Tackling Resurgence of Banditry in Katsina

By Francis Sardauna

For the period the reign of terror unleashed on communities across Katsina State by armed bandits and kidnappers lasted, the once sleepy and peaceful state was in a state of alienation. The disorderliness orchestrated by the hoodlums, no doubt led to the collapse of both social, economic and academic activities in the eight frontline local government areas of the state that were hitherto occupied by the miscreants.

The banditry also created serious division between Fulani herdsmen and Yan’sakai, who are mostly Hausa thereby leading to the deteriorating security challenges in the affected councils of Jibia, Batsari, Dan-Musa, Safana, Kankara, Sabuwa, Dandume and Faskari. The Fulani people, who were alleged to be armed bandits, restrained themselves from attending weekly markets, burial rites, marriage and naming ceremonies across the state for fear of being attacked or killed.

The ugly development however, forced Fulani people to circumscribe themselves to the forest, without having any interaction with the inhabitants of urban towns, where they used to engage in business and social activities. Apart from the Fulani herders, even their women who used to hawk milk, developed phobia in having free interaction with the people in the urban areas for fear of Yan’sakai.

However, the impediment is now history, as the two warring factions have agreed to live in peace and resolved to surrender their arms due to Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s brokered peace initiative. The governor, because of his doggedness to restore peace in the state, granted amnesty to bandits after a tour to Fulani settlements and strong enclaves of the bandits in Rugu Forest on September 4-9, 2019, during which the famed bandits and forest commanders denounced banditry.

He thereafter banned the activities of the volunteers popularly known as Yan’sakai, who were accused of extra judicial killings in the open markets and warned unrepentant bandits to stop their nefarious acts of kidnapping and killing of innocent citizens.

The peace initiative was adopted by the Governors of North-west States following a Peace Summit convened by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in Katsina that facilitated discussions with representatives of the bandits from the affected states of Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna and Zamfara States.

Accordingly, agreements were reached between the states’ government and the marauding bandits. These agreements include the release of their (bandits) members detained by security operatives by government, release of all kidnapped persons in their custody as well as the surrendering of their arms and ammunition to security agencies.

Others were provision of social amenities -schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water to Fulani settlements and rehabilitation of houses destroyed during the skirmishes between bandits and Hausa farmers and establishment of RUGA settlement in some communities in the state.

THISDAY reliably gathered that 10 per cent of the agreements were fulfilled by the state government and the bandits had so far released over 105 captives in their custody while government in turn freed more than 50 bandits detained by security operatives in Katsina, Kano and Kaduna correctional centres.

The governor, flanked by the Secretary of the State Security Council, who is also the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, after the dialogue tour, held series of meetings with security chiefs, repentant bandits and their leaders to ensure the sustainability of the peace accord.

Despite the rapprochement between the state government and the hoodlums, banditry and kidnapping resurfaced between November and December last year in Dutsin-Ma, Kafur, kurfi, Batagarawa, Rimi, Danja, Matazu, Kaita, Malumfashi local governments and some parts of Katsina, the state capital. Irked by the resurgence of the menace, the governor quickly summoned security chiefs, repentant bandits and their leaders to an emergency meeting at the Old Government House, where he issued a two-day ultimatum to the bandits to desist from their evil ways and release the remaining captives in their custody.

Masari, who was represented at the meeting by Dr. Mustapha, urged the unrepentant bandits to end the resurgence of banditry and other nefarious activities bedeviling the state or face unprecedented fire-fight by the army and other security agencies in the state. He noted, with disappointment, how some bandits refused to surrender and denounce their unacceptable ways despite the agreement reached between them and the state government.

He said: “It is disheartening that despite the amnesty we granted them (bandits), some unrepentant ones among them are still kidnapping people in communities across the state. The only option left for them is to immediately cease fire, drop their arms, and release all captives in their custody or have themselves to blame in the next two days. Government would not hesitate to use the military power to dislodge them if they failed to comply with the directive.”

He assured of his administration’s continued efforts in building confidence within the citizens of the State through the establishment of economically viable programmes that will have direct bearing to the people of the state. Interestingly, barely 48 hours after the government’s ultimatum, the bandits released two Customs officers who were kidnapped on January 8, this year at Mallammawa town in Jibia Local Government Area of the State to troops of 17 Brigade of the Nigeria Army.

The acting Commander of the Brigade, Brigadier, Bello Idris, while handing over the victims to senior officers of the Nigeria Customs Service Area Command in the state, said the bandits released the victims unconditionally. To further restore peace in the state, the governor had on January 15, 2020 signed into law an Executive Order restricting movement of commercial motorcycles between 7pm to 6am everyday across the 34 local government areas of the state.

Briefing journalists shortly after the signing of the order, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ahmed El-Marzuq, said violators of the law would face one year imprisonment or pay fine. He said the restriction was as a result of continuous effort to tackle cases of violent crimes in the state, particularly the influx of armed bandits from the neighbouring states which adopt the use of motorcycles to unleash mayhems on communities across the state.

The attorney general said that the law would be enforce strictly across the state to bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to book, saying state government and security operatives were doing everything humanly possible to combat banditry and other nefarious activities.

He said: “The governor, based on the power conferred on him under Section 5 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, signed an Executive Order into law banning the movement of motorcycles. Under the order, the governor had prohibited the movement of motorcycles all over the state from the hours of 7pm to 6am with effect from January 20, 2020.

“This order shall apply to all and sundry in the state. However, there are exceptions; the order shall not apply to the members of the Arm Forces, Police and other paramilitary agencies such as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies.

Similarly, the State Government directed security agencies in the state to demolish houses of convicted bandits and kidnappers and revoke their Certificate of Occupancy to serve as deterrence to others. Consequently, a team of security operatives in collaboration with the State Government has demolished the house of one Ibrahim Masaja and late Yunusa Boka whom were suspected to be kingpins of bandits terrorising communities in the state.

The duo’s houses, situated at Yartalata village of Kafur and Gwarjo forest of Matazu Local Government Areas respectively were grounded by the security operatives led by the spokesman of the State Police Command, SP Gambo Isah and senior military officers in the state.

In continuation of the ongoing onslaught against the men of the underworld, the Special Adviser to State Government on Security Matters, Mr. Ibrahim Katsina had embarked on peace tour to the Emirs of Katsina and Daura. He also held security meeting with the 34 heads of local government administration at the state Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, where he solicited their cooperation to end wanton killings and destruction of properties in the state.

Speaking at the palace of the Emir of Katsina, Dr. Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, the governor’s aide noted that the state Government was committed to putting an end to the carnage and other security challenges bedeviling the state, hence the meeting with the paramount rulers. He added that government had put in place strategies towards finding lasting solutions to the current security threats, saying there is no hiding place for criminals in the state.

According to him, “Without traditional institutions, we cannot go far in tackling insecurity. Security starts and ends with them that is why we find it very imperative to partner with them to find lasting solutions to this menace. With this partnership, there will be no hiding place for criminals in the state”.

Responding, the Emir charged security operatives and government not to spare any convicted hoodlum in the state irrespective of religion, tribal or political affiliation to serve as deterrence to others.

While describing information dissemination as bedrock for security management, the traditional ruler urged his subordinates across the state to report suspicious persons or movement to security agencies for prompt intervention.

Meanwhile, with the evolving strategies put in place by Governor Masari in collaboration with security agencies, the state has started enjoying relative peace as communities have not witnessed any attack for the past one month.

This might be a clear indication that peaceful coexistence has come to stay and would be sustained for the purpose of having a united state where everybody would move freely without fear of attack or molestation of any sort.

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