Zamfara massacre: it’s time to impose a state of emergency

The indiscriminate killing of over 200 people in some communities in Zamfara State has reinforced the urgent need for a change in military strategy against insurgents, terrorists and various armed criminals in the northern states. Reports indicate that bandits / terrorists in large numbers organized attacks on the villages of Rafin Danya, Barayar Zaki, Rafin Gero and Kurfa in the local government areas of Anka and Bukkuyum between Tuesday and Thursday last week, so that they were fleeing with thousands of stolen cattle as a result of the ongoing counterinsurgency. military operations. Obviously, governance has collapsed in some states. Tougher and decisive steps, including the declaration of a state of emergency in Zamfara, should therefore be taken now before the terrorists carve out permanent fiefdoms for themselves in the fragile federation.

A tragedy of epic proportions unfolds. The Nigerian state is collapsing. Rivers of blood are flowing and the federal and state governments seem largely powerless, their efforts to contain the rampage costing billions of naira, but largely insufficient to stop the bloodshed and robbery. Under the President’s watch, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), terrorists – from Islamist Boko Haram / ISWAP insurgents to Fulani herders / killer militias and bandits / terrorists – have made the northern states dangerous. The Zamfara massacre is just the latest in daily plunder by bloodthirsty non-state actors exploiting the fragility of the union and ineffective governance.

As reconstructed by the media, the heavily armed bandits / terrorists numbering several dozen, and mounted on motorcycles, moved from their forest hiding places towards the western part of the state fleeing the aerial bombardments supported by the army of the United States. Nigerian air. On the move, they stole more than 2,000 head of cattle, overpowered weak and crudely armed local militiamen, and operating for more than two days, they devastated nine villages. They burned houses, granaries and markets, massacred or beheaded, and mutilated the bodies of their victims, including women and children, some of whom they set on fire. They also kidnapped women.

Between July and September 2021, said SBM Intelligence, 2,287 people were killed across the country, with the Northwest accounting for the highest number with 962 deaths. Of these, 495 were killed in Zamfara. Together, the northern states accounted for 85% of killings. The advisory agency, Statisense, citing sources, said that between January and June last year, an average of 32 people were killed and 17 others kidnapped daily across the country. For Nigerians, that’s enough!

Buhari should galvanize the whole country to save Nigeria from total state failure. The country is at war. The number of people killed each day exceeds the number of soldiers killed by some nations engaged in war. For example, in 20 years of deployment in Afghanistan, only 457 British servicemen have been killed.

As the war against insurgents / terrorists falters in the northeast, where Boko Haram and ISWAP resist the military, and travel outside state capitals is dangerous, the government is also losing ground to bandits / terrorists in the North-West and Center-North.

There should be a recalibration of the strategy. It took so long for the government to designate the so-called bandits as terrorists; even after a Federal High Court ruling marked them that way, it wasn’t until last week that it was published in the Gazette. The regime should dissociate terrorism and national security from partisan, sectoral and religious politics. A government that was so quick to label the indigenous people of Biafra as a terrorist organization even before any atrocity could be attributed to them, and which pursued its leader beyond the coasts of the country, should have called the bandits by their name a long time ago and act accordingly. The absurd policy of appeasement called amnesty should never be considered again.

Terrorist leaders should be identified, prosecuted and brought to justice. Bello Turji, leader of the terrorist group responsible for the Zamfara bombing, and other terrorist leaders should be hunted down. The standard global counterterrorism strategy is to eliminate the rulers with targeted commando raids, airstrikes, or drone attacks as part of ‘kill or capture’ military operations. Turji, who reportedly freed 52 hostages last week, was allowed, like late Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, to do so in the northeast, to terrorize the northwest unhindered. It took a rebellion within the ranks of terrorists to end Shekau’s life and the reign of terror. To decapitate the insurgent groups, a special task force should be set up using all available human and intelligence technology to neutralize Turji and other terrorist leaders. Bonuses should be placed on their heads to encourage cooperation and public information.

Without a doubt, aerial bombardments or the use of the Super Tucano aircraft alone cannot end crime. The territories are contiguous and the forest hiding places of the bandits extend over several states. Thus, military assaults should be simultaneous, with defensive positions adopted in neighboring states and communities when bombarded to catch fleeing terrorists. There should be more effective coordination between the security services.

State governors must face reality. Without an immediate response by the state police, the country is doomed to failure. State police are now or never. A repeat of his previous desperate call for locals to get guns and defend themselves by Katsina state governor Bello Masari is a pathetic abdication of responsibility. The 36 state governors should urgently meet, coordinate with federal and state legislatures to immediately push for a constitutional amendment to facilitate state policing under the “doctrine of the need “.

Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara recently said there were around 30,000 bandits in the northwest with over 100 bandit camps; each has no less than 300 members, while only around 6,000 troops operate in the region. This illustrates the imperative to put more boots on the ground through sustained search operations to dominate the territories of terrorists and drive them out of the forests. Buhari is expected to deploy the constitution to declare a state of emergency in Zamfara. Northwestern states should immediately activate a regional security force to complement military operations.

Technological aids must be deployed effectively against terrorists. These criminals negotiate ransoms over open telephone lines with the families of the kidnapped victims; ICT gadgets acquired with millions of dollars should be used to find them. The bleeding must be stopped.

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