A University teacher, Dr Murtala Ahmad Rufai, has identified the contribution of politicians and other political leaders in fuelling the issue of insecurity in the Zamfara States and other parts of the country. Murtala described the recruitment and armed political thugs for the electioneering process where politicians provided them with motorcycles and other items to perpetuate their mission.
He stated this while delivering his lecture titled “I am a bandit” as part of the 15th inaugural lecture of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, held at the school auditorium, on Thursday.
He also identified the abolition of grazing roots as well as grazing reserves which he said was taken over by selfish politicians in the country. The presenter disclosed that these are part of the information gathered during his time with bandits in the forest of Zamfara in developing his research.
“The first is the speculation that says politicians in the state-sponsored and armed some youths as political thugs to achieve their ambition in 2011.
“The youths were abandoned after winning the elections, who then went into drug abuse, cattle stealing, robbery and later transformed into armed gangs attacking villages on motorbikes.
“The first motorbikes used in the attacks were donations from politicians in the state. At the onset of conflict in 2011, authorities in Zamfara remained adamant, confused and unresponsive, thus adding flavour to the politicians’ connection to the conflict.
“The second narrative emphasised social grievance arising from the perceived deep-rooted injustice against the pastoral communities.”
He explained that the first armed group emerged with the name “Kungiyar Gayu” in Zamfara towards the end of 2011.
He said, “their perception was that pastoral communities in the state were subjected to all forms of extortion, exploitation and deprivation from different agencies.
“They were denied justice mostly in the lower courts when a pastoralist was involved in any squabble with a farmer, the case would usually delay unnecessarily.
“The accused Fulani man, known to have a phobia for courts and their unwarranted justice delay, would be able to bribe his way out of the court. Cases involving the police were the worst according to an informant who said that both the judges and police are birds of the same feather.
“Allegations of extortion extend to hospitals, where access to healthcare is often accompanied by extortion and exorbitant charges.
“Added to these is lack of access to education, veterinary services and animal feeds. Grazing routes and reserves were mostly shared amongst politicians and traditional rulers in the state.”
He also identified illicit mining arguments which see the rise of the conflict from the perspective of the struggle amongst the miners in which each of them is with the aim of getting the upper hand in the competition.
He further explained that Zamfara is one of the few states in the Northwest blessed with huge gold deposits mostly exploited by foreign illicit miners from Chinese, Russians, South Africans among others in collaboration with artisanal miners.
He also identified the operations of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) pushed the armed groups out of towns and villages to the highly ungoverned spaces where they established different camps in the numerous forests across the state.
“The VGN attacked, maimed and even engaged in extrajudicial killings of accused persons. Most of their victims are, unfortunately; Fulani leading to the ethnic profiling of pastoralists”
He said the Yan-Sakai were believed to have committed more atrocities than the Vigilante group especially in the Shinkafi local government area of Zamfara State.
In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Lawal Bilbis, described the research as part of the responsibility of the school I’m finding a lasting solution to the issue of insecurity in the state.
He called on the government at all levels to make use of the findings in looking for a positive solution to the issues of banditry not only in the Northwest region but across the country.