The Deputy Chairman of Zamfara State Committee on finding a lasting solution to Armed Banditry, Dr. Abdullahi Shinkafi, says bandits no longer have food to feed their kidnap victims and are releasing them freely without collecting ransom.
Shinkafi said this during an interview on Saturday in Gusau while hailing the efforts of the state government aimed at tackling the activities of bandits in the north-western state.
“There were some people who were kidnapped, 11 of them. They released one and told them to bring N200,000 each. Before they started negotiating, (they demanded) N20 million per person,” he said.
“When the relatives of the victims refused to send the money, they left with no option than to release them. They said they don’t have food to feed them that some have started dying in captivity.
“So it is yielding a lot of results and biting them very hard. The sustainability of these security measures will help in downgrading the activities of bandits in Zamfara State.”
Shinkafi added that due to the telecommunications shutdown, bandits wrote letters to the people of Shinkafi and the Acting Emir of Zurmi, using receipts of their purchased motorcycles to demand ransom for kidnapped victims.
He also confirmed that the task force in the state has traced the address of the motorcycle company in Kano State and arrests have been made.
The Zamfara State House of Assembly has suspended two of its members Yusuf Anka and Ibrahim Bakura, for their alleged involvement in banditry.
Anka and Bakura who represent Anka State Consultancy and Bakura State Constituency were suspended for three months, pending the conclusion of an investigation into the allegation against them.
Their suspension formed part of the resolutions reached on Tuesday during a plenary presided by the Speaker of the House, Nasiru Magarya.
The duo have been directed to appear before the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, as well as security agencies assigned by law to probe them.
Leading the debate on the matter, the lawmaker representing Maru North, Yusuf Kanoma, drew the attention of his colleagues to the allegations against the two members, saying the House should not fold its arms and let such an act of misconduct thrive.
He alleged that the suspended lawmakers were celebrating when reports emerged that the father of the speaker was abducted, claiming that they connived with bandits to kill the former member representing Shinkafi Constituency, Muhammad Ahmad.
The lawmaker called on the security agencies to track the telephone lines of his suspended colleagues and listened to all their conversations.
He also asked the House to as a matter of urgency suspend them from all House activities for an initial period of three months, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigations.
Another member of the House, Nura Ali, from Birnin Magaji State Constituency, supported Kanoma’s position, saying detractors of peace in the state should be made to face the full wrath of the law.
In his remarks, Magarya also directed the House committee to fully investigate the allegations and report its findings in the next three months.
Rice farmer Donald Amokaha spends his days weeding a temporary plot outside the city of Makurdi, on the fringes of the Benue river in Nigeria’s agricultural heartland.
Two hours drive away into the countryside, Amokaha has a swathe of prime farmland, but it lies abandoned. Fear of attacks forced him to leave earlier this year.
“I usually cultivate rice, millet and sesame seeds on 100 hectares (250 acres) of land in Guma… but this year, I ran,” Amokaha told AFP. “I ploughed 40 hectares but was unable to plant.”
Amokaha is only one of a growing number of farmers who are fleeing violence in Nigeria’s crop-growing Middle Belt.
The agricultural heartland, like Nigeria’s northwestern states, is in the grip of years-long tit-for-tat violence between nomadic herders and farmers — a feud that has sharpened as climate change intensifies competition for water and land.
While insecurity is rooted in that herder-farmer conflict, the crisis in northwest Nigeria has spiralled into broader criminality with mass abductions for ransom, cattle theft and banditry.
The rural exodus is a key factor in driving up the cost of food in Africa’s most populous country, hitting its tens of millions of poor.
The government’s statistics bureau says inflation in June was around 17 percent compared with a year earlier.
The rise has been fuelled by the fallout from the global pandemic, which has triggered a slump in petroleum demand, badly hitting revenues in oil-producing Nigeria.
But within the index lies even worse news: food inflation of 22 percent.
In Nasawara state, on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital Abuja, vegetable seller Badamasi Bello is anxious.
He said he loses customers daily because of the spiralling price of commodities. The high cost of transportation is also contributing to rising prices.
“I used to sell tomatoes and peppers, but things are now costly. I sold 10 bags of these items daily, but customers are no longer coming like before. I now sell only two bags in a day.”
Last month, the local State Emergency Management Agency chief warned about food scarcity, saying that many farmers living in camps for the internally displaced would struggle to return to the land.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported in May that Benue had more than 200,000 displaced people, although local government estimates put that figure much higher.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, a fierce government critic from the opposition PDP party, said he fears the repercussions of rural flight on food output and the overall economy.
“This crisis portends a great danger to the growth and development of Nigeria,” Ortom told AFP.
“Without adequate security, there can’t be farming to produce food for our people.”
In May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned at least 9.2 million Nigerians face a crisis or worse levels of food insecurity this year because of the country’s conflicts.
Benue produces food staples such as yam, rice, beans, and maize. It supplies 70 percent of Nigeria’s soybean, according to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission.
Nigeria’s central bank said it recently released 791 billion naira ($1.92 billion / 1.7 million euros) to farmers and reduced interest rates on loans in a bid to stimulate food production.
Chijioke Ekechukwu, chief executive at Dignity Finance & Investment, said farmers were producing far less than was needed to meet Nigeria’s food demand.
“The current situation is affecting prices. Government needs to open borders for import of food shortfalls. When this is done, there will be enough for the local market and prices will be forced to go down,” Chijioke told AFP.
“In the long run, government should tackle insecurity.”
Nigeria closed parts of its borders in August 2019 in an attempt to battle smuggling of rice and other goods as the government tried to improve food self-sufficiency.
The frontiers were also closed in March last year to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, although four borders were reopened in December.
Amokaha, a former agriculture commissioner and now farmer, said food prices would rise inexorably until growers were able to return to their land.
“Rather than importing food, the government should fight insecurity in order to encourage farmers go into more production,” he said.
Aside from security issues, the cleric also attributed the reduced impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country to God’s help.
According to him, while several individuals and international bodies had predicted doom for Africa, especially Nigeria, the nation was spared.
“One very great scientist and I were discussing not very long ago and he said, ‘The fact of what had happened [COVID-19] with Nigeria showed that there must be something here that is not anywhere else’,” he added.
“When the Lord is involved in the affairs of a nation, He will protect the people from the pandemic,” said the 79-year-old.
The Kaduna State Government has shut down telecommunication services in some Local Government Areas of the state as part of critical measures towards ending banditry.
The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said the decision was taken on Wednesday after a meeting with relevant federal agencies who recommended the shutting down of telecom services ahead of the commencement of a military onslaught against bandits.
He explained that the move is part of many steps taken to address the current security situation in Kaduna State and neighbouring states in the North-West and North-Central regions.
“The relevant federal agencies have today informed the Kaduna State Government that the processes for telecoms shutdown in parts of the state have commenced,” Mr Aruwan said.
“As part of the steps to address the current security situation in Kaduna State and neighbouring states in the North-West and North-Central, Kaduna State State Government has held several meetings with security agencies to adopt critical measures towards crushing bandits in identified hideouts”.
The commissioner also announced the immediate ban of commercial and private motorcycles for a period of three months across the state as well as the regulation of the schedule for commercial tricycle operators from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm daily.
“The following measures become effective from Thursday, 30th September 2021.
“1. The complete ban on the use of motorcycles (okada) for commercial or personal purposes for three months in the first instance.
“2. Ban on possession of or wielding of dangerous weapons.
“3. Tricycles are allowed to operate only from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. All tricycles must remove all curtains. Movement of tricycles is restricted from dusk till dawn,” he said.
In addition, Aruwan said all commercial tricycles are to remove curtains in their tricycles.
Similarly, the government said all vehicles used for commercial transportation must be painted in yellow and black within the next 30 days, while vehicles used for hiring services are expected to be painted in yellow and black stripes.
Other measures put in place according to the Commissioner, include the ban on the sale of petrol in jerry cans or other containers in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi, Kachia, Kagarko and Kajuru Local Government Areas.
The government appealed to residents to endure the severe strain and inconvenience the security measures will place on peaceful and law-abiding citizens, adding that difficult times have demanded that difficult decisions be made.
“These difficult times demand that difficult decisions be made. The measures have been adopted purely in the interest of our collective safety and security and to aid our brave forces in their fight against these mindless criminals.
“Too many lives have been lost and too many families have been shattered. Small groups of wicked persons cannot continue to hold us to ransom and force us to live in perpetual fear,” Aruwan said.
Kaduna now joins other states such as Zamfara to implement the shutdown of telecoms services in the country as part of measures to curb insecurity.
The Kaduna State government has informed residents of the state of plans to shut down telecommunication services in some parts of the state due to insecurity.
The state Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, who made the announcement during a media chat with some local radio stations in the state, said the planned shutdown of telecommunication services is because of the plan by security agencies to launch a massive attack on bandits taking refuge in some parts of the state.
El-Rufai explained that the shutdown would not cover the entire state. He, however, did not mentions the LGAs that would be affected, saying it would only affect local government areas bordering the troubled Zamfara and Katsina states.
He said, “We have been advised by the military and other security agencies to shut down telecommunication services in certain LGAs but we are waiting for the security agencies to tell us which specific areas and when.
“But I want the people of Kaduna State to know that if they give us the go-ahead tomorrow, we will shut down tomorrow.
“There is no doubt that bandits and other criminals rely on telecommunication to communicate with their informants as well as with relatives of kidnapped victims so as to demand ransom.”
The governor said he had already written to the Federal Government on the shutdown which he said had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I will not mention the LGAs to be affected but the local governments that are constantly being tormented by bandits know themselves,” he said.
Kaduna, like most states in the North-West zone, has been affected by banditry and kidnapping, especially in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Chikun, Igabi, Kajuru, Kachia, and Zaria local government areas.
According to Governor El-Rufai, due to the shutdown of telecommunication services in Zamfara and Katsina states, some bandits crossed over to neighbouring local government areas in Kaduna to make phone calls and demand ransoms.
He also disclosed that Kaduna State Government has established a task force that will go round the hinterlands to monitor compliance with some of the security measures adopted by the state to tackle banditry and kidnappings. These measures include the closure of some fuel stations and markets to strangulate bandits in the forest.
While advising residents on the need to identify and report informants or accomplices of bandits, El-Rufai urged residents to report anyone who comes to buy between 20 to 100 loaves of bread to security agents.
The Zamfara State Government has admitted that the residents of the state are facing difficulties over stiffer measures taken to curb killings, kidnappings and other security challenges.
Ibrahim Magaji Dosara, the state Commissioner for information, said Governor Bello Matawalle has constituted a state Relief Materials Distribution Committee to reduce the economic hardships being faced by the people of the state.
He said the move is due to the recent measures taken to bring lasting solution to the lingering armed banditry in the state.
“Government has noticed with concern the difficulties people are facing as a result of imposing some stiffer measures for curtailing the incessant attacks, kidnappings, maiming and killing of innocent people, which resurfaced after overcoming the crisis by the present government within just one year of taking over power,” he said.
“Government, therefore, deemed it not only appropriate but also necessary to source the essential commodities for distribution to the people, especially the common man at the grassroots, for relative ease across the state.”
He, however, advised the committee to conduct the distribution exercise properly with a view to ensuring justice and fairness.
While warning that the state government would not take it lightly with anyone found wanting in the distribution exercise, the commissioner asked the committee to liaise with critical stakeholders, irrespective of political leaning, in the distribution exercise to ensure justice is done to all.
He also commended the ulamas, traditional rulers, civil servants, security operatives and others who have contributed to finding a lasting solution to the wanton killing and destruction of lives and properties by the criminal elements.
This is coming weeks after the government introduced a string of measures, including banning the sales of petroleum products, shutting down some major markets and telecommunication networks, to tackle banditry in the state.
The Sokoto State government has shut down telecommunications networks in 14 of the 23 local government areas of the state.
This was disclosed in a statement on Monday by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Muhammad Bello.
“About three weeks after it approved an Executive Order in response to the situation of insecurity in the eastern flank of Sokoto State, Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on Monday disclosed the state’s collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to block services of communications operations in 14 local government areas of the state,” Bello said.
The LGAs affected by the Executive Order include Gada, Goronyo, Gudu, Ilela, Isa, Kebbe, Sabon Birni, Shagari, Rabah, Tambuwal, Tangaza, Tureta, Wurno, and Dange Shuni.
Bello stated that 13 of the local governments were initially affected by the Security Challenges (Containment) Order approved on September 1.
He explained that the order led to the closure of some roads to motorists, suspension of animal trades, prohibition of transportation of cattle, as well as transportation of more than three persons on motorcycles and tricycles, among others.
“In addition to these local government areas, Dange Shuni local government area will also be affected by the latest communications blockade, bringing the number of LGAs affected to 14,” the governor’s spokesman added.
Meanwhile, there was confusion in parts of Sokoto after the telecommunications network from two major service providers went down, as residents were unable to make calls or access internet services.
But telecommunication services were available for users of two other service providers, a situation that reduced the tension and apprehension among the people.
Comments and posts on most social media platforms in the state were mostly expressions of frustration and anger by residents questioning the rationale behind the decision of the authorities.
On Sunday, six locals were killed when bandits attacked Saminaka – a village located along the Bale-Tangaza Road in Tangaza, one of the LGAs affected by the Executive Order.
Sources in the village said the village came under attack in the morning and those killed comprised two married women and four children.
The women were reported to have been shot dead when they made an attempt to escape from the assailants.
However, the spokesman for the Sokoto State Police Command, said they had not been briefed of the attack.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, has assured Nigerians that the insecurity ravaging the country will soon be a thing of the past.
He said this in an article published on Thursday, titled ‘I Like This Pampering. Don’t You?’
“I have always had the conviction that the ravening clouds shall not long be victorious, they shall not long possess the sky,” the article read in part.
“Yes, we’ve had serious security challenges. They were inherited by the Buhari administration, and they mutated and became hydra-headed. But a government exists to solve problems, and that is what President Buhari had been committed to doing.
“But some people, out of evil hearts and petty political gains want it to be the definition of the government; ‘he could not secure the country, thousands of citizens were killed under him,’ but they will be shocked! The insecurity ravaging the land will soon become history. Where will they then hide their faces?”.
Speaking further, Mr Adesina lauded the efforts of the troops, saying their hard work was gradually ridding the country of the criminal elements.
“In the different evil forests, when the Nigerian Air Force strikes from the sky, the remnants of the evildoers not killed immediately attempt to flee. The ground troops then pick them off like flies. I say it again. One has never been prouder of our troops. They are cleaning up the country.”
He, however, described it as “shocking and disconcerting” that amidst all the efforts, “you still hear words meant to discourage our gallant soldiers”.
According to Adesina, some ‘bandits lovers’ keep saying that the military offensive would not work and that the bandits “are going nowhere.”
Confident in the abilities of the military, he says the bandits are going somewhere, “and that is hell”.
Mr Adesina’s comments come at a time when the nation is battling a myriad of security challenges from kidnapping for ransoms to banditry, and farmer/herder clashes among others.
As part of efforts to curb the rate of crime in the country, some state governors have gone a notch higher by introducing stricter measures such as a shutdown of telecoms services, activities in some markets, and fuel stations.
Zamfara State, which is one of those recently hit by insecurity, says the new measures have been beneficial.
“Zamfara State Government in efforts to ensure the crashing of the bandits has requested for the closing down of all networks in the state and this has been effective,” the state Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara, had said on Tuesday.
“The security officials are finding it very easy to deal with the bandits in their enclaves in the forests.”
The Police in Katsina State have arrested several suspects in connection with banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping.
They were arrested by officers on patrol while plying the Kankara-Sheme road in Dutsinma Local Government Area of the State.
While parading the suspects before the command headquarters on Wednesday in the state capital, the spokesman of the Command, SP Gambo Isah, said three suspected bandit informants were equally arrested between the Katsina and Zamfara border while conveying 80 assorted domestic animals on a canter vehicle to Abuja.
He explained that the three suspected informants are residents of Wanzamai village located at Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
SP Isah further stated that four suspected thieves were arrested for vandalising transformers in Kaita Local Government Area and in Mahuta village of Dandume Local Government Area of the state.
In the meantime, an additional two suspected bandit informants and suppliers of fuel to bandits were arrested by the police while on patrol.
The suspects simply identified as Isiya Abdullahi and Usman Mamman – all from Danmusa Local Government Council of Katsina State – were intercepted while conveying two drums fully loaded with fuel on a Golf (III) vehicle.
Another suspected notorious bandit identified as Auwal Aliyu was also arrested for impersonating vigilante group members of Batsari Local Government Area of the state.
According to the police spokesman, the 32-year-old suspect and fugitive of Niger State has been on the wanted list of the State Police Command for his engagement in banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling as well as feeding the bandits with information.
The arrests are part of the recent achievements recorded by the command in the fight against banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping and other associated crimes in the state.
The Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari has banned all commercial phone charging points in 18 of the 34 local government areas of the state as part of measures to tackle the scourge of banditry.
He issued the ban on Monday at the Katsina Government House while inaugurating the committee charged with monitoring and enforcing the recently introduced executive order in the state.
Governor Masari believes that the latest measure, coupled with further collaborations with the Federal Ministry of Communications will drastically reduce the menace of banditry in the north-western state.
“The latest instruction that we gave out is the closure of all commercial charging points in the most affected local government areas. Commercial charging, we believe, is also an area which is helping the bandits to acquire means of communication,” he said.
“We believe with this and further measures we are taking with the Federal Ministry of Communication will also help in restoring normalcy to our respective communities.”
He listed the affected local government areas as Jibia, Batsari, Safana, Danmusa, Paskari, Sabuwa, Kurfi, Danja, Kaita, Bakori, Funtua, Kankara, Musawa, Matazu, Dutsima, Mai’adua, Malumfashi and Funtua LGAs.
Masari said the state government will continue studying the predicament and will bring further measures that will help address the security challenges facing the state.
According to him, other states within the northwest are also taking the same measures to simultaneously tame banditry in the zone.
The committee has the Commissioner of Police, CP Sanusi Buba as Chairman and the Secretary to the State Government, Mustapha Inuwa serving as Secretary.
Governor Masari said the committee is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that its terms of reference and other items not mentioned are applied in the bid to restoring normalcy in the state.
On his part, the police commissioner thanked Governor Masari for the confidence reposed in them, noting that they have taken note of the terms of reference and the leverages given to them to consider other possibilities in bringing a lasting solution to the state
Buba assured the governor that the committee will work round the clock assiduously and with the fear of God in ensuring total compliance with the executive order.