With all sincerity, one can say that the amnesty offered to cattle rustlers in Katsina by the State Government has provided a relative peace in the hitherto ravaged areas where the rustlers staged a vicious reign of terror. While it is worthy to commend the effort of the Masari adnistration, there are impending issues that we, coming from villages, are obliged to report here so that other initiatives would be put in place to ensure that the fragile peace we now enjoy is here to last for long.
The amnesty granted to the rustlers pardoned them of their past crimes and protect them from any act of revenge from the people who suffered their cruelty. The rustlers were usually people known by everyone. At the eve of the rustling activity, they fled into the forest where they set camps. They only came to the nearby villages to steal cows, kill the owners and went back to their den. The APC Government Peace Initiative invited them to a table where agreements were made that they won’t steal again, they won’t kill again and they surrendered their weapons for a sum of money. In addition, they were also mandated to secure these places that they once attacked. Since that time, people have experienced a stable peace and are slowly coming out of the shock.
However, there are other looming dangers that the State Government should be ready to confront now. The first issue is that the amnesty did not cover all the sides. There are people whose sons, fathers and relatives were killed by the pardoned rustlers. And their most important valuable, their herds of cattle were rustled. They did not get any reparations from anyone. A proper reconciliation requires that both sides be engaged. Right now, it is fair to assume that there is deep hatred of the pardoned rustlers in the hearts of the people they live with. These people maybe hoping for a better day to avenge the blood of their slain relatives. The amnesty programme needs to revisit itself and include these people so as to appease them against destabilising this peace process.
A more disturbing scenario is the manner in which the amnesty itself is sowing a dangerous method of creating warlords out of pardoned cattle rustlers. They now arrest suspected thieves, bundle them up and take them to forest for interrogation. These suspects always confessed to their crimes. You won’t need to know the why! On return, they ask the confessed thieves to pay outrageous fine. The fine must be paid because it is dressed up with threats. There was a case of a man near our village, whose farm was used by the Buzaye for their camels without his permission. The man went to the farm and sent the camels out of it. The Buzaye reported him to the pardoned rustlers. The rustlers compelled him to pay a fine of One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira. Having nowhere to get the money and in mortal fear of the pardoned rustlers, the man sold his very farm to pay the fine. In the jungle court of the pardoned rustlers, no appeal is allowed. No fair hearing is given to accused persons. One could be framed into something or be unfairly accused, they don’t care. They have replaced the Police and all other constituted authority. The money paid to them as fine does not go into the State or Federal Government accounts. They shared it among themselves. This is the way they earn their living. Humiliating people in broad daylight while claiming full and limitless support of the State Government.
The above gruesome scenario is nothing but a time bomb ticking to 00 and eventual taking over of anarchy and destabilisation of peace, of progress, of sanity, of civilisation and everything it stands for. The State Government should, in a matter of urgency, revisit its amnesty programme to ensure full compliance of the law by the pardoned rustlers. They must be reporting every accused persons to the Police. If allowed unchecked, the present situation will take us either to a sort of Afghanistan case where warlords are more feared than Police and other recognised authorities or the people being humiliated by the pardoned rustlers will take law into their hands.
Allah Shi Kyauta. Amin.