Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara on Wednesday called for a comprehensive review of the strategy of fighting insurgency to restore law and order in the affected parts of the country.
Matawalle made the appeal in Gusau while receiving the Federal government delegation that came to commiserate with the state government over the Jan. 5 bandit’s attacks on eight communities in the state.
“We need a more workable plan of action tailored explicitly in tune with the realities on the ground. This is a clarion call for us to step up efforts in this fight before the dreadful monster consumes our region and the country as a whole.
“I would like to add that any strategy to be drawn for fighting banditry and all forms of insurgency should focus greater attention on Zamfara State. Our forests have become fortresses for bandits, from where they plan and launch attacks to other parts of the northwest.
“As part of this strategy, special forces should be deployed to some black spots, particularly identified to be more dangerous centres of activities of the bandits.
“These black spots are Gando, in Bukkuyum Local Government Area, Munhaye of Tsafe Local Government Area, Bayan Ruwa, in Maradun Local Government Area, Kabaro- Sangeku, of Dansadau and Magami axis.
“The special forces could help dislodge the bandits and block exits to the fleeing ones.
“The Super Tucano warplanes obtained by the Federal Government would be super handy in the implementation of the new combat strategy along the Zamfara Katsina axis, with Zamfara as the command centre,” Matawalle appealed.
The Governor said his administration made tackling insecurity its topmost priority with a multi approaches.
“We have intermarried the provision of logistics and other forms of support to our security forces with an array of social intervention programmes aimed at the economic empowerment of our youth.
“For instance, within the first few months of our administration, we procured 200 brand new Hilux pickups and distributed them to all the security agencies in the State for operational purposes.
“This is in addition to payment of allowances to security personnel, provision of Silent Falcon Drones, repairs of vehicles and fighting equipment, provision of office and housing accommodation and a host of other supports to our security forces.
“As we all know, the security challenge Zamfara and other states in the northwest face is unprecedented. It has become an existential threat for the sub region. We have virtually explored and tried all workable options in our relentless effort to address this challenge,” he said.
According to him, in the first 100 days of my administration, there was no single banditry attack as a result of the dialogue and reconciliation programme.
“We took stiffer measures such as shutting down mobile communication networks between the months of September and December 2021.
“The measure was aimed at depriving the bandits and their accomplices of the primary means of communication and coordination of attacks and to allow the security forces to move quickly into the various black spots to root out the bandits.
“But that did not come to pass, as most of the notorious bandits are still at large having a field day at their centres of activities. Other measures aimed at blocking supplies to the bandits are still in place.
“In our search for peace, we built cooperation not just with the affected states but with the authorities of the Niger Republic. We employed Service Hunters and provided them with motorcycles and allowances.
“Only recently we paid the Service Hunters the sum of N53 million, in addition to their full upkeep.
“In the aftermath of the recent attacks in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas, we expended the sum of N250 million to provide vehicles, and allowances for both the Civilian JTF and the conventional security outfits,” he said.
The Governor, however, expressed sadness that part of the reason for the persistence of banditry and kidnapping and other security challenges is the non-punishment of the apprehended criminals.
“Many a times, the bandits are released without being charged. This strengthens the audacity of the bandits and makes banditry attractive to some misguided elements.
“Another problem we have noticed is that despite the remarkable zeal of our troops, they lack modern equipment with which to prosecute modern warfare.
“Prosecution of modern warfare depends largely on modern war equipment and gadgets.
‘It is very vital for these modern war instruments to be provided to our troops if we are to win this fight against banditry in Zamfara and the northwest.
“It is evident that unless enough modern equipment is provided to our security forces to fight the war effectively, the country faces the danger of anarchy,” he said.
He said that it was due to such frustration that led to the recent calls by some leaders for their people to take up arms to defend themselves.
He said it could be a recipe for lawlessness when the State loses its monopoly over the instruments of coercion.
“As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should procure Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and deploy them across all parts of the country.
“If 1000 APCs could be made available, they would go a long way in turning the tide of the war against the bandits in a short period of time.
“I want to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that the pockets of insurgencies in many parts of the north are interrelated.
“In some instances, evidence has been found of connection between Boko Haram and some of the bandit groups operating in the northwest.
“We, in Zamfara State, are making efforts to obtain the appropriate coordinates of all the black spots in order to aid air force operations. So far, we have provided quite a number of these coordinates to the air force,” he said.
Matawalle also said that the state does not need a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) but massive resources for reconstruction and resettlement of the affected communities.
He said the magnitude of the crisis is such that IDP camps cannot adequately serve the purpose of proper humanitarian support to the IDPs, which is the essence of their establishment.
He noted that the problem of banditry had a variety of effects on people’s lives, including the displacement of an estimated 600,000 people, including women and children.
“It led to the scuttling of farming activities in most of our rural areas, the severance of historical ties among our communities, and the grounding of economic and social activities across most of the State. I, therefore, call on the Federal Government to roll out a special intervention programme for Zamfara State.
“The intervention programme should include the establishment of security outposts across all our rural communities, which will go a long way in the maintenance of peace and order across the State.
“Even though we have in place a full-fledged Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management which is up and doing in providing succour to the teeming victims of banditry across the State.
“The resources at our disposal are too meager to enable us adequately meet the requirements of the affected communities vis a vis other competing demands,” Matawalle said.
The President delegation led by the Minister of Defence, retired Maj.-Gen. Bashir Magashi, include the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Mongunu, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq; Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi.
Others included the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, Director-General National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu.
Magashi had earlier said that they were in Zamfara on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari to condole with the government and people of the state over bandits attack on eight communities in Anka and Bukuyum LGs, where 58 persons were killed.
Magashi said the President was saddened with the development and promised that stringer action would be taken to prevent the occurrence of similar incidence in the future.
He assured the government and people of the state that the Federal government had taken note of the attack and was on top of the situation.
He expressed the federal government commitment to securing the people and property in all parts of the country.
The minister said the federal government would support the government of Zamfara in tackling the humanitarian challenges in due course.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management announced a number of relief materials including foodstuff, clothes and household utensils.
Farouq said consignments of the items would arrive in Gusau before the end of the week.
Matawalle afterwards announced a committee to handle the materials and ensure they were delivered to the affected areas without recourse to the State capital.