Charles Nwoke, Gusau, Nigeria
Nigerian Government on Sunday, said unidentified gunmen killed no fewer than 200 persons and displaced thousands more in multiple ambushes in the North-West over the last week. Officials facing this terrible challenge, have been battling to restore orderliness and peace in the region.
Fulani herdsmen and local farmers in the Africa’s most populous and ethnic diversified country have clashed over access to land in North-West and Central Nigeria for years, but some groups have evolved into criminal gangsterism known as BANDITS, who kill, loot, and abduct their victims, and in most cases demand for ransom.
Sadiya Umar Farouq, the Nigerian Minister of Humanitarian Affairs lamented profusely and called the last week’s raid in Zamfara state “horrific and tragic,” giving the first official number of the victims after details began filtering out early Saturday.
Nneka Ikem Anibueze, the Minister’s spokesperson in a statement on Sunday, said, “Over 200 persons were buried… due to the invasion by bandits.”
“We also worried about the displaced persons who are fleeing in their hundreds from their communities,” the minister added, saying that releaf materials have been sent to the affected communities, families and victims.
She said more than 10,000 people were displaced when “their homes were razed by the bandits while scores are still missing.”
Some residents of the area who spoke with AFP (news agency) on Saturday, explained that hoodlums wielding sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, rampaged through Anka and Bukkuyum axis over two days, killing at least 140 persons and destroying properties.
A resident of Kurfa Danya community,Babandi Hamidu, said the hooligans were shooting “anyone on sight,” during the imbroglio.
The Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, stated that boundary Niger, downplayed the cataclysm and said only 58 persons were maimed following the attack.
In a statement issued on Saturday by the Chief Press Secretary, Zailani Bappa, the Governor said, “The Emir of Anka gave a list of 22 deaths while the Emir of Bukkuyum gave a list of 36 victims.”
Last year, Governor Matawalle imposed highly restrictive measures for almost three months, shutting down telecommunication networks, restricting fuel sales, and closing cattle markets, in an attempt to debilitate the bandits but attacks have persisted.
The question on the lips of most Nigerians is whether the attack is reprisal?
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, on Saturday in strong terms, condemned the unfortunate incident as “an act of desperation by mass murderers.”
According to the 79-year-old retired army general, Buhari, who has been struggling with a more than decade-long Islamic extremists in the North-East and secession movement in the South-Eastern geopolitical zones, “We are fiercely determined to smoke out and destroy these outlaws.”
Nigeria government on Wednesday, officially tagged bandits a terrorist group, insisting it would help bring tougher sanctions, a decision which analysts see as a step to enable the military to deploy more resources to the North-West.
Bandits made international headlines last year after abducting hundreds of students in a series of mass kidnappings from schools and colleges.
According to United Nations, students are often quickly released after payments of ransom to the bandits but 200 were still missing in September.
On Saturday, 30 students and a teacher were set free after seven months of captivity in Kebbi state. It was not clear if any ransom had been paid to secure their release.
Combine security taskforce operations are ongoing in the North-West.
According to Nigerian Armed Forces, they had killed 537 “armed bandits and other criminal elements” in the region and arrested 374 others since May last year, while 452 “kidnapped civilians were rescued.”
Kabir Adamu, a security analyst and Abuja-based Beacon Consulting Nigeria, told AFP that this week’s attack could be in retaliation to recent military onslaughts in the area.
Last month, bandits loyal to notorious gang leader Bello Turji suffered heavy losses in both ground and air raids on their forest hideouts.
Adamu said, “Angered by this, and perhaps by the fact that that they were facing certain death, (they) decided to move to other locations and in the course of this they seem to be conducting these attacks.”