Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a socio-cultural organisation of the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria, has decried the killing of scores of Ndigbo in Ebonyi State by herdsmen, and warns that the ethnic group will not tolerate unjust killing of its people.
Disturbingly also, reports say 200 gunmen raided a military base in Allawa, Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, killing six soldiers and a mobile policeman.
These are coming as Zamfara State Government has so far paid N970 million to bandits in nine years, and not less than 2,619 people killed in various attacks by menacing bandits in the state.
The state Information Commissioner, Ibrahim Dosara, who disclosed these facts on Friday in Kaduna, also pointed out that the deaths were recorded between 2011 and 2019. He added that bandits also abducted 1,190 people from various parts of Zamfara within the period.
According to him, over 100,000 people were displaced from their ancestral homes as a result of bandits’ activities, while 14,378 livestock were rustled within the period, adding that since 2011, the Zamfara State government has spent the sum of N970 million on payment of ransom to bandits to secure the release of kidnapped victims.
While Dosara is lamenting that there were more than 100 different camps and over 30,000 bandits operating across the state and beyond, he said the state government’s amnesty programme for bandits would continue in order to secure its people.
Continuing, he said Zamfara lacks enough security forces from the Federal Government to secure the lives and properties of the people in the state. In spite of this, he believes the attacks by bandits in Zamfara have drastically reduced since the inception of the Bello Matawalle administration in 2019.
The commissioner said the government has put practicable measures in place, such as the peace and reconciliation process and the amnesty programme, to tackle the security challenges in the state.
He revealed that through the dialogue and peace process of the government, over 62 bandits have surrendered their arms – a development that has led to the release of over 2,000 kidnapped victims with the help of repentant bandits.
Giving a background of the genesis of rural banditry in Zamfara, Dosara said it started with a conflict between the Fulani and Hausa communities in the state.
He decried that the recent upsurge in occasional attacks and kidnappings in some parts of the state were being masterminded by some conflict entrepreneurs and informants who connived with the recalcitrant
In the mean time, the Professor George Obiozor-led Ohanaeze described the killings as “senseless and gruesome,” and added that the reaction of the Igbo youths “is a natural reflex.”
National Publicity Secretary of the Igbo group, Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia, in a statement says Ohanaeze Ndigbo owes it as a duty to condemn violence anywhere in Nigeria; warning that “the Igbo cannot fold their arms while being massacred. The Igbo love for peace is not in doubt but will not allow persons or groups to take undue advantage of the Igbo discipline, fortitude, hospitality and decent civilization.”
“I still urge the Igbo youths to beat a retreat. The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo World-Wide, Ambassador Prof. George Obiozor is most disturbed about all these and has assured that the siege scenario in Igbo land cannot continue”, he said.
Apart from killing six soldiers and a mobile policeman in the Niger state military base attack, the gunmen allegedly burnt down the base also before moving into the communities where they also killed seven people and abducted several others.
The daredevilry attacks happened on March 31, triggering the abandonment of the community by soldiers. Residents of Bassa, Zumba and others in Shiroro and Munya local government areas under siege by bandits, are panicky as the soldiers were said to be “on retreat”.
Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello has condemned the killings. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mrs Mary Noel-Berje, in Minna, the state capital, the governor assured residents of the beleaguered communities not to panic.
While allaying the fears that the Taskforce camps were being deserted, Governor Bello urged the communities not to be apprehensive but to remain calm as the security agents have retreated to re-strategise and not left them completely.
“The military have evacuated the corpses of the gallant officers who died in the faceoff with the bandits and have retreated for a while to re-strategise. They have not left or abandoned the communities’’, he said.
According to him, the increasing banditry and kidnapping in some parts of the state calls for constant re-strategising, pointing out that the government and the security agencies have remained steadfast and would ensure that the criminals are eliminated.
The governor commiserated with the military, the Nigeria Police and the communities affected by the activities of the bandit over the death of the seven security agents and all the people killed in the area so far.