When Government Dines with Criminals

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true   BY Yemi Adebowal   Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com 08054699539

When Fulani militias attacked Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, on February 17, a 16-year-old student, Benjamin Habila Bawa was shot dead by the outlaws. Only few people are talking about justice for this boy slaughtered by these brigands. My heart sank when I saw the pained expression on the face of Ayuba Dansabe Bawa, the father of the slain boy, while lamenting the death of Benjamin. Those in government are not talking about bringing the bastards that killed young Benjamin to justice. They are pampering the killers instead of going for their jugular. I don’t think anything can shock me again about the Buhari government.

Our country is facing severe security crisis because the federal government and some state governors have chosen to dine with criminals instead of serving justice. The lawbreakers, particularly Fulani militias, have become emboldened because of this frightening attitude of those who should serve justice.

I was horrified when I saw Auwal Daudawa, who masterminded the abduction of students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, at the Zamfara State Government House, with Governor Bello Matawalle cuddling him. This is the Daudawa who on December 11, 2020, abducted over 300 students, hours after President Buhari arrived the state on a private visit. The students regained freedom after spending a week in captivity. Of course, Daudawa and his gang collected hefty ransom. This outlaw, who should be in jail, was on February 18 frolicking with Matawalle at the Government House in the name of a ridiculous amnesty for the brigands. Daudawa spoke with so much courage, stressing that he led the Kankara operation because Katsina State governor, Bello Masari, dared him and his men.

The emboldened outlaw declared: “I did that in Katsina because the governor came out to say he will not dialogue again with our people. So, we said since they said they were not interested in peace deal and they were sending military jets to torment our people, and destroy what we had, we should take the battle to those who are not interested in peace. I did that to demonstrate that I had the capacity to do it and I was not afraid of anybody other than Allah. It was for the government, and the whole world to know that we could do it but were hitherto not interested in something like that.”

That’s the brigand called Daudawa boasting in the presence of a state governor. On this dark day, Daudawa and five of his lieutenants surrendered 20 AK 47 rifles, ammunition and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher to Matawalle and collected good money in return. The bandits surely got enough to buy more than the weapons submitted. That’s what Matawalle has been doing for the militias for almost two years; yet, the attacks have persisted. This governor has pumped huge money into this useless venture that encourages more militias to join the striving “business” of killing and kidnapping. Matawalle, a state governor, has simply been giving the brigands money to buy more arms and ammunitions. It can only happen in Nigeria.

The kinked Matawalle has also been going about justifying lawlessness by the militias. Can you imagine a governor saying most of the bandits take up arms due to the injustice to them by some members of the society? The Zamfara governor remarked: “If you investigate what is happening, and what made them to take the laws into their hands, some of them, sometimes were cheated by the so-called vigilante groups. They normally go to their settlements and destroy property and take their animals. They did not have anyone to speak with, so sometimes, they go for revenge. When vigilante groups attack them, they go for reprisals. That is exactly what happened.”

Matawalle added: “Some of them (herders) are living in settlements close to villages or towns. When there are military operations, the military will go and destroy their property and animals. They are angry with such actions. If you are talking to them, you can understand where they are coming from and their problems. It is important for us as leaders to sit down with them and understand what the genesis is. You can’t just conclude that this person is a criminal. You have to listen to him. What led him to go into such activities?”
That’s Matawalle for real, justifying criminality few days back. Is it now not obvious why killings by Fulani militias have persisted? Right in Matawalle’s backyard is the notorious Fulani militia leader, Dogo Gide, who controls the southern part of the Zamfara forest and further into Niger State. Matawalle knows their whereabouts. All the security agents know this location; yet, the militias still launch attacks unhindered. In fact, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi met with Gide in the forest while negotiating for the release of the abducted teachers and students of Government Science College Kagara.

An emboldened and confident Gide told Gumi that the kidnapped Kagara students and teachers “will soon be released.” He said although the abductees were not in his camp, he would negotiate with his fellow bandits to hasten their release: “The abducted persons, whether they were kidnapped by bandits in Zamfara State or any other neighbouring states of Niger, Kebbi and Kaduna will be released soon.” This tells you how powerful Gide has become under Matawalle and federal government’s security agents. Gide is everywhere from Zamfara, to Katsina, to Kaduna and Niger states. Nigeria is in big mess.

Gide said Fulanis had been left with no option than to carry arms and also engage in banditry because of the pressure they face from all angles. He mentioned the alleged attacks and killings of the Fulani by vigilante groups and Yan Sakai followed by the bombardments of their camps by the military. Here, Gide lied with so much confidence. The truth is that vigilante groups and Yan Sakai were Hausa farmers’ responses to the murderous activities of Fulani militias on farms.

While they were still being pampered to release Kagara schoolboys, and despite heavy security presence in Rafi LGA of Niger State, the militias struck again on February 19, launching separate attacks in Madaka community, during which one person was killed and several others abducted. They waylaid villagers going for a marriage ceremony along Madaka-Kagara road and ambushed another set of people returning from Madaka market. This clearly shows that the intention is beyond revenge for rustled cows. It is kidnapping for ransom.
Yesterday, the Fulani militias showed their true colour again when they abducted over 300 schoolgirls at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

Shockingly, Gumi, the new envoy for bandits in forests across Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger states, says the complaints of the Fulani militias are justifiable. The cleric, who met with the militias that abducted the Kagara schoolboys at Dutsen-Magaji forest (while security agencies told us that they were still looking for them), is also asking for amnesty and compensation for the outlaws “as done for the Niger Delta militants.” This cleric is a jester. It is painful that cows are being rustled without appropriate response from the government. But farmers and other Nigerians being kidnapped and killed by these militias are clearly not responsible for cattle rustling and their subsequent predicaments. So, why should Gumi say that their complaints are justifiable? The like of Kankara and Kagara schoolboys are clearly not responsible for cattle rustling. It is only those that know about cows that rustle them. What the militias are doing across the country is pure terrorism and kidnapping for ransom. It has no other name. Any government alive to its constitutional duties of protecting lives and property must deal decisively with Fulani militias. A people-oriented government must not be seen dining with criminals. The Buhari government must stop pampering Fulani militias.

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A Bit of Education for Gov Bala Mohammed

Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State undoubtedly needs some education about what forest reserves are all about. It is either this man does not understand the concept of forest reserve, or pretends not to understand for selfish reasons. That is why he has been agitating for unhindered grazing in forest reserves for herders. Perhaps, with compelling education, he may change his stance. My dear Kauran Bauchi, such reserves are protected areas for flora, fauna or geological interest designated by governments for conservation of nature and resources. Humans are not allowed in such reserves to avert the exploitation of its natural resources through grazing, cutting of trees for firewood or killing of animals.

In Nigeria, state governments maintain a large number of forest reserves. I am sure Bauchi State also has some. The federal government has four national parks. In all, there are 1,129 forest reserves, 29 game reserves, four game sanctuaries and four national parks in Nigeria. Forest reserves are clearly not for grazing or settlements. They must remain free from destructive human interferences, cattle grazing inclusive.

Kauran Bauchi, please, your enthusiasm about ethnic identity should not override rational, empirical and scientific considerations. I also want you to ruminate deeply about the submission of constitutional and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana on this your extreme position on open grazing. Falana notes: “No person, however highly placed he or she may be, is permitted to forcefully acquire land and settle on it by force in any state in Nigeria. Every person, who intends to settle in any state, would be required to acquire land under the Land Use Act. No one is permitted to forcefully acquire land and settle on it in any state in Nigeria.

“The owner of an illegally occupied land is entitled to sue for the recovery of the land and payment of damages for trespass. If the land belongs to the government, the property on it may be demolished without due process. Bala Mohammed should stop misleading herders to acquire land for cattle business without complying with the Land Use Act, Urban and Regional Law, Forestry Law, Anti Grazing Law in the affected states. He should stop inciting herders to bear weapons without license and seizing forest reserves without authorisation.”

Governor Bala, I sincerely hope you will read and digest Falana’s submission. Perhaps, it will help you amend your ways. Nomadic cattle rearing has no place in modern societies. Nigeria cannot be an exception.

A Bit of Education for Gov Bala Mohammed
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State undoubtedly needs some education about what forest reserves are all about. It is either this man does not understand the concept of forest reserve, or pretends not to understand for selfish reasons. That is why he has been agitating for unhindered grazing in forest reserves for herders. Perhaps, with compelling education, he may change his stance. My dear Kauran Bauchi, such reserves are protected areas for flora, fauna or geological interest designated by governments for conservation of nature and resources. Humans are not allowed in such reserves to avert the exploitation of its natural resources through grazing, cutting of trees for firewood or killing of animals.

In Nigeria, state governments maintain a large number of forest reserves. I am sure Bauchi State also has some. The federal government has four national parks. In all, there are 1,129 forest reserves, 29 game reserves, four game sanctuaries and four national parks in Nigeria. Forest reserves are clearly not for grazing or settlements. They must remain free from destructive human interferences, cattle grazing inclusive.

Kauran Bauchi, please, your enthusiasm about ethnic identity should not override rational, empirical and scientific considerations. I also want you to ruminate deeply about the submission of constitutional and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana on this your extreme position on open grazing. Falana notes: “No person, however highly placed he or she may be, is permitted to forcefully acquire land and settle on it by force in any state in Nigeria. Every person, who intends to settle in any state, would be required to acquire land under the Land Use Act. No one is permitted to forcefully acquire land and settle on it in any state in Nigeria.

“The owner of an illegally occupied land is entitled to sue for the recovery of the land and payment of damages for trespass. If the land belongs to the government, the property on it may be demolished without due process. Bala Mohammed should stop misleading herders to acquire land for cattle business without complying with the Land Use Act, Urban and Regional Law, Forestry Law, Anti Grazing Law in the affected states. He should stop inciting herders to bear weapons without license and seizing forest reserves without authorisation.”
Governor Bala, I sincerely hope you will read and digest Falana’s submission. Perhaps, it will help you amend your ways. Nomadic cattle rearing has no place in modern societies. Nigeria cannot be an exception.

Weep Not for Rochas Okorocha
Former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha claims he is being oppressed as Hope Uzodimma moves to recover state assets plundered by this former governor. For me, Okorocha is just shedding crocodile tears. He deserves no pity. His eight-year reign as governor was dominated by massive looting of state resources as revealed by the recent report of a judicial panel of inquiry that looked into land use and related matters. It was set up by the Emeka Ihedioha administration. Uzodimma inherited and retained the panel. The report was accepted and government followed with a White Paper. Of course, before this panel’s report, it was an open secret that calamity Okorocha spent eight years helping himself and family to Imo State’s resources. It got so bad that he was unable to pay civil servants while infrastructure deteriorated across the state. Many in some Imo State agencies went without salaries for years, with civil servants turned to beggars. For eight years, blood, tears and pain dominated the state, no thanks to Okorocha.

The judicial panel’s report simply confirmed the open and massive looting of Imo State under Okorocha. The Royal Palm Estate, Owerri, is one of such assets which the panel got facts and figures to show that it was built with the state’s funds and not Okorocha wife’s money as claimed. Effort to recover this property led to the recent fight involving Okorocha and Imo State Government officials. The Eastern Palm University is another asset which the panel confirmed was built with the state’s resources. The Uzodimma government has already retrieved this school. The list of state assets to be recovered from Okorocha is very long. I will probably need a full page to list them. I urge Uzodimma to ensure that Okorocha and his family vomit all they took from the state. This is the only way to assuage the pain of the thousands of people Okorocha inflicted discomfort while his reign lasted. If the EFCC were to be truly independent, Okorocha should be cooling his feet in their office by now.