Protest by angry residents and displaced persons over continued killings of people by unknown gunmen turned violent in Tsafe local government area of Zamfara State yesterday.
Scores of people in farming communities in the state have killed in the last few years by faceless attackers commonly referred to as armed bandits.
About 82 people were killed in the last six weeks. Many of them were gunned down on their farms while harvesting their crops.
Yesterday’s protest in Tsafe town was meant to draw attention to the deteriorating situation but the moon soon turned ugly.
The protesters attacked the local government secretariat and burnt 15 vehicles and other properties, Daily Trust gathered.
They also burnt campaign bill boards and blocked the highway used by passengers from Kano, Katsina, Kaduna and Abuja to Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states.
Hundreds of travellers were stranded for hours many of whom were forced to abort their journey.
Miscreants, not IDPs behind protest – Police
The Zamfara State Police Command has confirmed the burning of 15 vehicles by the protesters it described as miscreants in Tsafe town.
The State Commissione of Police, Mr Usman Belel made the confirmation at a press conference in Gusau on Monday.
Belel who described the incident as unfortunate, said it was perpetrated by those bent on creating unrest in the society.
“What happened today in Tsafe was really uncalled for, people didn’t deserve that.
“We received a message in the early hours of today that members of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) were trying to stage peaceful protest to complain about their plight to the government on security issues.
“Our investigation revealed that, large number of miscreants was sighted at the gate of the IDP camp in Tsafe instigating women and children to partake in the protest”, he said.
“Therefore what happened today in Tsafe is not an IDPs demonstration, it is an act of criminals who have no regards to lives and properties”, he added.
He said no death was recorded during the protest and that normalcy has already been restored.
According to him, the command has already deployed heavy security teams to the area to maintain law and order.
He said the police had commenced investigation into the matter, and warned that anybody involved would face the full wrath of the law.
…Arrest 23 for possession of firearms
The command also said it had arrested 23 persons who were involved in the unrest.
The Commissioner of Police told journalists in Gusau after the restoration of normalcy in the affected area that he was particularly disturbed to discover that some of the protesting youths carried guns and fired shots to scare people after which they burnt several vehicles at the local government secretariat.
He said: “Although arrests were still going on in the local government headquarters, Tsafe and its environs, those arrested would help in investigations in order to fish out the perpetrators and their sponsors.”
The rampaging youths were said to have taken over a planned peaceful demonstration by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camped in the area who felt they had over stayed and wanted to return to their villages.
The mayhem was finally quelled by a combined team of security personnel who dispersed the protesters and cleared the path to traffic.
The Commissioner of Police said a detachment of the command’s officers and men would ”remain in the area until we are fully satisfied that there is peace.”