Zamfara State Governor, Mr. Bello Matawalle, came under fire on Monday over his statement that he knew the abductors of the 317 pupils of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS), Jangebe, in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of the state.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF); Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) and the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) took on Matawalle and challenged him to reveal their identity.
Besides, the ACF, Kaduna State chapter of CAN and SOKAPU also expressed concerns about the inability of security agencies to tackle the worsening insecurity in the country, especially the rising wave of abductions of secondary school pupils by bandits.
They said given the various operations launched by the military and the police, among other security agencies in different geopolitical zones, Nigerians should feel safer now.
The ACF, Kaduna State chapter of CAN and SOKAPU called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ask Matawalle to reveal the identity of the bandits that kidnapped the 317 schoolgirls in the state.
The PANDEF and Afenifere also challenged Matawalle to reveal the identity of the kidnappers and their sponsors.
Matawalle, on Sunday, had told 17 emirs in the state that paid him a sympathy visit over the abduction of the schoolgirls that Nigerians would be shocked to know those behind the abduction of the 317 pupils.
He said: “Many people will be surprised to hear those people behind the abduction of these innocent children.
“They are not comfortable with the progress I am getting as a result of my peace initiative and they want to do all they can to sabotage my efforts.”
Reacting to the governor’s claim in an interview with THISDAY, PANDEF and Afenifere said the governor should go ahead and reveal the identity of the kidnappers as he would be amazed Nigerians won’t be shocked because they knew those behind banditry and kidnapping.
PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson, said it would be no exaggeration if they were to say those other governors, as well as some officials of the federal government and the security agencies knew the bandits and their locations in the forests.
He said: ”The governor of Zamfara State knows them; he has been interfacing with them and doling out money to them. It would be no exaggeration if we were to say that other governors, as well as some officials of the federal government and the security agencies, also know who these bandits are and their locations in the forests.
”The nation was recently, rudely, stunned by a so-called Sheikh Gumi when he asserted that the bandits and killer herders terrorising the country were not criminals but Northern militants fighting for ethnic survival. “Unsurprisingly, there has been no condemnation of the statement by the said sheikh from the Northern elite, or his arrest by the federal government for his reckless and bizarre comments capable of undermining national security.
“That explains why the bandits and the killer herders are getting kid gloves treatment from the security agencies. It is all balderdash, so unfortunate that this is what Nigeria has become.”
Afenifere, on its part, described the governor’s statement as a sign of leadership failure.
Its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, stated that Matawalle might even get some better result talking to the criminals than going through the security agents.
He said: “The governor has information that the ordinary man on the street doesn’t have, and there is leadership failure in the land and nobody to report to. He may even get some better result talking to the criminals than going through the security that a former chief of defence says are in collusion with the criminals.”
In his contribution, the spokesman of the SOKAPU, Mr. Luka Binniyat, called on Buhari to invite the governor for questioning.
“For the governor to say that he knows those behind this evil, but would not go after them, the federal government should invite him for questioning,” he stated.
According to him, the governor has access to intelligence reports and must therefore know those behind the heinous crime.
“Why he would not bring them to justice is baffling. More strange is his insistence on granting amnesty to the criminals even when it is clear that there is no sincerity on the part of the outlaws to keep to any terms,” he said.
The spokesman of the ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, also called on Buhari to order Matawalle to explain the basis for hiding the identity of the Yawe wondered why the governor is hiding their identity.
Asked why he thinks the governor is hiding the identity of the criminals, Yawe said:
“Only Zamfara State governor can answer this question. Why is he hiding the identity of people who have committed such a heinous crime against humanity? The president must ask him to explain.”
Also in his reaction, the Kaduna State Chairman of the CAN, Rev. Joseph Hayab, said the statement by the governor confirmed doubts about the sincerity of those in charge of security.
He said: “It is no longer news to Nigerians that those in authority know those responsible for our pains, sorrows and all the evil that is happening in our country but have chosen to play games with us.
“The statement by the governor of Zamfara State has further confirmed our doubt about the sincerity of those we have been trusting.”
He wondered when those in authority will tell Nigerians the truth about the security situation.
“Are they waiting till we are all dead before our killers and their sponsors will be exposed or arrested?
“CAN want to challenge the governor of Zamfara and all others who have been making similar confessions to shame the devil and save Nigerians by saying the truth and nothing but the truth if not we will believe they are all in the same camp,” Hayab added.
According to him, the identity of the bandits is only a secret to their victims, but not to Sheikh Gumi and those in power who only make statements about the deaths of Nigerians but cannot stop the killings.
“The statement by the federal government that the abduction of the Zamfara school girls will be the end, which also makes this suspicion looks real.
“Are they saying this will be the end because they are tired of dribbling us or they have completed negotiations with the bandits or the bandits and all criminals terrorising our land have been captured?
“Our leaders need to show they love this country and her citizens enough to bring the evil going on to an end by capturing and prosecuting those who have denied us sleep and make many of our citizens widows and orphans,” he said.
Deji Elumoye, Kingsley Nwezeh, Udora Orizu in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna