…State govt reads riot act, security experts blame administration
By Shehu Danjuma
Following renewed killings by bandits, Katsina State government has said the peace deal negotiated with armed groups has been canceled, warning repentant bandits to leave Rugu Forest.
It said the decision was necessitated by the failure of bandits to keep to their end of the peace accord.
Sunday Vanguard recalls that at the peak of banditry in the state, Governor Aminu Masari-led administration, in 2019, had a peace accord with criminal elements who had killed and maimed thousands in the state.
The deal, which attracted public criticisms, saw the governor visiting bandits in Rugu Forest.
After touring settlements, said to be inhabited by the Fulani in September 2019, bandits were reported to have renounced banditry.
Consequently, amnesty was granted to those who renounced their nefarious activities.
The accord between government and the bandits provided for the release of members of the killing groups held by security agents, release of abducted persons in the custody of bandits and surrendering of arms and ammunition to security agencies.
Other agreements included provision of schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, and water to Fulani settlements and rehabilitation of houses destroyed when Hausa farmers and bandits clashed at various times.
A similar peace deal was reportedly adopted by governments of Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Kaduna states at a peace forum convened by governors of North-Western states.
Findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that Katsina State government kept its end of the agreement with the release of many detained bandits without prosecution, but bandits failed to honour the accord.
Since the beginning of this year, no fewer than 200 people have been killed while others have been kidnapped in various villages by rogue elements.
In April alone, no fewer than 73 people were killed in separate attacks in Dutsin-Ma, Danmusa, Safana and Faskari Local Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state.
Further checks by Sunday Vanguard in Katsina, showed that bandits have been attacking Batsari, Jibia, Dutsinma, Safana, Danmusa, Kankara, Faskari, Dandume and Sabua LGAs lately.
Concerned by this, Secretary to Katsina State Government, Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa, in a chat with this newspaper, said the peace deal with armed bandits who are terrorizing some LGAs remained canceled.
Inuwa, who spoke through his Press Secretary, Alhaji Abdullahi Yar’adua, said the decision was informed by the refusal of the bandits to stop killing and kidnapping people.
According to him, Katsina government has directed repentant bandits to relocate and leave the forest to avoid becoming victims of the ongoing military action by security agents.
He said the state government had gone the extra mile to solicit the support of President Muhammadu Buhari and army chiefs to defeat the bandits in the state.
Inuwa added that the Federal Government responded positively by sending special forces of the Army, Police, Airforce and operatives of the Department of State Security Services ,DSS, who are currently prosecuting a joint operation in Rugu Forest.
“Government has enacted a law stipulating death penalty for anybody caught committing armed banditry. Repented bandits have been asked to leave the forest.
“All bandits that remain in Rugu Forest are considered as enemies of the state,” he added.
Speaking on how the peace deal collapsed, Katsina-based security expert, Mr Ahmad Muhammad, said the agreement between the state government and the bandits collapsed because there was no basis for it.
He told Sunday Vanguard that the deal was not fully concretised between the two parties, adding that some bandits were not ready to agree while others who were close to government were in support of the accord.
On his part, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Dr. Lawal Garba, said the peace deal collapsed long before now as no single gun was collected from the bandits.
He explained that the non-collection of guns gave the bandits powers to continue kidnapping and killing people.
Garba said the state government failed to unite the two factions of the bandits, “Dangote” and “Dankarami” groups, who are controlling different parts of Rugu Forest.
Continuing, he cited the use of drugs as one of the reasons for the activities of the bandits, especially the attack on villagers and raping of women.
Sunday Vanguard also learnt that animosity exists among bandits, who blamed their leaders for collecting huge amount of money from the state government and not remitting same to them.
The Federal Government, a few weeks ago, deployed troops to the state to combat banditry and other related crimes.