Suspected armed bandits are currently walking freely with arms in some communities in Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State after military began airstrikes, residents in the areas have said.
The residents say since the armed bandits fled the ongoing military airstrikes in several of their hideouts in the bush, they have been forced to accommodate them in their communities out of fear.
“As I am speaking to you now, in Jaja, Rukudawa, and Tsanu communities all in Zurmi Local Government Area, armed bandits are being sighted with guns walking around unchecked because they are no longer safe in the bush,” a source said.
They probably return to the bush at night or sleep in the town, out of fear, residents said.
“The bandits are patronising local shops, clutching sophisticated weapons, buying maltina, peak milk and meat. They move freely. Nobody has the courage to look at them twice. They have informants in the town. They stay with them or move to close-by communities and pass the night,” said a resident who requested not to be named.
The resident said the military airstrikes in Dumburum community in Zurmi hit the armed bandits and forced them to flee.
According to him, airstrikes alone cannot help because in Zurmi local government area, there is a dearth of ground soldiers which makes it easy for the armed bandits to infiltrate civilians unchallenged.
Another resident said it is imperative for the government to engage traditional rulers in the affected areas because there is mutual understanding between the armed bandits and some emirs in the area.
According to him, “sometime in 2016 when the Emir of Zurmi, Atiku Abubakar, gave out his four daughters in marriage, virtually all the famous armed bandits attended the weeding and they allegedly donated huge number of livestock that were slaughtered during the wedding ceremony.
“During the wedding, a popular musician for the criminals, Sani Danyaya, was invited from Niger Republic. He spent two days entertaining the suspected bandits with their prostitutes in Zurmi town, the headquarters of Zurmi Local Government Area,” the source said to PREMIUM TIMES.
He said although Zurmi LGA suffered more bandits attack, the current ongoing military operation would make impact only when more security personnel are deployed in Zurmi, because some people are willing to give out relevant information on the bandits’ movement.
PREMIUM TIMES reported on Tuesday how the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, in a statement, said intelligence had exposed the complicity of “some high-placed traditional rulers” in the ongoing killings of Nigerians across some northern part of the country.
Zamfara State’s Council of Chiefs however, expressed dismay over the statement credited to the minister, which accused traditional rulers of aiding bandits in the ongoing killings of innocent villagers in the affected areas.
In a press statement issued to journalists after an emergency meeting of the council of chiefs on Thursday in Gusau, the state capital, the spokesperson of the chiefs and Emir of Anka, Attahiru Ahmad, said the council challenges the Minister of Defence, Mr Dan Ali, to name any traditional ruler involved in aiding the bandits.
When contacted, the Zamfara police spokesperson, Mohammed Shehu, said the operation to flush out the bandits is ongoing.
“The criminals don’t have a hiding place, it’s only a matter of time, we will crush them, what we need from the members of the affected communities is relevant information that will help the security agencies in the ongoing operation.”