Francis Sardauna in Katsina
Bandits in Katsina State wednesday gave Governor Aminu Bello Masari conditions for dialogue, insisting that the state government should release their members arrested and detained in various prisons across the country before they would accept to discuss with the government.
They also accused the Nigerian Army, police and other security agencies of fuelling banditry, kidnapping and other heinous crimes bedeviling the state.
The bandits, who spoke in Dankolo village of Sabuwa Local Government Area (LGA) of the state during a meeting with the governor and his officials, said some of their members were apprehended in villages across the state and detained for years without committing any offence.
Yesterday’s meeting was in furtherance of the state government’s efforts to end the rising wave of banditry in the state that has led to the death of hundreds of people, rustling of cows and other animals as well as the sacking of many villages and displacement of their residents.
The governor, at an earlier meeting with the bandits some weeks ago, had offered to enter into dialogue with them so they could stop the killing.
At the meeting yesterday, one of the self-confessed bandits, Mr. Idris Yayande, said: “We have some complaints. Our biggest complaint is that some of our members were arrested and detained in different prisons across the state. Government should release them before dialogue.
“They are Alhaji Lawal Bandu, Ibrahim Nabutamu, Sani Marji, Sani Zafi, Lawal Mairuwa and there are some of our children that were arrested by the army in Layin Mahuta last year. They are Juro, Ali, Adamu, Abdulrahman and since then nobody has told us where they are and what happened to them.
“So, we are pleading with the state government to release them to us. We don’t have anybody in our custody now. We promised before that nobody will farm within this area but because of the dialogue we surrendered. If you hear of any attack, it is not from us.”
Another bandit, Mr. Haruna Mazge, blamed the prevailing security problem in the state on farmers who blocked cattle routes.
“Farmers in the state have blocked all cattle routes. Even roads that our cattle do pass, they blocked them. If you look at our problem, consider that of farmers too,” he stated.
He, however, said the effort of the state government to tackle the security challenges in the state, had prompted some of them to repent from banditry.
Mazge called on other bandits whom he said were terrorising villages in the state to surrender their arms for the sustainability of peace.
“This forest that we are hiding from is not beyond government’s power. Since the governor has forgiven us, we should not betray government in this dialogue by attacking another village in the state again,” he added.
Earlier, the leader of Volunteers (Yan-sakai) in the state, Mr. Lawal Tsoho, accused the Nigerian Army, police and other security agencies of fuelling the lingering attacks on civilians.
“The Nigeria Army, police and other security agencies, including politicians in the state, are against the ongoing dialogue between the bandits and the state government because they are benefiting from it. I have all evidence to prove my statement,” he added.
Responding, Masari assured the bandits that the state government would secure the release of their members in detention as part of effort to restore peace and normalcy in the state.
He said: “There are so many of them who have been in detention for more than two years. They have not been charged to court for any offence. You cannot be keeping some people for over two years without any charge.
“So, for those kinds of people we are going to release them on bail to you, if the police are able to help us with the charges against them.”
Masari assured the people that the dialogue would bring peace to the state, North-west and Nigeria, saying: “We believed that we have started well and there is nothing better than peace.”
THISDAY gathered that the bandits, who met with the governor yesterday, were drawn from the two troubled local government areas of Sabuwa and Dandume.