Matawalle’s efforts against banditry in Zamfara state

Now that we are witnessing an improved security situation in the state, it is pertinent to have flashback on efforts employed at various times to end, specifically, banditry in the state.

Banditry in Zamfara state started with simple cattle rustling and became a real threat in 2011. Nine years on when Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle assumed office, it was at its peak. The governor took immediate measures to end it. A major approach was the appeal for dialogue with the bandits, their parents (majority of the bandits are indigenous Fulani of Zamfara state), and the state government. He met with Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector General of Police to sheath swords and allow the non-kinetic approach to solving the menace to be tested. They agreed.

Governor Matawalle held several meetings with the bandits and their leaders and the following agreements were reached:

*That all Vigilante groups (Yan Sa Kai) will be disbanded on the request of the bandits.

  • That the Fulani will be provided with social services as enjoyed by other towns in the state.
  • That all Fulani held in the hands of Yan Sa Kai for charges of banditry will be released..

*The state government in turn requested for a stop in abduction and killings by bandits.

*That all captives will be released without ransom.

  • That all bandits will disarm within a short period of time.

The above agreements were translated into success as the bandits (within nine months) released nearly 3,000 captives without ransom. They also stopped attacks either on highways, towns or villages or the markets and farms. They also surrendered over 1000 Ak47 guns and other weapons.

In the same vein, the state government proscribed the vigilante group and started building modern Ruga in each of the three senatorial districts in the state. The Ruga at Maradun was almost completed with everything needed for modern life for the grazing Fulani. It has 200 pro-type houses, a hospital, a veterinary clinic, water canal, a grazing area, police post, primary school, mini-stadium, worship places and many other basic requirements needed for comfortable living.

After the federal government cancelled all negotiations with bandits, the Matawalle administration introduced what was known as “carrot and stick” approach, which involves the use of both kinetic and non-kinetic approach to ending banditry in the state. Those who accepted to lay down their arms will be re-absorbed into the society. Those who refused will be fought.

The governor empowered security operatives with brand new Hilux vans equipped with communication gadgets with monthly imprest for their maintenance and daily upkeep allowance to officers on operation.

The Matawalle administration introduced measures of incapacitating the bandits to give security operatives upper hand. These include:

*banning of bulk food sale to avoid transiting same to bandits in the bush.

*banning of fuel black markets and selling minimal liters of fuel at approved filling stations. This is to avoid supply to bandits in the bush

*banning of weekly markets to avoid selling ammunition under cover of crowd.

*banning of selling livestock outside the state to reduce cattle rustling.

*Cutting off communication with cell phones for about two months to disable informants and allow security operatives to rout the bandits’ camps

The government recently introduced measures to allow citizens apply and own guns for self protection. He introduced and launched the Community Protection Guards (CPG) and assisted them with 1,500 motorbikes and 20 Hilux buses and will assist them to apply and get gun licence to protect their villages.

Bappa writes from Gusau, Zamfara state