Bandits Killed 371 In Zamfara In Seven(7) Months –Amnesty International

…Bandits  target rural communities, demand ransom

THE Amnesty International (AI) yesterday revealed that at least 371 persons have been killed in the last seven months as the wave of insecurity rocking Zamfara State increased in recent weeks. The bandits have intensified the killings and kidnappings, particularly in remote agrarian communities and many residents now live in constant fear of attacks.
In its latest assessment of the crisis, the global human rights watchdog disclosed that many communities have been sacked and thousands of people displaced in a conflict that began as farmers versus herders clash and cattle rustling a few years ago. Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, who described it as Nigeria’s forgotten conflict, disclosed that the failure of the authorities to act and protect the citizens had left villagers in Zamfara State at the mercy of these bandits.
The attacks, Ojigho said, followed a pattern whereby the bandits send letters warning villagers ahead of the attacks and making good their threats without the villagers getting the protection required from the government and security agencies.
He said: “When we visited the region, villagers told us that they had pleaded with government to help
them after receiving warning letters from the bandits ahead of attacks but had received no protection.
The Nigerian authorities have repeatedly claimed to be tackling the situation, but the mounting death toll tells a different story.
“On Friday 27th July, 18 villages in the Mashema, Kwashabawa and Birane districts of Zurmi Local Government Area of Zam-  fara State were attacked, leaving at least 42 people dead. At least 18,000 residents of the affected villages who were displaced over the weekend are now taking refuge at various locations in the local government headquarters. The following day a further 15 people were kidnapped in Maradun Local Government Area.
 “On Saturday July 28, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the deployment of 1,000 troops to Zamfara. This is the third time since November 2017 that the authorities have deployed the military in response to attacks, but villagers told Amnesty International that this has not translated into protection for remote, vulnerable communities.
“Previous military interventions have failed to end the killings, especially in rural areas of Zamfara. At least 371 people have been killed in Zamfara in 2018 alone, and at least 238 of these killings took place after the deployment of the Nigerian Air Force.
The government is still neglecting the most vulnerable communities in this region.” Amnesty International said that between Sunday July 7 and Thursday, July 12, its team of researchers visited communities in five local government areas of Zamfara State namely, Zurmi, Maradun, Maru, Anka and Tsafe. It said that though security forces were present in Gusau, the state capital, they had presence in only two of the villages.
 “Villagers described feeling helpless and on edge, constantly bracing themselves for attacks. Men said they are sleeping outside their homes and in trees as a way of being vigilant, while women and children are sleeping together in groups for protection. Villagers described a pattern where they receive warnings ahead of attacks, including by phone, ordering them to pay huge sums of money or be killed or abducted.
 “A resident of Gidan Goga village told Amnesty International that before Ramadan, the bandits called on the phone and demanded a ransom of N500,000 or kidnap of the village head and other residents.
“In several communities, villagers said they were afraid to venture more than a few kilometres into the bush, which is preventing them from farming. They would not take Amnesty International researchers to see attack sites for fear of meeting the bandits, highlighting the unrelenting threat of attack,” the statement added.
A village elder from Gidan Goga told Amnesty International: “We cannot go to farm far from our village. Two weeks ago, I got a call from one of the bandits, saying they are the ‘owners’ of the forest. He asked me to tell the village head to tell all villagers close to the forest to vacate the villages and come here, Gidan Goga. He said the only way they’d allow the villagers to continue staying was if they paid them N5 million.”
Villagers in Maru, said the only time they see security forces is when they are escorting workers to the state governor’s farm. “There’s no security here and we live in fear. We can’t go to farm because of fear, meaning it is difficult to feed our families.
To go to farm, you need security. The governor’s farm is not too far from here and security forces go with his workers whenever they have to go there,” one man told Amnesty International. Ojigho lamented that whereas several communities have fallen under the attack and more are under imminent danger, the Federal Government had not responded to the crisis with a sense of urgency.

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