Masari: Gumi Should Preach Implications of Killing People to Bandits not Amnesty
The Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari recently spoke to select journalists on the security challenges in the state and North-west, as well as how to tackle the predicaments. Francis Sardauna was there
What’s your view on Sheikh Ahmad Gumi’s call on the Federal Government to grant amnesty to bandits?
Amnesty for who? Look, Gumi is doing it in 2021, we did it in 2016. At least, there is something to learn from us. When we started the dialogue in 2016, 95 per cent of the herders living in the forest were not criminals, but what is the situation today? Majority of the herders living in the forest today are bandits. The general perception now is that every Fulani man living in the forest is a bandit. Once they come out to villages and communities, people kill them; when their women come to markets to sell milk, they will kill them. So, some of them have been forced into the forest and again forced to take arms to protect their own cattle and this is the situation now in the forest. Gumi should have been preaching to them on the fear of God; to understand the implications of killing somebody but certainly not amnesty because even animals are not allowed to be killed unjustly let alone human beings. He should also let the bandits know the value of their own religion.
When we started the dialogue, we were dealing with people that were being arrested and not being prosecuted. There was no established concrete case against them because of killing, because then it was cattle rustling associated with murder but today the situation has been different. I haven’t had time to discuss with Gumi. I was in a meeting where he was and he made his presentation about what he met. For me, I am not surprised because I did it before, twice, so what they (bandits) are telling him is not new to me. They said it and they will continue to say it but concretely they are not promoting any ideology. Are we all happy in Nigeria? Does it mean those who are unhappy would take arms against other people? They kept on saying we are been marginalised. How many people are being marginalised and neglected in Nigeria today? Look my friend, a thief is a thief and a criminal is a criminal. They are criminally minded and can’t justify killing innocent souls.
There are speculations that residents of Faskari have fled 20 villages following frequent attacks by bandits. How true is this?
It is not true. Yes, some villages are affected but not 20. Yes, Faskari in particular and, to some extent, Sabuwa Local Government Area have being under persistent attacks by bandits but I don’t think the number of villages or communities that have deserted their areas are up to 20. We discussed a particular village; Yar Mallamai which is under Ruwangodiya ward. The villagers recently have terrible encounter with bandits but the military moved in and saved the situation. But in those fringes of the forest, definitely some communities have moved into their local government headquarters or to a much bigger place than their own. You know, because of the population within the communities, it is easier for bandits coming from Zamfara to overrun those communities. Any village that is attacked, we normally send our officials to make assessment and offer immediate relief.
We have distributed relief materials to victims in Faskari, Safana, Danmusa and we also provide financial support for the displaced families. We are working daily to restore normalcy in villages and communities affected by the activities of bandits. The residents of those communities were just forced out of their places; their farms and natural abodes are there so they can not have meaningful life living outside those areas. So, it is a must and necessity for us to make sure that normalcy is restored in those areas so that people can go back. We, as a government, are working through the religious and traditional leaders and political leaders within the communities, while the military and other security agencies are doing what they are supposed to do in order to bring normalcy. But if you look at the spate of villages and the population of the military and police, it is not possible for them to be everywhere that is why we are working to restore community living.
It is key to providing security in the local communities because the military and the police would come and establish formations but after sometime they will leave. So, if we fail to bring community living, then the bandits can come back. So, restoring community living is what we have been doing and even today we met with some kingmakers here in Katsina and part of what we have discussed is about the plans we have for restoring community living. We tasked and mobilised them on the new local government law—what it has provided for them and what is expected of them and how to work towards bringing about communities living in peace. Some few years back communities were living harmoniously but today the story is totally different.
What do you think is responsible for endless bandits’ attacks on villages in the North-west zone despite efforts by governors and security agencies to restore peace?
First of all, let us accept there wouldn’t be crime-free society. It has never been before and it will never be. But what we have today are bandits and some few elements of insurgency among them that we must work as governors in the North-west and in the Northern part of this country to bring them under control. You cannot eliminate criminality but it should be at a level that cannot disturb ways and means of people let alone lead to losing their lives. So, I think there is need for synergy between state governments and even traditional institutions across the zones because these bandits travel through the forest from one zone to another. When we met last week during the northern governors and traditional rulers’ meeting, these were the issues discussed. We synergised and have a common approach in dealing with bandits. So, a criminal in Sokoto is a criminal in Kaduna, Taraba and is also a criminal in Gombe State vice-versa. We are going to have a systematic approach so that everywhere they (bandits) go they can be unplugged and taken care of.