A world renowned novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian, Herbert George Wells once said “Crime and bad lives are the measures of a State’s failure”. This is exactly the event that is playing out in Zamfara, a state in the North West part of Nigeria.
Last month, the Governor of the state Bello Matawalle granted amnesty to gang of bandits with notable one being Auwalun Daudawa, a notorious bandit who led scores of his gang members to abduct over 300 schoolboys from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Kastina state last year.
This immediately drew the same public outrage that Nigerians expressed when the Federal Government granted amnesty to 600 “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists, a development civil society organisations accused the government of pampering ruthless and bloodthirsty marauders who were supposed to be punished after committing unprintable crimes in Nigeria’s North-East States, especially in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
To further show his opposition to that, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, faulted the proposition of Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle and renowned Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmoud Gumi, who after meeting with some bandits in Zamfara, asked the government to grant them amnesty like was done for militants in the Niger Delta region.
El-Rufai declared that any bandit arrested in Kaduna State will be killed, maintaining that “the state is at war with bandits”. Kaduna has been worst hit by deadly activities of bandits occasioned by invasion and destruction of communities, killings and abductions for ransom. He further said that he was elected to enforce law and order not to negotiate with bandits.
Though the position of a non-state actor like Sheikh Gumi could be dismissed with a wave of hand, same cannot be said about Zamfara state governor who has gone a step further in granting amnesty to bandits. It is pertinent to state that Bello Matawalle meddled into federal crime. Banditry, in all ramifications, is a federal crime, so granting amnesty to bandits doesn’t fall within the constitutional responsibilities of a state governor.
It is important to remind Bello Matawalle that paying ransom and granting amnesty to bandits will have multiplier effect of which other bandits will see as opportunity to take up arms as it is happening now. He should be aware that when bandits are paid and pampered, it makes the operators to see it as a viable business venture which could be very difficult to control or stop.
Just last week, a group known as Arewa Thinktank led by an erudite legal practitioner, Sahabi Sani Sami frowned at the manner in which events were unfolding in Zamfara State and other parts of North West. The group specifically called on the president Muhammadu Buhari to immediately dispatch a high powered federal government investigative team to Zamfara state in order to ascertain the true situation on ground particularly the manner the amnesty was carried out.
Sami Sani led group also requested that the president should forthwith; prevail on Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle to stop the show of shame of granting amnesty to bandits saying that within a reasonable period, if their requests are not met, they would proceed to International Criminal Court (ICC) to prompt them to take action on the mass murder, arson and gross abuse of fundamental human right of the people of Zamfara state and the inaction of the government to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. They have also threatened to write to embassies to bar Bello Matawalle from traveling outside Nigeria.
This position of Arewa Think-tank has been applauded by many well meaning Nigerians and also it is in line with the thought and actions of Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nasiru El Rufai.
Meanwhile, Zamfara state which is known for farming has lost that famous title because bandits in the state have made farmers their prime targets. According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the price of food items have virtually doubled due to increasing attacks on farmlands and farmers.
Though most of the actions taking so far by the federal government on this nagging issue could be said to be commendable, but to nip banditry in the bud, more serious drastic actions must be taken especially from the federal government. Upon Federal government’s declaration of Zamfara state airspace as no-fly zone and ordering of immediate closure of all solid mineral mining sites in the state, Nigerians of different ethnic groups hailed it as the right step in the right direction, but the current actions of the state governor tends to be putting clog in the wheel of progress already set in motion by President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government.
Bello Matawalle and Sheikh Gumi should be reminded that banditry does not know personality, tribe or religion. Most of the people that have joined the ancestors due to the criminal actions of the bandits are innocent people of Zamfara state and other Nigerians who in their quest to make both ends meet became victims of banditry. It is also important to remind Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle that he should pay more attention in developing a road map on helping the victims of banditry to restart their lives instead of focusing on paying ransom and granting amnesty to bandits.
He should also be reminded that Zamfara state is one of the educationally disadvantaged states in the country and as such should use the state’s scarce resource he’s using to compensate bandit to encourage Zamfara youths to return to school. United Nations said that Northern Nigeria has over 12 million out of school children with large proportion of them coming from North West part of the country where Zamfara state is situated. Meanwhile, investigation has shown that over one year, there is school feeding in Zamfara state, a situation analysts said deserve serious attention.
It is also key to mention that among all the states in the North West, Zamfara state seems to be the only state that is currently treating bandits with kid gloves and this informs why they (bandits) feel at home in the state. Bello Matawalle should also know that though he is presently enjoying state protection in terms of security, just because he’s the governor, he may not have a home to retire to after his tenure, if insecurity engulfs the whole state.
Finally, the federal government, political elites and traditional leaders in the state should prevail on Bello Matawalle to stop pampering bandits rather he should use the instrumentality of power to bring them to face the law.