Katsina: As the peace accord crumbles – By Prof Abdussamad Umar Jibia
Many observers from outside Katsina state now view us with envy for the projects, especially the higher institutions of learning sited in the state by Buhari administration. Two specialized universities, a polytechnic and a few others. President Buhari has also appointed a number of Katsina indigenes to big offices at the centre.
All of the above are true and laudable but they are mainly important to people like me who live in major population centres within and outside the state. For the rural population, especially in the western part of the state, universities, polytechnics and big offices make no sense for as long as they are not able to sleep with their eyes closed.
Three months ago, on the directive of Mr. President, Katsina state Government under Masari entered into a peace agreement with criminals who have been responsible for hundreds of Murders, rapes and kidnappings across the state, particularly in those LGAs that share borders with Zamfara state. Of course, those bandits had already signed and breached multiple peace accords with the neighbouring Zamfara state Government just like they breached an earlier one with Katsina under Masari. But Masari had no choice as he does not command troops. Let us give him that benefit of doubt.
But what were the terms of the peace accord? The only condition I know is what Governor Masari put as ‘dan ba kara’ meaning ‘there must be no repetition of crime’ after the peace accord. The implication of that condition is that the bandits got away with all the crimes they committed including murder and destruction and stealing of property. There was no condition that the armed groups should disband and leave their camps to join the rest of the population. Even the arms surrender was ridiculous. For example, on one of those occasions, the bandits were seen surrendering only two rifles to the Governor. Yes, the same bandits who were known to move about with two to three hundred motorcycles with each motorcycle carrying two to three armed gangsters. And the Governor ironically accepted.
The peace accord had come and gone and the many of us who were against it have now been vindicated. Immediately after the peace meetings, the armed bandits moved about freely brandishing their arms among the people. They sold stolen property freely in our markets and broke shops and confiscated personal belongings like phones and cash from individuals. Just like they attacked Katsina after negotiating peace with Zamfara, they also attempted to extend their terror to the neighbouring Niger republic. Of course, it has proven to be unsuccessful due to the vigilance of the Nigerien security forces.
For several weeks, those of us who have strong links with people living in the rural areas of Jibia and Batsari are worried about the escalation of violence in those areas. All that used to happen before the peace accord is now gradually returning. As I m writing this note, cases of cattle rustling are fully back. There are many cases of raping and kidnapping for ransom.
Another worrisome trend is the marriage between rice smugglers and bandits. Rice smugglers who fail to obtain prior clearance from bandits have their rice and valuables confiscated after being forced to take it to their camps.
This gradual return of full-scale banditry is obviously due to the inability of the bandits to find a fertile ground in the neighbouring Niger Republic just like they found in Katsina after Zamfara peace accord.
Even for the sake of smuggled rice, since humans do not seem to be as important, Federal Government should take its battle to the bandits’ camps.