State Correspondent

The current trend of negotiation with bandits by some Governors, and subsequent warning by President Buhari, have continued to generate diverse reaction. Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari in an interview with some selected journalists in Katsina advised his colleagues not to negotiate with bandits of whatever guise because they are criminals.

President Muhammadu Buhari has warned governors against negotiating with the bandits, but some of you are still negotiating with the goons, what is your reaction?

Let me tell you, as for us we are not negotiating with the bandit. We did it before and it failed. We cannot negotiate with a thief. Because they don’t have any association. And they don’t have any agenda other than to steal. They are not people fighting based on any ideology.

So, we cannot negotiate peace with them. What I said and let me repeat it. I know that there are some herders in the forest that are not bandits and are not criminals. They should come out and surrender all they have. So that we should know whoever inhabited the forest is a criminal. And also, herders living by the forest should make peace with their neighbours. We don’t have to come in.

For me we will not sit on the same table. If they say they are fighting based on ideology, then there is a basis for negotiation. But when you are fighting to steal. How can you stop anybody from stealing? Unless by force. You bring him under control by force. That is how you deal with a thief. They don’t have any association, is it an association of thieves? Or association of bandits? They don’t have any association. They are a bunch of criminals.

Because if you negotiate with him as a thief. He will not steal in your house. Then he will go and steal in his house or your neighbour’s house. Because he is a thief. So, for us is not protecting one state or protecting one community. Is protecting all.

When it started people thought it was Zamfara, Katsina, affairs. Until they found themselves in places like Ogun, Ondo, Imo and other places.

So, one of our problems is we don’t look at this country as one body. You know if for example your ear is sick and your leg says it is not my business it is the ear that is sick. This ear sickness will develop to the point that it will affect the leg.

So, if there is any problem in any part of the country, we should look at it as our problem. At least we should have learnt a lesson from Boko Haram. When it started in Borno some people thought is this Muslim extremist. So is not their business. So, gradually many states including FCT were affected. Then it became a national problem.

When banditry started it was a north region affair. And now it has become a national affair. So, we should learn to help each other. When there is a problem in a particular place let all of us move to that problem and stop it. But if we don’t it will grow. And affect all parts of the country bringing tension among people. And again, we should look at criminals as criminals wherever they come from. Is not about looking at one ethnic community and say they are like this. In any group of people either by tribe or ethnicity or religion there are good and bad people everywhere.

So, the idea of demonizing or segmenting a particular group and branding them is bad. Simply because bad people come from them.

You are among the Governors that are making sure there is peace especially in the North-West region. But it appears that banditry and other kinds of crime is persisting despite your efforts. What do you think is the inattentive tie?

Look! You know… I want to accept that zero crime free society. It has never been done before and it will never be since the beginning of time. But what we have today are bandits and some few elements of insurgent among them that we must work as Governors in the Northern part of the country to bring them under control.

You can’t eliminate criminality. But should be with a level that cannot disturb ways and means of people. Let along lead to losing their lives.

So, I think there is a need for synergies which we are working towards in the state, even the traditional institutions across the zone and across the region. Because this bandit moves through the forest from one zone to another.

So, we are working. When we met last week during the northern Governors and the traditional rulers. These were the issues discussed. On how to synergies and having a common approach on dealing with bandits.

So, a criminal in Sokoto is a criminal in Kaduna, is a criminal in Taraba, is a criminal in Gombe viz-visa.

So, we are going to help with a systematic approach. So, that wherever they go, they are blocked and taken care of.

Pardon my curiosity sir, your dream and optimal satisfaction was bequeathing secured and prosperous Katsina State. Sir; considering the fact that the whole nation is facing security challenges, how obtainable is this your dream?

Let me tell you, challenges are part of leadership. Challenge is part of leadership. I don’t think there is any leader without challenge. But securing the lives and the properties of the people is the primary role of any government. Which we believe on our part as the state government in which we are limited in terms of what we can do. But the little we can do and we are doing am sure we are on the right track in providing security.

We are looking at the local government laws and amending them for the involvement of the tradition rulers, interest groups and the returning the responsibility of the security to the community.

Before the security was the responsibility of the local leadership to provide the security to their localities and they were doing it very well. But somehow as the result of local government reform of 1976 in particular. Took away some of these and transferred them to nowhere. So a vacuum was created.

So, this was trying to restore security communities under our local government laws. And also, reestablishment of the security council to be headed by the district head and all key players in the society.

The head of shepherds, the head of butchers, the head of transport, the Imams and the local hunters in those communities are all part of those to form the security committee including me. Because in every village now we have youth leadership, we have women leadership that should participate in helping secure the villages and towns.

And Katsina was doing well before. It was not through oil money; it was through agriculture and the livestock. We have the land, we have water. I think amongst the states we have large bodies of water, dams for irrigation.

So, Katsina State is one place where you can have agriculture almost twelve months in a year. So, with improved seeds, with market available, with extension services. The protection will grow to meet the population and also, we have enough to sell, to export outside the State.

Likewise, in the area of livestock we are working with the federal government in the improvement of livestock generally which that sector has been totally neglected.

So, we believe restoration of agriculture, restoration of livestock are key areas that will definitely propel Katsina to becoming more dependent on itself than the revenue coming outside the State.

Sir, there are allegations that over twenty communities in Faskari Local Government have been deserted. As the chief security officer of the state, tell us the true situation?

What you are saying is not true. Yes, some communities are affected. But when you say twenty. Then I should first of all ask you to find what you mean by community before I respond appropriately.

Yes, Faskari in particular to some extent had been in persistent attack by bandits. But I don’t think the number of the villages or communities that were deserted in the area are up to twenty.

Yes, just now we discussed a particular village in Yanmallamai which is under Rongodo ward. There is a village or small community who have their terrible encounter with the bandit. And the military moved in yesterday and saved the situation. But in those borders of the forest some communities have moved into their local government’s headquarters. Because the population it is easy for bandits coming from Zamfara to overrun those communities.

Definitely some communities are affected. But I don’t think whether they are up to twenty that are affected in Faskari.

What are the modalities put in place by your administration to make sure that these people return to their various communities?

You see any village that was attacked. We normally send their officials for assessment and we provide immediate relief. We have been talking to Faskari, even last week, we have talked to Safana, we have been talking to Danmusa. And we also provided financial support for the displaced families.

We are working with the security agencies to restore normalcy in those communities is what we do on the daily basis. And it is what I told the AIG. Because an AIG has been posted to look into Kaduna and Katsina. And this is what we discussed with him.

Restoring normalcy in those areas so that villages and communities that left their places of living. Because they cannot live outside those communities. They were just forced out. Their farms are there; their natural abode is there. So, they cannot live meaningful lives outside those areas.

So, it is a necessity that normalcy is restored in those areas that people can go back. But you know we as a government we are working through the religious leaders, through the traditional rulers and through influential political leaders in those communities. While the military on their own. When I say Military, I mean the entire security apparatus; the Military, the Police and the Air force are doing what they are supposed to do in order to bring normalcy.

But you see if you look at the spread of the villages. And you look at the population of the Military, look at the population of the Police is not possible that they will be everywhere. That is why we are working to restore community leaders to provide security in the local communities.

Because, the Military and the Police will come and reestablish order. After some time, they will leave. But if we fail to bring community leaders. Then the bandit can come back.

So, most important is restoring community leaders. That is what we are doing. Even today we met with some kingmakers. And part of what we have discussed is also about the plans we have for restoring the community leaders. And we have tasked them, we have mobilized them. They are meeting with the community and the village’s heads. Because to sensitize them on the new local government laws; what is provided, what is expected of them and how to work towards communal living in peace. It was peaceful some few years back; the community were living before, the herders, the farmers we were living harmoniously but today the story is different.

Away from security let us look at the education. Recently, you gave a directive through the Commissioner for Education, that only male students from the boarding schools should resumed and to operate in day school system closer to their locality. Sir, the question on the lips of many in Katsina State, what is the fate of female students in boarding schools in the state?

We are working with the physical security in the female hostels and all hotels. We have not completed. It is after we have completed. Because we are putting, securing the dormitories with all we can think of. Then we can now say at least we have taken what is humanly possible to provide security and return the girls.

Look, we must return our people to school. We should be looked at as if we were defeated. We should not allow ourselves to be defeated. Children must go to school. I think if all of us in the affected states are united and say ok let us go back to school and everybody is in school. How many people will they kidnap? Would they have the infrastructure to hold them? We shouldn’t surrender.

I said the body school is managed or owned by federal institutions. Especially the ones by the security agencies. I think they are free, if they are satisfied by the security arrangement. Because they are federal institutions being managed by Police and Military. They belong to the Military. If they cannot protect their own institutions which they run. I think for me we should not give up.

Thank you for clearing the air, but how fast are you going to implement that?

Within two weeks we will complete the work. And even today during the executive council meeting the progress report was given. We are more concerned because it is easy for the boy’s schools. Most of the catchment area you will find the schools to go. But for the girl’s boarding schools. The girls come from far and wide. If you open for a day in some of the boarding schools, you hardly get up to twenty. Because there are not many.

Take for example girls science secondary school Ajuwa. If you say you open it for the day. I think it is only those in Katsina that will be able to transport their children to the school. But all the same you hardly find one or two classes. And this is a school with thousands of girls.

We have to do what we can do to secure the area. We must not give up.

Let us look at the economic aspect. Investigation revealed that after payment of salaries Katsina State is left with a small amount of money to handle some infrastructure or developmental projects in states. What are the modalities being putting in place to revitalize the economic status of the state?

Diversification one. We have changed the leadership of the revenue collection agency. And we have started to see some improvement. And we believe also we have a committee which has already visited about eight local governments holding town hall meetings to reintroduce community tax and cattle tax. They will continue tomorrow. Because we held an Executive Council meeting today that is why we couldn’t hold a meeting with them. By this month they will finish collecting dues and opinions of the people. And they are a twenty-one-man committee. And then the traditional rulers are in the civil society. The government itself. The leadership of all political parties. Because we want to give it a non-partisan approach. And we believe that at the end of the day based on the recommendation we receive we will reintroduce community tax and also cattle tax and also sundry taxes.

I believe that before the middle of this year you will see real activity of restoring Katsina State to its lost glory. Like I said earlier Katsina was depending on agriculture and livestock taxes and survived all its institutions. Including Police were under the native authority.

So, I think if we work hard and hard enough, I think we will generate some substantial part of money that will assist us in carrying out some developmental projects. Thank you.

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