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Free Katsina State of bandits

Speaking at an extraordinary security meeting in Katsina recently, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State cried out that the state is under siege by bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers. He lamented the deteriorating security situation in the state and called on all that matter to rise to the occasion. The situation was further dramatized recently by the failed attempt to kidnap Galadiman Katsina and District Head of Malumfashi, Justice Mamman Nasir.

Masari said, “The citizens are on a daily basis being harassed by bandits and kidnappers that are on rampage in the state. Katsina Government organised this one-day joint security and stakeholders meeting to proffer solutions to the state’s current insecurity challenge. Our state is currently under serious siege by armed robbers, kidnappers and armed bandits who arrest rural people at will and demand ransom, which if not paid, results in the killing their victims.”

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He also said, “The people of Katsina in the 34 local governments now sleep with one eye closed and the other open. Our state is in a dangerous situation. Travellers are afraid of being stopped on the highway and arrested by kidnappers who demand ransom.” He said the situation was so serious that thieves stole electrical equipment at the Government Reservation Area near the Government House.

The governor urged the stakeholders not to hide any criminal, and to reveal vital information about criminals. He said, “This time around, we should be able to make sacrifices that will make our state safe and will allow people to go about their lawful business without fear of being arrested by armed bandits and kidnappers.” The Police, Department of State Services [DSS], other security outfits and traditional rulers attended the meeting where far reaching decisions were taken.

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The bandits’ siege on Katsina has amplified the precarious security situation in the North West. Even before Masari cried out, there were many reports that locals in many towns and villages in Katsina State sharing borders with Zamfara and Kaduna States had been living in fear for many years. Masari said he had spent billions of naira on security since he came to office in 2015. He said, “We were able to restore normalcy as people could not farm when we came in. We have not restored total normalcy because it is a wide area covering nine local government areas and over 200 kilometres; so they can easily infiltrate. We have the Nigeria Air Force stationed here. But if you kill one person, another one will come out, because they don’t know the value of life because of lack of education.

“The forest leads to Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso down to Senegal across the River Niger; so it is not an ordinary forest. It is 100 kilometres if you are crossing from Zamfara before you reach any reasonable distance and another way to the Central African Republic,” he said.

Clearly, it is a single continuum of banditry that bedevils Zamfara, Kaduna and most recently Katsina States. It requires a regional solution; governors of these states must come together, pool resources and address the issue with active support of the Federal Government. This is the time for the North West Governors Forum led by Governor Masari to work together and unravel the mystery behind the endless loss of lives in their various states.

They should do all what it takes by going beyond tagging the insecurity as banditry or kidnapping. Many people already suspect that the problem is more serious than that. Only recently, Minister of Defence Brigadier-General Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) said the possibility of links between armed bandits wreaking havoc on rural communities in Zamfara State and Boko Haram could not be ruled out. The minister is probably right because the daredevilry, cruelty and wickedness recently exhibited by these bandits resemble those of Boko Haram. It is therefore time to find a regional, national and international solution to these insecurity problems of the North West states.

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