In the bloody attacks which led to the deaths of 41 persons in Zurmi local government area of Zamfara state on Wednesday, the state governor Abdulaziz Yari has placed the blame on security agencies.
According to the governor, his administration alerted the security agencies 24 hours before the invasion but they failed to act.
“Whatever humanly possible that needed to be done, we as a government have done to mitigate this disaster. But it does appear that security agencies are failing in their responsibilities,” Yari said on Friday when he led five Northern Governors on a sympathy visit to the palace of the Emir of Zurmi.
“I feel let down facing the people of this state whenever I remember the promise I made to them that when they elect President Muhammadu Buhari into power, these killings will end. But unfortunately, things are now getting worse. As such, I urge you security agencies to up the ante so as not to lose this war. If you let us take issues on our hands, anarchy will reign which is not what we hope us.”
The Zamfara governor is not the only APC governor expressing disappointment with the Buhari administration over the way it has handled the insecurity situation in the country. Benue Gov. Samuel Ortom has consistently criticised the federal government this year as well.
Speaking further, Gov. Yari said: “On this particular incidence, we had intelligence reports 24 hours before it happened that the bandits were grouping and ready to attack. I alerted the security agencies but unfortunately they sent inadequate personnel to confront these people from where they came from.”
In his remarks, the Emir of Zurmi, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said echoed what Yari said, adding that if not for the bravery of vigilante groups who confronted the bandits, the casualty figures would have been higher.
The Emir alleged that 600 bandits made attempt to invade Zurmi but were repelled by vigilantes.
“They came on 200 motorcycles with three persons on each bike. Each of them was well-armed. We stationed 500 vigilante members who stood their ground and gallantly fought the bandits. Unfortunately, these same bandits turned their anger on travelers and other villagers on their way here, that was why we had 39 people killed.
“Thes terrorists are known to us. Their major hide-out is in a village called Kagara, very close to Bafarawa in Sokoto State, and a few kilometers from Shinkafi in Zamfara State. But despite several appeal to security agencies to storm the area, our appeals have failed.
“I need to state here that majority of weapons used by bad people in this country are brought in from this area. I had reason to personally inform Zamfara State Director of SSS sometimes back of a large cache of weapons being brought into the country but no concrete action was taken until the containers were moved away.
“I am happy that other Northern Governors are here because we believe the solution to this problem lies in cooperation among all of you.
“I don’t need to repeat here that we need a full battalion of soldiers here and in areas surrounding Maru, Maradun, Shinkafi and Zurmi LGAs,” the visibly angry Emir said.
He added that the people have been pushed to the limit and a negative reaction from them will have devastating consequence on the continued peaceful coexistence of all communities in the area.
In his remarks, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno appealed to the people not to lose patience. He sympathized with the victims and prayed to God to grant the deceased eternal rest.
In addition to Shettima and Yari, other Governors on the entourage were Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and Umar Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa States.
Police gives different version of events
Zamfara police spokesman, Muhammad Shehu, however, gave a detailed version of the incident in a statement in Gusau.
According to Shehu, the violence started after hunters and local vigilantes mobilised and launched a pre-emptive attack on the bandits when they heard that the outlaws were preparing to attack their community.
He claimed that instead of the residents to give the security operatives timely information to avert the attack, they decided to take the law into their own hands by going out to confront the gunmen.
Shehu said: “On February 13, hunters from Birani Village of Zurmi Local Government Area intercepted and accosted a herder in the bush with some suspected stolen cattle and sheep.
“The herder abandoned the animals and escaped into the bush, but unknown to the hunters, the cattle rustler went to Isah Local Government Area of Sokoto State and mobilised bandits to attack the hunters. On February 14, the bandits ambushed the hunters in the bush and there was a clash that led to fatality on both sides.
“Police/Military and other sister agencies reacted by combing the bush and it’s environs to salvage the situation and discovered 18 dead bodies.
“It is believed that the bandits took away their own members that were killed. Meanwhile, bush combing is in progress so as to further profile the area.
“Mobile policemen/special forces and other security personnel from other sister security agencies have already been deployed to the area to restore peace and stability.”
The police spokesman said that the command’s intelligence unit had already embarked on investigation to arrest the perpetrators of the attack.