Francis Sardauna in Katsina
Despite the resurgence of banditry in Katsina State, the government said yesterday that the peace accord it had with bandits was still on course, assuring its citizens that everything within its power was being done to secure them.
THISDAY investigation had revealed that non-implementation of the agreements reached under the peace accord between the bandits and the state government had led to the resurgence of banditry in the state after five months of the peace deal.
But the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Mr. Ibrahim Katsina, assured the people of the state that nothing went wrong with the amnesty programme, saying “security issues are about networking and a gradual process.”
THISDAY, however, gathered that the bandits, whom residents said still move around with sophisticated weapons, are currently unleashing mayhem on communities in Dutsin-Ma, Batsari, Jibia, Safana and Kankara Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
Investigation revealed that about 13 LGAs in the state have been attacked in recent times, with Dutsin-Ma alone witnessing over 30 attacks.
Masari had granted amnesty to bandits after a tour to Fulani settlements and strong enclaves of the bandits in Rugu Forest between September 4 and 9, 2019.
During the tour, the famed bandits and forest commanders denounced banditry.
Masari’s peace initiative was adopted by the governors of North-west states following a Peace Summit convened by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, in Katsina that facilitated discussions with representatives of the bandits from the affected states of Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna and Zamfara.
However, a number of agreements were reached between Katsina State government and the bandits, who traversed communities killing, maiming and robbing people of their belongings.
While it was agreed that the government should the release all the bandits detained by security operatives by government, the bandits were also required to release of all kidnapped persons in their custody, and also lay down their arms to the state government.
Other agreements to be implemented by the state government were the provision of social amenities —schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, and water to Fulani settlements and rehabilitation of houses destroyed during the skirmishes between bandits and Hausa farmers as well as the establishment of RUGA settlement in some communities in the state.
THISDAY gathered that majority of the agreements have not been fulfilled by both parties.
However, the bandits had so far released 105 captives in their custody while government in turn freed more than 50 bandits detained by security operatives in Katsina, Kano and Kaduna States.
The resurgence of banditry and other heinous crimes in the state, according to residents, who spoke with THISDAY yesterday, was due to lack of full implementation of the peace accord.
One of the residents and constitutional lawyer, who craved anonymity, faulted the amnesty, saying: “You don’t dialogue with criminals because the moment you don’t give them what they want they return to their evil ways.
“Secondly, how can you grant amnesty to bandits, who specialised in killing and kidnapping people for ransom without retrieving their sophisticated weapons? The only way to end banditry is to disarm the bandits by collecting all their arms and ammunitions.”
Majority of the residents, who spoke to THISDAY off the record, aligned their views with the lawyer’s submission, insisting that banditry resurfaced in the state because all the so-called repentant bandits did not surrender their weapons after the peace deal.
He added: “We saw the sealing of the peace deal but we have not seen these bandits surrendering their arms. This is a very serious issue. Unless the disarmament process is taken seriously, we might not see the end of this scourge in Katsina.”
A resident of Batsari, Mr. Babangida Sanusi, told THISDAY in a telephone chat that bandits numbering about 70 attacked residents of the area who were returning from Jibia market along Ruma village on Sunday and kidnapped 37 persons.
He said: “Even yesterday (Sunday) bandits on motorcycles armed with AK47 rifles attacked our people who were returning from Jibia market and kidnapped 37 people. Bandits have fully taken over part of Batsari and Jibia. They are killings us everyday, government should come to our rescue.”
The spokesman of the Katsina State Police Command, Gambo Isah, in a statement yesterday said: “What truly happened was that yesterday (Sunday) at about 18:00hrs, bandits numbering over sixty armed with AK 47 rifles blocked Jibia – Batsari road, exactly at Ruma village, forcefully stopped two J5 motor vehicles and took the occupants of the vehicles into the bush.”
He, however, said seven other victims were still in custody of their abductors as police launched manhunt in order to apprehend the hoodlums and rescue the remaining victims.
He added: “Search party led by Operation Puff Adder went after the hoodlums but succeeded in rescuing all the victims with the exception of seven others. The police in collaboration with community members are combing the bush with a view to rescue the remaining seven persons not seen.
“The victims that are yet to return are Alhaji Maazu Yasore, 80 years; Dan Asibi Tela, 50 years; Alhaji Nuhu, 45 years; Kabiru Hamisu, 37 years; Sani Kokari, 70 years; Nura Shambal, 45 years; and Ali Dan Maituwo, 65 years”.
However, the Special Adviser to the state governor on Security Matters, Katsina, insisted that the peace deal had not collapsed “because security issues are about networking and a gradual process”
He said amnesty had greatly reduced banditry, adding, however, that there must be pockets of occurrences being carried out by recalcitrant ones.
He said: “Most of those that keyed into the agreement and dialogue have upheld their ends of the bargain; they did not renege in their promises but there are some recalcitrant among them
“We have understood our first mistakes in the first dialogue and we are trying to address them in this second one. Crime is a network; these bandits can come from anywhere. What matters most is the criminality to stop so that our people can have normal lives”.
He, therefore, called on residents of the state not to be threatened by the activities of the hoodlums, promising that proactive measures have been adequately put in place by state government and security agencies to end the scourge.