Experts have said the attack on a forward operation base of troops deployed for anti-banditry operation in Zamfara State on Saturday was sponsored by the failure of communication among the fighting forces.
It was gathered that gunmen had attacked and killed 12 security personnel comprising nine naval ratings, two policemen and a soldier during the raid on the base in Mutumji, near the banditry-ravaged town of Dansadau , stole weapons and set houses on fire.
“The attackers stormed the base around 10:30am and engaged the troops in a fierce gun battle,” one security source said.
Another security source confirmed the casualties.
The base in Mutumji is described as a key site for logistics and reconnaissance in the army’s fight against bandits in the area.
“Most of the foot soldiers relied on normal phone networks instead of any of the specialised communication gadgets that should be deployed during operations such as the one going on in the North West.
“Only the top commanders have military radio or walkie-talkie, meaning those in the frontlines would only use their personal mobile phones which are no longer accessible.
But an aide of Pantami said the directive to shut down telecommunications in Zamfara State was issued by President Muhammad Buhari to top officials involved in the security issue.
Yusuf Abubakar, Pantami’s media aide who spoke with newsmen said the minister couldn’t have bypassed the National Security Adviser (NSA) to obtain a directive from the president as he isn’t the official involved directly on the Zamfara security issue.
Abubakar said: “The directive (to shut down telecom sites) came from the president and both (the minister and NSA) are working for the president. I don’t think there is any need for the minister to comment on it. More so, this is a security issue and everybody shouldn’t be commenting on it. The minister is not the chief security officer of Zamfara and he has no (direct security) role to play in the security situation there.”
But a source familiar with happenings in Zamfara said most bandits have fled to places like Kebbe and Tureta in Sokoto State and Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna to escape the blockade in Zamfara. Rekeb, who confirmed relocation of some of the bandits to Lambar Tureta, in Sokoto, said he and other kingpins remain within their “known location in Zamfara”.
A military source said they are on top of the situation, saying the bandits are seriously being dealt with by the combined security team.
Dansadau, who represented Zamfara Central Senatorial District between 1999 and 2007, said “I left Zamfara on Saturday, honestly speaking, the ongoing operation is successful because a lot of things are changing, the bandits, majority of them are on the run.”
“By the grace of God, we are seeing a new beginning in the fight against the bandits. Majority of the people are not complaining because this is the problem that we have been suffering from in the last 10 years and now the government is tackling it.”
The Chief Army of Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Farouk Yahaya, and Monday resolved that he would no longer tolerate any excuse from the army commanders who are leading the fight against terrorism and all other forms of security challenges in various theatres of operation across the country.
Yahaya, who stated this during the opening ceremony of the combined second and third quarters Chief of Army Staff conference in Abuja, maintained that the Nigerian Army under his watch would remain resolute and continue to chart progressive paths towards tackling all challenges bedeviling the country.