Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, has kicked against dialoguing with bandits who have been attacking states in North West, describing them as deceitful.
Rural communities in Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states have been facing an increasing number of bandits’ attacks, kidnappings and killings, for years. The bandits steal cattle and kidnap for ransom.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, Yari who backed the call by his counterpart in Katsina, Aminu Masari, for a regional collaboration against the bandits, said three times he had tried dialogue but failed because the bandits were not sincere with the government’s effort at finding lasting solution to the problem, declaring that it was time to march force with force.
Asked if he was in support of dialogue, Yari said: “Well, I have told my people that, that will no longer take place during my time because I have done that three times but it did not work. This is so because we know their capacity. For instance, during the first dialogue, we had with them including the army, DSS, police and my chief security officer as well as some representatives of traditional rulers and we saw what they have.
“They are in control of the kind of weapons that the command in Zamfara State does not have. In one armoury alone, they had over 500 AK47 rifles; we saw them.
“Our people were even given the chance to take pictures. But when we said we will dialogue, offer amnesty, that they should surrender their arms, I can tell you till date we did not get up to 90 AK47; so it is a deceit. That is why I said no more dialogue during my tenure.
“During the dry season, they will look for dialogue because they know the security can get access to anywhere in the forest and they have no place to hide. But when the rainy season comes and the forest becomes thicker, they will return to their normal practice. That is why I said there has to be a show of force before anything else. I know that in any war, eventually, you have to come to the table and dialogue but the situation we are in right now, sincerely speaking, dialogue is not needed at this point in time.”
Asked to react to Masari’s call for collaboration between Katsina, Zamfara, and parts of Niger Republic to curb the issue of banditry in the North West, Yari said: “Well, I think is not just state-by-state matter but a regional problem – because, we are surrounded by forests. We have Kuyambana to Rugu down to Maradi Republic. The bandits are taking advantage of the fact that we are living like an Island because we are surrounded by forests. “From Sokoto we have Basuguma forest, in Kaduna, Birnin Gwari; in Niger, we have Kuyambana Dansado forest there; in Katsina, we have the Rugu and in the southeastern part of Zamfara where we have Maradi.
“So as the governor of Katsina said, we have to collaborate. I know our security chiefs meet quarterly to review their performance, the gain and the losses; the same thing goes for our brothers in Maladi. I think the operations need to be carried out simultaneously because the issue is we are surrounded by forests.
“The point is when Katsina puts pressure on the bandits they will run into the forest in Zamfara; if Zamfara puts pressure on them, they move to Minna or Birnin Gwari. So this is the issue; so there is a need for collaboration.
“The soldiers need to be equipped with the equipment that can stand the test of time. On Monday, when we were having our security meeting, we could understand the constraints of the security personnel that are on the ground there. We are definitely going to collaborate, especially since I am running on the last lap of my tenure; I will ensure that in these months that are left, we will leave behind a peaceful state for the new administration that is coming in.”
Asked if new equipment would be delivered to the security operatives to tackle the security situation in the country, Yari stated that the Federal government had gone into an inter-government transaction with the United States, China and other European countries using $1 billion approved by the Nigeria Governors Forum in 2017.
“Yes indeed. The Federal government has already given procurement contracts, the inter-government transaction to the United States, China and other European countries. Recall that in 2017, the Nigerian Governors Forum approved $1 billion to support the Federal government’s effort at equipping the security agencies. We believe the equipment will soon come into the country and it is our hope that the equipment will be used so that this worrying situation that we are in will become history.”
Masari who met Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, also speaking on kidnapping and banditry, called for a change of strategy in tackling the ills.