Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle, on Monday, gave a gloomy forecast about Nigeria’s fight against banditry and terrorism, saying there is no indication that the hot weather of killing and plundering is nearing an end. Matawalle alleged that a secret backchannel peace negotiation with bandits broke down due to insider sabotage against his government.
Matawalle vowed to reveal the identities of those collaborating with terrorists to wreak havoc on Zamfara and other states. He put the casualty figure from the recent attacks in some parts of his state at 58, and not 200, as earlier reported.
In a related development, Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari said the persistent attacks on farming communities in the state by terrorists had led to the forceful eviction of many villagers. Masari stated this in Katsina, the state capital, when he received a national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at Government House. Tinubu was in the state on a condolence visit over the demise of the state Commissioner for Science, Technology and Innovations, Dr. Rabe Nasir.
Matawalle lamented that terrorism in his state was not likely to end soon because of those behind it.
The governor stated, “With the kind of people we have in Zamfara State, I don’t think this issue of banditry will end very soon because, already, some people are behind it. Some people are using it. And all they need is, at least, to show Nigerians that both the federal and Zamfara State governments are not serious on the issue of insecurity, despite the fact that some of them are involved in the crisis of this insecurity. But we are doing our best.”
He, however, said despite the activities of the terrorism sponsors, there would be a marked improvement in the security situation in the state this week.
The governor said Buhari had expressed the determination to strengthen security, explaining that this would bring changes in the situation.
On what could be done to bring a permanent solution to the insecurity in Zamfara, Matawalle declared, “When I assumed duty as governor, I used so many options to bring this insecurity to a minimal level. First of all, I initiated dialogue and reconciliation between the herders and farmers and during that dialogue, we spent more than nine months without any crisis in Zamfara State. It worked.
“But, unfortunately, people used politics, because they have collaborators, of course. So, they went back to those bandits, telling them that the government is not serious about this dialogue; that we did not give them anything. So, the bandits decided to go back to their normal business.
“That’s why I backed out from the reconciliation programme. But, definitely, it worked for over nine months. But because this is something that I inherited, that has been going on for almost eight years, and you don’t expect it to end within just two years of my administration, because it is supposed to be an on-going process.
“So, after I realised that some of them had backed out of this dialogue, I cut off the programme. I then initiated the cutting off of communications and some logistics that used to go to the bandits from August 2021 to December 2021. And it worked, too.
“But sometimes those collaborators, who are usually happy with what is happening, who are even jubilating if people are being killed, went back and started again, saying that the government is not serious and instigating some of the public. In fact, they even dragged me to court.”
Matawalle, who said he came to the villa to brief Buhari on the latest attacks by bandits in the state, disputed the casualty figures earlier put out in news reports. He said, “I briefed Mr. President on what happened and the next action that we should take and the government is doing everything possible to make sure that we bring sanity in state.
“Ahamdullahi, all the action that we have taken, we have recorded successes within just three days. And you will bear me witness that after that attack, there has not been any report of any banditry activity in the state up till today.”
Matawalle added, “I have already cleared the air about the figures, because I have seen some reporting that 200 people, 300 people, 500 people were killed. But I went to the community myself, and the security agencies.
“First, we went to Bungudu and we confirmed from the Emir that it was only 36 people that have been killed and two communities were razed by these bandits. And when we went to Anka, we met the Emir, and at the time we met him, he gave us a list of 22 people that have been killed, making the total number of 58 people killed.
“But as I’ve been saying, there are some political bandits, who have been spreading lies, rumours so that they can achieve some political gain. But actually it is just 58 people that have just been killed. But some people will just go to social media and be writing some figures and I have informed Mr. President of some people, who think that with this insecurity, they can achieve something out of it. I wonder how people will just be writing figures without having genuine information from those communities. Someone will just call media personnel and tell them so and so number of people have been killed in so and so place. Some people even swear with the Holy Koran that thousands of people had been been killed, which is grossly misleading. But we know all those kind of people do not want peace in the nation, but God will prevail Inshallah.”
The governor reiterated that his government was investigating those, who might be collaborating with terrorists in the state.
He said, “Like I said, we are still investigating those that are involved in these activities and we will make the public know after the confirmation of the reality of all the information that we have at hand, because we are working to make sure that all those, who have a hand in this insecurity must be brought to justice.
“Once the investigation is concluded, we will inform the public of the result of the investigation.”
Speaking on his interaction with Buhari, Matawalle said the president had assured him on actions that would be taken soon to address insecurity in Zamfara State.
He said, “I do initiate some actions to be taken and if I initiate, I do inform Mr. President, and I’ve been getting support from him.
“So, now, I initiated another option, which I informed him. The issue of security is not something that someone should be talking on television or pages of newspapers. But I assure the people Zamfara State that they will see changes very soon and Mr. President is committed to bringing down this issue of insecurity to barest level.
“I assure people that we have all it takes to fight these people and he has motivated me and when we go back, on Wednesday, the people will see changes between now and Wednesday. I know what we discussed and I know what is going to happen within this period. So, my people would be happy with the action that the federal government is going to take on the issue of insecurity very soon, Inshallah.”
Meanwhile, Masari lamented the security situation in his state, noting that Kankara and Faskari local government areas of the state are still under persistent attacks by terrorists due to their proximity to the forest linking Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, and Kebbi states. The governor said the state government would not relocate the affected villagers, because relocating them to other communities would dislodge them socially and economically. He said such situation was dangerous.
Masari, who spoke when he received Tinubu, said, “Today, at least, Faskari and Kankara local governments are the worst hit. Even yesterday (Saturday) there was kidnapping in Faskari local government, because of their proximity to the forest that covers Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, and Kebbi states.
“That is why we are having persistent and consistent attacks within that belt. Many villagers have been dislodged. Luckily enough, within the last three weeks, we saw the return of most of them. We are working to see how they can return to their communities.
“But the issue before us now is restoring confidence in the minds of the people to go back to their villages, because it is in their villages that they have the farms and their economic life is there. If you relocate them from there, you are not only socially relocating them but economically dislodging them, which is very dangerous.”
He added that climate change was affecting the socio-economic activities of many villagers in the state, whom he said were not aware of the dangers associated with it.
The governor explained that the state government had established 34 weather-monitoring stations across the 34 local government areas of the state to tackle the issue of climate change.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Francis Sardauna in Katsina