Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari has said between 2009 and 2018, about 2,500 people were killed while 25,000 cows were rustled by armed bandits in the state.
Yari made the disclosure Monday at the Special Town Hall Meeting organised by the federal government on measures to curb killings across the north-western state.
Zamfara had experienced the worse-case of banditry committed by criminal elements, who rustled cattle and ransacked settlements until the deployment of troops by government, which last year launched Operation Whirl Stroke 2, curtailed their activities.
The governor said 10,500 houses were destroyed, 3,000 farms scorched, 493 silos damaged, 336 vehicles vandalised, 500 shops razed and over 54, 000 people were sheltered in Internally Displayed Persons Camps.
Yari also said N14.8 billion was spent rebuilding farmlands destroyed by bandits across the state and on security.
At the meeting attended by some ministers, including Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Defence, Maj. Gen Monsur Dan-Ali (Rtd); Water Resources, Sule Adamu; Environment (State), Jubril Usman; Budget and National Planning (State), Zainab Ahmed, and State for Trade, Industry and Commerce, Aisha Bello; Yari said the money was spent on restoration of farmlands for the affected people and on security operatives.
He said the military involvement had led to the recovery of 3,000 assorted arms from the bandits, in addition to the clearance of over 36 camps.
Yari, who is the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, accused the previous administration headed by Goodluck Jonathan of apathy to the Zamfara crisis. He said Jonathan only sent 240 troops to tackle the crisis in 2014.
“It became so bad that when I met the former president in March 2014, I had to complain bitterly and asked him if Zamfara was no longer one of the 36 states of the federation because he was not showing concern. Even when the bandits killed many people here, the government did not send a federal delegation to commiserate with us. It was not until we wrote a protest letter in March 2014, that they deployed 240 soldiers from Zuru to this place to start working on security,” Yari said.
He said they were already seeing the result with the 1,000 soldiers sent by the current administration as the people can now go about their normal businesses.
On his part, Lai Mohammed said the drastic fall in the killings resulted from concerted and
committed actions by the federal government to curtail the farmers-herders clashes, cattle rustling and other acts of banditry.
“I have no doubt that the good people of Zamfara can testify to the drastic reduction in the activities of cattle rustlers and other bandits in the state since the Federal Government assembled a 1000-strong military force, comprising the army, air force, police and the civil defence, to launch fierce attacks on the bandits terrorizing the villages and towns of Zamfara State. The situation will continue to improve until the violence has stopped,” Mohammed said.
He warned those bent on exploiting the national fault lines by distorting the narrative to give the killings ethnic and religious colouration.
Maj Gen. Ali, who put the numbers of forests in the country at 3,000, said the a commission had been instituted by the National Security Adviser (NSA) to mop up small arms imported into the country through Niger, Libya and Mauritania.