Who Are These Katsina Armed Bandits?

Gov. Aminu Bello Masari in a dialogue with a bandit leader.

By Idris Mohammed

North-West Nigeria is gradually becoming the most dangerous region and theatre of violence in the country, much like its sister region; Northeast, where the operations of Boko Haram insurgency almost shut down the socio-economic activities of the region.

The case here is indiscriminate kidnapping and armed banditry, especially in Katsina and Zamfara states.

The rampant kidnapping and banditry in these states surprised many because it’s not like the renowned crisis of Farmers/Herders conflict.

Initially, people didn’t attach much concern and attention to the issue, believing it is the normal crisis between farmers and herders. This conflict which started in Zamfara and later on spread to some neighbouring states, some analysts blamed the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari for his negligence, especially in controlling the gold mining areas in the state which many believed was the major remote cause of the crisis.

Zamfara now is liberating, the new administration adopted dialogue and amnesty program to end the crisis in the state, the strategy is gaining success on a daily basis because many captives were released and there is a decrease in the attacks.

In Katsina the banditry and kidnapping are taking different dimensions, the cattle meant for farming activities are now rustled, girls and women are being raped and kidnapped on daily basis in the presence of their relatives. Few days back, the bandits ransacked a whole Wurma community near Zamfara state, where over 50 people were kidnapped, many were killed and properties were destroyed.

It wasn’t surprising to many at all that these ugly scenarios are happening, because of the lack of seriousness from the part of the government and security agencies on the way they are handling the situation hand in glove.

Now the question running the minds of many is who are these arm bandits in Katsina? What are they looking for and why is the governor engaging them in dialogue and even want to grant them amnesty? The bandits in Zamfara were accused of attacks because of gold mining in the areas and some economic crisis in the state, is it same as in Katsina?

No, Katsina case is totally different because there is no gold mining in the eight affected local government areas in the state.  There are factors contributing to this mess called bandits in Katsina State.

Firstly, the state shares a boundary with Zamfara which has been at the mercy of armed bandits, and the failure of the state to move quickly to secure the borders before it spilled over. Secondly, there is a correlation between insecurity and extreme poverty.

In a situation where idle youths are roaming up and down poses a security danger. My last visit to the state proves this.

Let’s look at the nemesis this crisis is causing the home of hospitality, recently, the Governor was saying that he is spending hundreds of millions of Naira monthly to tackle the issue of insecurity in the state; the money meant for infrastructural development is now being wasted in the name of securing the state.

Also, based on the assessment carried out in Katsina state in July 2019 by the International Organization for Migration revealed that the total number of people displaced so far has increased by 62% from 16,257 to 42,596 persons.

This is an indication that the activities of arm banditry and kidnapping in Katsina had generated a humanitarian crisis in the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The worst part of the Katsina bandits is the way the Governor is making the victims look stupid and hopelessness in the hand of the deadly bloodthirsty arm bandit, last week the governor was featured with these reckless arm bandits with AK-47 and military officers standing with them without a single needle not to talk of a gun or any protective equipment.

Everyone agreed that dialogue is a good step of resolving conflict, but the concern here is what is the terms and conditions of the negotiation? Is there any legal arrangement if the agreement relapse? Would this bring the final solution to the crisis in Katsina? How much were they paid?

Many people have the opinion that a huge amount of money must have involved in arranging the meeting in an unknown place with these so-called arm bandits for dialogue. Does the Governor become helpless that he has no other option to curb the menace than romancing and begging the criminals to lay down their arms while the innocent people are dying and their properties are being destroyed on a daily routine? Are the security agencies also failing in their primary responsibilities; protecting the lives and properties of the citizens? If that is the case, it is safe to say criminals are now the kings in Nigeria.

While the government has failed to safeguard the lives of its citizens, the Emir of Katsina has been calling for special prayers…

Idris Mohammed is Program Officer with CDD West Africa write from Abuja, He tweets @idpyar