Cattle Rustlers Kill At Least 10 In Zamfara

At least 10 people were killed in raids by suspected cattle rustlers on four remote villages in Zamfara, police said on Thursday.

Residents of the affected community said the armed bandits stormed the villages in Birnin Magaji area of Zamfara state, in an apparent reprisal attack after local militia killed one of their numbers.

Police spokesperson, Mohammed Shehu told AFP that, “10 people were killed by the bandits.”

“From our reports, the attackers fled to the Rugu forest in neighbouring Katsina state,” he added.

Residents, however, gave a higher death toll.

“We lost 26 people in the attacks on Dutsin Wake, Oho, Badambaji and Kabingiro (villages),” said Dantani Bube, who lives in Dutsin Wake.

Seventeen were killed in Dutsin Wake, seven in Oho and one each in Badambaji and Kabingiro, another resident, Lawwali Maishanu, told AFP by telephone from the area.

Maishanu said local militia had earlier killed a suspected bandit at a market.

Bandits then demanded the civilian vigilantes hand over those responsible, but they refused.

Bube and Maishanu said the gang then traced the militia members suspected of the killing to the four villages.

Zamfara has for several years been gripped by violence from armed gangs of cattle rustlers who have targeted herding and farming communities.

Cattle have been stolen and residents who resist them killed. This has led to villagers forming civilian militia groups as protection. But they, too, have been accused of abuses and killings of suspected thieves, leading to tit-for-tat attacks.

On June 2, cattle thieves killed 23 people in the village of Zanoka after a battle with militia members who prevented them from stealing cattle.

In recent years the gangs have added kidnapping for ransom to the criminal activities across Zamfara and neighbouring Kaduna and Katsina states.

Zamfara Killings: 30 Buried after Gunmen Attack

More than 30 persons were on Thursday buried in Bawan Daji village of Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara State, following an attack by gunmen on the village.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the bandits attacked the area after some members of the community held a meeting to discuss measures to be taken against the bandits during the 2018 farming season.

The bandits had earlier threatened that there would be no farming activities in the area in this year’s rainy season.

The Deputy Imam of the village, who is also a community leader, Liman Umar, told journalists that the bandits had been harassing people in the area and brandishing sophisticated weapons without talking to anyone.

“It was shortly after our local vigilante members held the meeting on Tuesday that the bandits finally struck and killed only men, including those who tried to escape,” Umar said.

He said many bodies were found decomposing in the bushes, and that some of the corpses could not be brought into the village for a proper burial because people were afraid to go and get them as the bandits were believed to be hiding on the outskirts of the village.

He said one of the villagers, Danladi Shabalai, who was caught communicating with the bandits, was shot and killed by security men.

The Chairman of Anka Local Government, Alhaji Mustapha Gado, confirmed that 32 persons were buried, including a woman and her child. He said the mother and child died at a hospital in Gusau.

Gado said more bodies were still being searched for in the bushes and that security measures had been stepped up in the area, but that villagers had fled the area out of fear that the bandits might return.

Buhari Orders Security Agencies To Halt Killings, Criminality

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to stop the killings, criminality in the country and improve their strategies on intelligence gathering, surveillance and accuracy in deployments.

The President made this known on Thursday during an official visit to Zamfara State, where he held an interactive meeting with political leaders, traditional rulers, elders and victims of criminal attacks in the state.

In a statement through his Spokesman, Femi Adesina, the President said, “As far as I am concerned, our security agencies have recorded some successes, but they need to do much more.

“They are not to oppress anyone, but they have to gather and send intelligence and warnings when something is about to happen,’’ he said.

The President commended the security agencies for eliminating a dreadful criminal, “Buhari general’’, who had for many years initiated killings and destruction of properties.

“Before “Buharin-daji”, who calls himself a general, there was a criminal who killed many people and he was killed; “Buharin–daji’’ has followed him and others like them should also follow,’’ he added.

The President said the threats to lives and properties will be significantly reduced with improved relations among community leaders, citizens and the security agencies.

“I have come here to commiserate with you over the loss of lives and properties. We will continue to do our best to improve the security situation. However, those committing atrocities live with you. Some of these people are not reported because you don’t trust the security outfits, instead, you report back to the criminals. We should give priority to security’’ he said.

He warned that the ongoing war against corruption will be reinvigorated and sustained by public officers, who abused their positions, faced the wrath of the law.

He also told the elders and traditional rulers that properties that had been confiscated by security outfits from some suspected corrupt public officials will be sold out, after the completion of court procedures.

The President urged Nigerians to take advantage of the ongoing reforms in the agricultural sector, pointing that the era of depending on petrol will one day come to an end.

On herdsmen attacks, the President said there was a need to revisit and review the old grazing area arrangements that guaranteed harmonious relationship between farmers and herdsmen, where differences were amicably resolved through the law without violence.

In his remarks, Governor Yari, who is also the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, said the state government had deployed resources that were initially designated for development into fighting criminal activities.

The governor, who commended the security outfits for working hard to protect the state, pleaded with the Federal Government to improve the funding of operations, increase the number of security men working in the state and reimburse the state for monies spent on some Federal Government projects like roads, which he said was a major priority in fighting criminals.

In his presentation, the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Abdullahi Shinkafi, said the state faced three major criminal challenges of cattle rustling, armed banditry and abductions and demand for ransoms.

Listing out eight major flashpoints, the Secretary to the Government said 1,321 lives had been lost since 2011, while 1,881 people sustained various injuries from attacks, with about N14 billion spent on fighting the menace.

The traditional rulers, elders and leaders of the affected communities also pleaded with the government to ensure immediate security intervention in order to save lives.

Killings: President Buhari Meets Zamfara Traditional Rulers

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Gusau, Zamfara, presided over a town hall meeting in continuation of his tour of troubled areas across the country.

Reports say the President in company of his aides landed at the Gusau helipad at about 10.40a.m after taking off from Umaru Musa Yar’Adua international airport, Katsina.

The governors of Sokoto and Kebbi states, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and Atiku Bagudu respectively, some cabinet ministers, traditional and religious leaders, top government officials were among those that received the president.

President Buhari reviewed a parade mounted by the Army and Air Force.

He is scheduled to address traditional rulers and other stakeholders during the visit, and condole with families and communities that suffered from various forms of violent crimes in the state.

Zamfara has witnessed cases of attacks by armed bandits with hundreds of innocent people killed and property worth billions of naira carted away or destroyed.

The recent attack by bandits at Birane village in Zurmi Local Government area of the state left over 50 people dead.One of the most notorious bandits, Tsoho Buhari, popularly referred to as Buhari Daji, was recently killed by a repentant cattle rustler in the state.


Various Voices On Sales Of Properties

Lawyers have continued to sing discordant tunes over the legal and proper procedure to adopt in disposing of recovered properties suspected to be from proceeds of crime, which were forfeited to the Federal Government.
This is after sheer lack of trust in the Economic and Fiscal Crimes Commission (EFCC’s) reports on recovered looted funds and properties, as well as, in the Federal Government’s ability to sell in a transparent and accountable manner.

It was Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, who charged government to publish the list of owners of recovered assets before they are disposed of, as well as, the names of new buyers.

While some legal practitioners are of the view that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government cannot be trusted to do the right thing because of the secrecy that has shrouded the management of these recovered assets (both cash and landed properties), others insist that the government should not be dictated to on how to execute the sales.

Abuja-based Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, did not only applaud Fayose for speaking the minds of Nigerians, he also described the Buhari-led government as the worst since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.

He equally alleged that the properties so far recovered have either been distributed among government cronies, or sold below current value to party loyalists.

He said: “Fayose was right in challenging the President and the government to publish the list of assets so recovered; how much money has been recovered; properties recovered; where they are located; who owned them, and if they have been sold, to whom and under what circumstance.

Last year, I wrote a 10-page letter to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, stating exactly what Fayose is saying today – asking Osinbajo to tell Nigerians how much has so far been recovered in terms of money; where the money is kept; if it is being used, and who appropriated the money to be used.

“In term of the properties – the shopping malls, the houses, the land, I challenged the government to tell Nigerians where all that the EFCC has recovered from the so-called corrupt politicians are. Has any of them been sold, to whom and how much? Was the process transparent; was there any bidding to inform Nigerians that such properties were going to be sold? Was there any advertisement or they were done ‘Nicodemusly’ like witches and wizards in the coven?

So, Fayose is only adding his voice to mine because I did not only say it, I also wrote a letter last year June to that effect for which he did not even reply, though I gave him 14 days within which to reply,” he stated.

On the legitimate processes of disposing the recovered properties, he said, “The best way is to first, publish the properties to be sold in national dailies by way of advertorial. The government should buy space in about six national newspapers with sensitivity to different areas of the country.

It should publish the entire properties to be sold and also the total sum in different currencies so far recovered; where the money is quarantined – if it is in any commercial bank, kept in the Central Bank of Nigeria or governed by TSA. And if any part of the money has been used, who gave the authority to do so? Was it budgeted for, was it appropriated by the National Assembly or the government simply dipped its hand in the treasury and used it?

The government should also publish list of those the monies were recovered from and how much was recovered from each of them.

“The same rule goes for properties. The list should be in national dailies so that the whole world will read it. We should know the people the government wants to sell the properties to, and the conditions for sale. The government should let us know what its wants to use the proceeds for. In fact, such proceeds should go to National Revenue Fund to be distributed under Section 162 of the constitution, to the three tiers of government.”

Ilorin, Kwara State-based lawyer, Mallam Yusuf Ali, counselled the Federal Government to ensure that there are proper guidelines and rules on how to sell off the properties.

According to him, “there has to be proper rules in place to ensure that there is absolute transparency to avoid under valuation of the properties,” he said, adding that it is not necessary to publish names of the owners of those properties because their new buyers would eventually know them.

He continued: “There will be documents after all the transactions, so I don’t think it is right to start advertising the names of their former owners. Under the EFCC Act, there are provisions for final forfeiture of assets. When they start investigations, they will go with an ex-parte motion to ask for interim forfeiture, which would be made absolute.

So, that must take place before the government can dispose of any asset. Again, it is not proper to publish names of the owners of those properties because not many of the owners of forfeited assets are convicted…,” he said.

However, the immediate past General Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mazi Afam Osigwe, disagrees with the manner, which the assets were being recovered, querying the powers of the courts to make final forfeiture orders on properties of suspects not convicted of any crime.

“I have always had my reservations about the way that the EFCC goes about the recovery of the assets. Unless where a fellow unilaterally surrenders an asset, I doubt whether the court can make final forfeiture order without conviction.

“My understanding of the law is that there needs to be a conviction. Looking at sections 20 (1), 21, 24, 25, 29 and 30 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Act 2004 and Section 44(2) (k) of the constitution, forfeiture of assets is temporary pending investigation or enquiry. The law says that the court should grant interim order of forfeiture. Section 30 of the EFCC Act says after the person has been convicted by the court before it can make final forfeiture order.

“So forfeiture is for government to take temporary possession to avoid the assets being dissipated. I believe that the act of the courts ordering final forfeiture of assets of persons who have not been convicted should be tested at the higher courts.

On the selling of forfeited properties, Osigwe said, “In the absence of confidentiality of record, the government should publish details of those from whom those assets are recovered from, and also give adequate time for people to value them before making offer, or selling them. An open policy should be used in disposing them,” he said.

Abubakar Shamsudeen, a Lagos-based lawyer, is of the view that no one should dictate to the government the procedure to adopt in disposing the assets once the courts have made the orders as the properties are now possessions of the government.

His words: “No one can dictate to government how to dispose forfeited assets, not even the owners of those properties. When the court gave the owners opportunity to come forward, why didn’t they show up to challenge the government?

“Whenever a court makes such order, the properties are always forfeited to the Federal Government and from that moment it becomes its property. It now behoves on the Federal Government to decide on the way and manner it would dispose such properties, whether by public or private bidding.”

He stated that such sales do not involve the use of the Public Procurement Act, adding, “From what I know, Procurement Act comes into play when the government wants to buy and not when it is selling its property. It is the prerogative of the government to decide how to sell off its properties.”

Former Deputy Director General of the Nigerian Law School, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu (SAN) disagrees with Shamsudeen, and insists that, “the government should comply with the Public Procurement Act, and the process should include widely circulated advertisements of the properties with details that clearly and easily identifies each property. The advertisement would call for bids,” he advised.

While an Abuja based lawyer, Abubakar Sani, thinks “public auctions are ideal for obvious reasons… Let them go to the highest bidders,” Chief Emeka Ngige (SAN) thinks the most appropriate approach is to publicly list the assets, evaluate them using renowned quantity and estate surveyors, and thereafter invite renowned firms of chartered accountants to auction the assets to the highest bidders. In other words, transparency and due process must be the watchwords.


Police Arrest Three Suspects In Connection With Zamfara Killings

The Nigeria Police Force on Monday said three suspects had been arrested in connection with the killings in Zamfara State.

A statement from the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Jimoh Moshood, indicated that the suspects were assisting the police in the investigation into the crime.

According to him, the suspects are: Halilu Garba (Alias Mabushi) ‘M’ 45 yrs, Zubairu Marafa (Alias Wakili) ‘M’ 45yrs, Nafi’u Badamasi (Alias Zakiru) ‘M’ 40yrs.

This development comes three days after the Zamfara State Police Command confirmed the death of at least 18 persons in a fresh attack by gunmen in Birane village in Zurmi Local Government Area of the state.

Following this recent attack, Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, on Sunday deployed additional three units of Police Mobile Force to the affected area.

The three mobile units of the police deployed in the state were to ensure effective cover of forest areas and bushes in the state and prevent further attacks.

With the arrests of the three suspects, it confirms the fulfilment of the police boss who promised to thoroughly investigate the deadly attack in order to bring the killers to justice.

He, however, described the killings as a worrisome development. The police also assured that upon conclusion of its investigation, the suspects would be arraigned in court.