The federal government yesterday disclosed that killings by bandits have reduced drastically in Zamfara State, assuring that the situation will continue to improve until the violence is put to a halt.

In his opening remarks during a special town hall meeting on “Measures by the Federal Government to Curb Killings in Zamfara State” the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said he has no doubt that the people of Zamfara can testify to the drastic reduction in the killings by cattle rustlers and bandits in the state.

Alhaji Mohammed explained that this was achieved by deploying 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.

“Let me say straight away that the killings, resulting from farmers-herders clashes, cattle rustling, trans-border crimes and banditry, among others, have fallen drastically. Unfortunately, this has not received the kind of media coverage that was given to the killings. I appeal to the media to correct this.

“The drastic fall in the killings resulted from concerted and committed actions by the federal government. 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 Defence Corps (NSCDC).

“Establishment of the Army’s 2 Battalion Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kanfanin Doka Village, Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State. Establishment of a new Area Command and two additional Divisional Police Headquarters in the Birnin Gwari local government area of Kaduna State.

“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. 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,” he said.

The information minister stressed that the killings that the nation have witnessed have nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.

Alhaji Mohammed explained that 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,” he said.

Speaking earlier the governor of Zamfara State, Abdul-aziz Yari blamed the activities on age long feud.

“The activities of bandits can be traceable to generation after generation. The previous administration did not only pay lip-service to the killings in Zamfara but they did not even send government delegation to condole or commiserate with us,” he said.

Governor Yari noted that to combat this security challenge, the state government has taken a number of steps some of which are sustained consultations and meetings with the relevant stakeholders, agencies and other groups as well as the security agencies to ensure routine military assault on the bandits.

“We have paid over N3.8billion for security operations. We have lost over 2,500 cattle and disruption of over 3,000 hectares farmlands, disruption of 313 plant silos and 600 shops, destruction of 336 vehicles including motorcycles to rustlers,” he added.