pillar to post as a result of insecurity.

As brutality continues to greet the residents of Zamafara State in the last few years as a results of the unabated killings from daredevil bandits and cattle rustlers, a large proportion of those bedevilled by these insecurity problems now sleep in the bushes, on top of trees and caves like cavemen of the Stone Age era.
The shocking revelation was a new tactic deplored by the affected communities where the bandits have spilled blood with impunity. The residents now have a new defence mechanism to stay alive by living outside their ancestral homes, in caves like the days of the Stone Age.
While it is an established reality that the provision of security and welfare to the people are the first and most sought after primary responsibility of any government, according to section 26 of the Nigerian Constitution or otherwise known as obligation of the government.
However, the case in Zamfara State is unarguably a challenging task for the government in all strata. It appears the coercive element of government power seems to have been over stretched in this regard, as agents of darkness, who no longer have any love but unimaginable brutality for humanity now kill, maim and commit untold crimes with impunity. The worse, many have been forced to live like people of ancient time.

The skyrocketing ratio of their brutality for the last half a decade has continued to hunt residents of Zamfara State. Their tale is a sorry one of insecurity everywhere, death and sorrow. History will continue to smile at Zamfara as one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. However, for now the handwriting on the wall has altered such notion.
What snowballed into full fledged killing in the state was initially seen from the myopic prisms of a communal clash between herdsmen and farmers. Many felt reprisal attacks fuelled the spate of brutality. But, those still holding unto such mind set may have to sieve it further beyond prejudice as the once perceived Herders/Farmers clashes has taken a more bitter dimension by transforming into cattle rustling, kidnapping and banditry.
To find a solution at the local level, the state deputy governor, Mallam Ibrahim Wakala, was saddled with the responsibility of chairing the Zamfara/Bandits Peace Deal Committee.
Though, the initiative yielded result but a fragile one, as the peace initiative brought the bandits to the fore, under the leadership of Buharin Daji and his lieutenants who eventually reached an agreement with the government and promised to seize fire.
Speculations were rift after the peace deal, otherwise referred to as amnesty deal for Zamfara bandits by pundits that, it was simply an empowerment for launching further deadly attacks on innocent citizens. In confirmation of such insinuations, not too long after the peace deal, the bandits resurfaced and embarked on fresh attacks on towns and villages with renewed vigour from different angles of the state.

The activities of the bandits have made life very difficult in Zamfara State, especially, their new trend of kidnapping people. Having realised that cattle rustling was less lucrative, these armed bandits have gone a step further, abandoning cattle rustling and engaging in kidnap of people for ransom which often than not rakes in millions of naira for them.
Even most pathetic for the locals was that the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state and his promise of ensuring adequate military presence does not send any message to the bandits. For the bandits, the presidents’ visit was a ceremonial routine, hence barely a week of his visit, the well-armed bandits unleashed terror at Bawardaji in Anka local government area where almost sixty persons were brutally killed.
Apart from the Bawardaji massacre, other notable attacks were that of Birane in Zurmi local government area where over thirty passengers on a Canter vehicle were attacked and killed. Similarly, gunmen torched dozens of residences and sent 24 persons to the great beyond in about three communities in Shinkafi local government area of the state.
Worried by these ugly trend of incessant killings by armed bandits in the state, Senator Kabir Marafa, representing Zamfara Central senatorial district in the National Assembly once recounted that, the government’s expression of intention to prevent the terror of the bandits would appear not to have deterred the outlaws.
The Senator who wondered why bloodletting had persisted beyond human imagination, urged all and sundry to pray and expose evil minded people in their midst. When many thought of getting relief after the news broke of how the renowned leader of these armed bandits Buharin Daji was killed, little did they know that, his death has rather energised than diminish activities of the bandits.

The degree of massacre than continued unabated with the killings of 26 persons in a fresh attack by bandits in Kuru-Kuru and Jarkuka villages in Anka LGA of the state confirmed the obvious. Kuru-kuru and Jarkuka villages are close to Bawar Daji village in the same local government area where bandits had attacked and killed over 60 people few weeks before then. LEADERSHIP Sunday revealed that the attack was initially carried out at a mining site at Kuru-kuru village.
An eyewitness, Sadi Musa, said about four people were initially killed at the mining site, which forced the miners to scamper for safety. According to Sadi, when residents from nearby Jarkuka came later to join the Kuru-Kuru survivors in burying the dead, the gunmen laid siege and killed more raising the number of those killed to 26.
“The community of Jarkuka was not the initial target, but had been affected and lost over 10 innocent lives for their effort in mobilising their residents and giving support to the Kuru-Kuru neighbouring village,” he explained.
However, the chairman of Anka LGA, Alhaji Mustapha Gado Anka explained that 26 persons were killed in the attack on the two villages.
The bandits had attacked Bawan Daji village in Anka LGA two weeks before that of Jarkuka leading to the deaths of over 60 people. Other monumental attacks, were that of Malikawa in Maradun local government area, which allegedly claimed 30 lives as well as that of Zamuka in Anka local government area were 23 persons loss their lives.
The Emir of Anka and chairman Zamfara State Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad and his counterpart in Zurmi, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku submitted that “As such, we urge you security agencies to up the ante so as not to lose this war. If you let us take issues on our hands, anarchy will reign which is not what we hope
“On this particular incidence, we had intelligence reports 24 hours before it happened that the bandits were grouping and ready to attack. I alerted the security agencies but unfortunately they sent inadequate personnel to confront these people from where they came from.

“If not for the bravery of vigilante groups who confronted the bandits, the casualty figures would have been higher.” Though, notable voices who preferred anonymity accused the security and judiciary of corruption, saying it was among the major factor fuelling the security problems in the state.
The latest attack was another deadly raid on Zanuka village which is the fourth of its type on four communities in Anka LGA with the death toll hitting 85 so far this year.
A resident Musa Ali told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the assailants arrived on motorbikes and laid siege on the town. They blocked all escape routes firing at those trying to escape the carnage.
“I was not in the community when they struck. One of my brothers who knew my location ran to me and warned that I should not go back home now because attackers had invaded the village and were killing people mercilessly.
“But where am I going when I left my wife and children at home. I headed home despite the warning and when I got closer the sound of gunfire had already rented the air and I had to step back.”
A resident Isah Kailani said that the armed bandits had come to the village in order to rustle cows but were pushed back by the vigilante.
“Thereafter, the armed bandits sought for help from their colleagues in the forest. When they arrived they came in large numbers and we were overpowered. They entered the community killing any one they found. They would set a house ablaze and if you come out to escape from the fire they would instantly shoot you dead. One woman and her baby were burnt inside her bedroom,” he added.

He said most of the families have fled the communities to the neighbouring Kebbi and Niger States. Another resident, Murtala Aliyu said the armed bandits who are major of one race and dialect and wanders mostly in the bush had tried to attack the community earlier but could not because according to him it was firmly defended by the vigilante known as Yan Sakai.
“Almost everyone in the community is a vigilante member. The gunmen hate vigilante. They identify and attack communities with strong and vibrant vigilante. They shot dead a good number of vigilante,” he said.
He said long ago, they got wind of the attack adding that fear had gripped other surrounding communities of Farar Kasa, Yar kirya and Doka. “The communities I told you have vigilante. And the armed bandits had warned that unless the residents of the communities would relocate, there would be more deadly assaults,” he added.
Another resident said the vigilante in the community had earlier killed one suspected armed bandits and burned his motor bike. The armed bandits arrived at the community to buy some items when the vigilante noticed that he was wielding a rifle.

“So they laid ambush on him at the outskirt of the community and killed the bandits. Sometimes, they ride to our communities wielding rifles to buy commodities from local shop owners. I think the killing of that armed man was what provoked the attack on Zanuka.
“I’m right now on my way to Dankurmi and I have told my wife to meet me there. They spare women and children otherwise the situation would be more disastrous. They identify and kill men especially able bodied ones.”
Anka LGA chairman, Alhaji Mustapha Gado, who confirmed the attack said the bodies of the victims were buried when a contingent of soldiers arrived there.
“As I am talking to you I have just got an information that the armed bandits are regrouping at a place near one village called Farar Kasa as they vowed to attack more communities. We are in serious trouble as a people, “he said.
The attacks in Zamfara State has been reoccurring on daily basis, as these armed bandits freely ransack communities, rape their women, children and kidnap people.
The kidnapping of the wife of the State Commissioner of Sports, along with six other persons at Gurbin Bore and a son of a Member of the House of Representatives, representing Bakura,/Maradun are just one in many cases.
The police image maker, DSP Mohammed Shehu has been confirming incidents in different parts of the state with assurances of addressing the security challenges soon.

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