As the spate of banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling bedeviling the North-west region is giving most Nigerians a cause for concern, Francis Sardauna examines the role played by Governor Aminu Bello Masari in stemming the threat in Katsina State
Apart from the Boko Haram menace that has turned the North-east to a theatre of war with their audacious attacks on some communities in the region, villages in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara and Sokoto States have recently become targets of bandits, kidnappers and marauders.
It is more disturbing that the killings, abduction and other heinous crimes orchestrated by the bandits have become so bad that no part of the country is free from the grip of the hoodlums, whose devilish acts appear to be threatening to bring down the nation.
In Katsina State, the situation is not different as many lives, properties and houses are destroyed by the men of the underworld in nine frontline local government areas of the state.
However, the pragmatic approach made by Governor Aminu Bello Masari in stemming the scenario in the state since his assumption of office in 2015 deserve commendation from all and sundry.
The governor on November 10, 2019 inaugurated a State Dialogue/Amnesty Committee under the leadership of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Mustapha Inuwa to checkmate the activities of the hoodlums and ensure that there is sustainable peace in the state.
One of the terms of reference given to the committee by the governor was to open up for wider consultations and negotiations with the warring parties to surrender their firearms for the betterment of the state and the country at large.
To make the committee effective, the governor on December 9, 2016 released the huge sum of N5,000,000. He also released another N5,000,000 on January 17, 2017 to the committee members as their working impress.
Amnesty for Repentant Herdsmen
The committee had January 15, 2017 organised a grand occasion in Kankara Local Government Area of the state, where 300 repentant herdsmen and other criminals formally surrendered their weapons to the state government.
Satisfied with the action of the repentant herdsmen, Masari then declared amnesty for all of them and paid the sum of N30, 000,000 as compensation to those who surrendered their guns to government, including some vigilante groups.
After thorough screening and confirmation by security agencies in the state, a sum of N250,000 was paid for each AK47 and pump Action Gun while N50,000 was paid for lesser firearms. These tremendous achievements of the committee prompted the intervention of the Presidential Committee on Small Weapons (PRESCOM) on different security areas in the state.
Immediate Solutions to Resurgence
After the governor successfully tackled the menace of herdsmen/farmers clashes between 2016 and 2017, the issue of banditry and kidnapping surfaces in early 2018 but the carnage could not deter him as he quickly swung into action by further adopting modalities to end the menace.
Masari, therefore, purchased 10 Toyota Hilux operational vehicles at the tune of N181 million and distributed to 10 local government areas bedevilled by banditry to boost security operations.
The 10 local governments that benefited from the gesture are Danmusa, Dutsin-Ma, Kankara, Faskari, Jibia, Bakori, Dandume, Safana, Batsari and Funtua.
The operational vehicles, according to the governor are meant for surveillance and quick response to emergencies across the dreaded councils bordering the Rugu forest, one of the deadly forests camping criminals.
Masari added: “Apart from the logistics, we are giving monthly allowances to army, police NSCDC, vigilante groups, running to almost N100 million every month. We also bought over 50 operational motorcycles for security personnel to chase crimes.
“The bandits do launch attacks on villages through motorcycles, because most of the roads are not motorable and one can only access them by motorcycle that was why we bought the motorcycles for security operatives to enhance their patrol. The security personnel are willing to respond to all the distress call but sometimes they get difficulties in reaching the villages because the roads are not motorable.”
Another bold step taken by the governor to rid the state out of the heinous crimes, is the signing into law an amended Penal Code law prescribing death sentence for kidnapping and cattle rustling in the state.
With the law in place, rapists would also sentence to life imprisonment in addition to fine and compensation to the victims. While signing the law, he affirmed that the law was amended particularly in areas to do with kidnapping, cattle rustling, rape and other related offences.
According to him, “the decision to make these offences serious with the above punishment cannot be over emphasised. We revisit the penal and procedural laws to deal with any suspect that may be found wanting. It is hoped and prayed that they will serve as deterrence to those that may be convicted. And those that have the intention of committing them.”
The Katsina State chief security officer, in his magnanimity to bring normalcy and sustainable peace in the state, has since ordered for the procurement of Tracking Systems that will enable the military to track bandits and kidnappers wherever they are.
He buttressed “We have also placed an order for Tracking Systems which will help us in tracking bandits and kidnappers. What we can do is to give the security personnel logistical support but their hardwares have to come from them. So, these are some of the supports we are giving apart from the vehicles and other logistical assistance.
“Security personnel can’t be everywhere. If you take from Jibia down to Sabuwa, there are more than 500 villages. So, it is not possible to have a formation in every village but within a distance that we can communicate and they can respond immediately, and from the reports I am getting from police, SSS and other sources from our political machineries, things are getting better”.
He debunked insinuations making the round that there will be food crisis in the state as a result of the security challenges, adding that: “90 per cent of farmlands in the state are under cultivation and the security personnel are providing security along the forest areas”.
The establishment of the 17 Bridget of the Nigeria Army and the recent deployment of over 300 personnel by the Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Adamu, to the state would also go a long way in complementing Governor Masari’s quest for a crime-free Katsina State.
Also, the provision of additional military Bases in Danmusa, Kankara and Dandume Local Government Areas is a serious boost to the security architecture of Katsina state, thereby rekindling residents’ hope for improve security.
With these security structures on ground, one can apparently affirm that the issue of banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling bedeviling the state will soon be a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, Governor Masari has assured the people of the state that despites “pockets of violence” facing the state, his administration is ready to implement the 8-point Pledge unveiled during his second term inaugural speech.
He explained: “In spite of outstanding challenges, we remain poised to forge ahead with our determination to take Katsina State to the next level. We are resolved to continue to explore all avenues, engage with all critical stakeholders, and work with the private sector to ensure the consolidation of the gains of the past four years.”
The governor, however, in his doggedness to make the teeming unemployed youths and women to be self-reliant, said he would train 15,000 of them on different skills acquisition and establish 1,500 sustainable Cooperate Societies and resuscitate 500 dormant ones.
According to Masari, “we are giving 60 per cent of the empowerment to women, because we believed that when the women are economically sound, they will help the family and allow their children to go to school especially the girl child.”
The administration has created the office of the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) in a bid to assuage their plight and spent over N300 million in empowering them with different skills and vocational training to avert street bagging in the state.
Similarly, no fewer than 3,000 persons living with disabilities would be empower by the administration with relevant skills. While 500,000 youths would also be sponsor to access the N-power programme to make them self-dependent.
“We have planned this time to revamp our Rehabilitation Board. We are going to bring it back so that we can empower the board to start rehabilitating disabled persons through skill acquisitions and vocational training on things they can do despite their disabilities”, the governor added.
He further disclosed that: “the 5,000 youths we employed under the S-power programme becomes our reservoir for employment of teachers. Even the 800 we have taken off from the 5,000, we are going to employ another 800 to complete the 5,000.
“Therefore, anytime employment opportunities available either with the State Teachers Service Board or Primary Education Board, we will take from these 5,000 and replace the vacancies. It will be a continuous exercise till the end of my administration”.
Under the S-power programme, the state government under the leadership of Governor Masari had also employed 2,500 teachers that are teaching in secondary schools across the state.
Determined to eradicate the challenge of manpower bedevilling the health sector in the state, the administration is poised to employ 1,000 doctors, 500 nurses, midwives and other medical personnel, and install functional operating theatres for surgeries in general hospitals and Maternal and Child Care Health Centres across the state.
Accordingly, the restoration government would establish another college of Nursing and Midwifery in the state in order to centralise the processes of procurement, storage, distribution and regulation of drugs equipment for enhanced operational accountability and monitoring of the end-users.
Considering education as the panacea for nation building, the governor would construct and equip 100 additional primary and 50 secondary schools in underserved and needed communities across the state to cater for the growing number of eligible school going children that are roaming the streets.
He also vowed to recruit and train 1,000 teachers for both primary and secondary schools, particularly for science subjects and procure 350,000 sets of pupils desks as well as instructional materials for primary schools across the 34 local government areas of the state.
On the girl-child education, the administration is determined to establish girls boarding schools with befitting state of the art facilities to complement the already established ones in Kankia, Katsina, Dutsinma and Kafur local governments.
Another area which forms part of the Masari’s 8-point pledge, is the issue of greater collaboration between the public and private sectors, “Fundamental challenges including unemployment and low IGR could be substantially reduced with greater participation of the private sector into our economy”.
Therefore, the government is ready to strategies and scale-up the level of partnership with the private sector especially in agriculture, manufacturing, and industries to ensure a bequeathing and prosperous Katsina state.
The Kastina Dream
Masari added: “My dream I must admit at this juncture is to see a Katsina State that is secured from all manner of security threats; a Katsina State that is financially buoyant; and a Katsina State with a happy and prosperous populace.
“With my team, we hope to bequeath a Katsina State where the wellbeing of our people would “not be measured by the presence of the rich, but by the absence of the poor amongst us”.
He stated that his dream to revamp the state was not an impossible one “But its realisation would depend solely on how sincere and dedicated we work in the next four years and beyond”.
“We will ensure that we appoint persons of proven integrity that will add great value to our agenda for security and development. This is the only way to ensure the consolidation of our restoration gains and to guarantee quick results as we move to the next level”.