Daily Watch – Zamfara attacks claim at least 200, Soldiers and miners do battle over gold in Katsina

10th January 2022

Two soldiers of the Nigerian Army and seven illegal miners were killed in a clash over gold nuggets at Magama, a border village in Jibiya Local Government Area of Katsina State. The clash occurred last Wednesday around 1800 hours after the discovery of huge gold nuggets in one of the open-pit mines dug by the artisanal miners. The Daily Nigerian reported that about 40 miners, who were also armed, paid the soldiers the sum of ₦2.5 million (₦500,000 per pit) before they were allowed to start the mining. However, after the miners were done, the soldiers insisted that the gold be shared equally with them. The miners refused leading to an exchange of gunfire. The soldiers lost two men, while miners lost seven men in the clash. “The mining ring leaders were able to successfully ran away with the nuggets, valued in conservative estimate at ₦70 million, in their vehicle,” the Daily Nigerian quoted an eyewitness as saying. In March last year, President Buhari had declared a no-fly-zone over the neighbouring Zamfara State and banned all mining activities to check banditry and kidnapping in the state. Following the ban on mining in Zamfara, the activities have now shifted to some parts of Katsina State.

A suspected Nigerian pirate captured by the Danish navy in the Gulf of Guinea in November and brought to Denmark for prosecution appeared in court in Copenhagen on Friday charged with the attempted manslaughter of Danish soldiers. Three other suspected Nigerian pirates picked up by a Danish frigate at the same time and who faced the same charges were freed on Thursday after Denmark failed to find a country in the region to take them, the Danish Armed Forces said. The three, who had been detained aboard the frigate Esbern Snare in the Gulf of Guinea, were put to sea in a small dinghy with enough food and fuel for them to reach safely to shore after the charges against them were withdrawn. “They have no relation to Denmark, and the crime they have been charged with was committed far from Denmark. They simply do not belong here, and that’s why I think it’s the right thing to do,” Danish Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said in a statement. The frigate, which deployed off West Africa in October, intervened in an alleged attack on a commercial vessel the following month, killing four pirates and taking another four suspects on board the frigate. Denmark has since failed to find a country in the region to agree to take the four.

An estimated 200 people or more have been killed in villages in Zamfara during deadly reprisal attacks by armed bandits following military airstrikes on their hideouts this week, residents said on Saturday. Residents gained access to the villages on Saturday after the military captured the communities to organise mass burials, Reuters reported. The state government said 58 people had been killed during the attacks. Ummaru Makeri, a resident who lost his wife and three children during the attack, said around 154 people had been buried including several vigilantes who were killed. Residents said the total death toll was at least 200. On Friday, at least 30 people had been killed in Anka local government area, when more than 300 armed bandits on motorbikes stormed eight villages and started shooting sporadically on Tuesday. The military said it had conducted airstrikes in the early hours of Monday on targets in the Gusami forest and west Tsamre village in Zamfara state, killing more than 100 bandits including two of their leaders, following intelligence reports. There have been a series of attacks in northwest Nigeria, which has seen a sharp rise in mass abductions and other violent crimes since late 2020 as the government struggles to maintain law and order. In a separate incident, 30 students abducted from their college in Kebbi were freed on Saturday, a spokesman for the Kebbi governor said, without providing details. Away from that region, gunmen kidnapped about six children of former Secretary to the Taraba State Government, Gebon Kataps, alongside their police escort and driver. The state’s police command confirmed the report, but could not ascertain the exact number of the victims. Admitting that hoodlums operated in Jamtari, Gashaka local government area, state police spokesperson, Usman Abdullahi said the former SSG’s children were abducted during the raid. A villager was killed during the incident and a police officer serving in Jamtari was also abducted, according to the police with another officer escorting the victims sustaining injuries. The Guardian reported Kataps as saying that the six family members abducted included his children, niece and driver. In Kwara, a three-member gang kidnapped a retired Deputy Comptroller of Nigeria Customs Service, Mohammed Zarma on his farm. The retired top Customs officer was said to have been kidnapped on his farm at Okejia in Egbejila, Asa local government area on Thursday. Local media reports say Zarma was overpowered by the gunmen who caught him unaware as several gunshots were reportedly fired into the air to scare him before he was kidnapped. The state police commissioner, Mr Tuesday Assayomo, in a statement, confirmed the incident and directed police resources to ensure that the kidnapped Customs officer “is rescued unhurt and possibly arrest the perpetrators of the crime.”

Mali’s interim authorities have slightly reduced the proposed length of a transition back to democracy following a 2020 military coup to four years from five years, the chairman of the West African bloc said on Sunday. Leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are holding an extraordinary summit in Ghana’s capital Accra to discuss a proposal by transitional authorities in Mali to delay elections and a return constitutional rule. The transitional government initially agreed to hold presidential and legislative elections in February 2022, 18 months after Colonel Assimi Goita led the overthrow of President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita. It has made little progress since then, blaming disorganisation and a rash of Islamist violence. At the end of last year, it informed ECOWAS of its plan to extend the transition to five years. “Two days ago, the head of the Malian transition stated that the period had now been modified to four years,” said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, acting ECOWAS chair. Opening the summit, Akufo-Addo recalled the bloc’s resolve to implement additional sanctions if members were not satisfied with election progress. Last November, it imposed travel bans and asset freezes on members of the transitional authority and their family members. The bloc is expected to announce the result of talks, including any sanctions decision, immediately after the summit. The organisation is under pressure to show it can protect democracy from a backslide to military rule after West and Central Africa saw four coups within 18 months. The eight members of the West African monetary union (UEMOA) also held a Mali-focused summit in Accra on Sunday ahead of the ECOWAS meeting, raising expectations that more sweeping economic sanctions are again on the table. Immediately after the 2020 takeover, ECOWAS closed its borders with Mali and halted financial flows – short-term sanctions that caused a sharp fall in imports to the landlocked country.