RETURN OF BANDITRY IN NORTH WEST

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The security agencies must live up to their responsibilities of protecting the people

Barely four months after the Katsina State government and others in the North-west struck a peace deal with some bandits, another state of emergency is in the air. Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and indeed Niger are again at the mercy of criminals who kill, maim and loot property at will. In the last few weeks the bandits, armed with sophisticated weapons, had attacked several communities where hundreds of citizens were seized and released after ransom had been paid. Farmers are afraid to go to the farms why many others are fleeing the suburbs for Katsina, the state capital, for security. Various communities in 13 local councils are reportedly under intense attacks with Dutsin-Ma alone witnessing over 30 attacks in recent times. In Jibia town, the military had to be invited to engage the bandits on the stretch of the Rugu forest nearby, after two customs officers and some residents were abducted.

Desperate to find a solution to the large scale banditry, kidnapping, armed robberies and cattle rustling in the state, Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari had last September held sessions with representatives of bandits terrorising his state and signed agreement with them to drop their weapons and restore the peace. The bandits were in turn granted “amnesty,” and their pockets reportedly stuffed with wads of naira. The Masari initiative was adopted by other governors in the North-west, a region earlier insulated from the havoc and ghastly atrocities of the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.

A peace summit convened by the Inspector -General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, in Katsina facilitated discussions with representatives of the bandits from Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna and Zamfara. An apparently excited permanent secretary, special services, office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr Amina Shamaki commended the effort, arguing that the “dialogue” initiated by the governors in the zone should be adopted by states with similar security challenges. “The application of the carrot-and-stick approach is an effective strategy that enables criminals willing to embrace peace to do so while repentant ones are identified and isolated for appropriate actions by security agencies,” she said.

While the agreement lasted the bandits released about100 captives in their custody while government in turn freed more than 50 bandits detained by security operatives in Katsina, Kano and Kaduna States. “The peace accord had come and gone and many of us who were against it have now been vindicated,” said Abdusamad Jibia, a university don. But the Special Adviser to the government on security, Ibrahim Katsina said the resurgence of banditry was a temporary setback, arguing that security issues are often a gradual process. “We are presently trying to network members of the community to be alive to their responsibilities and partner with security agencies, so that it will be reduced”, he said.

We are not surprised at what is happening to the so-called peace accord with the bandits which boldly advertised government’s helplessness. Indeed, we warned in this space that it would be impossible to hold a group of outlaws to any form of agreement. With many sophisticated guns in their possession, what will they do if they run out of cash? The scale of banditry was such that earlier in the week, President Buhari asked the security agencies to go after the criminals terrorising Niger State and others. But what is happening in the northwest is a replication of the general insecurity across the country for which the authorities must find a more enduring solution. The security agencies must live up to their responsibilities of protecting the people while the states should ensure good use of resources within their domains by providing the enabling environment for job creation and entrepreneurship.