The Zamfara State Government on Monday said it would employ repentant bandits in the state and give them money to set up business to end banditry and its resultant killings and abductions in the state.
The state government has also agreed to disband its 8,500 civilian Joint Task Force recruited by the former governor, Alhaji Abdul Aziz Yari, as demanded by the bandits during a peace deal between the government and the repentant hoodlums.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Alhaji Abubakar Dauran, said the government decided to employ the repentant bandits and empower some of their illiterate members because they had embraced peace.
He said most of the bandits were Fulani.
Bandits have consistently attacked Zamfara towns and villages in the last five years.
Yari had during a town hall meeting in Gusau, the state capital, in April said bandits had killed 3,526 persons in the state in the last five years.
He had also said, “Over 13,000 hectares of farmlands were either destroyed or made useless as farmers can no longer use the lands for farming. Nearly 500 villages have also been devastated and 8,219 persons were injured, some are still in critical conditions.”
But since the assumption of Governor Bello Matawalle in office, the bandits had been surrendering their arms and releasing their captives after the government engaged the hoodlums in a dialogue.
On Sunday, Matawalle in Abuja, said the bandits had freed 300 people they kidnapped.
When asked if there was any agreement between the bandits and the state government, Dauran, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the bandits agreed to surrender their arms.
He said, “The state government has plans to recruit those of them with relevant academic qualifications into the civil service, while others who have not gone to school will be assisted in their cattle breeding business.
“The Fulani have fully embraced the peace initiative and are now moving freely in the markets and other places that were hitherto no-go areas for them.”
According to him, the state government is going to give the bandits, who are Fulani, “some money to set up business and will also provide them with some feeds for their animals.”
Dauran added, “There was a concrete arrangement between the bandits and the state government. They (bandits) agreed to surrender and release their captives if the state government could also release their people arrested by the security agents.”
He added that the bandits asked the state government to allow their people in hideouts to come out and move freely in the state without being attacked or harassed by the volunteer groups otherwise known as “Yansakai.”
Bandits ask Zamfara to disband 8,500 civilian JTF
The governor said, “They requested the government to disband the 8,500 civilian JTF (Joint Task Force) recruited by the former governor, Alhaji Abdul Aziz Yari, as well as the volunteer groups which have been attacking and killing their people, thereby causing them to embark on reprisals against the people.”
According to him, a meeting was convened between the Fulani and other groups. He said there was reconciliation after the government fulfilled its pledge and ordered the release of some bandits, while the civilian JTF and the volunteer groups were also disbanded.
According to him, the state government will soon create Ruga settlements for the Fulani where social facilities such as schools, hospitals and dams will be provided to make them comfortable.
Dauran stated, “The repentant bandits have surrendered many AK47 guns and a lot of ammunition,” adding that more weapons were expected to be surrendered in the near future.
Bandits kill 20 in Katsina, abduct woman
But few days after the Zamfara State Government reached an agreement with the bandits, hoodlums attacked Zango-Pawa in the Zangon-Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State and killed 20 people on Sunday. They also abducted a woman.
Residents told one of our correspondents on Monday that the bandits also razed several houses, including that of the village head who reportedly escaped the attack.
Sources said the bandits arrived in the village on motorcycles around 6.30pm on Sunday and started shooting.
A local government worker in the village, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of the bandits also came back on Monday morning.
Bandits prevent villagers from burying victims
According to him, the development prevented residents from burying some of the victims.
He said, “Nobody can say exactly what is happening in the village now. The bandits came on Sunday evening at about 6.30pm. After they have wreaked havoc, we were able to evacuate 20 corpses but as some of the corpses were being buried on Monday, they came again and we had no option but to abandon the burial and take to our heels.”
The spokesman for the police command, Gambo Isah, who said he had yet to verify the genuineness or otherwise of the incident, promised to call back.
“Let me verify and I will get back,” he replied to the SMS by this reporter.
As of 5:30pm when the report was being sent, he had yet to respond to enquiries by one of our correspondents.
ISWAP attacks military base, 10 terrorists, one soldier killed
Meanwhile, the Islamic State West African Province fighters on Monday attacked a base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force in the Baga area of Borno State, during which 10 terrorists and one soldier were killed.
The ISWAP insurgents, numbering about 30, around 5.30am invaded the base, in an attempt to cart away military weapons, which resulted into a gun battle.
According to the military, the ISWAP terrorists included four suicide bombers who were later killed in the crossfire.
Apart from the MNJTF soldier who was killed, five others were injured and had been evacuated to a military hospital for medical attention.
The MNJTF Chief of Military Public Information, Col. Timothy Antigha, in a statement on Monday, said the multinational force would continue to act cohesively with national forces to deal with the terrorists in the Lake Chad Basin.
He said, “ISWAP terrorists numbering about 30 infested troops’ defensive locality. However, the troops spotted their approach and promptly thwarted what could have been an audacious assault.
“In the process, 10 terrorists, including four suicide bombers were neutralised. Others escaped with gunshot injuries as bloodstained tracks were observed. Additionally, assorted arms and ammunition were impounded from other terrorists who fled in disarray.
“Unfortunately, a soldier paid the supreme price, while five others sustained varying degrees of injury and have been evaluated for medical attention.
“It must be emphasised that the MNJTF will continue to pursue a course of action necessary for the achievement of its mandate in the Lake Chad Basin.”