SECURITY has improved in Zamfara State as a result of the massive deployment of military personnel but several other rural areas still remain at the mercy of bandits and kidnappers, according to reports.
In a statement issued on Tuesday by the spokesman of the Nigeria Air Force, Ibikunle Daramola, said about 10 bandits were killed by the Air Task Force (ATF) taking part in the anti-banditry operations in Zamfara state on Monday.
Daramola said the ATF was responding “to a request for close air support by ground troops of Sector 7 Area of Responsibility of Operation SHARAN DAJI, who had come into contact with armed bandits in Shinkafi Local Government Area (LGA).
“Accordingly, the ATF dispatched 2 Alpha Jets and an attack helicopter to provide the needed support and also conduct armed reconnaissance over identified locations in Shinkafi LGA as well as Sububu, Dumburum Forests and its environs.
“At Sububu Forest, one of the Alpha Jets spotted a group of armed bandits, who fired at the aircraft with their rifles, whilst running for cover. The Alpha Jet engaged the bandits, neutralizing no fewer than 10 of them while others escaped with injuries.”
Daramola promised that the NAF would sustain its operations to flush out the bandits terrorising the North West region.
However, Ahmad Salkida, a reporter with vast experience of the security situation in northern Nigeria, agrees that security has improved in parts of Zamfara State, but that in many rural areas, hoodlums still operate with very little hindrance from security agencies.
Salkida was not responding to the NAF statement on Tuesday but was giving his usual weekly security analysis of the Zamfara State which he titles “Zamfara in the last seven days” on Twitter.
He pointed out that the military activity “has remarkably succeeded in reducing the number of attacks and abduction over the past weeks” but “some areas, especially around Gusau and Shinkafi in Zamfara are still experiencing cases of kidnappings. People are still being killed and abducted”.
“Zamfara in the last 7 days has not ushered in the desired results following Military deployment. The Military and the bandits, at best, have been playing a cat and mouse game,” Salkida wrote.
The journalist further noted that Katsina, a neighbouring state to Zamfara, and the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, is currently the hotbed of the insecurity and that the media coverage of the situation is at “zero level”.
“Specifically, the Ruggu forest in Katsina is now home and the operational base for bandits/terrorists who fled from the Zamfara plains following Military incursions there,” he wrote. Channels Television also reported on Monday that gunmen attacked Yar Center community of Sherere village in Kankara LGA of Katsina state, killing nine persons and injuring many others.
“Another development is the calibre of arms and ammunition, such as the French Famas assault rifle, etc., allegedly sighted in Zamfara, which is not used by the Nigerian military, indicating the growing transnational network between North West Nigeria and the Sahel region,” Salkida continued.
“There was an ambush last week of soldiers within the vicinity of Talata Mafara forest. That this particular cell used locally made IED or land mines points to a possibility that it’s going to be a very long day in the trenches for both sides.
“There are still disturbing occurrences in Zamfara State that point to the presence of terrorists or embedded mercenaries. The confrontation is now taking the form of guerrilla warfare.”
Salkida also reported that there have been reported clamp down on several community leaders in Zamfara State by the military on suspicion of collaborating with the bandits. This development, he said, has led to “hostile military-host community relations” as residents of the communities now afraid to volunteer useful information to the soldiers for fear of being arrested.
There have been reports that the insecurity in Zamfara could be connected to the mining activities going on across several parts of the state. The federal government has already banned all forms of mining activities in the state, asking all the foreigners working in the sites to leave the state.
However, Salkida reported that residents of the state do not think that the killings and kidnappings are connected to the mining activities.
“Reports indicate that several traditional rulers are either involved or aided illegal mining in Zamfara, while the state government also looked the other way, but many are of the opinion that, mining has little to do with the bloodbath in the Zamfara,” Salkida stated.