Sunday, 27 September, 2020 07:35

Katsina peace deal with bandits collapses

Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari said on Wednesday that the peace accord his administration signed with bandits troubling the state had collapsed.

Masari had, on August 28, 2019, engaged representatives of bandits terrorising the eight frontline local government areas in the state.

He said his visit was aimed at calling the attention of suspected bandits to respect the amnesty granted to them by his government.

But in an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC on Wednesday, Masari said his administration would no longer engage in any negotiation or peace talk with bandits as they did not honour the agreement they signed.

The governor said in the agreement they signed with the state government, the bandits promised to repent and leave the north-western part of the country.

Governor Masari stated that the bandits had betrayed the state as they could not honour the agreement.

Daily Trust reports that of recent, there have been increased attacks in various communities in Katsina that claimed lives of many people while others lost their sources of livelihood.

Masari noted that he was the first governor to have signed agreement with bandits saying until recently, the bandits had honoured the agreement.

“We chose to sign peace agreement with the bandits so as to avoid loss of lives and property, but it couldn’t yield a positive result. This time around, we will hand it over to security personnel.

“In our efforts to honour the agreement between us, we cancelled all vigilantes and volunteer groups and we allowed them (bandits) to continue with their normal activities in the state”, he said.

The governor called on the federal government to provide adequate security personnel and facilities “so as to succeed in the fight against banditry in the state.”

Daily Trusts’ correspondents report that Zamfara had also severally signed peace deals with bandits.

In addition to individual initiatives, governors of the North West have also met severally trying to find a lasting solution to the security challenges bedevilling their region.

How bandits frustrated the Katsina amnesty programme

In September 2019, Governor Masari said the negotiation with bandits had brought relative peace to Katsina State as over 80 percent of the people kidnapped had been released.

This was a month after the meeting he held with the leadership of the bandits at the state secretariat, which was attended by heads of security agencies, Deputy Governor Mannir Yakubu, traditional rulers and districts heads led by the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumin Kabir Usman, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa who doubles as the chairman of Katsina State Amnesty and Dialogue Programme, transition committee chairmen of the affected local government areas, among others.

He had then said the next stage of peace restoration was the disarming of bandits and their commanders in the forests bordering Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger states.

Katsina’s eight frontline local governments bordering the dreaded Rugu forest that served as base for the bandits are Jibia, Batsari, Danmusa, Safana, Kankara, Sabuwa, Faskari and Dandume.

However, rather than the spate of the banditry to abate, more local governments like Dutsinma, Kurfi, Batagarawa, Kaita, Kafur and Malumfashi joined the expanding list of  area councils that were recording sporadic attacks leading to loss of lives and properties.

People had been killed, maimed, kidnapped while women and children were being molested leading to several communities relocating to other places perceived to be relatively safe.

When contacted on Wednesday, the Special Adviser on Security to the governor, Ibrahim Katsina, said the recent joint peace operation was one of the measures put in place to restore peace and build confidence in the localities rattled by the bandits.

“It is a clearance operation and it is yielding results; it is meant to build confidence among the locals,” he said.

Recall that when the situation appeared insurmountable, President Muhammadu Buhari had on Sunday, May 16, 2020, gave the armed forces the marching order to rout banditry and kidnapping from Katsina.

The president gave the order during an audience he granted the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, at the State House in Abuja.

A statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, revealed that a special operation had already commenced in response to the presidential order.

According to him, “To give a full effect to the exercise, a planning team is already in the state selecting targets and making preparations for the execution of the ‘unprecedented’ operation.

“The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, who has been measured in issuing official statements on the oncoming exercise, briefed the president on the plan he intends to flag off shortly.

“President Buhari who expressed sadness over the recent attacks in the state extended his condolences to the families of those killed and prayed for the recovery of the injured”, the statement said.

Daily Trust reports that the joint operation being executed presently saw the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) deploying additional 60 Special Forces to Katsina State to tackle the prevailing deadly attacks by bandits in the state.

The Nigeria Police Force went in with eight Armoured Personnel carriers (APCs) and special mobile troops to address the challenges.

Also, a large movement of army troops and equipment were seen moving into the state to further boost the operation.

Flashback on Katsina peace deals

Daily Trust recalled that two peace deals were separately signed by the Katsina State government and the bandits. The first was on January 15, 2017 that lasted for two years while the second took place between 4 and 9 September, 2019.

In an interview with the Daily Trust conducted on May 20, 2020, the Katsina SSG described the relationship with the so-called repentant bandits in Hausa as “Yau suyi abun kirki gobe lalata”, meaning they were unreliable and double-faced. He said the majority of them were dishonest and not sincere as they kept reneging and betraying the government.

While expressing his frustration, the chairman of the amnesty said, “Only a few (of them) you can trust. These are the issues really. “Once you allow these people to have possession of firearms, there is no way they can stop this thing (banditry) because you can see a person with a battalion of 300 youths under him all with firearms, tell me how  he can control them. “They are used to getting money through rustling of animals or kidnapping.

“They now claim to have stopped…What do they get? Do they continue selling the already stolen animals for their survival or what?

“And you cannot continue to maintain them… You can have somebody with 200 to 300 people under him depending on the strength and availability of firearms. So, honestly, I believe it (amnesty) is just a temporary relief for the government and people but not a permanent solution.

“The only permanent solution to this thing is to end it by facing the bandits and the government should be decisive and ensure that they surrender all their firearms and they cannot do this under so called peaceful arrangement; it cannot be done.

“They have to be forced to quit the nefarious activities and the only way is for the military to engage them to make sure that they deal with them decisively,” he said.

How to get it right – Experts

Salihu Bakhari, a retired military officer and security expert, said the federal government must take a holistic action to bring lasting peace across the country.

Bakhari said there was no way the government will succeed while bargaining from the position of weakness.

“The bandits are fully loaded, they have everything they need including fighters, arms and money and you are talking about amnesty? No, it doesn’t work like that.

“For amnesty to work with any group of miscreants such as bandits, kidnappers or terrorists, government must first decimate them and then engage the remnants from position of strength,” he said.

Another security expert, Nathaniel Musa, said the recent military operations in Katsina were responsible for the deterioration of security in Sokoto, Zamfara and parts of Kaduna State.

According to him, “We can’t afford to continue addressing the challenges piecemeal…Security is very expensive but you have to get it right to achieve any other thing. Government must secure the lives of the people in order to get it right in other sectors.

“It is bad for the government to keep reassuring the citizens that all shall be well when people are everyday losing their loved ones and source of livelihood.”

Culled from: Daily Trust

Author: Ifah Sunday Ele

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