Editorial: Why is the army very powerful in S’East and N’Delta but not in Zamfara?

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The persistent killings in Zamfara and the seeming inability of Nigeria’s security agencies to curtail it has left observers confused. The security agents claimed that the swathe of forests where the bandits hide to carry out their nefarious activities makes it extremely difficult for them to arrest the situation.

The people have been left to their own fate where they queue up at shrines to get charms which they believe with stop bullets aimed at them from hitting them dead. It is a gory situation yet the energy that the military put in into elections in Rivers State would have sent a strong signal to the bandits in Zamfara that they have no place to hide.

Or are the creeks of the Niger Delta too easy to navigate more than the dry and hilly areas of Zamfara?

The army brought war to Rivers State during the 2019 general election, leaving trails of blood behind. It thumbed itself up for a job well-done afterwards, threatening anyone or organisation that questioned its meddling into the elections with fire and brimstone.

Few examples will suffice for the purpose of clarity. On the 23rd of February, soldiers from 6 Division of the Army, killed Mr Thywill Jumbo. Mr Jumbo, an agent of the Peoples Democratic Party was shot even when it was reported that he was duly accredited and had no arms.

Mr Jumbo’s killing sparked off a wave of hostilities against the army which led to 37 persons being felled by the army’s bullets, with the army suffering one casualty.

However, the Army through its acting director of army information, Colonel Sagir Musa, claimed that its personnel killed six persons.

In Bakana, the army also engaged staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in a bid to take possession of the thumb-printed electoral materials. They also shot dead an INEC ad-hoc staff, Mrs Ibisiaki Amachree.

In Eleme, the army was accused of aiding thugs to raid homes of opposition members to make arrests. Why electoral materials were being snatched by thugs in Ebubu Eleme, soldiers stationed there watched with pleasure.

In a desperate attempt to spark off violence, the army raided the home of an ex-militant and current Amanyanabo of Okochiri Town, Ateke Tom. One person was reportedly killed. The army also visited another ex-militant, Asari Dokubo. His cousins were arrested.

The raid on the home of Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Dr Tamunosisi Gogo-Jaja was captured on camera and it quickly went viral. However, the military authorities in Abuja, having been embarrassed by the despicable acts of the rampaging soldiers, dismissed it with a wave of hand but said it would carry out a forensic investigation into the matter.

It did not end there as the army wanted its meddling into politics to be total. A colonel led troops to the Port Harcourt office of the INEC on March 10. He subsequently ordered journalists out of the building. Next were the rightfully deployed police officers but the officers resisted. The hostility between the police officers and the colonel led to the suspension of the gubernatorial and state house of assembly elections in Rivers State.

Other evidence from INEC staff in Ikwerre, Emohua and Khana indicted the army of gross misconduct during the election. INEC in a statement by its national commissioner and head of the department of voters’ education, Festus Okoye was unequivocal in its indictment of the army.

However, prior to the rampage by soldiers in Rivers State, the army initiated Operation Python Dance in the entire South-East. By the time they were done, over 300 persons have been killed with many more injured. A report by Amnesty International shed more light into the atrocities in the East.

The question begging for answers is why the army all of a sudden is seemingly incapable of dislodging bandits in Zamfara the way it did innocent voters and innocent agitators in the East and Rivers? Or are the people in the East and Rivers the traditional soft-targets to be overrun by tanks and bullets? Why are people being killed in Zamfara by bandits without a show of force by the army? These are questions that the citizens are begging for their answers.

The people in Zamfara need to be saved. The army should deploy its might to the area and dislodge the killer-bandits.

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