The Presidency has accused traditional rulers in Katsina State of working with armed groups against the interest of their people, days after they cried out for help and condemned the government’s failure to protect them from attacks by the criminals.
Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, said, on Monday on a Channels Television programme that, while avoiding direct accusations, “some traditional rulers have been found complicit in collaboration with the bandits to harm their own people.”
“In neighbouring Zamfara, emirs and district heads, quite a number of them have been swept out of office. The thing is there are beneficiaries of whatever rotten system you have,” Shehu said.
He said some of the operations of the Nigerian Air Force in Zamfara State were sabotaged by people who informed targets of the movement of aircraft, which were stationed at the airport in Katsina.
The presidential spokesman later clarified that he was referring to a “few bad eggs” and “low-level traditional rulers”, not “the entirety of the traditional institution in Katsina”.
Reacting to Shehu’s remarks, Bulama Bukarti, an analyst on West African Public Policy, Security and Conflict at the Tony Blair Institute, described them as a “false theory”.
“The reality is, after years of massacre, some traditional rulers and residents have completely lost confidence in government, so they vowed down [sic.] to the bandits by meeting their demands. That’s not aiding,” he tweeted on Monday.
Repeated deadly attacks on communities in Katsina State have recently caused mass unrest, triggered protests, and renewed doubts in the government’s capacity to bring the perpetrators to book as well as prevent further violence.
According to data from the Nigeria Security Tracker, in June alone, as many as 77 people have been killed during several attacks in Katsinaㅡall of them civilians.
HumAngle reported that on May 30, 2020, some 13 members of two communities were killed after confronting bandits.
Although Buhari had ordered “a major proactive operation by Special Forces” in the state, residents said weeks after the directive that they did not notice any changes in the security infrastructure.
During different attacks in Faskari Local Government Area, at least 47 people were killed and many others injured or abducted. On Saturday, June 13, 2020, the head of Mazoji in Matazu Local Government Area, Alhaji Dikko Usman, was killed in an attack by an armed group.
The frequency of the attacks and the high fatalities caused people to troop out and block highways in protest. On Tuesday, June 9, residents of Yan Tumaki in Danmusa Local Government Area protested publicly and, on Thursday, June 11, a similar demonstration held at Yankara, Faskari Local Government Area.
District heads from areas in Katsina that have come under attack have also protested the worsening insecurity and on Monday, June 8, about 12 of them threatened to relocate from their communities to other parts during a meeting with the Emir of Katsina, Abdulmumin Kabir Usman.
“We were at the palace to share our concerns about what is happening and the risks to our lives because what has happened to our colleague called for concern. We fear for our lives at our bases,” one of the traditional rulers told Daily Trust.
The Presidency has also condemned the Northern Elders’ Forum after the group said it appeared the federal and state governments “have lost control over the imperatives of protecting people of the North”.
The group pointed out that many communities were “now completely at the mercy of armed gangs who roam towns and villages at will, wreaking havoc”.
Responding to the criticism on Sunday, the Special Adviser on Media to the President, Mr Femi Adesina, described the forum’s Coordinator, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, as “a mere irritant and featherweight”.
“It is a quasi-organisation that boasts of no credible membership, and its leader is akin to a general without troops,” Adesina said.
He said “NEF is merely waving a flag that is at half-mast. President Buhari steadily and steadfastly focuses on the task of retooling Nigeria, and discerning Nigerians know the true state of the nation. They don’t need a paper tiger to tell them anything.”
In February, 2019, 11 traditional rulers in Zamfara were dethroned over alleged connivance with bandits.
“These district heads wrote letters to black marketers asking them to continue with their business as usual. We will not condone sabotage and we asked them to report themselves to NSCDC headquarters,” Bello Dankande Gamji, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, said at the time.
Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, also insinuated in October, 2019, that monarchs in his state were in alliance with criminals and threatened to remove anyone found guilty from power.