From Muawuya Bala Idris, Katsina
Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State recently directed people of the state to acquire weapon to defend themselves from the attack of bandits in the state.
Masari, who spoke in Jibia while on sympathy visit to the area over the killing of 15 people by Customs officers, said it was morally wrong for the people to submit weakly to the bandits without any attempt to defend themselves.
The governor’s statement generates reactions from civil society organizations, Non Governmental Organisation and prominent individuals.
In its reaction, Coalition of Northern Group accused the state government for failing on its responsibility to ensure protection of lives and property in the state.
The coalition called on Governor Masari to resign honorably, insisting that his administration has failed to discharge its responsibility.
Also opposition Peoples Democratic Party said the governor’s call for people to defend themselves against bandits indicated that APC administration is actually not in control and has failed the electorate.
The statement also generated debates among the media. circle and Nigerians supporting the stand of the Governor. The state has within the last six years been battling with insecurity problems.
However, Governor Masari, in his own wisdom, initiated various measures to tackle the problems.
He organized meetings with leaders of Fulani to solicit their input on the issue. The meeting paved way to reach out to leaders of bandits in the forest.
He is the only governor in the Northwest, facing banditry, to visit the hideouts of the bandits in about 10 local government areas.
During the visit, Masari, in company with top government officials, met with the leaders of the bandits, discussed with them and later signed peace accord.
It was aftermath of the visit that many of kidnapped women and children were released, while suspected bandits that are in custody of security agents were released on bail. All in effort for the bandit to seize fire.
Few weeks after he visited the forest, Governor Masari initiated different meetings with leaders of the bandits in attendance of military, Department of Security Service, police, journalists and other stakeholders all at Government House. The meeting was part of the effort to disarm the rebel Fulani.
For intelligent gathering, Masari’s administration created offices in three Secretariats headed by senior retired security agents. The offices are located in Funtua, Daura and Katsina.
To widen the scope towards solving insecurity problem, government organized different workshops for religious leaders, traditional rulers, non governmental organisations and journalists to sensitize the participants on ways to assist government in that area and generate input from them.
The state government also provided all necessary encouragement for security agents to discharge their responsibilities. Financial assistance, such as allowances and vehicles were provided to them.
However, all these efforts became fruitless to the peace accord signed with the bandits as they failed and that attacks on communities were carried out daily with hundreds of people killed and kidnapped.
The problem of banditry in the state continues to escalate day by day.
It continues to affect economy, social activities and forced many families to migrate from their villages to safe areas.
Innocent children became orphans, with widows in large numbers roaming streets of Katsina seeking alms and food.
The problem also forced over 3,000 farmers to abandon their farmland.
It is also on record that the state lost over 23,000 uncultivated hectares of farmland during current rainy season as result of the insecurity problem.
The bandits also attacked schools, kidnapped pupils and teachers, a situation which forced the government to close down many primary and secondary schools in the rural areas.
As the problem of banditry in the state remains unsolved, government was helpless having exhausted all areas to deal with the issue.
Masari’s statement for people to defend themselves was out of frustration. His statement came barely few weeks after a report that bandits have taken over 10 out of 34 local government areas terrorizing, killing and kidnapping people of these areas.
The worsening situation is that the state is lacking enough security agents while those on the ground have failed to discharge their responsibilities to protect lives and property, the situation encourages bandits to continue to attack communities.
For those attacking Governor Masari on his recent statement have not done justice to him.
The insecurity problem facing the state continues to give him sleepless night.
As chief security officer of the state, Masari was not happy on the current insecurity situation. He always makes it clear at different fora that one day he will answer questions from Allah on what he has done to tackle insecurity as governor of the state.
Governor Masari has done his own part, time has come for the people to rise and find way of defending themselves from the attack of these bandits.
We cannot continue to shift blame on the government on the worsening insecurity situations. We must play our own part to address the problem before it finally consumes all of us.
Idris is our Katsina State correspondent.