It appears Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi is bent on taking a route that is needless because it won’t yield the desired result and hence should not even be contemplated. Obviously overwhelmed by senseless killings in the State, he recently hinted that he would negotiate with the killers.
“I want to talk to the bandits and empower them as we cannot continue to kill ourselves and destroy public infrastructure. The bandits are our children and I am pained when they or the security agencies are killed”.
From January to April this year, bandits have killed scores of innocent citizens in Ebonyi State, aside from displacing some communities. It must be noted that the needless killings are not peculiar to Ebonyi State as the menace permeates virtually all states of the federation.
In Kaduna State for instance, the government disclosed that no fewer than 323 persons were killed and 949 kidnapped by armed bandits in the last three months across the state. A larger number of persons were killed in Niger, Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states by these renegades who have continued to kill, rape, displace communities, abduct residents and demand for ransom.
The public perception of these wanton killings and rampant abductions for ransom is that they are, unfortunately, becoming the defining features of Nigeria and suggests a worsening of the state of insecurity in the country.
As a newspaper, we have said repeatedly that negotiating with criminals is not the way to go. There is clearly no reason why any government worth its name should contemplate acting in that direction. The outcome of such negotiations in places like Zamfara and Katsina states, for instance, vindicate our position. In these two places, the governors negotiated with bandits who claimed they have repented from their criminal ways.
In spite of a series of peace meetings and negotiations that culminated in amnesty for the so-called repentant bandits, Zamfara and Katsina states have yet to know peace as communities are being displaced by bandits on a sustained basis.
Although some of these criminals even surrendered their weapons and were given money as means of resettlement, it did not take long for them to return to their hideouts and continue to wreak havoc on innocent citizens.
Only recently, one notorious bandit who spearheaded the abduction of over 300 schoolboys in Kankara, Katsina State last December, Auwalu Daudawa, was shot dead after he returned to the forest to obviously continue with his trademark banditry and cattle rustling.
The notorious Daudawa who repented and was granted amnesty, had while alive, carried on like a law onto himself. He was reportedly ambushed and killed while attempting to steal a herd of cattle from a rival banditry group in Zamfara State.
If negotiating with bandits was the solution to banditry, states like Katsina and Zamfara where both Governors Aminu Bello Masari and Muhammad Matawalle adopted the measure wouldn’t be facing the menace now.
In Zamfara, while the governor was busy negotiating, the renegades were terrorising the residents, suggesting clearly that fire power is all that is needed in dealing with them, not kid gloves.
In our considered opinion, it is a sad commentary on the nation’s sovereignty that we could condescend to the level of negotiating with bandits dressed in full military regalia as witnessed in some parts of Northwest.
There is clearly no reason why bandits who kill for fun should be granted amnesty. These are persons that have vowed to destroy the nation. As criminals and outlaws, what is fitting for them is the full wrath of the law.
We, therefore, affirm our earlier position on the need for a total use of force on these bandits because people who kill and maim have lost the right to life. Drawing from the Zamfara experience therefore, Umahi must be told in an unmistaken term to perish the thought of negotiating with the bandits because, from experiences elsewhere, it will be an exercise in futility.
Rather than negotiate, the governor should rally his colleagues, especially those in states ravaged by the activities of banditry and Boko Haram, to pull forces together in annihilating these renegades. To negotiate with bandits and placate them as being suggested in some quarters is to sink the nation deeper into the abyss of banditry because more youths will be tempted to join.
At the risk of being repetitive, we state unequivocally that we are in opposition to amnesty sought for bandits as much as we expect the government to go all out to smoke them out of their hideouts and bring them to justice. The time for total war on terror and all forms of criminality is long overdue.