Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, has said the government won’t abandon the ongoing dialogue with bandits to attain peace in the state.
Matawalle disclosed this while receiving renowned Islamic Scholar, Ahmad Mahmud Gumi, at the Government House on Thursday.
According to the governor, his administration will continue to dialogue with the bandits no matter what his political opponents say.
Gumi, who was in the state for a peace meeting with the gunmen, told the governor that “what is currently happening in Zamfara is insurgency and not banditry”.
He said the bandits had completely turned into insurgents following the bad treatment they experienced in the hands of the people of the state.
“In most of the bandits and Fulani camps we have visited in Zamfara, I come to understand that what is happening in the state is nothing but an insurgency,” he said.
Gummi maintained that most of the bandits he came across during his visit to Zamfara forests were only carrying weapons and attacking people because of persistent attacks and harassment from the vigilante group known as the Yansakai.
The Islamic cleric stated that most of the bandits he interacted with during his visit indicated their readiness to surrender their weapons and embrace peace if the Yansakai stopped attacking and killing them.
He commended Matawalle for introducing a platform to have a dialogue with the bandits as a means of ending banditry, calling on other governors to emulate him.
“Some people are of the view that the bandits should be fought and killed, but what we understand is that the majority of them are illiterates who need proper education and enlightenment,” he said.
Despite a peace agreement with the state government, bandits have continually attacked Zamfara communities, killing scores and abducting people for ransom.
About 15 brand new Hilux vehicles and millions of naira were given to leaders of different repentant bandits by Matawalle as part of the agreement.
A top military officer told SaharaReporters that the gunmen now carry out attacks with some of these vehicles given to them by Matawalle.
The officer said, “Those bandits have different group, so if they say they repent, the governor will give them a Hilux vehicle but unfortunately they are now using the vehicles to carry out attacks.
“It’s so sad, he called it peace and reconciliation programme, but all you need to be rich now in Zamfara is to take up arms against the people.”
A committee set up to investigate the menace of armed banditry in the region, headed by Mohammed Abubakar, a former Inspector General of Police, reported that in Zamfara State between June 2011 and May 2019, 4,983 women were widowed; 25,050 children were orphaned; and more than 190,000 people were displaced as a result of armed banditry.