(OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI GCFR) ZAMFARA UNDER BANDITS’ SIEGE: A CALL FOR THE DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY

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    By Zamfara Circle

    Dear Mr President,

    BACKGROUND

    Zamfara Circle Community Initiative fondly called Zamfara Circle (ZC) is a duly registered non-governmental organization with corporate affairs commission working in Zamfara State. Zamfara Circle is set up with a view to leading young professionals in contributing their quota towards the development of our dear state with the following objectives:
    · To ensure good governance through monitoring the performance of public officers and elected officials.
    · To take up the challenge of moral guidance among Zamfara youth through advocacy and counseling services.
    · To serve as a platform for best practices among others.

    1. Zamfara Circle is worried that the spate of killings, kidnappings, and plunder in Zamfara state has reached levels not seen before in the decade-long banditry that has bedeviled the state. The audacity with which bandits attack villages, town centers, and even the state capital is unprecedented and there are indications that mass abduction, which have been common across the state, are, God forbid, imminent in Gusau, the state capital.
    2. Mr President after the recent attack on the College of Agriculture located in Bakura town, bandits have posted a notice of attack at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Gusau, and going by antecedents, Zamfara Circle (ZC) has every reason to consider these threats to be serious. We hope the government will consider the threats as such too and take necessary action to prevent it.
    3. As a body with representatives across the 14 local governments of the state, ZC receives daily reports of attacks, and it is sad to mention that there is no respite in deadly criminal activities in the state. Unfortunately, it is only mass abduction and/or multiple killings that make it to the news.
    4. Mr President what is worrying in Zamfara is the absence and growing insensitivity of the governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle. Since the inception of Matawalle’s administration in May 2019, governance in the state was pursued pari passu with the politics of remote 2023 elections although the latter was given much priority. The recent cross-carpeting by the governor to join the Nigeria’s ruling party has taken his nonchalance to the condition of the state to a dangerous level with anything governance becoming a secondary challenge to contend with as far as he, the governor, is concerned.

    THE NEED FOR STATE OF EMERGENCY IN ZAMFARA

    1. Mr President with its error-ridden, badly executed amnesty programme for bandits now called off and concluded to be a failure by no less than the governor himself, there seems to be no plan B for addressing the growing banditry in the state. Zamfara is now a rudderless state. It is clear that the focus now is on strategizing and aligning in the new party to ensure successful outing in 2023 and people’s safety, lives, and properties are no more issues on the governor’s table. The bandits, taking advantage of the governor’s nonchalance, raid and attack significant parts of the state daily.
    2. Mr President in just two years, Governor Matawalle has done all (and in some cases surpassed) what he accused his predecessor, Abdul’aziz Yari of doing in terms of negligence, absence from the state and poor governance, to mention but a few. In all the 14 LGAs of the state, there is no hamlet, village, town, or city that is beyond the reach of the bandits including Gusau, the capital of the state. The bandits are now bold enough to lay siege on towns and to make demands that have to be met before they call off the siege. On 16th July 2021 notorious bandits’ leader Turji, whose father was arrested held over 60 people hostage demanding the immediate release of his father which was obliged by the State government. Also on 20th August 2021 Tsafe town was under siege of Ado Aleiro with his boys threatening to attack if his father, who was arrested by the security operatives, was not released from custody. Consequently, the father was released.
    3. Mr President in addition to the menace of banditry a new Boko Haram styled group of terrorists has emerged in Dandalla district of Dansadau Emirate in Maru LGA who are taking the style of Boko Haram by preaching to the locals to join them with promises to protect them from bandits attack. Governor Matawalle has never visited Dansadau emirate since inception of his administration for the past 2 years now and the zone is crippled developmentally with no visible project from his administration.
    4. Mr President recently Bakura LGA is becoming the epicenter of banditry in the state. The town is hit daily by incessant bandits’ attacks with hundreds kidnapped or killed since the beginning of the year including the students and staff of the College of Agriculture who were abducted on 15 August 2021. People from the surrounding villages have all moved to Bakura town and beyond to seek refuge thereby overwhelming the already beleaguered town. The internally displaced and despaired people (IDPs) are facing hunger, cholera outbreak, and lack of decent accommodation to shelter themselves as the rains come down heavy in recent weeks.
    5. Mr President ZC has recorded 364 deaths so far in the state from last February and these are only from the reports we receive from our LGA coordinators. ZC believes the number will be much higher when a fully-fledged investigation is carried out. In the same vein, over 1200 people were kidnapped and about 10,000 displaced this year alone. It is sad to report that there is no single government designated IDP camp anywhere in the Zamfara state.
    6. Mr President despite the attacks, IDP crisis, and cholera outbreak, the governor has been out of the state for days and was only sighted in faraway Bichi attending the wedding of the President’s son. Zamfara State government has totally failed to discharge its primary responsibility of securing lives and properties and it is no surprise the governor is prioritizing 25th year anniversary celebration at the expense of the meager resources meant for development.
    7. Mr President the legislature, which is supposed to call the executive to order, is not providing the representation its members were voted for. This body did not at any time summon the governor to answer to many violations of the oath he swore to when he assumed leadership of the state. Members of the house of assembly do not seem to care about the current state of insecurity in the state and their voices are only heard when political scores against perceived enemies are to be settled.
    8. Mr President the Federal Government (FG) under your leadership has also abandoned the people of Zamfara state to their fate despite the president’s many promises that banditry in the state will be contained and ended. It is clear that the FG is capable of providing the needed security to Nigerians only that it is selective in this regard as evident by the heavy security provided for the political elite during the recent wedding of the president’s son.

    PRAYERS

    1. ZC wishes to let Mr President know that a lot of Nigerians, and especially citizens of Zamfara state, are in a state of fear while sleeping in their homes or travelling across Zamfara state. While ZC has complained previously about lack of FG-funded development works in our state, ZC is at this moment only asking for concrete action against banditry. ZC needs the FG to consider the security problem in Zamfara as serious as the BH insurgency in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states.
    2. ZC is calling on Mr President to consider declaring a State of Emergency (under Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution which provides for the imposition of a state of emergency in the country or any part of it by the president) in the state and suspend the current political order as the squabble between the political heavyweights in the state will continue to distract the government and will hinder any meaningful efforts to be made to salvage the grim situation that we are in. A 6-month State of Emergency will give the military total control of the security architecture of the state and will ensure that all efforts are geared towards obliterating the many hideouts and camps from which the bandits launch attacks on people in Zamfara and the neighboring states.
    3. Mr President, it is time to take more drastic measures before more lives and properties are needlessly lost.

    23/08/2021

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