Suspected bandits on Sunday opened fire on the motorcade of the Zamfara governor, Bello Matawalle, who was on his way to condole with victims of a previous attack on a community in Gusau Local Government, witnesses have told PREMIUM TIMES.
The witnesses said the governor’s convoy came under attack on Sunday evening while he was enroute Lilo community to sympathise with victims of the attack on Saturday.
The state government had earlier, on Monday, issued a statement which said the governor and his team were the ones who went after the attackers and not the other way round.
Earlier on Saturday, eight people were killed and 18 others injured after bandits attacked Lilo community, on the outskirts of Gusau, the state capital. The governor embarked on the Sunday visit to the community to assess the situation.
Zamfara, like many other states across the north, has witnessed sporadic attacks by bandits and kidnappers that have claimed the lives of many.
During the attack on the governor’s convoy on Sunday, the bandits, taking advantage of the bushy terrain, opened fire on the motorcade, a source said.
The source, who said he was unsure of the number of casualties, said the governor’s security details quickly returned fire and were able to protect and evacuate their principal.
“Even if we stopped, we can’t cross the river because the bandits are in (a) better position to notice the movement of anyone confronting them while they are covered by the thick forest,” the source added, while explaining the security’s withdrawal from confronting the bandits.
Other sources who witnessed the incident gave similar narratives. The sources include public and non-public officials but asked not to be named for fear of being in the new governor’s bad books.
Meanwhile, Yusuf Idris, the acting press secretary to the governor, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday, gave a different account.
He said the governor led security operatives for an ‘operation’ to rout bandits from their hideouts.
He said the governor was accompanied by his deputy, Mahadi Aliyu-Gusau, the state’s security heads and other dignitaries.
He said the team was able “to chase bandits at their camps during the unannounced visit to the area.”
According to Mr Idris, the bandits abandoned their hideouts and fled after the onslaught by the team.
“Despite this, the governor did not feel discouraged and moved ahead to Lilo village for the condolence visit,” the statement added.
“As chief security officer of the state, l have to show a good example, I have no option than to lead security agencies for this operation. As a leader, I have to show commitments to my people toward addressing this problem,” the statement quoted the governor as saying.
Strangely, the statement added that the governor was accompanied by some dignitaries.
These included, the emir of Gusau, Ibrahim Bello; Secretary to the State Government, Bello Bala; State Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ibrahim Mallaha and others.
“How can such dignitaries like an emir join the governor to go attack bandits,” one of our sources said.
“It was the governor’s entourage that was surprisingly attacked by the bandits,” the source added.
A few weeks earlier, the governor of Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai, whose state has also been rocked by criminal activities, narrated how he led a team to take on kidnappers along the dreaded highway leading to the state.
Since then, however, there have been other attacks by the armed criminals on the highway.