PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s recent directive banning all flights over Zamfara State to halt the delivery of weapons to bandits operating there has attracted mixed reactions after one of the herdsmen confirmed that it was the powers-that-be supplying them with arms.
Over the last week, Zamfara State has been as the centre of the ongoing debate about insecurity across Nigeria after 279 pupils from Government Girls’ Secondary School (GGSS) Jangebe were kidnapped by armed bandits. After intense negotiations, the pupils released on Monday after spending about five days in custody.
However, Governor Bello Matawalle has alleged that prominent Nigerians were behind the kidnapping, which appears to have forced President Buhari to act. After a National Security Council meeting yesterday, the federal government slapped a no fly order on Zamfara State, aimed at arresting the aerial supply of arms, ammunition and food to the bandits.
This came as a repentant Fulani herdsman confessed in video that while he and his colleagues were minding their cattle, some members of the government came and offered them arms. In the video, the young man revealed that they did not ask for guns rather it was given to them by powers above them.
Speaking in Hausa, the herdsman said: “I swear to the Almighty God the government is the one arming us. We Fulani don’t know guns, we only know cows and how to rear cows and cows don’t give birth to guns.
“I swear to God, we just sat down and were given AK-47 by the government. I am not afraid to say the truth.”
In what appears to be a sudden realisation that something must be done, President Buhari also banned all mining activities in Zamfara State until further notice. Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State described the decision as fantastic and long-overdue but Governor Matawalle rejected it, saying the security council does not seem to understand the nature of security problem in the state.
He said it will not solve the security problem and that members of the National Security Council would realise at the end of the day that they only went to the meeting to drink. Although, Zamfara State has no airport, helicopters routinely fly into the state to drop off goods and people.
It is believed that gold mining has exacerbated the violence in Zamfara State as some of the miners have created private armies. Some of the competing groups are believed to have been using helicopters to supply their armed wings.
One military source said: “The intelligence at the disposal of the federal government on grave security breaches in Zamfara State is overwhelming. At the centre of the banditry in Zamfara State is the immense gold resources in the state as reports have confirmed that both legal and illegal miners have been competing for rich gold mines and most of them have banditry groups to protect their interests.
“An intelligence report confirmed that banditry is more pronounced in local government areas with gold in abundance like Maru. There is proliferation of small arms and weapons in Zamfara often brought by air by these gold businessmen.
“In fact, some of the abducted 279 pupils of the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, said they saw big men in exotic cars who came to the forest in the night to meet with the bandits. The only credible alternative is to restrict air movement to Zamfara State to cut supplies to bandits and checkmate those bankrolling them.
“The military, the police and security agencies will use the no fly zone timeline to take stock and re-strategise to manage the mandate given to them to rid the forests of bandits.”