The Remote And Root Causes Of Zamfara Killings, Muyiwa Olayinka

By Muyiwa Olayinka

Zamfara is one of the North Western States in Nigeria that had been in the news for wrong reasons in recent times. If it’s not killings as a result of cattle rustlings, it could be kidnapping and banditry killings. One could not establish the actual period these killings started. Zamfara had been a peaceful state since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999. A predominant Muslim state with other faiths, it was the first state to introduce and adopted Sharia law during the regime of the Former Governor Ahmad Sani Yerima. It was a state of tranquility throughout the reign of Yerima, despite the introduction of the controversial law.

So the killings cannot be genocidal or religious. From my little research about these killings, they are economic, political and that have taken criminal dimension.


Agriculture is the main occupation of the people of the state, but in 2009, gold mining became a greater source of income in Zamfara as worldwide gold prices rose dramatically. Just like the problem besotted in Nigeria since the discovery of oil, with opaque and weak laws governing the sector, gold became more of a curse rather than a blessing.  The inflow of dollars into the state’s economy presented a new challenge: crimes and killings. Since the discovery of gold and the new found wealth of the state, the state has not known peace ever since.

Gold is not the only the natural resource embedded under the soil.

According to the Former state Governor, Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi, he said the state boasted of 60% of untapped total solid minerals deposits. Large deposits like copper, iron ore, tantalite, and manganese among others are untapped in the state. Unfortunately for the mining industry, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria bestows the mining rights to the Federal Government.

The Nigeria Mining Cadastre Office is saddled with the responsibility of administration and management of mineral titles in Nigeria. Just like any Federal Government agencies that is not fulfilling in its core functions and bedeviled with corruption, it has permitted illegal miners to have a free reign in Zamfara state. The illegal miners have formed cartels and when there is disagreement, it results to killings, destruction of properties and loss of lives. These cartels have become a “big market” in which natural resources like gold, iron ore are carted out of the country illegally.

These unchecked actions of illegal miners caused series of lead poisoning that led to the death of many citizens in Zamfara between March and June 2010. It is rather gladdening that the Federal Government has suspended mining activities in the state. This suspension should provide an opportunity to beam the searchlight on the activities of this sector and this important department.


Former Governor Ahmad Sani Yarima, now Senator, is the father of Zamfara politics. Ever since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, he’s a rare politician that bestrides the political field of the state likes a colossus. He was the first elected Governor of the state, and the two Governors that succeeded him (Aiyu Shinkafi and the incumbent, Governor Yari) are from his political dynasty. He was a major factor in the creation of the state.

Unfortunately, there are political divisions in this dynasty that contributed to the breakdown of peace the state was enjoying in the past. The political brouhaha arose from the congress of the ruling party, APC is yet to settle. Governor Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabir Marafa have been at logger heads over the conduct of the recently concluded primaries within the party, and subsequent emergence of the Governor elect. There are cases in law courts over the propriety of elections conducted.

In a bid to outbid each other over the control of the party, the exercise was marred with violence that led to loss of lives. As a result of the violence, the primary was cancelled and the representatives of INEC affirmed it was inconclusive. These inconclusive elections led to rashes of court cases from the lower courts to the higher court of the land.

Innocent citizens were cut in the cross fires of violence that ensued among the political gladiators. The sister to Senator Marafan was killed a few days to the election and many other notable politicians have been felled by the bullets of bandits engaged on both sides in the never ending political debacle.

The Criminal Dimension

An idle hand is the devil’s workshop.

Another school of thought opines that the abysmal performance of Governor Yari has further swelled the ranks of bandits that manifested in senseless killings. As level of poverty intensifies, frustrated youths are everywhere taking to the behavioral pattern in ways of political thuggery, drug addiction, and armed robbery.  With 70.8% poverty rate, Zamfara was ranked 10th among the poorest states in the country in 2019. The people living in the rural areas have also resorted to banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, produce theft, ransacking of villages and genocidal killings. 

The wanton killings going on in Zamfara is as result of failure of governance at all levels, i.e. from the Local Government level to the State and ultimately, the Federal Government. It is more appalling that the current Defense Minister and a retired General of the Nigerian army, Mansur Dan Ali is from Zamfara state. It is more troubling and despicable that the home state of the defense minister has been bedeviled with security challenges, with no solutions in sight.

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