Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, has kicked against engaging bandits that have been attacking states in the North West in dialogue, describing them as deceitful.
Rural farming communities in Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states have been facing an increasing number of bandit attacks, kidnappings and killings, for years. The bandits steal cattle and kidnap for ransom.
Speaking to the State House correspondents after 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 has tried dialogue but failed because the bandits were not sincere in government’s efforts to find lasting solutions to the problem, stressing that it was time for a show of 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 in the sense that we know their capacity. For instance, during the first dialogue, they invited some of our teams, army, DSS, police and my chief security officer as well as some representatives of traditional rulers and we have seen what they have.
“They are in control of the kind of weapons that the Command in Zamfara State does not have. In one armory alone, they have over 500 AK-47, we saw it. Our people were even given a chance to take pictures. But, when we said we would dialogue, offer amnesty, that they should surrender their arms. I can tell you till date we did not get up to 90 AK-47, so it is deceit. That is why I said no more dialogue during my tenure.
“During 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 return to their normal practice. That is why I said there has to be 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 part of Niger Republic to curb the issue of banditry in the North West, Yari said: “Well, I think it is not just state by state matter, but a regional problem, because we are surrounded by forests. We have Kuyambana to Rugudown to Maradi. 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, Niger, we have Kuyambana Dansado Forest there; in Katsina, we have Rugu and at south-east of Zamfara, where we have Maradi, we have forest there.
“So, as the governor of Katsina State said, we have to collaborate. I know our security chiefs meet quarterly to review their performance, the gain and the loss. The same thing goes for our brothers in Maradi. 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 run into the forest in Zamfara. If Zamfara puts pressure on them, they move to Niger or Birnin Gwari; this is the issue, so there is need for collaboration.”
The governor added that, “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 ground there. We are definitely going to collaborate, especially since I am running on the last lap of my full 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 forces to tackle the security situation in the country, Yari stated that the Federal Government has gone into inter-government transaction with the United States, China and other European countries, using $1 billion approved by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in 2017.
Yari said: “The Federal Government has already given procurement contracts, inter-government transaction to the United States, China and other European countries. Recall that, in 2017, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum approved $1 billion to support the Federal Government’s effort to equip 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 with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, also speaking on kidnapping and banditry, called for change of strategy in tackling the issue.