Katsina state and the challenge of tackling insecurity

Armed banditry and lately kidnapping appear to have overran Katsina state even as the state government struggles to overcome the challenge. HAMIDU SABO examines the efforts of the Bello Masari administration in this regard.

Before 2015, residents of Katsina state especially in rural areas had to grapple with the menace of cattle rustling, banditry and other organised criminal activities. It got to the extent of denying people access to their farmlands and rearing of cattle became almost impossible. Towns and villages that had hitherto existed were on the verge of being wiped away.

Before this time, in 2013, for instance, the level of criminalities in the state had reached a boiling point when a team of bandits attacked towns and villages within  Faskari local government area in the southern part of the state.

The attack left no fewer than 143 persons killed while hundreds of others sustained various degrees of injuries with property destroyed. It left 40 people killed at Mararrabar Maigora, 27 killed in Maigora, 27 killed in Sabon Layin Galadima and seven in Unguwar Doka. The sad fact about the attack was that in some instances, an entire family was wiped out.

The worst hit include Faskari, Sabuwa, Kankara, Safana, Dandume, Batsari and Jibai local government areas which were thrown into the murky waters of economic uncertainties as they could not engage in any meaningful economic activities to make a living.

The efforts

Prior to the 2015 general election, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari who was then the All progressive Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate promised to take pro – active measures if elected to address the menace of cattle rustling and other criminalities and also put an end to what he called Kiwo Haram and Noma Haram. The incumbent secretary to the state government (SSG) Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa, was given the mandate of finding ways to end the menace. A committee was set-up under the SGS to explore all options in tackling the menace.

Before the committee swung into action, the SGS called for comprehensive understanding of the menace that did not start overnight. With the clear understanding of the issues, it came to the understanding that the problem was multi-faceted with the cattle breeders, farmers and vigilante all sharing in the blame. With this understanding, it noted that the use of force will not address the issue but rather compound it.

The committee, thereafter, reached out to Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association. With the support of this group, it was also able to reach out to the cattle rustlers. Reaching out to them culminated in a series of meetings to buy their confidence and make them have faith in the new peace initiative. One of the peace meetings with the rustlers took place in Illela Forest in Safana local government area.

At the meeting, the SGS directed security agencies and vigilante groups to stop the intimidation and harassment of herdsmen. The repented rustlers were clear at that time that the stigmatisation of their race, indiscriminate harassment and killings by the security agencies and vigilante groups makes them to take arms. They further requested the government to construct dams for them in the forest, build schools for their children and stop indiscriminate falling of trees that threatened their means of livelihood.

After buying the confidence of the repentant cattle rustlers, a ceremony was organised in Kankara local government for them to surrender their weapons. With the success of the Kankara initiative, it led to a reduction in the criminal activities of the rustlers. The success was further seen in the increase of farming activities in areas hitherto no- go-areas.

More efforts

However, on October 17, 2017 another milestone was recorded when the state government and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons, (PRESCOM) organised a ceremony on the destruction of arms and disarmament of the repentant rustlers.

Governor Masari who was represented by Inuwa called for the upgrading of the PRESCOM to a commission.

He noted that the disarmament programme has been a veritable tool in the reduction of crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and other crimes that had plagued the state.

Similarly, Masari disclosed that the ECOWAS-EU Small Arms Project being implemented by UNDP and PRESCOM will provide micro project in selected communities in the state and also provide alternative livelihood to individuals who have voluntarily surrendered their arms under the state government disarmament initiatives.

According to him, the government will provide the lists of the selected communities as well as the names of all those who surrendered their weapons as the first beneficiaries of the micro projects and alternative livelihood scheme being provided under the ECOWAS- EU intervention.

The governor appealed to  neighbouring states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Kaduna to join hands with her.

In the meantime, through the effort of Masari, the federal government launched a new Civil Defence outfit called ‘Agro-Rangers’ which guards agricultural investments across the state to operate as a special unit under the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The minister of interior,  AbdulRahman Dambazzau disclosed this in while inspecting facilities at the National Civil Defence Academy where the agro-rangers were to be trained.

He explained that the ministry decided to create the outfit in response to the threat of armed banditry which is obstructing farming activities in parts of the state.

He cited instances where kidnappers and armed bandits destroy farms and abduct farmers which he said could cripple the economy.

 Dambazzau said the new outfit will protect farmlands, farmers and other agricultural investments that are critical to the survival of the Nigerian economy.

“Nobody will want to invest his wealth where there is no security, so with our experience with kidnapping, with farmers/herders conflict and armed banditry, we thought we must have this outfit so that we do not over stretch the police and the military. This outfit will be responsible for protecting agricultural investments for individuals, organisations and institutions,” he said.

When the minister’s team paid a visit to the Government House in Katsina, the state deputy governor, Alhaji Mannir Yakubu, described the decision as proactive.

 The state government indicated interest to assist all security agencies in the state with all the necessary assistance to end banditry and other criminal activities across the state. Already, Governor Masari has provided over 20 vehicles to various security agencies, accommodation, special allowances and other necessary assistance to the police to carry out their operations in areas affected by banditry.

According to Malam Dan Asabe Garba, a resident in one of the front line areas, banditry is reducing drastically, saying that most of the people in those affected areas are now carrying out their farming activities.           

Again, even the Inspector General of Police has told Katsina residents recently that President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the police and other security agencies to rid the state of kidnappers and armed banditry.

IGP Muhammed Abubakar Adamu disclosed this when he conducted out an inspection tour of areas affected by the activities of armed bandits in the state.

He observed that as a result of the ongoing military onslaughts in other states, most of the armed bandits have relocated to the state.

He said it was as a result of the recent developments that President Buhari directed the police and other security agencies to launch a coordinated operation to clear the troubled states in the north-west region of kidnappers and armed bandits.

The IGP explained that ‘Operation Puff Adder’ which the police launched in the state was aimed at clearing the Rugu Forest and secure the eight local government areas under the siege of kidnappers and bandits.

While on a working visit at the Government House in Katsina, the IGP appealed to the state government to sensitise its people on the need to cooperate with the police, particularly by providing useful information to the force.

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