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Zamfara Air Traffic ban

By Tony Eluemunor

Displaced residents of Monguno, in Borno State also alleged they saw helicopters dropping supplies for the Boko Haram insurgents in the bushes

Something remarkable happened on Tuesday, March 2, 2021; President Mohammadu Buhari placed a no-flight ban on Zamfara State and directed that all mining activities in that state should cease forthwith.  Ordinarily, such far-reaching news items should have been celebrated across the nation.



To get the true ramifications of the orders, we have to get the exact words used. Unfortunately, the president did not appear in person to deliver such far-reaching decisions; a remarkable squandering of an immense opportunity to put the Buhari mark on the anti-insurgency fight. Also that meeting of the Nigerian Security Council held for five straight hours and was chaired by the president himself should have shown his commitment.

Yet, the president chose to forgo this great opportunity of reassuring his nation, instead, the National Security Adviser, Maj.Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd) delivered the president’s message to the nation. Addressing the State House correspondents, he said:”His Excellency the president has approved the imposition and enforcement of a ban on all mining activities in Zamfara state with immediate effect until further notice. He has directed the honourable Minister of Defence and the National Security Adviser to deploy massive military and intelligence assets to restore normalcy to that part of the country. He has also approved that Zamfara State be declared a no flight zone with immediate effect.

Now, all non-state actors that have been causing problems to the innocent peoples, not just in Zamfara State or the North-West zone but also in the North-East and other parts of the country, the South-South, have been placed under surveillance by the intelligence agencies. We have heard of collusion with peoples from all walks of life, therefore both the defence intelligence and the organisations have been charged that while we look forward to having a non-kinetic peaceful resolution, we will not allow this country to drift into state failure.

With effect from today, the new service chiefs have been given a new directive by the Minister of Defence, from the president and conveyed by the Minister of Defence, to reclaim all areas that have been dominated by bandits, by kidnappers, and other scoundrels and scallywags.

Already the president has given directives to all the military and intelligence organisations to trail and flush out all the peoples that have been on our watch list. And I can assure you there are quite a handful of people on our watch list. They will be trailed and be rooted out and they will be brought to book and be prosecuted and be made an example of.”

Three far-reaching directives are in that short speech, unfortunately, only one, the no-flight zone imposition, has caught the nation’s attention. Analysts overlooked “to deploy massive military and Intelligence assets to restore normalcy to that part of the country.”  Does that imply that he was publicly snubbing the theatrics of Sheikh Gumi, many governors and some Northern groups that bandits be compensated, be whitewashed with immunity…for peace to return?

I think so.  His adding (that all non-state actors all across the country have been under surveillance and that) “We have heard of collusion with peoples from all walks of life” is a turning point.

Hey, what is the nature of such collusion for which people have been under surveillance? The NSA said: “Now, all non-state actors that have been causing problems to the innocent peoples” all across the country, “have been placed under surveillance by the intelligence agencies.” This must include the killer herdsmen or the entire speech would be as worthless as an empty puff of smoke.

And here is the big question: why the need to place a no-flight ban on any part of the country? Or has even the president himself now become convinced that the bandits were being supplied by air? If so, has Nigeria not wasted valuable time denying that?  May we please recall a great controversy which Vanguard titled: “Storm over alleged helicopter supplies to herdsmen in Delta” on March 25, 2017.  Delta State House of Assembly member, Chief (Hon) Evance Ivwurie, representing Ethiope East Local Government Area, said that “suspected sponsors of Fulani herdsmen were allegedly making arms supplies to them with a helicopter at the barren region of Ovre-Abraka and Ovre-Eku in his constituency.” The state’s then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim, and the Department of State Service, DSS, according to that Vanguard report invited Ivwurie to “identify the helicopter and probably show it to the police, or else, they would take him into custody.”

That was four years ago. Mr. Zanna Ibrahim would have been promoted by now and must have moved on to higher responsibilities. Perhaps, so too the DSS man who behaved like him.

In August 2019, the Niger Delta Voice published an alleged confessional statement: “Helicopters Drop Arms For Us in the Forest: I have Killed At least 5 People—Fulani Herdsman.” According to the story; (name withheld) (20) an Arrested Fulani Herdsman has revealed that helicopters drop weapons for his boss inside Dinya Forest in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State. The whole world now knows about Kankara.

Displaced residents of Monguno, in Borno State also alleged they saw helicopters dropping supplies for the Boko Haram insurgents in the bushes.

Just after the FG announced the banning of flights over Zamfara, the Arewa Consultative Forum, asked that it be extended to Benue, Taraba and Borno states saying there were rumors that helicopters frequently dropped arms for bandits and insurgents.

Why did we waste precious years before taking such allegations seriously?  If all the trouble makers, including killer herdsmen, are to be dwelt with, why did the president take so long to send out this message? But why were they not mentioned directly?

Unfortunately, that is why this pronounced move to curb insurgency may appear too little, too late, to cynics.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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