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KATSINA AND THE BURDEN OF BANDITRY
Security agencies must do more to restore normalcy to the state
Bandits are on renewed offensive in Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari. Last week, about 100 innocent citizens and members of a vigilance group were buried in different communities in Bakori local government area of the state. Most of the dead were members of the Yansakai (volunteers) who were chasing after bandits who rustled about 80 cows. The spokesman of the state Police Command, Gambo Isah said the vigilantes were ambushed by hoodlums who were being traced to their notorious hideout in Yargoje forest, in Jibia local council. In what has become a familiar routine, the president reportedly condemned the attack and assured that the sacrifices of the brave victims “will not be forgotten.”
While we commiserate with the families of the victims, we must state without equivocation that the security situation in Katsina State is very embarrassing. The attacks, particularly on rural communities, have long forced many residents, including district heads, to flee their ancestral homes to the state capital. Some major roads in the state have been closed to vehicular movement due to the activities of bandits. Schools are frequently attacked, and students seized. And the bandits respect no one. An advanced team of the president was recently attacked by hoodlums with some fatalities. At another time, while the president was on a private visit to his state, the bandits invaded a boarding school in Kankara and abducted 54 young kids, in a style popularised in Chibok, Borno State. Several villages have been displaced on account of this onslaught, while economic activities, particularly agriculture, which is the mainstay of the people, are being paralysed.
Today, Katsina State is under siege by rampaging gang of bandits, armed robbers, kidnappers, and cattle rustlers. Nigeria’s Northwest, earlier insulated from the havoc and ghastly atrocities of the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, has become another major theatre of violence. “They arrest rural people at will and demand ransom which, if not paid, results in the killing of their victims,” the late Galadiman Katsina and District Head of Malumfashi, Justice Mamman Nasir once said while explaining how the security agencies of state have been rendered impotent by the criminals.
It is ironical that since the beginning of the current administration headed by a Katsina man, residents of the state have been living under the siege of criminals. Desperate to find a solution to the widespread insecurity in his state, Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari in 2019 did the unthinkable. He, along with other top government officials, security operatives, traditional rulers, and representatives of Miyetti Allah, held sessions with representatives of bandits terrorising his state. “We are ready to dialogue with the bandits and ready to go anywhere they invite us. We are not afraid to meet anybody to end this problem.” Expectedly, the agreement reached was observed in the breach, forcing the exasperated governor to ask residents to defend themselves by any means possible.
In all the chaos of recent years, we are yet to see the impact of the security forces reportedly deployed to the state towards curbing the activities of the bandits, who have continued to inflict a reign of terror and bloodletting. With increasing youth unemployment and the inability to farm, these dark clouds over Katsina and other Northwest states will not go away until the authorities and critical stakeholders begin to find practical solutions that are both kinetic and non-kinetic. But it must begin with the former. President Buhari must demonstrate capacity to deal with criminals who are overrunning his state of origin. As we have always stated, the current culture of impunity in the country will not end until people with criminal tendencies realise that the law can, and will, always catch up with them.