By Ibrahim Wuyo, Kaduna
Governor Mohammed Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has, in Kaduna on Sunday, warned that the war against banditry in the Northwest will remain a significant security challenge that has the potential to swallow the region and the country.
Matawalle spoke while presenting a paper titled “The Fight Against Banditry in Northwest Nigeria: Challenges and Solutions” at the inauguration of the new executives of Arewa Media Writers Association, saying it was evident that the Northern leaders were responsible for the plight of the region.
Represented by the Zamfara State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Magaji, Governor Matawalle said when he took office on May 29th, 2019, Zamfara State had already been mired in a serious security crisis for over a decade, marked by banditry, livestock rustling, kidnapping, and a host of other crimes.
On an almost daily basis, he explained, the State was in the news for bloodletting, fire, pillage, and significant displacement of people, particularly those living in rural areas.
According to him, “historical economic, social and cultural ties between the dominant communities of Fulani and Hausa were ruptured; farming activities across the State were halted, and commercial activities were crippled.”
“With poverty on the increase and food security seriously affected by the crisis, the State was on the verge of a catastrophic social eruption capable of destabilising our communities and the northwest subregion.”
“Shinkafi and Zurmi LGAs are the hot spots of banditry even though there are no mining activities going there. Rural banditry in Zamfara and other parts of the north, in my opinion, is a result of the progressive degradation of our moral
standards and a culture of greed fed by an unfettered need for material goods.”
“As shown in this presentation, the culture of cattle raiding by pastoralist groups is not something new. It was practised in the days gone by to demonstrate courage and bravery, and no violence was used. What we witness today, however, are horrible crimes unimaginable, which include rape, killings of women and children, kidnapping, highway robbery and other gruesome atrocities.”
“It is evident, therefore, that we, the leaders, are responsible for the plight of the north.
The north lacks responsible leadership to steer it through our time’s uncharted waters. Our ruling elite has no vision for the region beyond gaining political power. We have all seen how the elites in the south-east and southwest respond in unison to all matters concerning their regions’ development. We have seen how they have a defined agenda and are relentless in their pursuit of regional development,” he said.
Speaking on the challenges to peace efforts the Governor said his experience over the past two years has shown that the major challenges to their peace efforts were reluctance by the affected states to embrace peace dialogue, which would have deprived the recalcitrant bandits currently tormenting their people of safe corridors in the region.
Also, “lack of support from a section of politicians that wish to take advantage of the situation to achieve political ends and the need for the Federal Government to key into the peace initiative so that appropriate resources can be allocated.”
“Unless we all wake up to the situation, the war against banditry in the northwest will remain a significant security challenge that has the potential to swallow the region and the country. The destruction that banditry is wreaking on the region’s people and the economy is unfathomable.”
“This is a siren appeal to leaders of the region to wake up from their lethargy and unite in combating this grave challenge.
We need to get to the roots of the situation, stop politicising it and act decisively,” he said.