Governor Yari in the eye of the storm

These are certainly not the best of times for Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State. The state has been in the news over recurring killings and kidnappings by armed bandits. As a result, the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) appears to be in the eye of the storm.

 

Governor Abdulaziz Yari has been accused by critics of being indifferent to the crisis in his state. But the governor, who has secured a mandate to proceed to the National Assembly as a senator, has denied this and other allegations, accusing politicians in Zamfara of conniving with terrorists to unleash mayhem on the state.

To many critics, Governor Yari’s indifference to the problems confronting Zamfara, as well as his alleged flirtation with absurdity, is not limited to the current security challenge. In April last year, there was a public outcry when Yari reportedly attributed the renewed outbreak of meningitis, which had claimed hundreds of lives, to fornication. He reportedly said fornication was the main reason God was punishing Nigeria with meningitis, adding that God decided to send type C of the disease, which had no vaccine, as punishment for the people’s nefarious activities.

In an interview he granted in Hausa language shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Yari was quoted as saying, “What we used to know as far as meningitis is concerned is the type A virus. The World Health Organisation has carried out vaccinations against this type A virus, not just in Zamfara, but in many other states. However, because people refused to stop their nefarious activities, God now decided to send type C virus, which has no vaccination. People have turned away from God and he has promised that ‘if you do anyhow, you see anyhow.’ That is just the cause of this outbreak, as far as I am concerned. There is no way fornication will be so rampant and God will not send a disease that cannot be cured.”

The criticisms that trailed this comment were spontaneous. Leading the pack of critics against Yari was no less a personality than the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, who reportedly took to his Instagram page saying: “Abdulaziz Yari quite ludicrously said the deadly meningitis rampaging his state was a divine punishment for fornication. He didn’t say how this was revealed to him because Zamfara certainly doesn’t have the highest number of fornicators in the nation.

His preposterous statement fails to take into account the fact that meningitis isn’t a sexually transmitted ailment.

“The truth about the matter is that despite being warned of an impending outbreak, his government took no steps to prepare. Now he blames God! We are stuck with political leaders who only pretend to be godly because sycophants always refer to people in high political office as a God-sent…”

The dust raised by the ‘fornication’ controversy hardly settled when the governor reportedly threw in the towel as the chief security officer of Zamfara State following the spate of killings and kidnappings by bandits.

In June last year, Yari said he had dropped his responsibility as the chief security officer of Zamfara, saying he had no control over security machinery in the state. The governor, who spoke with newsmen in Talata-Mafara, was quoted as saying that his decision stemmed from the seeming helplessness of the state government and the people over recurring killings in the state.

“We have been facing serious security challenges over the years, but in spite of being governor and chief security officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do or sanction them when they err. As chief security officer, the nomenclature is just a name,” he said.

Criticisms against the governor, however, assumed a theatrical dimension recently when the state said it would recruit 1,700 local charmers, in addition to the 8,500 members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), recruited earlier to address security challenges in the state.

During a security meeting with traditional rulers, Fulani leaders and local government council chairmen in the state, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy, Bello Dankande, said government came up with the policy to recruit local charmers considering the increase in security challenges in the state.

“In each of the 17 emirates, we are going to recruit 100 local charmers, in addition to the 500 recruited per each emirate earlier. We are going to recruit other personnel from each emirate to monitor filling stations to ensure that fuel do not get to the bandits in the forests,” he said.

It would be recalled that on the January 19, 2014, Governor Yari set up a 13-man committee headed by a renowned Islamic scholar, Alsheikh Abubakar Abdullahi Tureta, to look into the causes and measures to manage the rising disputes between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers. This development came after a series of attacks and reprisal in different parts of the state, especially the popular Dansadau forest, as well as other prone areas like Zurmi, Birnin Magaji, Bukkuyum, Anka and Maradun, which led to the killing of thousands of people. It also affected the state’s economy.

But less than two weeks to the presentation of the committee’s report, two major attacks reportedly occurred, which further raised fear and suspicion as to whether or not the outcomes of the committee may be useful in addressing the security challenges facing the state.

First was the attack on the people of Maitsaba community in Zurmi, where suspected killers, alleged to be Fulani, numbering over 100, invaded the community at 1pm, killing 24 people and burnt structures and foodstuff.

Less than 48 hours after the Maitsaba massacre, there was another attack at Yargaladima community, a suburb of Dansadau area where the suspected killers allegedly cordoned the venue of a meeting by some network of vigilante groups, opened fire and killed over 150 people indiscriminately.

The killings have increased in intensity, raising questions as to why the state has remained a theatre of blood despite the numerous interventions by both the state and the Federal Government, as well as security agencies. About 3,500 people were killed, 31,000 displaced and 500 villages affected in the last eight years of carnage. Dozens of communities were also deserted across all the 14 local government areas of the state. In Kawaye district of Anka Local Government Area, more than 20 villages were deserted.

It was a relief when the Nigerian Army launched an operation code named: Harbin Kunama in local dialect (Operation Scorpion Sting) to tackle the security challenge. Before then, troops had launched another operation code named Operation Sharan Daji, which recorded some successes as a good number of criminals were killed and arms recovered. For instance, troops conducting Operation Sharan Daji in the state had reportedly neutralised 23 bandits and arrested 18 suspects, informants, cattle rustlers, kidnappers and logistics suppliers to armed criminals in the state.

The acting Force Information Officer, Operation Sharan Daji, Major Clement Abiade, said the air component of Operation Sharan Daji carried out several air strikes around Kagara, Gando, Fankama, Fete and Dumburum forests within that period.

But this and several other security measures have done only little to stop the trend as the spate of killings and kidnappings continued. This year alone, more than 193 people were killed in at least six major attacks on 18 communities in the state. A lot of the victims sustained varying degrees of injury and are responding to treatments.

Shinkafi Local Government recorded the highest casualties with 104 people after attacks on five villages in Kware district between February and March this year. The attacks have displaced hundreds.

In January 2019, 25 people were killed in attacks on 9 villages in Mada district, Gusau Local Government. In February 2019, 13 people were shot dead in Kawaye village, Anka Local Government Area. In March 2019, 20 people were killed in Gando village in Bukkuyum Local Government Area. In March 2019, 17 worshippers were shot dead in Dumama village in Zurmi Local Government Area.

The killings in Zamfara have prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to order the service chiefs and the acting Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Adamu to deal ruthlessly with armed bandits and kidnappers terrorising different parts of the country, including Zamfara. The president’s directive came on the spate of renewed bloodletting last week when a motorbike-riding gang of armed men invaded Masha Awo village in Birnin Magaji Local Government Area, killing at least 14 people. The gunmen were said to have retreated into a bush after the attack, but later returned and stopped other residents who went to bury the dead victims. Reports had it that it took the intervention of security operatives to hold the funeral rite after about 24 hours.

 

Gov Yari in the eye of the storm

Residents of Zamfara State have accused Governor Abdulaziz Yari of being indifferent to ending the menace of armed banditry and cattle rustling plaguing his state. They said the governor believed that by merely giving Hilux vehicles and releasing funds for fueling vehicles, as well as paying for the allowances of the security operatives at the frontline, all that is required of him is done.

Last January, he reportedly told journalists in the state capital that if the constitution had spelt out that he would have to carry gun and fight the armed men in the state, he would have done so.

“Those with the responsibility to carry guns and fight have been empowered to do so. We have been providing logistic support to the security operatives in the state, yet the killings have continued unabated,” Yari said.

In early 2017, a peace dialogue between the armed criminals and the state government was initiated, but the peace process was said to have been truncated later and the bandits who initially agreed to cease hostilities decided to return to the trenches.

A source in Gusau, the state capital, told on Sunday that Governor Yari failed to honour the agreement between the armed bandits and the government. The source, who chose to be unnamed, said: “The armed bandits demanded for cattle routes, earth dams, schools, hospitals and freedom of movement, but none of these conditions were met.

“Apart from this, Yari made the issue personal instead of official. He would assign a responsibility to someone, and even before its logical conclusion, he would abandon you and assign a fresh assignment to someone else. Sometimes there would be an attack and he wouldn’t mind leaving the state. This has aggravated the situation.”

The spokesman of Senator Kabir Marafa’s campaign and his close political associate, Bello Bakyasuwa, said there was no time a visiting security chief had ever met Governor Yari.

“The Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, and lately, the acting Inspector General of Police visited Zamfara State but could not meet the governor. Besides, he once told the people of the state that he had relinquished his position as chief security officer of the state. This is a clear indication that he cannot manage the security situation of the state.

“This is not the case. He needs to halt the globe-trotting that characterised his administration and stay in the state and personally supervise the activities of the security operatives. Most of the major attacks in the state took place when Governor Yari was away and would not mind coming back home to look into the true situation on the ground. He lacks personal commitment to tackle the menace,’’ Bakyasuwa said.

In the same vein, the chairman of the Northern Youth Assembly, Alhaji Mannir Haidara Kaura, said that even the security chiefs in the state couldn’t have access to the governor.

“Governor Yari does not want to stay. There was a time a police commissioner posted to Zamfara State could not get him on phone. How can good governance be achieved by displaying attitudes like these? He once told journalists at the Sokoto airport that administering the state did not necessarily require his physical presence, saying he could rule the state even when on a plane, “Mannir said.

Other critics said the governor gave deaf ears to the barrage of criticisms being fired at him over his frequent foreign travels. However, sometimes he replies the critics by saying that his foreign trips are to look for investors.

Last year, the Emir of Anka and chairman of the state’s Council of Chiefs, told Yari when the latter paid him a Salah homage at his palace in Anka Local Government that he should halt the frequent foreign travels and stay at home to manage the security challenges confronting the state.

Several rural dwellers in the state also accused the governor of being insensitive to their plight. The vulnerable and highly traumatised rural communities in the state have been accusing him of not showing sympathy to their plight.

“In 2017, Governor Yari banned the activities of local vigilantes, popularly known as Yan Sakai, considered by rural dwellers as foremost defenders of their communities.

“However, he later had a change of mind and approved the recruitment of 8,500 able-bodied young men as members of the Civilian Joint Task Force to help check the activities of armed bandits and cattle rustlers in the state,” Ahmad Hamisu, a resident in Kaura Namoda town said.

Another source within the state civil service told on Sunday that poor salary, irregular payment of workers benefits had compounded the problems. The source said he knew about many teachers in village schools who turned to informants for armed bandits and kidnappers.

“How can a teacher on grade level 7 receive N18,000 as salary and you expect him and his family to survive? In so many cases, there is clear disconnect between the rural communities and government.

“Nothing much has been done to improve the lives of the teeming jobless youth in the state, especially in the rural communities. When the government decided to recruit members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, 8,500 able-bodied young men were registered within few weeks.

“This goes to show you the magnitude of the unemployment situation in the state. The number can double or even triple this size. Most of those recruited as CJTF members are somewhat uneducated or semi-literate citizens of the state,” said the source, who sought for identity protection.

However, the chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state, Comrade Bashir Mafara, said he was not aware of any civil servant becoming an informant to criminals. He believes that poor salary for civil servants is having negative economic implications on the state.

Yari has had battles with the Nigeria Labour Congress mostly on issues bordering on poor salary structure for workers and other benefits.

The NLC in the state had fought for the implementation of N18,000 minimum wage. Some workers in the local governments receive as low as N7000 monthly, even though the salary payment is regular, checks  by on Sunday revealed.

The governor has never passed a night in the government house with his family since he became governor almost eight years ago. He has been shuttling from his hometown of Talata Mafara to Gusau, the state capital.

Moreover, he devoted much of time and energy running the affairs of Nigerian Governors Forum. Many people in the state have complained about how he dissipated much of his attention to the NGF.

“We were called for stakeholders meeting sometimes in 2017.  At that meeting, Governor Yari said those criticizing him for staying away are doing so out of ignorance. He said his frequent visits to Abuja have been very beneficial to the state,” an official said.

In October last year, crisis erupted in the ruling APC in the state over primaries. The crisis started when Governor Yari anointed the state commissioner of finance, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris, as his successor.

This led to emergence of a group of aspirants known as G 8 to challenge what they called imposition of candidate in the party. The primaries could not hold as per October 7 2018 INEC deadline. That singular act plunged the state chapter of the party into crisis it has not yet resolved.

 

Killings politicised- Zamfara government

The Zamfara State Government has said the issue of killings in the state has been politicised by those who lost out in the last elections. According to them, the politicians are doing this to ridicule the governor, adding that they want to achieve their goal, the lives of those killed in the process notwithstanding.

The special adviser to the governor on public enlightenment, media and communication, Ibrahim Dosara said: “Security is everybody’s business and critics would have all contributed. Those who are criticising the governor are those conniving with the terrorists and aiding them with information.”

He said that no government would fold its arms and watch its citizens being killed, adding that the issue of security in Zamfara is not different from anywhere else in the country.

“The Federal Government has been doing its best to assist Zamfara State. Before the crisis, we had less than 300 soldiers, and there was no local government area that had more than 20 policemen. But today, our collaboration has led to the presence of over 4,000 military personnel and over 1,000 policemen and civil defence personnel respectively,” Dansora said.

Responding to allegations that the governor hardly stays in Zamfara State, Dansora said: “A leader having such a serious crisis like Zamfara should not be sitting down; he should be visiting Abuja frequently to brief the president and security agencies. Sometimes the governor would land in Zamfara, only to be called to come back to Abuja.”

On allegations by the Minister of Defence, Manir Dan Ali, that traditional rulers in the state were complicit in the crisis, he said the minister was entitled to his opinion, saying: “As far as Zamfara is concerned, all traditional rulers with links to the bandits have been expelled.”

Dosara said unless those politicians who thought Zamfara could not move without them looked at the larger community “it will be difficult, even with the Federal Government, to tackle the problem.”

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