A Nigerian soldier explaining what he found out to be the origin of banditry in Zamfara
Banditry is a type of organized crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of violence. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as extortion, robbery and murder, either as an individual or in groups. Banditry is a vague concept of criminality and in modern usage can be synonymous for gangsterism, brigandage, marauding, and thievery.
Zamfara is one of the states in northwestern part of Nigeria. The State should be the richest state in Nigeria. Blessed with favourable land rich in soil for farming, with abundant rainfall. But that’s not all. Zamfara is also blessed with gold and lead. A high reserve of these minerals lie in the State. The only reason Zamfara is as Zamfara is now, is greed and sabotage. Greed in the sense that the present and other past governments of the State tried to hide the existence of gold from the eyes of Nigerians, even from the indigenes of the State.
Sabotage in the sense that members of the Government and some educated folks who got the wind of the existence of gold in the state, don’t trust the sharing formula of the secret organization shielding the existence of gold from the public. Enough of history lessons.
Let’s go to the main issue, banditry. Knowing about the existence of gold, a former governor of the State decided to keep the gold for the State as there were no laws governing ownership of minerals from states since we moved to oil. Indigenes didn’t even know the worth of what they had so they remained impoverished. Now this governor engaged in child labour and illegal mining of gold. What do I mean by illegal? Kids from ages 8 to 17 years were put in the mines to find gold. The gold will then be flown out of Zamfara, out of Nigeria to countries like Sudan and Cameroon where it can be properly processed and then sold off for its actual value.
President Goodluck Jonathan got wind of this illegal act and tried to put a measure on it. So when the state government knew the DSS was on to them, they drew up a perfect plan. Foreigners from the US, (The US is the largest dealer of illegally mined gold.), Saudi Arabia and other gold loving countries came to Nigeria to register shadow businesses in the name of helping the State and Nigeria make proper use of its lead.
On one hand they were mining lead and at the back, they were taking raw gold out of Nigeria on private planes or helicopters. They were hardly searched since they were given private clearance to do business in Nigeria, just because they are white (yes I said it).
A black man would have been searched up to his ass just to make sure he wasn’t stealing but the white man got the special treatment. Now here is the sharing formula. The average kid working in the mines made a daily wage of less than 4 dollars 29 cents. On an average , 40,000 grams of gold is excavated everyday. At that time, 1000 gram of pure gold would sell at 10 million naira.
When you do the Maths you know how much that is. The state government would retain 60 percent of the actual value while 40 percent went to the foreigners. Today 1000 grams of gold is worth 22 million naira. Do the Maths and tell me why people won’t kill for gold. When President Buhari came on board, his then Minister of Solid Minerals Development had announced that due to the recession, it was time every state looked inward to see how to generate revenue for the state and for the country. And that every mineral Nigeria had would be visited and resuscitated.
Officials and geologists were to be sent out to each state to see what they had to offer. Zamfara State knew the gig was up. But that’s not the end of it. When illegal mining was banned in 2018, Zamfara State continued with business as usual. Now the indigenous miners had grown in knowledge as to what they had in the State and its value. They protested against the governor and what did he do? He fired them all and brought in immigrants from Niger Republic.
You need to understand that this is not about APC or PDP. I say this boldly, Every past leader of Zamfara State is a grand patron of the disaster that has unraveled the state. These immigrants got wind of how easy it was to steal minerals from Nigeria and make money off it. I mean this is gold we are talking about. These illegal acts continued until the immigrants got tired of the sharing formula as the white foreigners seemed to be making more money than those who did the hard work.
Also the indigenes weren’t happy with their sack by the government and fightings broke out. Now these immigrants who were banned from mining by the Buhari administration couldn’t get money anymore. To show President Buhari was serious, every foreigner operating in Zamfara had their licenses revoked and asked to leave the country.
Bad business for Zamfara, bad business for foreigners and bad business for Niger Republic immigrants who could not find another source of livelihood. So what happened was that since the government of Zamfara seemed to be cooperating with the Buhari order, the immigrants felt they had been sidelined. What happens next is the beginning of the ugly trend. Some officials were kidnapped and in order for their dirty linens not to be exposed, a ransom was paid.
Hence a new business was born. And that began a trend of kidnappings. I mean no stress in capturing innocent people unlike the stress in searching for gold, and then ransom is paid for which they then retreat to Niger Republic to enjoy their reward. Easy peasy. And others got to know and that became a business trend. They never plan to kill their victims. They hold on to them as long as possible because they know the money will show. Blackmailing the government of Zamfara.
And now you have a patron in Sheik Ahmad Gumi pretending to do good by meeting with bandits to offer peace with the blessings of the State governor, just because business has spoiled. These bandits now live amongst us. They have houses and properties you won’t believe belongs to someone so wretched. You have parents of friends of kidnapped victims making money by spying on high value targets. And now the governor is asking that we offer amnesty to people who don’t even belong to Nigeria?
President Buhari knows this and we have been ordered to kill every single bandit we see, there was a relative of the governor who was killed last year by the Nigerian armed forces after he was caught with bandits. Enough of hiding in the shadows. It has always been a state sponsored crime and still is. So when the FG issued a no fly zone in Zamfara, many laughed at it, not understanding why. But the Zamfara state government knew that the market don scatter.
Why? Because it is easier to fly gold out of the country than to move it by road. Believe me Customs officials have something in them for spotting illegal gold and there is a law prohibiting the movement of such large quantities. In every hostage situation in Zamfara, when we (Special Forces) are asked by the federal government to step in, we always hit a stumbling block in the state government. On some occasions, we are asked not to intervene like in the situation of the girls abducted from their hostels. No birds (drones) allowed but come on they think they can order the federal government?
Twice our drones have picked up these criminals in the small villages. Now the state government open their big mouth to say all forms of rubbish? God punish you. The issue of banditry in Zamfara state is not a political issue. Its all about greed. Getting rich by all means. we have 3 foreigners in custody confessing to all I’ve said. All I am saying is the state government have their hands deep in banditry and seem to not find a way to get out of the cookie jar. The FG has done its part and now it’s the turn of the Government and People of Zamfara to do their part.