The Zamfara State Council of Chiefs has called on the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan Ali to, as a matter of responsibility and urgency, name the traditional rulers colluding with armed bandits in the state.
This is contained in a communiqué signed by the Emir of Anka and chairman of the state's council of chiefs Alhaji Attahiru Muhammad Ahmad and read by the Emir of Bungudu Alhaji Hassan Attahiru shortly after an emergency meeting in Gusau yesterday.
The emirs, while describing the allegations against them as reprehensible, said failure to name those involved would make the minister's statement false and an attempt to tarnish the image of the traditional rulers.
Daily Trust reports that the defence minister, a retired Brigadier General, hails from Birnin Magaji in Zamfara State.
They also described the allegations as an attempt to make them scapegoats for the inability of the military and other security forces to end the scourge of insecurity in the state.
"Over the past years, traditional rulers have cooperated with the state government and security agencies by providing information about location, routes and names of persons involved in armed banditry and cattle rustling. But the military and other security agencies have failed to be on top of the situation," they said.
However, the emirs appreciated the presidential marching order given to the security agencies to immediately bring an end to the situation once and for all.
"This can only be achieved if the main camps of the bandits are taken over and security personnel stationed there for a considerable period of time, thereby depriving the bandits of territory, mobility and supply routes," they added.
'Airstrikes did not hit main bandit camps'
The emirs also noted that the airstrikes conducted by the military in the state did not hit the main camps of the bandits, adding that many innocent villagers have been killed in the 'misdirected airstrikes.'
"Reports from Mutu in Gusau and Tsafe local government areas, Tangaram in Anka local government and Dumburum in Zurmi local area, among others, are that the areas shelled were not the actual hideouts of the bandits and the victims were innocent civilians," the emirs said.
"We call on the federal government to come to the aid of the state, especially the people in our rural communities who are in very dire need of life supporting material. Thousands have left their homes, and farming and all economic activities have been put to standstill in most rural areas," the emirs added.
We verified camps before attacks - Air Force
When contacted, the spokesman of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said targets for air attacks are verified through multiple sources before an aircraft is deployed.
He said it is not true that bandit camps targeted and attacked did not belong to bandits and the victims' unarmed civilians.
He said the Air Force obtained reliable intelligence which indicated that the hideouts are in Sububu, Rugu and Kagara forests.
He said these areas are vast with villages identified as bandit camps which include Doumborou, Sububu, West Malamawa, Baturia Pond and Rugu Forest, Kamarawa, Kunduma, Tsamare Hill, and Doumborou.
Daramola said these locations were first identified through human intelligence gathering, which included information from traditional rulers, informants, sister security agencies in the state, and government officials.
He said after this is done, the Air Force also carries out Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions to verify the locations of the camps and activities of bandits.
He said despite this level of verification, on actual mission, fighter jets would still not fire at targeted locations if women, children and non-combatants were seen in the area.
"If there are traditional rulers who are aware of other locations where there are bandits they should let us know," he said.