In what seems to signal the full collapse of the shaky detente between non-indoctrinated armed groups and some state governments in the northwest of Nigeria, the leaders of five gangs of bandits operating in the axis of Katsina and Zamfara states rose from a meeting on May 5, 2020, and resolved to end factionalism and unite to fight as one.
The gangs have been separately unleashing violence on communities, killing, raping, burning, stealing and rustling cattle from innocent villagers in commando-style operations.
Such activities forced state governments in the zone to open negotiations with the criminals to enable the citizens have some respite.
The meeting among the bandits, held in a secluded terrain within the plains of Yar Tasha Maru Local Government Area in Zamfara State, was attended by gang leaders such as ‘Yellow’, Dan Makaranta and Kachalla.
A source familiar with current group aspirations and the routine operations of the bandits, informed that the hitherto rival groups, which had been engaged in supremacy battles, resolved to work together against the military and the communities.
The source said the parallel bands of armed warlords saw a need to create a joint force following recent repeated casualties they had suffered in the hands of the military recently deployed to battle and eradicate banditry in the axis.
The army, apparently treading on the toe of the bandits in August, 2019, suffered a major setback from the bandits in an ambush laid by Gajere at Sunke in Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
The army reportedly lost nine soldiers in the ambush.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, worried by the development, toured the formation to assess the situation and thereafter, the army deployed Maj.-Gen. Aminu Bande to lead the charge in that front. Since then, the army has inflicted major losses on the bandits, particularly in Anka, Maru and Zurmi areas.
The source who is knowledgeable about the combats in the two areas informed that it was on account of the losses suffered in combats with the military that the gang leaders met and resolved to work as a group in their operations.
The source further disclosed that the leaders also resolved to escalate attacks on communities as a response to their losses.
Their calculation is that with the presence of the army in Zamfara, it served a better combat strategy for them to train their weapons against communities in Katsina State to inflict maximum damage and force the state governors to ask for another round of ceasefire negotiations, the source revealed.
The source who has keenly followed the combat strategy of the bandits, added: “what they want is to provoke public outcry in Katsina State, a situation they believe would force the army out of their current position in Zamfara and move to Katsina. But as soon as the army takes this step, the bandits would leave Katsina and unleash violence in the exposed communities of Zamfara and Sokoto states.”
Last week HumAngle exclusively reported Kachalla’s (gang leader) anguish and threat to communities following the raid on his camp by troops.
In the past year, the bandits have not received the level of aggression and bombardment as they have currently in Zamfara.
Notwithstanding the prevailing reprieve for several Zamfara communities, there is still fear and tension in some other communities such as Faskari, Batsari, Daudawa and even Gurbin Bore, because the ominous long shadows of the bandits continue to hang loose over their lives.