Still on Matawalle’s Call for ‘Self-Defense’ and Matters Arising
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
Lately, there have been so much criticisms regarding the decision by the Zamfara State government to assist its citizens to acquire guns to protect themselves against attacks by bandit-terrorists.
By taking such difficult and of course, a risky decision, a right thinking person can easily fathom the kind of agony and frustration, the Governor of Zamfara State, Mohammed Bello Matawalle has been battling with, deep inside the bottom of his hearts for the past years.
Disturbed by the persistent and unacceptable spate of insecurities in the State, Matawalle had on Sunday, June 26, 2022, through the Commissioner of Information, Ibrahim Magaji Dosara ordered the residents to carry up arms and protect themselves against the rampaging activities of blood-sucking demons (aka bandit-terrorists) who have since turned the state into epicenter of banditry and other host of criminalities.
The government is expecting that this action would help in curbing the rising level of insecurity bedeviling the state for almost a decade.
In a statement made available to media, Dosara said: “Government has henceforth, directed individuals to prepare and obtain guns to defend themselves against the bandits, as government has directed the state commissioner of police to issue licences to all those who qualify and are wishing to obtain such guns to defend themselves.
“Government is ready to facilitate people, especially our farmers, to secure basic weapons for defending themselves. Government has already concluded an arrangement to distribute 500 forms to each of the 19 Emirates in the state for those willing to obtain guns to defend themselves.
It is on record that Northwestern Nigeria has since been swarmed by cohorts of criminals where bandits continued to operate with impunity on a daily basis unchallenged. Upon all that, Zamfara has been at the receiving end, suffering most of these attrocities.
Reports indicated that not less than 2,619 people were killed, 1,190 others kidnapped, and N970 million paid as ransom within the span of 8 years, i.e. between 2011 and 2019 in Zamfara. In addition, over 14,378 animals rustled and 100,000 people were equally displaced.
And it is disheartening to learn that, in spite of all the security measures being implemented by the Zamfara government in collaboration with other security agencies, still, these marauders have continued holding the state by the jugulars.
As of now, there is no any developmental sector in Zamfara State that is not under threat occasioned by the activities of these terrorists. This cut across agriculture, education, trade and investment, businesses, transportation, health and host of others.
It can be recalled in June 2021, how 41 defenseless farmers in Samawa village, Bungudu Local Government Area (LGA) of Zamfara were massacred in cold blood by bandits while working in their farm in preparation for planting season. This is to say the least of their (bandits) heinous acts.
As a result of these incessant attacks, a lot of farmers have been chased away from their vast arable lands, thus impacting negatively on the quantity of agricultural supplies thereby leading to food insecurity.
Also, many markets and filling stations across the states were shutdown, an effort believed to be vital in curtailing the spread of these terrorists. Nevertheless, it only added to the economic hardships of the populace as many sources of their livelihoods had been cut off.
Remember that, when Governor Matawalle assumed the role of leadership in the state in 2019, the gentleman was already on alert and fully aware that his job had already been cut for him. Because, he already inherited a State that was under the spell of bandits and kidnappers
Pundits argued that, the spate of insecurities in Zamfara was an old issue that originated from clashes between the so-called local vigilantes (also called ‘Yan Sa Kai) that are predominantly Hausas and the Fulani herdsmen whom some part of them later carried up arms and turned to the present bandits.
In an effort to return peace and security to the state, upon assumption to office, Matawalle immediately began with a non-kinetic approach as a strategy of bringing back normalcy to the state. In addition to dialogue that was introduced as part of the plan, any bandit who lays down his arms and calls it a quit will be granted amnesty by the government.
However, these efforts did not give the desired results as the strong-headed bandits remains adamant to change for a better cause, thus refused to embrace peace and continue terrorizing the law abiding citizens of the state.
Also, we are still not oblivious that as part of ‘special military operations’ to smoke out bandits from their enclaves, the Zamfara government had to shutdown entire telecommunication network services across the entire state back in September 2021.
Truth be told, Matawalle has been doing everything possible to safeguard the lives and properties of Zamfara people. He was very cooperative and supportive to the cause of Military and other security agencies who are operating in the state towards achieving normalcy.
He often provides them with the necessary logistics that are vital to the success of their onslaught against criminals.
Back in July 2020, in his commitment to wipe out bandits terrorising communities in parts of the state, Matawalle donated 200 patrol vehicles to security agencies to enhance their operations, as part of efforts to strengthen the fight against kidnapping and banditry.
The beneficiary agencies include the Nigerian Army, Police, Department of State Services (DSS), and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). Others are the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).
Also, in March 2022, Governor Bello handed over five Brand New Hilux vehicles to the Government of Niger Republic for special border patrol. This is all part of efforts to strengthen the security situation within the state and neighbouring countries.
Yet, in another security giant strides, Matawalle revealed that the Zamfara government had provided 20 new Hilux Vans and 1,500 motorcycles to the committees on security to commence operations in the state.
He made this known on Tuesday, June 2022 through his Chief Press Secretary, Jamilu Magaji, during inauguration of securities committees while at the same time justifying his decision for the residents to acquire weapons in self-defense. He noted that the State Government “relied on an extant legislation to direct residents to acquire weapons to defend themselves.”
It was noted that the measure was meant “to encourage the communities suffering almost daily from the inhuman aggressions from the bandits to acquire firearms to defend their communities.
“Self-defence is a natural instinct and has always been part of human survival strategy.
“As those entrusted with the safety of lives and property of the people, we will do everything possible to uphold this responsibility within the ambit of the law.
“We are also aware that the security forces are doing their best to combat this formidable challenge. Their efforts are, however, hampered by the lack of adequate modern warfare equipment and the dearth of personnel.” Matawalle was quoted as saying through his Chief Press Secretary.
The Governor added that their decision to mobilise people to secure their communities is for them (residents) to complement the efforts of the conventional security forces in dealing with banditry and fishing out informants.
Meanwhile, “The acquisition and usage of firearms by the public, who desire to do so, would be governed by the Nigeria Firearms Act.” Matawalle further stated.
Governor Bello had also on Monday June 28, 2022, signed into law, a bill for the prohibition and punishment for banditry, cattle rustling, cultism, kidnapping, terrorism and other incidental offences 2022.
The executive bill is also part of the state government’s new measures to stem the tide of banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling that have bedevilled the state for over a decade, thereby holding the residents to ransom at their own backyard.
Matawalle was also very quick to convene a security meeting after been triggered by the April 2022 report of PRNigeria, in which the late traditional ruler of Chonoko Village in Zuru Emirates, the late Muhammadu Damisa Gomo of blessed memory accused him of preventing troops from fighting bandits operating in Kebbi who were crossing from Zamfara axis.
Even though Matawalle’s action is ‘justifiable’, especially looking at how people are being massacred on a daily basis without sign of abating, however, the government should meticulously study the situation again as it might backfire and worsen the situation which the government has been yearning to correct.
Because, bad elements among the to-be-license gun-wielding residents may resort to seize this opportunity and hide under the banner of ‘arms legalization’ to assemble other criminals’ syndicates thereby nurturing an ‘Anarchical’ state.
Nonetheless, the issue of insecurities in Zamfara has been long overdue and the time is ripe for everybody including the government, security architectures and other stakeholders (traditional rulers, residents, academics, media, pressure groups etc ) to fold their trousers and get into the deep waters to fish out this hydra-headed monster called ‘insecurity’ and bury it for all.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away sin of the world, return peace to Zamfara and Nigeria at large.
Mukhtar is a Staff Writer with the Emergency Digest. He wrote from Wuye, Abuja.
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