As the world battles COVID-19 pandemic, citizens of Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria, are contending with additional nightmares. Several communities have come under severe attacks in over 10 instances in the first two weeks of March, 2020.
In the 10 instances of the attacks within the month of March, over 1, 000 people were displaced. An estimated 10 lives were lost while dozens were kidnapped. The victims are still battling with meeting ransom demands by the marauders even as the state government is negotiating with different armed groups.
Rural areas were the worst hit as the first two weeks of March were filled with sustained attacks, beginning with the killing of Malam Gambo Kujemi, the village head of Dansadau District, Karauchi, on the second day of the month.
Spokesman of the command, SP Mohammed Shehu, confirmed that the village head had been killed alongside a community resident, Mustapha Halilu and assured residents that peace had been restored. On the same day, however, bandits stormed Gima in Anka Local Government Area and kidnapped two women.
One of the women, who was pregnant was later released. The other was released after a ransom of one million Naira had been paid to the bandits. Following these incidents, SP Shehu said that the police were on top of the situation but a few days later, at least four people died with about six injured as a result of further attacks in Gummi, Anka and Maru. Eyewitnesses confirmed to HumAngle that women and children were the most affected as they struggled to flee the attacked communities.
Mal Musa, a public vehicle driver along Anka-Mayanchi Road recounted an incident involving the hoodlums. “They blocked Kwanar Maje on our way to Anka and I had to turn. I could see that they stopped a few cars and took some people out. When we came later, there were lots of women from different communities like Tungar Mai Rakumma trekking to Anka for safety,” he said.
The killings continued in the day, in Yar’Galadima village of Maru Local Government Area where two more people were killed. In April 2014, the village lost 112 people in banditry attacks.
Speaking to HumAngle, a traditional leader in Gummi who wanted anonymity lamented the state of things and urged the government to step up in securing the lives and properties of the people. He said, “These bandits are now coming to Gummi and they have attacked us at Unguwar Noma. The people are running out of their communities and they took about 10 people, including women.”
So far, over 1, 000 people have been displaced by the new wave of violence. Women and children have remained the most vulnerable victims. A nursing mother, who wanted anonymity, fled from Yar’ Galadima to Dansadau.
“We had to run for our lives. We left last week and they told us to go back, promising that we would not be attacked again. They lied because they returned this week and shot many people. A lot of us ran into the forest,” she said.
The severity of the attack was echoed by a driver and member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who travelled from Sokoto-Mayanchi to Anka. “I saw a crowd of women and children coming out of nowhere. Most were on foot while others were on motorcycles. At least 1, 000 people did not sleep well that day. This is really bad.”
Despite these casualties, the bandits continued their rampage. On March 7, they attacked some vigilantes in Manya village by shooting sporadically at them; three vigilantes were injured. That same day, they kidnapped two women in the village and injured three who are currently receiving treatment at Anka General Hospital.
On March 13, the bandits attacked Tungar Magaji, kidnapping three and injuring one. several other villages have fallen in wake of recent attacks. These include Rayyabu, Tsafe and Bingi of Maru Local Government Area; and Yan Matanka of Anka Local Government Area.
More disturbing is the increasing rate at which women are being sexually assaulted by assailants. Also, animal rustling has remained a lucrative angle of the attacks. In Gidan Fako alone, bandits rustled over 350 animals.
In response to the incessant attacks, Bello Matawalle, Governor of Zamfara, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai-based Worldwide Jet Aviation SA, for helicopters to carry out aerial surveillance on criminal hideouts in the state.
This was announced in a statement signed by Zailani Bappa, the Special Adviser to the governor on Public Affairs and made available to journalists in Gusau on Friday.
According to Bappa, the agreement was sealed in Dubai when the governor visited the United Arab Emirates, recently.
He explained that the Dubai security firm would supply MBB BO105 Bell 206 surveillance helicopters under the agreement to carry out reconnaissance missions.
“The helicopters are rugged and have camera capacities as well as a three-hour stretch capacity for surveillance trips, with a maximum speed of 224 km per hour and are equipped with tracker systems.
“When procured, the choppers are expected to be deployed for security surveillance and aerial patrol in the forests, borders, and towns across the state in conjunction with the Nigeria Police and other security agencies,” he said.
The people are anxious and can only hope that this news brings some level of succour.
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