RECENTLY, the Zamfara State government deposed the emirs of Zurmi and Dansadau, Atiku Muhammadu and Hussaini Umar, and the district head of Birnin Tsaba, Sulaiman Ibrahim, over alleged collaboration with ‘bandits’ in the state. It also sacked the district head of Birnin Tsaba, Sulaiman Ibrahim, for the same offence. According to a statement issued by the government, the decision to sack the accused traditional rulers followed the recommendations of a white paper issued by a committee on insecurity set up by the state government. Last year, the government had suspended two emirs whom it accused of frustrating efforts to arrest suspected bandits and aiding the activities of cattle rustlers in the state. The traditional rulers were first suspended in June last year. They were recently charged to court but the court advised the state government to amend the charges preferred against them.
Like their counterparts in other states of the North, the people of Zamfara State have for years endured a lot of pain as the terrorists, euphemistically dubbed bandits, engaged in wanton destruction and carnage. Thousands of hapless men and women have been either kidnapped for ransom or executed outright, often before members of their families. The terrorists have burnt farmlands, raped women on their farms and butchered untold numbers of people. Indeed, in many rural areas of the state, the terrorists have exercised unchallenged authority over the people, ruling them with a rod of iron. It is therefore most distressing that in such a climate of terror, traditional rulers, who by virtue of their positions as the custodians of the people’s customs and traditions should be collaborating with the state government to give their subjects relief from the stranglehold of terrorists, are the same sets of people who have been caught dining and wining with them for pecuniary gain.
We recall that in June last year, the Zamfara State governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, promised to implement a report submitted to him in 2019 on how to tackle banditry in the state. Among other things, the report had revealed that some traditional rulers were colluding with bandits. Over N3 billion was reported to have been collected by the outlaws as ransom from the relations of 3,672 persons abducted in the state within that period. The report had further indicated that 4,983 women were widowed, 25,050 children orphaned, and 190,340 persons displaced by banditry over the period. Just how could traditional rulers who occupy highly exalted positions in society be facilitating what has been described as one of the worst kidnap-for-ransom syndicates in Nigeria’s history?
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It is unfortunate that those who should protect the people are the ones ganging up against them. This devious act is not only condemnable, it is utterly reprehensible. It has become clear that without collaboration by powerful forces in the society, the outlaws who have made life unbearable for people all over the country would not have recorded the kinds of successes they have had in their criminal operations. Happily, though, there are a few traditional rulers who are putting up a resistance to the onslaughts by the outlaws. As we noted in a previous editorial, appalled by their serial acts of lawlessness, the Emir of Muri in Taraba State, Abbas Tafida, had handed down a 30-day ultimatum to killer and rapist herdsmen in July last year, asking them to leave the forests in the state or face dire consequences. Speaking during the Eid-el Kabir sermon, Tafida had lamented the terror unleashed by armed herdsmen who had been killing, kidnapping and raping residents. Stating that the people had warmly accepted the herders and did not expect such treatment as payback, he warned that if anyone was kidnapped from his emirate subsequently, armed youths would invade the forests and exact vengeance. The emir also warned that anyone conniving with kidnappers or shielding them from prosecution, including police officers, would be punished severely. That is the kind of traditional ruler that society requires.
The deposed Zamfara emirs and district heads should be handed over to the police for prosecution forthwith. In this regard, it is rather unfortunate that the charges preferred against them were not properly framed and presented before the court of law in the first instance. The anomalies pointed out by the court should be corrected while the state ensures diligent prosecution of the case to serve as a deterrent to others. Needless to say, other states need to emulate Zamfara in this respect. It is good to fight crime regardless of the calibre of those involved.