The presidency bungled a condolence message to the victims of ongoing armed bandits’ attacks in Zamfara State earlier this week, misidentifying a community that is perhaps the hardest-hit by the rampaging bandits this year.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, was extending the condolences of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the administration “strongly condemned the killing of innocent Nigerians in Birnin Magaji community in Tsafe Local Government Area and Magami community in Faru District of Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State, following attacks by suspected armed bandits.”
“These horrendous acts of violence are crimes against humanity. This violence must stop,” Mr Shehu quoted the president as saying, while highlighting efforts the government had put in place to check the armed bandits, whose successive deadly attacks on villagers have left thousands dead in the northwestern state this year alone.
But Birnin Magaji is a local government entity on its own, although its seat is also Birnin Magaji. Therefore, contrary to what the presidency told Nigerians, Birnin Magaji is not a town in Tsafe Local Government Area, which has also been under siege from armed bandits with thousands fleeing from its villages.
At least 25 villagers were killed in successive attacks on three villages in Birnin Magaji LGA between 19-20 December. Tsafe Local Government Area was also attacked two days later, leaving dozens dead. Maradun LGA also endured deadly attacks on its villagers within the same period, as well as Zurmi Local Government Area which recorded 18 deaths.
While analysts deemed the president’s comments assertive enough, the fumbling of one of the two locations mentioned in the statement has fueled doubts about whether the president and his aides even bothered to make basic findings, despite waiting days before releasing the condolence message on December 24.
“It is both embarrassing and worrisome that the presidency would fail to get the location of a place where so many innocent and harmless citizens were brutally murdered,” said political analyst Sola Olubanjo. “It is almost as if the presidency has a prepared template and they just tweak it a little bit after any attack they wish to react to.”
Birnin Magaji and Zurmi LGAs have witnessed some of the deadliest and frequent attacks by armed bandits, earning them frequent headlines throughout this year.
“There is no way you could excuse this level of incompetence at the highest office in the nation,” Mr Olubanjo added. “If the president does not know Birnin Magaji by now, then you wonder what he really knows about the acute insecurity that is ravaging our country.”
Mr Shehu could not be reached for comments by PREMIUM TIMES, his telephone line signalled it was switched off when dialled between Thursday and Friday.