OUTRAGED by the spate of killings, kidnappings and other violent crimes in Zamfara State, North West Nigeria, and its neighbouring states, citizens in Abuja embarked on a peaceful protest from the Unity Fountain to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja to demand a definite action from President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the crisis.
Made up of mostly Zamfara State citizens, civil society organisations and other concerned citizens, the protesters want Buhari to, among other things, declare a state of emergency in the state.
Zamfara State has been in the news for a long time now as bandits are said to have taken over several local government areas, villages and hamlets in the state, while the government appear incapable of dealing with the menace.
Gradually, the violence is spreading to other states in the North West such as Kastina − Buhari’s home state −, Kaduna and Sokoto states. Bandits are reported to be having a field day in the region and even send prior notices to villages and individuals they intend to attack.
The protester armed with placards with inscriptions such as “declare a state of emergency in Zamfara now”, “Zamfara lives matter”, “End the genocide now”, etc, marched peacefully through the three arms zone chanting solidarity songs.
Speaking during the protest, one of the organisers, Kadaria Ahmed, a popular journalist, said it was sad that President Buhari was treating the citizens of Zamfara like they do not exist. She said it was the height of incompetence for the country’s security agencies to standby helplessly and watch as Zamfara is being run over by criminals.
“Our state is not at war, but at the moment the killings that are taking place in Zamfara are more than the killings taking place in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. These are states that are officially at war,” said Ahmed, who herself hails from Zamfara state.
“Everyday, we bury between 30, 40, 50 people. When we are not burying people, we are selling everything we own to pay kidnappers 15 – 20 million naira.
“Mr President has not done well for the people of Zamfara. The People of Zamfara love Mr President. They came out in 2015 to vote for Mr President. Despite the hardship, they came out again in numbers in the just concluded elections to vote for Mr President. Why is Mr President treating the people of Zamfara as if they are not citizens of Nigeria?
“This is why we are here today. We demand that Zamfara is made secure. We demand that Mr President acts like the commander-in-chief that he is. All these soldiers here should not be guarding one man, they should be in Zamfara fighting the kidnappers and rustlers and armed bandits that are killing our mothers and father and raping our children.”
Yari is “useless”
On what she thinks the Zamfara state government should do to check the rising insecurity, Ahmed described the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, as “the most useless governor in the history of Nigeria”.
“This is a governor whose reaction to the killings in his state was to resign as Chief Security Officer. He went on record to say that he cannot be Chief Security Officer, so I don’t know what he is still doing in office,” Ahmed said.
“He doesn’t care. He only cares about the people of Zamfara State when it comes to politics, that’s the only thing that matters to him.
“He lives most of his life here in Abuja. How can you govern a state for eight years from Abuja? What sort of leadership is that? He is hopeless as a leader, under him, Zamfara has deteriorated.”
Many of the protesters who say they were from Zamfara also corroborated Ahmed’s statement during separate conversations with The ICIR.
Blockade at Aso Villa entrance
However, when the protesters got to the entrance of the Aso Villa premises a large retinue of security operatives, made up of policemen, soldiers, and plain-cloth security personnel, apparently, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) barricaded the road and prevented the protesters from advancing.
After some time, the commissioner of police for the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Ciroma, addressed leaders of the protest, blaming them for not informing him that they had planned a protest.
He was however informed that letters were sent to the inspector-general of police letting him know about the protest, but he insisted that a letter ought to have been sent to him as “the officer on the ground”.
Ciroma asked the protesters to go back while he makes arrangements for an official from the State House to come out and address them. However, nobody came out to speak to the protesters on behalf of the presidency as at past 2 pm when The ICIR left the protest venue.
What is causing the killings in Zamfara
The North West is one of the poorest regions in Nigeria and Zamfara State is one of the poorest in the region, hence many wonder what could be the motive behind the high insecurity in the state.
Unlike the North East where Boko Haram is wreaking havoc in the name of fighting to create an Islamic caliphate, the bandits and kidnappers terrorising Zamfara and its environs, have not articulated reason for their incessant attacks.
However, many believe that the high crime could be connected to the high deposits of gold in parts of Zamfara where illegal miners have been conducting their business.
Several illegal mine sites litter the hinterlands of Zamfara, say some of the protesters who are from the state. They say that the mines are being controlled by well-to-do citizens from the state, including politicians, who may be responsible for the crimes.
“Asides the issue of gold mining, the killings don’t just make sense,” one of the protesters told The ICIR on the condition of anonymity.
“Zamfara is a poor state, what else do the bandits want? They come to a village and just open fire, killing as many as they could and forcing the others to flee in fear. It’s land grabbing they are after. The villagers flee and they take over the place for the gold mining activities,” the protester said
The above opinion was also expressed by one Najeeb Bello Oyarese, a Twitter user, on Saturday.
“The recent regular mass murders in Zamfara is beginning to make some sense. The crisis is not about bandits at all, but about massive gold deposits being mined by locals, and turf wars being fought by different groups, clans, and overlords to control the largest mining sites,” Oyarese tweeted.
“It is the duty of President Buhari, the commander-in-chief to handle this situation, and if he’s ‘not aware’ of the underlying causes of the crises in Zamfara, then Nigeria is in worse trouble than we thought. The state government can also provide support to security agents,” he added.
President Buhari is in Jordan at the moment where he is attending the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa.