Security challenges have for many years been the major threats facing Zamfara state, particularly the rural communities. In the past few months, no less than seventy lives were lost to attacks by gunmen suspected to be armed robbers. Worried by the persistent public criticisms over the issue, Governor Abdul'aziz Abubakar Yari recently granted a local radio phone-in program in Hausa, in which he extensively discussed and defended the measures he took to control the situation.
The issue of security is mostly preferred to be discussed away from public consumption, but you are now ready to discuss it openly in the Media. Why is this so?
It is quite normal that the issue of security, particularly one bordering on strategies of combating crimes, should strictly be discussed as confidential matter; and this so for obvious reasons. If you disclose your security plans, you are offering an upper hand to criminals.
In any case, the prevailing situation has from all indications, generated many comments from the public, so much that it has turned into common subject of discussion. I would want to re-emphasize that combating crimes must not be viewed as exclusive responsibility of the police or the security organs. Every member of the society has an important role in the maintenance of peace and security in the state. We must all join hands with the security operatives to tackle the bedeviling threats facing every one of us today.
It was however observed at a recent meeting I had with the security organs, the community leaders and all other stakeholders, that one of major factors encouraging crimes in the rural areas is the near-absence of rural roads communication. Many rural areas are inaccessible due poor terrain, and this factor gives such criminals an opportunity to execute their nefarious mission and escape into the forest before any help could reach the victims. That is why the government is giving topmost priority to the provision of rural roads across all local government areas of the state.
We have so far invested several billions of naira into rural roads projects to facilitate easy access to primarily to motivate economic activities and to also facilitate effective security surveillance in for the rural communities.
What urgent interventions is your government putting, particularly at this moment when frequent killings of innocent citizens continue to occur unabated?
There are several factors on ground to testify that government is taking security issue seriously with maximum attention. When we came on board, we met these security challenges as one of the major threats facing the state. We observed that the security organs in the state, especially the civil security like the police, was in serious need of effective equipments and logistics to confront the strength and arms sophistication of the hoodlums, who use sophisticated weapons on innocent peasants, killing large number of them at a single operation.
From the inception of my administration to date, it is in record that government has so far supplied the state police command with sixty new vehicles to help them patrol areas where crimes are much more pronounced. We also looked at the needs of the volunteer vigilante organs in terms of arms and other logistics, especially in view of their significance in complementing the role of the police. In view of this, we purchased and distributed seventeen new vehicles to their various units across the state, and in addition, we also purchased and distributed 1200 motorcycles for them to facilitate access to the deepest forests that serve as the criminal hideouts.
We also looked at the needs of the Islamic Vanguard organ (HISBA) which monitor and trace other dark spots to complement the efforts of the police in tracing hideouts where elements of crime and other related social vices are noticed. This organ was also supplied with seventeen new vehicles, in addition to the officially approved allowances to boost their morale.
In fact there was never a time in the history of Zamfara state when security sector was afforded so much attention in terms of logistics and other relevant facilities, based on our strong conviction that public security is imperative for human survival as fundamental to other all other developments.
But with all these efforts we have so far put in place, one wonders why these killing of human lives still continue in our society.
This is just the explanation every one of us would want hear from the government.
I strongly believe that people should look inward and be a judge unto themselves. There is no doubt that Zamfara is hundred percent Muslims and we are fully aware of the divine limits demarcated by Allah, forbidding every Muslim from transcending or trespassing. But when we look inward and search our conscious with honest judgment, we know that we are not in harmony with the divine instructions.
In my humble submission and strong conviction, I am of the opinion that people should look for solution from their innermost being, review their relation with their creator and resolve to correct their wrongs. People should judge themselves and provide answers and solutions to this seemingly unending phenomenon.
As Muslims, we are very much aware of the divine warning that once people engage in gross indolence, hypocrisy, dishonesty, wickedness and other related vices, there will be grievous repercussions with accompanying unusual loss of lives, insecurity, tension and general unease in the society. Several patterns and modes of crimes will continue to surface, with may defy solutions, and people will end up overpowered and unprotected from threats posed by enemies.
So I strongly believe that this ugly phenomenon is borne out of the way our society is almost turning ungodly, which needs urgent change of attitude if we really want to be safe.
Ideally, the police and other security organs are supposed to apply proactive measures to avert crimes; but this is not usually so probably because of lack of communication gadgets to sent signals in times of emergency. How did you look at this issue?
The state commissioner of police, I believe, is aware of the over N300 million invested for the provision of such communication equipments to be installed in all strategic locations across the state. Satisfactory progress has been achieved on this project with the hope that by the time it is completed, there will be effective communication link up with all security organs in case of any sign of potential outbreak of violence or crime, so that every unit of security outfit is immediately notified for urgent action. Again, recently the state police command has discovered that these hoodlums often attack people in an area where there is little or no wireless network service, so that they could ambush and rob innocent people and escape without being noticed. To this problem, we again purchased a number of Thurayya model of wireless cell phone and distributed them to selected members of rural communities and some members of the vigilante groups as well as other relevant security personnel, so that any element of suspicious move could easily and immediately be communicated. I am assuring the public that the issue of security is one of the foremost concerns of my administration, believing that no socio-economic activities could prevail in the absence of peace and security.
Would you say that, in the current security circumstance, your state has satisfactory number of police force to effectively handle and control the increasing threats posed by these hoodlums?
You would agree with me that not only in Zamfara, the ratio of policemen to the figure of our population is far below adequate, and this why the contribution of the public is very much needed in the maintenance of security. I will continue to emphasize that the public must conceive the issue of security as a civic responsibility in which every citizen must participate.
The perpetrators of these particular crimes are not aliens, but are elements living within our communities who otherwise could easily be traced and exposed by members of the communities. The government or the security personnel could not be everywhere, but members of the communities in which these hoodlums are also hiding, could be of great help to flush out these killers and rid their localities of the bad eggs.
You could recall that your government was once advised by some concerned citizens on the urgent need to collaborate with neighboring governors of Sokoto, Katsina, and Kebbi to design solutions for tackling the common security challenges. Is there any progress?
This measure has already been taken and is planned to be a continuous exercise, particularly as we all know, criminals often change tactics and strategies depending on new strategies designed against them. But the security agents are always on the alert. I am aware that as part of this collaborative efforts between the affected states, the police commissioners of Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara have held a meeting at the end of which they came up with workable strategies of which as you know, could not be made public for obvious reasons.
But in any case, the governors of the concerned states, including myself, are very much on top of the security issues, and every solution would be fully explored to ensure that the situation is put under control and finally brought to an end.
Sir, some people are attributing this situation to lack of youths employment in the state. Do you consent to this?
Let me clearly point out that these criminal gunmen were proved to b Fulani who are live within the rural communities where reported cases of attacks and merciless killings were recorded. We cannot say that these nomadic Fulanis are unemployed or poverty ridden people. More ninety percent of them are cattle bearers with large number of cattle and sheep, while they also engage in farming. So it would not be true to attribute poverty or unemployment as reason for committing such robberies and killings of human lives. I view it as very unusual and surprising to see a Fulani man, who is known for his profound shyness, and self restrains from any shameless act, could now rise up arms to kill in the name of robbery. If these crimes were being committed by people other than the Fulanis, one would say that the problem of unemployment, which is not peculiar to Zamfara state, could be one of the factors. But this particular crime, related to attacks on a whole village community, is clearly established to be the handwork of the Fulanis. Even in Adamawa, Yobe and other states, it is discovered that Fulanis are the culprits in this ugly trend.
I recall that my colleague, the governor of Adamawa state, Alhaji Murtala Nyako, once told me that some Fulani armed robbers were arrested by the police in his state, and when it was discovered that one of them personally owned over eighty cows, so complained that it was a bad fate that pushed into the crime. So the issue could not be related to poverty or unemployment, because as we know, Fulani herdsmen would hardly seek for either government or company employment, because they have their tradition occupation which they could hardly part with.
Some analysts are of the view that the genesis of this problem is closely related to conflicts over grazing lands which were alleged to have been taken over and converted into farmlands.
As far as the current pattern of attacks and killings are concerned, it would also be wrong to relate the issue with conflict over grazing lands. When we came on board, we met this problem of conflict over exclusive possession of particular grazing lands. But issue of Fulani killer gunmen is quiet different in pattern and mode of operation. These hoodlums would often besiege a whole village or market session and terrorize the inhabitants and cart away their belongings and sometimes drive away large number of cattle. You see, this not the case of land disputes, but a clear case of armed robbery.
Late last year, a former commissioner was shot dead in Gusau and his car taken away by suspected armed robbers. Were they also Fulanis?
We cannot say that every robbery incidence in the state was committed by the Fulanis, but we have evidences to believe that ninety percent of killings and robbery incidences in remote areas were committed by the Fulanis.
Luckily enough, some of the gang members suspected as those engaged in the killing of the late commissioner were apprehended after they were involved in an accident in their effort to escape. Many evidences were discovered from them. One of them was an Igbo, but his personal credentials indicated that he changed his name to Abdulkadir Mohammed. Their gang leader who was believed to be their think tank, was proved to have never attended even Primary school, but was proved to have exhibited a very high level of sophistication in criminal activities. One of the suspects was traced to be a resident of Suleja, but he operates accounts with a bank in Akwa Ibon.
It appears that people seemed to have lost confidence in exposing criminals to the authorities based on reason that there were instances where dangerous criminals were allegedly released after having been arrested through the help of the community.
The people of the state would testify that I have said it several times during the usual Friday preaching that I have taken it upon myself as governor, that once a case of murder is established against somebody by the court and is sentenced to death, I will not hesitate to sign his death warrant no matter the social position that person have in the society. I f past administrations have shown some reluctance to do that I have resolved that I will sign such death warrants even it means doing it every day. Imagine how somebody would mercilessly take the life of fellow human being in the name of robbery or human blood sacrifice for cultism.
The Islamic law gave us three options for punishing different degrees of crimes which include also killing the offender in case of deliberate murder or amputation in case of theft or sending an offender into exile. So people should not hesitate or entertain any fear of alerting the police or any security organ about any suspicious criminal activity, as I am aware, like any other person in the state, that the state police commissioner, Mr. Akilla Usman has announced over the radio and newspapers that people have no reason to fear about informing the police on security related issues. The police have advised members of the public to report to either their respective ward or village heads, the Police Divisional Officer (DPO), Area commander or report direct to the police commissioner whose phone number is made available to the general public. In case one is still not comfortable with all these contacts, he can hide identity of his phone number and send the information.
My strong submission is still that people must show more concern with the issue of security if we really aspire to attain peaceful and crime free society.