As early as January this year when a taciturn Governor Aminu Bello Masari raised the alarm about bandits’ siege to Katsina State till date, there have been countless attacks on hapless citizens in communities across the state. Residents of the state, especially those residing in rural communities, have been leaving with the nightmare of attacks by bandits, who often storm their homes in wee hours to rape, rustle cattle and kidnap for ransom.
Unfortunately, this criminality has exacerbated over time, despite efforts to stem the menace. Areas worst hit include Sabuwa, Safana, Batsari, Jibia, Kurfi, Danmusa and Dandume local government areas of the state. Only recently, the marauders attacked Wurma community of Kurfi council area and abducted no fewer than forty women and children, after embarking on house to house search.
The attack on Katsina communities which is suggestive of the enormity of the worsening security situation in the North West, reached an alarming proportion, prompting the state government to initiate dialogue with the bandits. Obviously disturbed by the persistent attacks and determined to bring it to an end, Governor Masari, recently kick-started visits to the bandits’ turf, where dialogues with them were held in a bid to end the seemingly intractable criminality.
Fundamentally, the activities of these bandits have led to loss of lives and property, and is threatening food security as most farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of being abducted or killed. In an agrarian economy like Katsina, the implication of sustained bandits’ attacks on farming communities even during rainy season to food security can better be imagined. Already, there are calls on the state to brace for the challenges of economic loss occasioned by the attacks.
This newspaper commends the state government’s efforts to end the rising wave of banditry in the state which has led to the death of hundreds of people, rustling of cows and other animals as well as the sacking of many villages and displacement of their residents.
We also recall, most sadly, that the ongoing dialogue is not the first time the government will have peace meeting with the bandits and what follows later are more kidnappings and deadlier attacks.
There are, therefore, concerns that the current efforts may not necessarily yield the desired result. It is compelling to take cognizance of the fact that in an obvious show of impudence, the bandits gave Governor Aminu Bello Masari conditions for dialogue, insisting that the state government should release their members arrested and detained in various prisons across the country. Only then would they be able to sit at table to discuss with the government. They also accused the Nigerian Army, police and other security agencies of fuelling banditry, kidnapping and other heinous crimes bedevilling the state.
Speaking in Dankolo village of Sabuwa local government area of the state during a meeting with the governor and his officials, the representatives of the bandits said some of their members were apprehended in villages across the state and detained for years even though they did not commit any offence. One thing which is easily discernible, in our opinion, is the fact that the bandits, unfortunately, seem to be dictating the terms of the dialogue. That they have the temerity to give the governor, the chief security officer of the state, conditions upon which they can accept the dialogue showed how emboldened these renegades are.
Like most Nigerians, we are tempted to ask what makes these criminals tick. It is an established fact that for dialogue of this nature to make impact, the government must be in a position of strength to dictate the terms of the peace. But can we confidently say the government is negotiating from the position of strength? Do we really need to dialogue with these renegades? Would they abide by the terms of the agreement? Are there plans to compensate victims of this heinous crime?
The state government must be able to understand that failure of the deal will have serious consequences on the security situation in the state. Indeed, the proper thing is for the government to take the fight to the bandits in the bush, flush them out and make life unbearable for them.
In simple terms, the government must endeavour to use all the apparatus at its disposal to strip these renegades of the chance to further indulge in acts of banditry and ultimately block them from making easy money through kidnapping which has continued to be a source of motivation to most of them.
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