By Olalekan Bilesanmi

Senator Seidu Muhammed Dansadau represented Zamfara at the National Assembly between 1999 and 2007.

It was him, in a widely reported case, who rejected an exotic car gift from then-Governor Sani Yerima of Zamfara State. Dansadau’s colleagues in then-National Assembly from Zamfara were offered similar car gift. His reason then was that Yerima should have used the money he used to purchase the car to improve the lives of the people of the state.

After serving two terms in the Senate, he decided not to seek re-election and returned to his farm in Zamfara. Dansadau has since formed the National Rescue Mission which he presently oversees.  In this interview, the senator expresses happiness over the strategy (suspension of telecom services) in Zamfara by the Federal Government to stem the activities of bandits and kidnappers in the state even as he urges that same approach should be replicated in other parts of the country experiencing similar problems. Excerpts:

Would you say the suspension of telecom infrastructure in Zamfara has assisted military operations against bandits?

I honesty commend the Federal Government for that action because it has helped a great deal in stemming the wave of banditry and kidnapping in the state, and I am sure we will get the same result in other parts of the country, if that strategy is applied. I am also very glad that soon after the suspension of telecommunication services, we started recording result. Last week, the Chief of Army Staff went as far as my village, Dansadau.

The village is just 30 kilometers to Gusau, but the road is terrible. It can take you about five hours to get there simply because the road isn’t motorable. So despite the fact that the army chief knows that the road is terrible, he took the trouble of going there to visit his troops in order to boost their morale.

I am optimistic that by the grace of God, the step the Federal Government has taken through the military, I think we have taken the right path towards ending banditry not only in Zamfara but also across the country. I am appealing to the Federal Government to go further.

After successfully getting rid of banditry in Zamfara, I think the next states should be Kaduna and Niger states. The two states share borders with Zamfara; then the backlash against bandits should move to Katsina, Sokoto because these are areas that have large forest reserves which unfortunately serve as hideouts for these bandits.

Don’t be surprised that some of the bandits you see around Kano area, northern Kaduna, Kaduna-Abuja road are from Kaduna and Zamfara forests. I am very glad over what the Nigerian military is doing to them. It is my hope, and prayer that indigenes will cooperate with the troops on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, I am disappointed in some people over what I am hearing from the North, especially those condemning the Federal Government action. Those making the complaints are not the ones suffering the atrocities of these bandits. But I am happy with the response of the people of Zamfara. They are very glad with this decision because they have already started seeing the impact of the military action in the state.

It is alleged in some quarters that banditry, kidnapping and insurgency have lasted this long because their sponsors are quite influential in the society. What do you think?

I honestly do not believe that theory. I think the main factor responsible for these protracted crimes is the fact no sanction has been administered on the perpetrators arrested. There is this Ali Kachalla who is one of the major bandits. He was once arrested and the police even paraded him. How manage he wasn’t arraigned before court of law so that appropriate punishment is given? We have a large number of bandits like that.

Remember, from the Obasanjo administration, up till today, I am not aware of anybody who has been prosecuted, sentenced to death or imprisonment on account of banditry, kidnapping or terrorism. And because of this, perpetrators believe banditry is the surest way of getting money, because they know that nobody cares, because they know that whatever they do, they will go scot-free. And that is why the number of these criminals and their activities keeps increasing. Unfortunately, a large number of these bandits are from Niger Republic and other West African countries.

So, the main factor responsible for this unchecked menace is the lack of will for prosecution. I think until one or two of these bandits are prosecuted and sentenced to death, and I think that’s the weakness on the part of government, the problem may be with us. Another thing is the involvement of the Nigeria Police in the criminal activities.

The Inspector General of Police should give order to his Police Commissioners that any command where arrested bandits escape should be dealt with. We are aware that some of the bandits were arrested and publicly paraded, and, shortly after, the same police released them.

Recently, a retired naval officer, on national television, said Boko-Haram continues to wax strong because it has support of the elite, even within the present government. What is your perspective?

The Boko-Haram issue is completely different from the armed banditry phenomenon. Banditry started right from my village. It started from Dansadau, and then spread to other parts of Zamfara. We know the remote causes of this armed banditry.

I quite agree that Boko-Haram is sponsored by some top politicians, but armed banditry is completely different. I urge Nigerians to go and read the I.G Muhammed Abubakar Committee report on the issue of banditry in Zamfara. I can even crave the indulgence of our (party) Chairman to serialize the report to see the remote and immediate causes of armed banditry in this country.  So it is not the same.

Therefore, the approach in tackling banditry should be different, in fact, these bandits are cowards. It is because some of the governors and the villagers have not been up and doing that they are thriving. If the way the ordinary people in Zamfara took up the fight against bandits, in fact if they had done that much earlier, the war would have been over by now. About a week ago, armed bandits trooped to Shinkafi as early as 10am, they had promised to sack the whole Shikanfi town. Immediately after they came, everyone in town came out, men, children, some with stones and chased the bandits out of town. These bandits are just looking for money. If this onslaught can continue and with the total shut-down of telephone services, I am sure we will achieve the desired result.

The state governor has ordered total ban on fuel in kegs but it appears the ban hasn’t been effective because Zamfara people in many areas are said to be scared of the bandits.

That is not true, in fact, many of the bandits are rushing out of the state now because of the fuel ban. Fortunately, the military and local vigilante groups are intercepting them as they are moving out of town to other states. About 80 were killed recently when they were trying to move out of Zamfara.

The ban order is yielding tremendous result. But unfortunately, some politicians are playing politics by throwing false information into the social media.

Ask those on ground, they will tell you that, for the first time, Zamfara State government is getting it right by this no fuel order, including the Federal Government order to suspend telephone services in the state.

This is the situation in the state at the moment. And I think we should commend the action of both the state and that of the Federal Government for what they have done so far. This strategy should be replicated across the country especially where this menace is rampant. Very soon, and with the way they are going, I believe  this menace will be history.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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