It is commendable that governors in the North-West geo-political have decided to stop granting amnesty to bandits and criminals operating in the region. According to the Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, the governors have resolved to jointly deal with the miscreants. Governor Bello, who made the disclosure recently, regretted that efforts by some state governments to grant amnesty to the bandits had not yielded commensurate results, hence the decision by the governors to ruthlessly confront the menace.
We welcome the development. Without doubt, banditry has remained the major security issue in the region in the last 10 years. The nefarious activities of the bandits in Zamfara State between June 2011 and May 2019 had led about 4,983 women being widowed, 25,050 children orphaned, and 190,340 persons displaced. Also, about 2,015 cattle, 141 sheep and goats, 2,600 donkeys and camels were also lost to rustlers, while 147, 800 vehicles, motorcycles were burnt. Villages in Katsina have often been compelled to pay ransom to the bandits to stave off attacks. Niger and Sokoto states have also not been spared by the bandits. In Niger, not less than 29 security men, comprising soldiers, policemen and members of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), were killed by bandits in Shiroro Local Government Area in March.
Extending amnesty to the bandits will further embolden them in their nefarious activities. For them, the attacks on innocent citizens and looting their property have become too rewarding and attractive to let go. Reports of unscrupulous security men and traditional rulers having a hand in the banditry make it more compelling on the government to come hard on them.
No responsible government negotiates with criminals. Doing so will amount to disservice and injustice to their victims. Criminals should not be treated with kid gloves. It is only the government that should have the monopoly of the instrument of violence, especially in ensuring law and other in the society. The bandits should not be humoured with undeserved treatment. The law should rather be allowed to take its full course and ensure that all criminal elements are brought to book.
What Zamfara and the other states in the North-West are doing is the best way to tell the bandits that what they are doing is wrong. By such measures, the bandits would be made to understand that crime does not pay. We urge other states in other parts of the country to emulate their courageous action. Security operatives in the region should be empowered to get to the roots of these criminal activities. Relevant agencies of the government should widen their intelligence gathering roles in this regard.
A clear line of distinction needs to be drawn between the activities of the bandits in the North-West and the agitations of the Niger Delta activists that earned them amnesty from the Federal Government in 2007. The Niger Delta activism was in reaction to devastation of the region by oil production activities. What the bandits are doing in the North-West is a clear case of criminality. They do not have any identifiable cause. Their actions have serious implications on the corporate existence of the country.
The idea of a N50 billion fund by Zamfara State government to support victims of banditry, especially orphans and widows is commendable. We also laud the pledge by the governor that the government would take care of the education of the 25,050 orphans and meet other responsibilities to the victims. Other states affected by the activities of the bandits should follow suit. The victims of banditry should be integrated fully into the society.
The government should put measures in place to ensure that youths are gainfully employed. It should stop those factors that make banditry and other crimes attractive to the youths and other members of the society. Efforts must be made to create jobs that should make the youths engaged in productive ventures.