In the space of ten days, two chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State were arrested by the state’s police command over allegations of connivance to disrupt peace in the state through alleged use of bandits.
But in both instances, higher authorities of the police directed the release of the suspects citing “orders from above”, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
The development, this newspaper learnt , is raising tension within the Zamfara State government and the state police authorities, raising fears of possible breakdown of law in the state.
The state was for years dogged by routine killings and attacks by armed bandits which only recently started subsiding.
Although the killings started off as conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, security experts have linked the spate of violence to unregulated mining activities, politics and infiltration of terrorists.
First was the arrest of Abdulmalik Bungudu, popularly known as Zannan Bungudu, who was picked up in Kaduna by men of the Zamfara State Police Command, citing a court order.
Using the court order issued by a sharia court judge in Gusau, Zamfara State capital, the police tracked down Mr Bungudu, an associate of former governor Abdulaziz Yari, and took him to the Zamfara State capital to face charges.
A copy of the court order dated September 3, 2020 indicated that Mr Bungudu was wanted for breaching provisions of the sharia penal code in the state.
He was accused of mobilising thugs and armed bandits to terrorise residents of his local government.
But followers of Mr Yari said the charges against Mr Bungudu were politically-motivated.
Not long after Mr Bungudu was received at the Police Criminal Investigation Department offices in Gusau ahead of his arraignment, he was ordered to be released. The police set him free unconditionally.
The release of Mr Bungudu led to tongue-wagging among security and government officials in the state who expressed displeasure at the “Abuja influence” over the matter.
While that dust was yet to settle, the police, acting on a tip off, swooped on a meeting convened by another associate of Mr Yari, Abu Dan-Tabawa , which was being attended by some alleged leaders of Fulani bandits.
Mr Dan-Tabawa was arrested along with 17 attendees of the meeting on Saturday.
But not long after the arrest, the police commissioner in Zamfara was ordered by the police high command to release the suspects, all of whom have been released.
Police sources in Abuja and government sources in Zamfara lamented meddling into Zamfara security issues by highly placed persons in the presidency.
A Zamfara government official, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said President Muhammadu Buhari’s interest for peace and justice in Zamfara is being subverted by persons close to him.
“To be fair to the president, he has no hands in this. He has told the governor ay one occasion that he would never support anyone to commit criminality or shield any criminal but persons around him are throwing their influence around.”
The source lamented that preferential treatment on persons accused of crimes is not in the interest of the state or the nation.
“The governor is doing his best. He has been supportive of security forces and even the government, in spite of political differences, if he is not encouraged to continue his effort should not rubbished in this manner.”
A senior police officer in Abuja confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES what he called “interest of the Villa” on some politicians in Zamfara state.
“Like in the case of the latest arrest of Dan-Tabawa, the IGP was called directly from the Villa and the man was specifically mentioned to him that he should be released. He just had to obey.
“Our men in Zamfara also had to release the rest of the suspects arrested with the man since there was no basis for them to hold the rest and release just one person. They were all released”.
The Nigeria police spokesman, Frank Mba, did not respond to questions on our findings about the police headquarter’s role. He did not pick calls and did not reply a message sent to him.
Zamfara APC kicks
Supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state have differed with the police and the state government over the allegations against their members.
On Sunday, scores of the party’s supporters marched on the police headquarters in Gusau to demand release of Mr Dan-Tabawa and others.
They accused the state governor, Bello Matawalle, and police commissioner of conniving to harass opposition elements in the state.
Arrests in the interest of peace — Police
The State Police Command in a statement released Sunday evening said the arrest of Mr Dan-Tabawa and 17 others was not politically-motivated.
“The arrest was an intelligence-driven and proactive action by the state police command to prevent a possible breach of public peace and ensure that the state continue to enjoy the relative peace that is been enjoying in the recent time. The arrest was carried out in the overall interest of public peace, public security and public safety.”
The statement signed by Mohammed Shehu, a police superintendent, warned “all citizens of the state irrespective of their political affiliation, their status or their standing in the society , to desist from actions that are inimical to the safety and security of the citizens of the state.”