Katsina State has been in the news lately for the escalation in the activities of daredevil bandits, who appear to have overshadowed the efforts of security agencies and leaving in their trail deaths, sorrow and tears. OLAIDE OYELUDE writes
Governor Aminu Masari recently declared that his government had disappointed the people of Katsina State following its failure to ward off bandits and ensure protection of the residents.
The governor’s declaration did not come as a surprise to observers of events in the state.
This is because bandits have recently renewed their attacks on communities in the state after some period of respite following the government’s peace pact with them.
Masari had told journalists, “I don’t know what to tell them (referring to the people of the state). I cannot look at them in the face because we have failed to protect them, contrary to our pledge to ensure the security of lives and property throughout the state.
“I am a very unhappy person because we have never had any moment of respite in the last five years that the leadership of this state can describe as comfortable. I never expected the behaviour and the attitude of the people living in the forests, the bandits, whose behaviour is worse than that of animals.
“In the forest, a lion or a tiger kills only when it is hungry and it doesn’t kill all the animals; it only kills the one it can eat at a time. But what we see here is that the bandits come to town, spray bullets, kill indiscriminately for no purpose and no reasons whatsoever.
“We entered into various phases of dialogue with the bandits on the prompting of the security agencies. By the time we were done, we reached agreements on so many solutions. I thank God that even if we were not able to meet their demands 100 per cent, we were able to meet up with between 70 and 80 per cent. The ensuing peace did not last for more than seven months before it broke down again and that is the position we are in at the moment.”
Masari was emphatic that he would not negotiate with bandits again, insisting that they had betrayed the trust of the government.
No fewer than 3,156 women and children are currently taking refuge in the Faskari Model Primary School complex. The inmates, among who are 700 adult women, were forced to abandon their various communities about a month ago following incessant attacks by bandits.
Aside these, quite a lot of people, mainly men and the elderly displaced from their communities by bandits, are taking refuge either with family members or friends across the state.
Although the Federal Government sent troops to assist the state in tackling the problem, a spokesman for the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Garba Shehu, stirred the hornets’ nest when he accused some low class traditional rulers in the state of aiding the bandits.
Shehu had stated while featuring in a television programme, “It is not that we are making direct accusations on anyone, but it is also true that even in the President’s native state of Katsina, some traditional rulers have been found complicit to be in collaboration with the bandits to harm their own people.
Shehu later clarified the statement, declaring that he was quoted out of context.
He tweeted, “In my @channelstv appearance this morning, I referred to cases of some low level traditional rulers in Katsina State and the neighbouring Zamfara, where more of such leaders, including emirs, were flushed out of the system for being found to be in unholy alliances with bandits. Under the leadership of their highnesses, the emirs of Katsina and Daura, traditional rulers in the state have continued to support security and law enforcement agencies in tackling the problems of kidnapping and banditry that reared their heads in the state.”
While the government, in collaboration with the security operatives, is making efforts to tackle the problem of banditry, residents have continued to stage protests against insecurity in the state.
On Tuesday, Katsina youths under the umbrella of the Collation of Northern Groups, staged a peaceful protest in Katsina against insecurity in the state, declaring that they were annoyed by the development.
The youths implored both the federal and state governments to redress the situation.
The youth began the protest from the roundabout adjacent the Muhammed Dikko Central Mosque and marched through Nagogo Road, Kofar Durbi and the GRA roundabout before ending it on the Government House premises.
During protest, youths called for the resignation of the President and Masari.
“Buhari and Masari resign if you cannot protect us. End Banditry in Katsina”; “Enough is Enough. Katsina is a home of hospitality. We need peace,” they said.
Some residents of communities in the state, including Yantumaki, Yankara and Yangaya, had earlier protested against renewed insecurity in the state.
During the protest in Yantumaki, people burnt Masari and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) billboard. The President is an indigene of the state.
The protesters barricaded the Katsina/Kankara highway and set bonfires along the road leading to the town, a situation that forced scores of motorists plying the highway to turn back.
The protesters, who moved from one end of the town to the other, chanted anti-government songs in Hausa and demanded improved security of lives and property.
It was a pathetic scene on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at Kadisau village, when residents buried 30 victims murdered by bandits, who invaded the village and four others, Kabalawa, Kwakware, Unguwar Wahabi and Raudama, a day earlier.
Throughout the burial rites, the residents appeared afraid and hopeless.
There is a growing concern over the upsurge in attacks by bandits in the state. Hardly a day passes now without the state witnessing one form of bandit attack or the other.
During such attacks, lives are lost, animals are rustled, while women and young girls are either sexually abused or kidnapped.
The attacks have made the state to record increase in the number of internally displaced persons, many of who have relocated from their various communities and now stay with families and friends in safer locations.
There are fears that following the upsurge in attacks, farmers may not have the confidence to return to their farms for this farming season.
Twelve district heads from Katsina’s eight troubled local government areas have also threatened to relocate from their districts due to the state of insecurity.
The district heads are from Jibia, Safana, Dandume, Faskari, Sabuwa, Kankara, Danmusa and Batsari.
The district heads reportedly met the Emir of Katsina, Dr Abdulmumin Usman, to register their fears and intentions.
The districts heads also told the emir that their lives were at risk following last week’s murder of the district head of Yantumaki, Atiku Maidabino, by bandits.
All these notwithstanding, the bandits have continued with the attacks.
Two weeks ago, the bandits stormed five communities in the Faskari Local Government Area, where they mowed down 20 victims (police figure). They also burnt down houses and rustled domestic animals cows, rams and sheep belonging to the residents.
Katsina State is witnessing an upsurge in attacks by bandits when troops made up of Special Forces from the police, the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps are on the grounds in the state to tackle banditry and other crimes in the state.
The Special Forces were deployed in the state last month.
In addition, Masari just returned to Katsina after spending almost one week in Abuja during which he met the President over the current insecurity in the state.
From all indications, the bandits seem more emboldened and undeterred by the efforts of both the state and the Federal Government.
There is no doubt that Masari has put in several efforts in curtailing banditry and other crimes in the state since 2015 when he became the state’s chief executive.
He took the risks of meeting the bandits in their various hideouts and thereafter entered a peace pact with them, all with a view to demonstrating to them that the government was serious in its search for peace in the state.
Unfortunately, all these only yielded temporary peace before the bandits returned to the trenches and renewed attacks on communities in the state.
Katsina State seems not to be the only state suffering from bandit attacks in recent times.
In the neighbouring Sokoto and Kaduna states, bandits have also recently carried out attacks despite government’s efforts at curtailing them.
For instance, no fewer than 74 persons lost their lives on May 29, 2020, when bandits attacked at night Garki, Dan Aduwa, Kuzari and Katuma, all in the Sabon Birni Local Government of Area of Sokoto State.
“The bandits, estimated to be in their hundreds, stormed the villages on motorcycles, shooting indiscriminately, which led to the death of no fewer than 74 persons,” an eyewitness stated.
The Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party in Katsina State, Alhaji Salisu Majigiri, advised the government to come up with a more robust approach to tackling banditry and other crimes in the state.
He said, “Bandits are no ghosts. All that any purposeful government needs to do in tackling them is to evolve a more robust approach other than the fire brigade approach currently being adopted by the state.
“We have been telling this government to sit up. The so-called peace pact with the bandits collapsed over a year ago and we warned the government then. Granting amnesty is not new, but it must be robustly done just like our late President, Umaru Yar’adua did it in the Niger Delta area. Over 11 years after President Yar’adua came up with the amnesty and it is still working. Why can’t the APC copy how Yar’adua did it if they are bereft of ideas?”
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Ahmad Katsina, said the government was already working on a new approach to the problem, which would be intelligence-based.
He stated, “No responsible government will sit down and watch crimes thrive. The governor has met security operatives and they are already taking some decisive steps against the bandits.
“We are reviewing our strategy. We believe criminality is not because of absence of work. We are reviewing the whole process to let people know that criminality does not pay. We are adopting both kinetic and non-kinetic measures, the results which residents will begin to see very soon.”