THE Zamfara State Council of Traditional Rulers has asked the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali to either publish the names of those he claims are collaborating with criminals in the state or withdraw the allegation.
Reading out a communique after the meeting of the council in Gusau, the Zamfara State Capital on Thursday, spokesperson of the group and the Emir of Bungudu, Hassan Attahiru, said it was unfortunate that the security agencies were looking for who to blame rather than taking steps to quell the crisis in the state.
Attahiru said the defence minister owes it to the nation to mention the names of the traditional rulers whom he said were responsible for the kidnappings in killings of innocent citizens.
“Failure to do this will make his statement false and an attempt to tarnish the image of the traditional rulers and thereby making them scapegoats for the inability of the military and other security forces to end the scourge,” the statement read.
“The traditional rulers have always cooperated with government and security agencies in providing information on location, routes and names of persons engaged in such criminal activities. Unfortunately, the military and other security agencies have failed to be on top of the situation.
“We will not shield anyone and we will want any suspect however highly placed to be arrested and prosecuted.”
The council also alleged that the Nigeria Air Force was killing innocent civilians in the airstrikes being carried out in the state.
“The Council noted that airstrikes undertaken by the military do not hit the main camps of the bandits,” Attahiru said.
“Reports from Mutu in Gusau and Tsafe Local government areas, Tangaram in Anka local government and Dumburum in Zurmi local area among others are that the areas shelled were not the actual hideouts of the bandits and the victims were innocent civilians.”
According to the Emirs, the operations against bandits in Zamfara would be more successful “if the main camps of the bandits are taken over and security personnel stationed there for a considerable period of time. This will deprive the bandits territory, mobility and supply routes, thus securing all surrounding areas.”
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Thursday’s meeting of the Zamfara State Council of Traditional Rulers was chaired by the Emir of Anka, Ahmad Muhammad, and was attended by all the emirs in the state.
Army denies hitting civilian positions
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Air Force has denied that they shelled civilian locations in the recent air strikes in Zamfara State.
In a statement published by NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information, Ibikunle Daramola on Friday, the force said the places where the airstrikes took place where known strongholds of the bandits in Zamfara State.
“The NAF target selection process for air operations is particularly rigorous and methodical in order to ensure proper target identification and thereby prevent strikes on wrong locations.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the public is to please note that the locations attacked from 8 to 11 April 2019 were selected based on human intelligence (HUMINT) reports obtained from security agencies and other government sources, traditional and community leaders as well as reliable, vetted informants.
“These were all further confirmed by days of detailed day and night Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions to ensure proper targeting for the avoidance of collateral damage.
“To further ensure this, as standard practice, NAF attack aircraft on air interdiction missions are accompanied by ISR platforms that guide them to designated targets.”
The statement further added that it was “inconceivable” that the Force would attack civilian positions and refuse to accept responsibility, and, therefore, urged those spreading the “deliberate misinformation” to desist.
“Rather than making such spurious and unsubstantiated allegations, NAF requests that anyone with evidence to the effect that innocent civilians were targeted by the NAF air strikes should produce such evidence,” the statement read.