By Queenesther Iroanusi
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki,, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take full and direct control of the incessant killings in Zamfara State.
Mr Saraki is one of the many government officials who have reacted to the numerous reports of killings emanating from the state, which he described as barbaric and unacceptable. He also called on the security agencies to swiftly devise a strategy to put an end to the situation.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how armed bandits have attacked different communities in the state in the past few weeks. Hundreds of people have been killed in such attacks since the start of the year.
Some of the worst affected local governments in Zamfara are Tsafe, Zurmi, Shinkafi, Maradun, Maru and Birnin-Magaji.
Birnin Magaji is the hometown of the defence minister, Mansur Dan-Ali.
Three days ago, residents of some parts of Zamfara State protested against the worsening insecurity in the state.
The protesters, mainly residents of Tsafe Local Government Area, on Monday morning, barricaded the Gusau-Zaria highway linking the state to Kaduna, Kano, and Abuja.
The president has since condemned the violence in Zamfara that has led to the death of dozens of people in the past few weeks.
“These horrendous acts of violence are crimes against humanity. This violence must stop,” his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, quoted the president as saying.
But Mr Saraki, in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said said the situation in Zamfara showed that the crisis in the northern part of the country has spread from the north east to north west.
He said the killings have gone on for too long and the situation has not been given the desired attention as well as the right strategy that will stop it, adding that there was a clear indication of systemic failure.
“There is need for certain and proper profiling of the situation so that we can know whether it is simple cattle rustling, vicious armed robbery on a large scale, religious cum ethnic crisis or invasion by foreign forces,” Mr Saraki said.
“Our security agencies must immediately come out with a proper understanding of the situation, the right strategy and deployment of the necessary troops to tackle the menace. We must, within the next few days, send the right signals to the criminals in that area that the Nigerian State will no longer tolerate the on-going blood-letting.
“We must immediately change our strategy. Also, the President has to take full, direct control. Maybe the President must widen the consultation within the armed forces on the search for solution to this problem. He must go beyond the first line military top brass. We need to get ideas from more sources than we presently do,” he said.
He further explained that the situation in Zamfara presents a picture of the government denying the citizens their fundamental rights to life and rights to own property as he also blamed the media for not giving enough attention to the situation.
“It is a surprise that the Zamfara killings are not getting enough attention from the media and the non-governmental organisations,” the senate president continued.
“The Senate had sent an investigative team into the area a few months ago after Senator Kabiru Marafa raised a motion on the floor and as at then, we called on other security agencies to help the police in dealing with the matter.
“It is expected that by now, the President would have arranged a meeting with leaders of the National Assembly, legislators, traditional rulers and other key stakeholders from the affected state, to exchange ideas and proffer lasting solutions to the issue.
“The key advantage of a democracy is that it provides for wide consultation and inclusion. No one person or group has all the monopoly of knowledge. We really need to do all that is possible to stop the carnage,” he said.
He then urged Mr Buhari to immediately give a marching order to the various security agencies and request for progress report on a regular basis.
“There is need for us to use the Zamfara case to demonstrate to all criminal elements that the government will not tolerate those who hide under whatever guise to shed human blood in our country.
“We should look at the Zamfara killings as a major threat to our democracy, particularly as we move towards election period in the next 50 days. We should not allow criminal elements to take over parts of the country.
“The situation in that state is an example of why we need to overhaul our security architecture in order to bring them to a state where they can tackle emerging challenges,” he added.
The incessant killings in Zamfara State has led to a disagreement among politicians on whether or not a state of emergency should be declared in the North-west state.
A state of emergency could mean the federal government taking over governance in the state and massively deploying soldiers to maintain peace there. The federal government could also choose to appoint an administrator to govern the state during the period of the emergency rule.
While a former senator and governorship candidate in the state, Saidu Dansadau, believes declaration of state of emergency will help rescue the state from bloodletting, former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, believes otherwise.
The News Agency of Nigeria, also reported that the state governor, Abdulaziz Yari – who relinquished his position as chief security officer of the state – has been away for a while now during which time the bandits returned with more severity, killing particularly villagers, burning houses and food stuff.