The orgy of violence in the country continued on Wednesday as 41 persons were killed by bandits who invaded Birane, a sleepy agrarian village in Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The state police command spokesman, DSP Muhammad Shehu, in a statement, confirmed the incident and said it was a conflict between hunters, local vigilantes and the bandits. The news of the wanton killing coincided with the decision of the federal government to deploy troops in states troubled by armed herdsmen and other bandits.
The latest violence tested the will of the federal government to end the wanton killings in the North-west region of the country, particularly in Zamfara, that had come under heavy fire by bandits who rustled cattle and made life difficult for the people.
After gunmen torched dozens of residences and sent 24 persons to the great beyond in about three communities in Shinkafi Local Government Area of the state last November, the federal government indicated its intention to establish a brigade of the Nigerian Army in some states to stem the killings in the region, particularly in Zamfara, Kebbi and Katsina.
But the government’s expression of intention to balance the terror of the bandits would appear not to have deterred the outlaws as Senator Kabiru Marafa, the senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District of the state, told the Senate earlier in the month that the bloodletting had persisted beyond human imagination.
Wednesday’s massacre at Birani, news men gathered, occurred when the gunmen intercepted a Canter vehicle conveying bridesmaids and traders to the community market and slit the throat of the driver and then opened fire on the vehicle, killing everybody on board.
The bodies of the dead, it was further gathered, were set ablaze by the killers. The bandits, a source said, then proceeded to the community market and shot indiscriminately at all in sight.
The traders were said to have scampered for safety as the bloodthirsty gunmen continued their assault unabated.
“They arrived in large numbers and on motorbikes intercepting and killing people who were either coming or going out of the village. About 41 persons were shot dead within a short period of time,” a resident, Hussaini Abdu, said.
He added that a commercial motorbike rider conveying a woman and her three children was killed and his motor bike burnt.
Police spokesman, Shehu, however, gave a detailed version of the incident in a statement in Gusau.
According to Shehu, the violence started after hunters and local vigilantes mobilised and launched a pre-emptive attack on the bandits when they heard that the outlaws were preparing to attack their community.
He claimed that instead of the residents to give the security operatives timely information to avert the attack, they decided to take the law into their own hands by going out to confront the gunmen.
Shehu said: “On February 13, hunters from Birani Village of Zurmi Local Government Area intercepted and accosted a herder in the bush with some suspected stolen cattle and sheep.
“The herder abandoned the animals and escaped into the bush, but unknown to the hunters, the cattle rustler went to Isah Local Government Area of Sokoto State and mobilised bandits to attack the hunters.
“On February 14, the bandits ambushed the hunters in the bush and there was a clash that led to fatality on both sides.
“Police/Military and other sister agencies reacted by combing the bush and it’s environs to salvage the situation and discovered 18 dead bodies. “It is believed that the bandits took away their own members that were killed. Meanwhile, bush combing is in progress so as to further profile the area.
“Mobile policemen/special forces and other security personnel from other sister security agencies have already been deployed to the area to restore peace and stability.”
The police spokesman said that the command’s intelligence unit had already embarked on investigation to arrest the perpetrators of the attack.
He said: “You know Birane is a very remote community. Yet, I can’t tell you the actual figures of the casualties till after the Deputy Commissioner, Operations, of the command comes back.
“He, alongside other officers are there to assess the situation and provide additional security measures.”
The country has been literarily soaked in blood since the New Year, which opened with the killing of 73 farmers by armed herdsmen in Goma and Logo Local Government Areas of Benue State. Similar killings have occurred in Adamawa and Taraba States, with the federal government telling an enraged nation that it was up to the task of securing the lives and property of Nigerians.
FG Orders Deployment of Troops in Troubled States
Meanwhile, the federal government has decided to deploy troops in states troubled by bandits. Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, disclosed this on Thursday at the State House, Abuja after the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC).
He said the decision followed the recommendation of the report of the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led committee on herdsmen violence, which was submitted to the council. The committee, he said, recommended the deployment of the military to forests surrounding troubled states to flush out bandits whose activities have been linked to such violence.
He also said the working group of the committee noted that an Agro Rangers Corps needs to be trained to provide security around ranches, livestock production centres and grazing routes.
“The vice-president also informed council that the President has approved the formation of a Committee to look into the issue of rebuilding affected communities and providing welfare and other facilities as may be considered appropriated,” the governor added.