Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, has said a major reason the negotiations the state once had with bandits broke down was because those who entered into the amnesty programme among the Fulani were murdered in the bush and the development scared away the others.
The governor, who also explained why he asked residents of the state to bear arms and defend themselves against the increasing attacks of the bandits, said it was the only way to go if the state must reduce the level of carnage by the criminals.
Speaking in an interview aired on Nagarta Radio, Kaduna, and monitored by a national daily (not THISDAY), Masari, who lamented that bandits had continued to kill the people despite the state government’s effort towards protecting them, however, established how the negotiations with the bandits failed.
His words: “When we came on board in 2015, we inherited killings and banditry in the state. In 2014, there was a single attack that claimed over 100 lives around Faskari and Sabuwa LGAs. This is the situation we met on the ground happening daily, because we always received reports of animal rustling and killings attributed to bandits and local vigilantes yan sakai in the state.
“At that time, Fulani women had stopped coming to town and farmers too had stopped going to the bush. We later discovered that it was not a problem of Katsina State alone, it’s a problem that affected Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna States and later, Sokoto, Kebbi and Jigawa.
“The military supported our steps, which led to our meetings in Kaduna to find a solution. All security agencies were brought in and they all worked together for a year and recorded some successes.
“Then, we met with the Security Chiefs at defence headquarters but after a year, it stopped. We were later asked to return home and handle the situation.
“On our part, we discovered those bandits are Fulani, so we took advantage of that by ensuring that we got an official from a local government to be elected in their union and through him we reached out to those people in the forest.
“Later, the SSG, police commissioner and DG SSS all went to the bush during that period but we discovered that the bad eggs among the Fulani that ran to the bush were to protect their animals.
“This is how we entered into a dialogue with Fulani leaders and the vigilantes across the eight LGAs. We reached an agreement at Kankara in the presence of all our traditional leaders, including the late notorious Buharin Daji and they returned with over 300 guns.
“Later, things gradually returned and life went back to normal before the whole thing took a different dimension, because those who entered the amnesty among the Fulani were murdered in the bush and that scared away others.
“This was how the dialogue stopped especially, around villages bordering Zamfara before the 2019 election. I remembered we built 10 schools in the villages located inside the forest.Also, we built 10 Primary Health Centres in those villages but they later turned the schools as their base in the bush.
“After the 2019 election, we all knew what happened in Zamfara. The new governor vowed to continue with the dialogue and the IGP then supported the move, same with the military,which started from Zamfara and continued from where we stopped. We supported the military with logistics to have a battalion built in Katsina.”
On the charge to the people to defend themselves, the governor stated categorically that citizens could no longer fold their arms and allow the bandits kill them unnecessarily since there were no adequate security personnel to guard every community.
According to him, “It’s very important for the people to rise up and support the government effort. Apart from the money we are spending on security, hardly a day passes by without a person being killed or kidnapped. No single day, although the situation is not as bad as it was last year.
“We thank God for that but normalcy has not yet completely returned, because just a few days ago, about 10 people were killed in a village. How can you, as a leader, be okay with this situation?”
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja