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EDITORIAL

Banditry: Look Beyond Traditional Rulers

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The war against banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling is being fought by the federal government and states in the North West zone on all fronts. In the same way, the criminals, though falling daily to the superior fire power of the armed forces and other security agencies, are not relenting.

Disturbing as the situation is, and in addition to the destruction of lives and property, this evil is also threatening to claim the revered traditional institution, especially in Zamfara State, as one of its priced victim. Already, the institution has lost a couple of Emirs as the immediate past governor and the incumbent grapple with measures to check the raging storm. The Emirs were alleged of aiding and abetting the activities of the criminal elements.

The alleged romance of the monarchs with bandits was made public by  the former Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan Ali, when he accused traditional rulers in Zamfara State of conniving with bandits to make life unbearable for the people. They in turn fired back at the minister and dared him to name those involved if he was sure of his facts.

Before this shocking development, the immediate past governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had secretly begun a crackdown on the rulers leading to 11 of them  getting the boot for purportedly desecrating their esteemed stools.

Before the monarchs were fired by the Yari administration, they were quizzed and found culpable by security agencies. None of them was prosecuted in court. They were simply asked to go

Reports that one of the affected traditional rulers received N800,000 against the N1million promised him by kidnappers as his share of the ransom paid for the release of the abducted wife and children of the commissioner for youths and sports in Yari’s administration, did not help the cause of the local chiefs.

Beside, other monarchs also incurred Yari’s wrath for allegedly disregarding the state government’s ban on the sale of petrol in jerry cans by “authorizing” black marketers to continue with their illicit business in defiance of the government’s directive.

Perhaps, as a way of reaffirming the measures taken by the outgone governor, barely a week in office, his successor, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, has indicted and suspended one emir and a district head for similar offences. Their removal was based on complaints by residents of their relationship with the bandits. Curiously, the monarchs are being investigated for the alleged crime after being dethroned.

This brings to 13 the number of traditional rulers in the state that have so far lost their thrones for reportedly conniving and sponsoring bandits in their emirates and districts.

Despite these sanctions and security expenditures in the state, the bandits are still having a field day. This, to this newspaper, raises more questions than answers over the workability or otherwise as well as the inadequacy of the measures so far deployed and adopted by the authorities to check the menace of the bandits in the state.

Media reports have repeatedly drawn attention to the seemingly inadequate presence of security agencies in the entire state, especially at the grassroots. Some local governments are alleged to have below 100 policemen, while others have lesser numbers. The reports also indicate that some communities do not have a single police post.

This ugly development is believed to have exposed the monarchs to the whims and caprices of those who menacingly operate in such areas. It is on record that monarchs who refuse to cooperate with the bandits have either been kidnapped or their family members abducted.  At the moment, some kidnapped monarchs are still in the den of their captors without any clue on their whereabouts.

We are of the opinion that the sophistry of banditry in the state is beyond the control of the rulers. Faced with these heartless and murderous criminals, the chiefs are left with no other option than to be friendly with the bandits even when they abhor it. Furthermore, the local chiefs rely on vigilantes and unarmed palace guards for their security and protection.

While the efforts of the federal and state governments as well as the sacrifices of the police and military at combating criminality in Zamfara are deeply appreciated by this newspaper, we strongly believe that more needs to be done.

We, therefore, call for the redeployment of well-armed, motivated and well-trained policemen and soldiers on the art of banditry to the state. The government should, as a matter of urgency, use Zamfara as case study in dealing with bandits and cattle rustlers.  We also canvass that every community, especially those in the border areas, be massed with security agents to check arms flow.

Their logistics of the special squad should be superb and superior to that of the bandits. The inspector-general of police (IGP) should demonstrate the political will by withdrawing all policemen attached to Very Important Personalities (VIPs) for engagement in the ongoing anti-bandits’ campaign.

We also admonish the federal government to embark on aggressive recruitment of policemen, train them in anti-banditry intelligence and warfare.  The monarchs and their families should enjoy more protection and made strong partners in the offensive against the criminals.

The frequent sacking of monarchs is likely to create more problems in the state as persons interested in such thrones could use banditry as weapon to pull the occupants down

We are of the opinion that if the trend continues, it could heighten tension, create serious acrimony, mistrust among the people, and between the traditional institution and the government.

Furthermore, dethroning monarchs frequently could be diversionary and is likely to be seen as treating the symptoms instead of the disease.

Also, the incumbent governor is advised to suspend his resolve to quickly complete the Gusau Airport. What the people need now is security. There is no investor or tourist that will stake his or her resources to visit a state ravaged by security challenges. The airport project for now is not a priority.

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