A 10-year research conducted on banditry in Zamfara has revealed that people make money from transporting arms.
The report conducted by Murtala Rufa’i, a lecturer at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, titled, ”I am a Bandit’: A Decade of Research on Armed Banditry in Zamfara State”, shows that there are over 60,000 weapons in circulation in the north-west.
He said weapons like anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenade tubes, general-purpose machine guns, AK-47, AK-49, G3 magazines, among others, were found across different bandits’ camps in the state.
According to Rufa’i, he conducted interviews with bandits and also visited some areas across the state, adding that the gunmen generate income through arms trading, while a significant percentage of such funds are spent on drugs, women, betting, phones and other goods.
“Most arguments on the source of weapons revolve around the porous border thesis and the inability of the security to man the over 1,950 official borders,” the report, which was delivered at a seminar on September 9, reads:
“There is an absolute shortage of manpower and officers want to be posted to lucrative borders. The armed smugglers mostly used these minor entries for the supply of arms into the country.”
He said some officers at border posts are alleged to have facilitated the movement of arms into the country.
According to him, this could be part of the reason Muhammed Babandede, former comptroller-general of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), issued an order in 2020 that more officers be deployed to the borders.
“Thus, the wider assumption is that arms supply in Zamfara is majorly from the Nigeria-Niger borders located around Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina axis,” the report reads.
“This is a plausible assumption as there are some border communities within these states with a substantial number of individual gunrunners, whose main role is to simply move arms across the borders.
“Some of these illicit traffickers are well-known in their communities, while others remain unknown. Calamity could befall any community that expose these suppliers to security agencies.
“Since the Nigerian security operatives have complained of grossly inadequate personnel, in addition to proving incapable of defending the people from the rural war-lords, the best thing is to observe ‘conspiracy of silence’ for peace to reign in the villages.
“There is also the use of women and children as couriers of arms along the border. It is very difficult to get a woman arm courier, but if you have any, they are the safest and easiest ways of cross-border arms movement.
“Depending on the distance and terrain, an AK47 rifle is transported into a nearby village from the border at the rate of N20,000, while a bag containing 100 rounds of ammunition at the cost of N5,000.
“Thus, transporting the ammunition is much easier due to its size and could be divided into different portions, what the locals called Geron Hajiya.”
He said some of the gunmen have dislodged multiple agents who supply arms and have become either importers or local transporters of arms.
Rufa’i quoted an informant who spent five years as a bandit around Dan-Sadau area, as saying: “I have wasted five years for nothing. Had it been I knew, I could have been a gunrunner earlier. There is more money, peace and pride to be in the arm supplying chain”.
Over the years, gunmen have attacked communities in Zamfara, despite the state’s decision to grant amnesty to bandits.
However, Bello Matawalle, governor of Zamfara, on Friday, announced that his administration will no longer offer amnesty to bandits since they have “refused to embrace peace”.