Sequel to the resurgence of banditry and other criminal activities in katsina state, Governor Aminu Bello Masari has addressed newsmen where he talked on issues concerning security in the state and government efforts to address them. Our Katsina correspondent, Lawal Sa’idu Funtua was there for Peoples Daily.
What is happening with regards to the security situation in Katsina state?
Coming to the issue of security, let me say it for the avoidance of doubt, the peace process has not collapsed. Whatever the imagination of some people, whatever their conclusion, the peace process is on course and is achieving results. When we started this process in 2016, what was on ground then was cattle rustling. By the time, around 2018 going to 2019, we saw resurgence of invasion,
banditry, kidnapping and rape. When we started exactly on 30th of August, we saw the reduction and stoppage of invasion of villages and communities by bandits. What followed was kidnapping. And kidnapping is happening all over Nigeria not only in Katsina state. The records are there. Why do we have resurgence of kidnapping? Because let us stop what Hausa man would say, Hitting the bag not the donkey; a Fulani man or herder who lives in the forest does not know where you and I live in this town. So the criminality has now come to the cities, towns, and semi-urban centres where they are inviting some of the bandits to come and kidnap for ransom. The criminals in the towns are more deadly than the herders in the forest for they are the ones inviting them. How can somebody who lives in the forest of Damburu in Zamfara know the place where Agaju lives in Katsina? Unless the neighbour to Agaju invites him before he knows. And you ask yourselves, how many times have you heard about burglary? It has reduced because some of the burglars and criminals have now turned to be informants and also part of the kidnapping syndicate. So for us, let us start looking here and make sure that we really work through technology to unearth those who are inviting the bandits living amongst us. And again when we made peace, not all the bandits agreed. The problem we are having, like somebody said about Batsari and Jibia, simply because those leaders who live in the forest of Zamfara, who are very close to Batsari and Jibia, did not join the peace deal. Gang leaders like Dan Karami, and to some extent Dan Gote, did not.
On a wider note, do you think the states in the North-West should plan to replicate what happened in the South-West Amotekun?
We have a lot to learn from other areas. We do not claim to have monopoly of knowledge or wisdom. Certainly, I have been following up with what is happening in the South-West, and in the North-West, I am the chairman and I will call for a meeting and look at the situation. We have agreed to have a common approach which I do believe those states that are more affected, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, are doing; you know this issue of banditry at the time we started, Jigawa and Kano was not as rampant as we are having in the four states, even though Kano had their own share through Belgore forest. Definitely, we will learn from them and see what they have done and see how we can borrow some parts of what they have, to see how we can improve our situation.
Katsina State appears to be under security information siege, where you have information about security coming from different angles, what are your plans to streamline it to avoit conflicting information?
With regards to information, in this era of freedom, you can hardly gag anybody and say do not speak. As for the local government, sometimes the urge for giving information to you journalists. You travel to a local government to get information and without verification of the information, you go on air. And I know some of the stories you write are stories you get from the local tea seller, but we can’t gag anybody and say that you can’t speak. But it is for you to know somebody speaking on behalf of this Government House, you need to assess him. Is he really in a position? Maybe when you come to Government House, it is either the Permanent Secretary or Chief of Staff. Any other person talking to you, you should be weary about publishing. Is he in a position to do that? So if you go to the Government House, somebody would say he is a staff of local government, yes, this is what is happening. It doesn’t mean he is speaking on behalf of government or that local government. He may be speaking to you as an individual not with the authority of the council. Obviously, they have their own information officers doing their own thing. Sometimes, when you go it’s up to you. You go to a local government to get information, you don’t verify it with the head of information or the chairman then the next thing you go on air.
It is alleged that absense of constituted authority at the local government led to the return of banditry, and with the Supreme Court judgement, are we going to have election soon at the local governments?
There is no way you can separate politics and security, whether you have local government councils in place or not. They are intertwined. Politics, security, economy. These are intertwined, one way you look at it. But unfortunately, what we are having today in terms of security affects everybody. Like I said when we were going out, when the bandits come or when the kidnappers or armed robbers come, they don’t request for political party membership. That is why I say let us remove partisan politics in terms of approaching this issue of this security. It is not about failure of the government of APC or Governor Aminu Bello Masari. No. It is about the lives and properties of the people of Katsina state. So I think we have a problem that is not peculiar to Katsina, it has become more than a regional problem but a national problem. Any responsible person would like to see what would be his contribution in order to solve this problem. Because if you don’t solve it, it would continue to grow. If you are from the other side, from outside, tomorrow if you are inside, you’d be confronted with this, maybe in a harsher way than now. So, obviously it is our responsibility to come down. Election at the local government. If today the Supreme Courts gives verdict on our case before it, we’ll comply. For the past 16 years of the previous governments, they have not provided a permanent accommodation for state independent election commission. I did, because I believe that we need to have the umpire. But unfortunately, those who feel that we used the law that they created in terms of abolition of local government councils. It is their law. We inherited the law, we used it and now they are challenging the same law that they passed in the court. So we have gone to the Supreme Court, they are dilly-dallying, they don’t want the case to move forward, and they are insisting that the court should decide. The fact that some pronouncements are made somewhere, they don’t directly affect Katsina state unless there is pronouncment from Supreme Court, on our own case. So I think I consider it to be one of those stories. And circumstances are different. What kills somebody here maybe a different disease that kills somebody there. The fact that some other states have dissolved the local government and they said take them back, does not affect what we did. Maybe they didn’t follow the law. We followed the law that was enacted by our predecessors to dissolve the local government councils. So until and unless there is a clear pronouncement on our own case that is before the Supreme Court, before we can decide. But I assure you that today, if there is a positive deceleration by the Supreme Court, we would not take more than three months to have election; because we are ready. As far as we are concerned, we are ready for election. So we are not even afraid of it.
Can you say that Katsina state government is getting the federal government due cooperation in fighting banditry and kidnapping?
By the actions of the military in the last two days, you know that the federal government is giving the needed cooperation. It has brought and created a brigade and we now have three battalions, one in Katsina, one in Daura, and the other in Malumfashi, and our Batallion has been upgraded to a brigade, and even from these four states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto, we have now a division. So the federal government has really shown interest and given us full support by bringing more personnel.