The Federal Government yesterday disclosed that persons in the upper echelons of Zamfara were complicit in the recent spate of killings in the state.
Last week, armed bandits killed over 50 people in the state, resulting in a wave of condemnation, a government ban on mining activities linked to the crisis, and the announcement of security operations to stop the bloodletting.
But "in spite of the concerted efforts of the armed forces and other security agencies," the Federal Government said, "Some unpatriotic persons, including highly placed traditional rulers in the areas, were identified as helping the bandits with intelligence to perpetrate their nefarious actions or to compromise military operations."
Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali made this known in a statement issued by his spokesman Col. Tukur Gusau yesterday.
"The Ministry of Defence therefore wishes to warn any person or group of persons who choose to connive or sympathise with the bandits to perpetrate crime against the law-abiding citizens to henceforth retrace their steps or face the full wrath of the law," the minister said.
According to him, "The Armed Forces of Nigeria have been directed to deal decisively with anybody identified as helping the bandits under whatever guise, no matter how highly placed the person or persons may be."
The statement reads further: "The Ministry of Defence wants to once again use this medium to assure Nigerians that the Armed Forces of Nigeria, in conjunction with other security agencies, will continue to protect the life and property of law-abiding citizens of this country. The general public is also requested to cooperate with the Armed Forces to discharge their constitutional responsibilities effectively."
This came as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expressed dismay over the disturbing cases of crime and violence in parts of the country.
"The President Buhari-led Federal Government has no solution to the security challenges of our nation, which has festered under its incompetent watch. This is the very reason Nigerians are anxious for the retrieval of our stolen presidential mandate, which they freely gave to Atiku Abubakar, at the tribunal, so that our nation can have the benefit of a purposeful government that is alive to its responsibility of ensuring the security and wellbeing of the Nigerian people," the party said in a statement by National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan.
The party said it was heavily grieved by the pain, anguish and horror Nigerians have been subjected to by marauders, following the failure of the Buhari's administration to provide adequate security in the country, despite the huge resources at its disposal.
It tasked the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to give account of the whereabouts of the political mercenaries it allegedly imported into the country from neighbouring countries, particularly Chad and Niger Republic, in the build-up to the 2019 general elections.
"This demand is predicated on fears in the public space of the possible involvement of the imported political thugs, who assisted the APC to unleash violence on Nigerians during the elections, in the heightened acts of banditry in our nation," the PDP said.
It lamented that the Federal Government has failed to exert enough commitment in protecting the lives of Nigerians and curbing the bloodletting and kidnapping of compatriots in Zamfara, Borno, Yobe, Kogi, Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Bauchi and other states.
"We have been proved right that President Buhari and the APC do not believe in their campaign promises," said PDP.
Meanwhile, Acting Inspector General of Police (IG) Mohammed Adamu yesterday announced that the police would introduce more practical strategies to end the security challenges in Zamfara.
He disclosed this during an on-the-spot assessment of situations in Gusau, the state capital.
He described the suspension of mining activities as part of the new steps to tackle insecurity. "We understand that there is a growing relationship between the criminals and those engaged in mining activities and we have also identified other collaborators to the criminals whom we will soon arrest," he said.
He vowed that the force is "determined to break all links to criminals while the operation to flush out the bandits continues in all parts of the state."
In his remarks, Zamfara Governor Abdulaziz Yari commended the Federal Government for its effort at solving the problem.
Yari, who was represented by Secretary to the State Government Abdullahi Shinkafi reiterated the administration's willingness to partner organisations in finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
He urged the police boss to deploy more personnel to the state, noting that a current engagement of 8,500 youths from the 17 emirates of the state was aimed at complementing the Federal Government's efforts.
Also, at a town hall meeting attended by Adamu, Yari said bandits had killed 3,526 persons in the state in the last five years. "Nearly 500 villages have been devastated and 8,219 persons injured. Some are still in critical condition." He disclosed that over 13,000 hectares of farmlands were destroyed.
"The economy of the state has seriously suffered because thousands of shops were destroyed by the rampaging bandits who displaced thousands of our people from their places of abode, many of whom cannot sleep with their two eyes closed because of fear," he said.