By Egena Sunday Ode
Governor of Zamfara state, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, on Monday said banditry in his state is festering because some powerful individuals are backing the perpetrators.
Matawalle painted this gloomy picture after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Regardless, he assured that citizens should expect an improvement in the security situation in the state soon.
According to the governor, his optimism stems from the President’s avowed determination to strengthen security activities that will result in marked changes in the situation by this Wednesday.
Matawalle dismissed reports that over 200 persons were killed in the recent attacks in Bukuyyum and Anka area of the state, adding that the victims were actually 58.
While noting that he visited the scenes of the attacks, he blamed those he called “political bandits” as being behind the unverified figures.
On what could be done to bring about a permanent solution to insecurity in Zamfara, the Governor stated: “when I assumed duty as a governor I used so many options to bring this insecurity to a minimal level. First of all, I initiated dialogue and reconciliation between the herders and farmers and during that dialogue, we spent more than nine months without any crisis in Zamfara State. It worked.
“But unfortunately, people use politics, because they have collaborators, of course. So, they went back to those bandits, telling them that the government is not serious about this dialogue, that we did not give them anything.
“So, the bandits decided to go back to their normal businesses. That’s why I backed out from the reconciliation programme. But definitely, it worked for over nine months. But because this is something that I inherited, that has been going on for almost eight years, and you don’t expect it to end within just two years of my administration. Because it is supposed to be ongoing process.
“So, after I realized that some of them had backed out of this dialogue, then I cut off the programme. I then initiated the cutting off communications, and some logistics that used to go to the bandits from August 2011 to December 2011. And it worked too.
“But sometimes those collaborators who are usually happy with what is happening, who are even jubilating if people are being killed, they went back and started again, saying that the government is not serious and instigating some of the public. In fact, they even dragged me to court.
“So you see with the kind of people who have in Zamfara State, I don’t think this issue of banditry will end very soon because, already, some people are behind it. Some people are using it.
“And all they need is at least to show Nigerians that both the federal and Zamfara state governments are not serious on the issue of insecurity, despite the fact that some of them are involved in the crisis of this insecurity. But we’re doing our best.”
Governor Matawalle, while disputing the figures put out as those killed in the latest terrorist attacks in the state over which he said he came to the villa to brief the President, stated: “I briefed Mr. President on what happened and the next action that we should take and the government is doing everything possible to make sure that we bring sanity in state.
“Ahamdullahi, all the action that we have taken, we have recorded successes within just three days. And you will bear me witness after that attack, there has not been any report any banditry activities in the state uptil today.”
On the number of people killed recently, Matawalle explained: “Yes, I have already cleared the air about the figures because I have seen some reporting that 200 people, 300 people, 500 people were killed. But I went to the community by myself and the security agencies.
“First we went to Bungudu and we confirmed from the Emir that it was only 36 people that have been killed and two communities were razed by this bandits. And when we went to Anka, we met the Emir, at the time we met him he gave us a list of 22 people that have been killed, making the total numbers of 58 people killed.
“But as I’ve been saying there is some political bandits who have been spreading lies, rumors so that they can achieve some political gain.
“But actually it is just 58 people that have just been killed. But some people will just go to social media and be writing some figures and I have informed Mr. President of some people who think that with this insecurity they can achieve something out of it.
“Because I wonder how people will just be writing figures without having genuine information from those communities. Someone will just call a media personnel and tell him that look so so number of people have been killed in so so place.
“Some people even swear with Holy Koran that thousands of people have been been killed which is grossly misleading but we know all those kind of people do not want peace in the nation but God will prevail Inshallah.”
The governor disclosed that his government was investigating those who may be collaborating with terrorists in the state with a view to fishing them out.
“We are still investigating those that are involved in these activities and we’ll make the public know after the confirmation of the reality of all the information that we have at hand. Because, we are working to make sure that all those who have hand in this insecurity must be brought to justice.
“Therefore, once the investigation is concluded, we’ll inform the public of the result of the investigation of what the security is doing about it.”
On his closed door with the President Buhari, he said the president assured him of actions that will be taken soon to address the Zamfara security debacle.
“You know I do initiate some actions to be taken and if I initiate some action, I do inform Mr. President, and I’ve been getting support from him.
“So, now, I initiated another option which I informed him that you know, some issue of security is not something that someone should be talking on the screen of television or pages of newspapers, but I assure the people Zamfara State that they will see changes very soon and Mr. President is committed to bringing down this issue of insecurity to barest level
“And I assure people that we have all it takes to fight these people and he has motivated me and when we go back. On Wednesday, the people will see changes between now and Wednesday because I know what we discussed and I know what is going to happen within this period.
“So, my people would be happy with the action that the federal is going to take on the issue of insecurity very soon Inshallah.”