Why Are Bandits Not Attacking Rich Zamfara Gold Miners
Senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Kabir Marafa, explains factors sustaining banditry in the state, in this interview with SUNDAY ABORISADE
I want to start by thanking Nigerians from all walks of life who came out to protest peacefully against the wanton killing and destruction currently taking place in Zamfara State. This has once again awakened the national spirit that is inherent in Nigerians.
I also commend the Federal Government for taking some proactive measures that could curtail the problems. We now have a heavy presence of the various security agencies and the military there now. I don’t think a single strategy could be adopted to wipe off the problems.
The crisis started several years ago and it will naturally take some time to fully address it.
Many people, especially some of the protesters, believed that President Muhammadu Buhari has not shown enough concern on the matter. Do you also think so?
President Buhari actually feels the pains of the Zamfara people. I have discussed the issue with him on several occasions. I even went to Zamfara with him in a rare privilege journey where he had to put on the army uniform after several years of his retirement from the military.
What are your expectations now that the issue has become a national discourse?
What we need now is for the government at the state level to be serious about the issue. The constant claims by the governor that he had spent huge sums and bought vehicles for the security agents should stop.
The governor is not spending his money but that of the Zamfara people. He should rather tell us how much Zamfara earned between 2011 and now; and how much has actually been spent to provide security for the people.
The N15bn that the current government in Zamfara State claimed it had spent on security is a far cry from the amount that the officials have spent on themselves and projects they are executing to satisfy certain interests. We want to see some seriousness on the part of the government of Zamfara State.
The acting Inspector-General of Police traveled to Sokoto State recently to address the security challenges there and all the government functionaries were on hand to receive him. But the story was different in Zamfara State when the acting IG went there on the same mission after he left Sokoto.
I wonder why our governor is ruling the state from overseas or from other bigger cities in the country. He was elected to work and live in Zamfara State. He is supposed to be doing the work expected of him constitutionally. Let the people see that he has done his best but that his best is not good enough.
Do you think the governor is overwhelmed by the situation, having cried out sometimes ago that he had resigned as the chief security officer of the state?
It is not true that there is nothing the governor can do about the security challenges in the state. If his political opponents today did something wrong, he would tell the Commissioner of Police to arrest them and the CP would carry out his order being the chief security officer of the state.
It is when it comes to a serious national issue that he will say that he has no control over the CP. I don’t think what he has done is right. The issue in Zamfara right now requires all the efforts and seriousness to handle.
Have the miners heeded the Federal Government’s directive to vacate the state?
I wouldn’t know if the miners have left the state because I am not the chief security officer of the state. I am just the representative of a portion of the state at the federal level. I don’t have the means of finding out whether the miners have left or whether the security agencies have carried out the 48-hour ultimatum given to the miners to pack and go.
I, however, believe that the miners would have seen the seriousness exhibited by the Federal Government and would have left, seeing that it is no longer business as usual.
What is the politics behind the mining activities in Zamfara State?
Mining in the state is just one aspect of the problems. I am not privy to the information available to the government before it took the decision to drive away the miners. But the people are concerned that the rich miners exploring very expensive commodity in the remote areas of Zamfara State are unmolested by the bandits.
They have never been killed or kidnapped but the criminals are going after the poor villagers, kidnapping and killing them. Our people want to know the magic behind that.
They want to know what the miners are doing that stopped the bandits from attacking them. The people are saying there is a nexus between the miners and the bandits.
It is therefore believed in certain quarters that there is a deliberate attempt by the people who are benefiting from the mining activities to scare the locals so that they won’t pay attention to what they are excavating from their soil.
If the bandits are looking for money, the miners possess more money than the poor villagers. Some of the miners sleep inside airconditioned rooms in the bush; yet, they are not kidnapped, attacked or killed.
What measures are being taken to ensure that the N10bn approved for Zamfara State would actually be spent on the victims who are directly affected by the crisis?
We have asked the executive arm of government to set up a presidential initiative on Zamfara State so that the body will take care of the money. This is not the first time such a body would be set up. We have the presidential initiative on North-East with the government drawing up their operational modalities.
The money is necessary and Nigerians should look at it from the fact that it would also help to check the activities of beggars flocking most cities because their needs would be taken care of at home.
People, who are displaced and have nowhere to go, would have no option but to start moving into cities to beg. Some able-bodied ones among them could be a tool for anybody to carry out criminal activities.
When there is a humanitarian crisis and people are turning a blind eye on it, it won’t take long before it will become everybody’s problem.
INEC has set aside the elections of the APC members in Zamfara State following a court judgment but the governor-elect and other elected lawmakers from the state attended the orientation programme organized for newly elected federal lawmakers. Is it that the judgment has no effect?
I may not know because I am not a judicial officer and I cannot seriously comment on that. But I think there is a failure from the management of the National Assembly because if you go to the website of INEC, you will discover ‘set aside’ in front of the spaces allocated to the elected senators and House of Representatives members from the state.
Who are the people that allowed the affected persons to enter the venue of the orientation and why? If there are rules, somebody is supposed to enforce those rules. The induction programme is not open to anybody who is not duly qualified to be there.
The management of the National Assembly needs to be asked why they allowed the federal lawmakers from Zamfara State to enter the venue of the orientation programme when their election has been set aside.
To me, it is a show of ignorance on the part of the affected lawmakers because somebody like me could embarrass myself or the people I am representing by attending a function which I know clearly that I am not qualified to attend.