Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, in this interview highlights the challenges of policing one of the states worst hit by the menace of banditry and how villagers who collaborate with bandits make the job difficult.
What are the challenges and successes recorded since your coming to Katsina in the face of the security challenges in the state?
It has not been easy tackling the menace of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other associated vices, like activities of informants, activities of collaborators of bandits; those who provide them with essential commodities or essential materials that they use, like motorbikes, fuel, food stuff, recharge cards, and what have you. To be able to deal with the bandits simultaneously with the challenges posed by these collaborators has not been easy.
But to God be the glory, we have been able to achieve remarkably well within the period of my stay here. We have recovered so many sophisticated arms from these bandits; AK47, General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs), anti-aircraft guns, ammunitions, so many of them. We succeeded in smashing a very dangerous syndicate of arm dealers who used to import arms from neighbouring countries to Katsina state and then pass it over to these bandits.
You talked about collaborators. What is the nature of this relationship between these bandits and collaborators?
Yes, they derive enormous benefits. From the previous arrest we have effected, we have discovered that most, if not all the information they get, particularly before they invade a village to abduct a relation of a prominent person or and what have you, are predicated on information that they secure from people living within the communities. And they have been saying it to themselves and the facts are very, very clear, there is no how, for instance, a bandit who is in the forest will know that the mother of a very rich man from Katsina but living in Kaduna is living in one isolated village, without the collaboration of people from that village.
And this relationship is because they gain materially from these notorious activities. Most of these kidnapping incidents are direct functions of the activities of these informants living among the people. That is not to say sometimes they don’t get out of their ways to block the road and make some incidental kidnaps of any unfortunate passersby.
They (bandits) are reported to be involved in getting some commercial vehicles to give some drivers to drive only to go and get passengers for them to kidnap. They say if you bring them like twice we will let you go with the vehicle. It’s that bad. So many people, even so-called religious leaders, and some people that have relationship with the village heads and what have you, have been involved one way or the other in this kind of dastardly acts. So the people as I said, living in the community are not helping matters. Not all the people, there are some good-spirited individuals who assist us with information.
Talking about the issue of numbers, how challenging is it in using the men you have on ground to police the state?
When you have a major security challenge like this, all hands must be on deck. No matter the number of men that you have, it will not be enough to deal with massive security challenge like the one we have and that is why the Inspector-General of Police has deployed to the state mobile policemen from other commands to join forces with our own here. That’s why we have deployments in almost all the major villages that are attractive to the bandits and are very vulnerable because of their geographical location close to this frontline areas.
But it is said that our security forces do not match the numerical strength of these bandits. How true is this?
Well, you see, nobody can tell you exactly the numerical strength of the bandits. So to say that our forces cannot match them is completely out of place because nobody can tell you exactly their number. They are so many and they are in their natural habitat in the bush because this is where many of them were born and they are very much familiar with the terrain. It is a very expansive terrain that has gone even beyond this country to other neighboring countries and because of the topography, mountainous, valleys and what have you, and their mobility; moving from one state to the other, when you, bring pressure to bear on them, in Katsina here, they can easily move Kaduna state and then move to Zamfara or Niger, after some time they come. And most of their activities are nocturnal in nature because they come mostly at night and you know how difficult it is to operate. When you come with vehicles from afar, they will notice you coming. They lay ambush. A lot of people don’t know how enormous these challenges are, very, very daunting challenges. It is God Almighty that is helping.
You spoke about local knowledge of the terrain, this brings to mind the issue of community policing that a lot of people are advocating. Don’t you think perhaps when locals are involved in policing it will help in this kind of situation?
First of all, the issue of having a state police or not having state police is a policy matter and I don’t intend to dabble into it. But one thing I know, which is very clear, community policing is germane in handling some categories of crimes in the locality and this crimes in question are mostly minor crimes not formidable, serious crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery, and what have you. Because when you engage the community, you will get information that is available to the community but what of high caliber criminals that are very mobile that can come from afar and strike on that community and within a twinkling of an eye, they are off? Of what consequence will the community people be as far as tackling these kind of challenge? Most of these heinous crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping, and what have you, are so organized that they don’t even need to be muted from the community. So use of community people is important, to deal with certain security challenges that are peculiar to the community. But don’t forget people can organize crime in Abuja from Lagos, they may not even know each other, they will just bombard Abuja commit the crime and disappear. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that these crimes are divergent, depending on the circumstances of each.
There are been a lot of community efforts in helping to tackle this banditry especially involvement of vigilante and Yan Sakai, to what extent do you think this is helpful, especially in the light of complaints of excesses committed by members of the vigilante in some areas?
Yes, we have noticed some cases of excesses being committed by some vigilantes, but these are isolated cases. A large number of these vigilantes are very patriotic and have been working round the clock with our men to protect these communities from attack, even with the small weapons that they have, locally fabricated weapons at their disposal, they have been very, very useful to our men out there in the field.
But, this Yan Sakai that you are talking are different from vigilantes that are working together with the security agencies in tackling security challenges because most of these Yan Sakai they are outlawed organizations, outlawed because of their excesses. Over time we have discovered that many of them instead of helping to checkmate the challenges, they’re even helping to increase them by their criminal activities and that explains why the government had to ban the activities of Yan Sakai. But the vigilante are our strategic partners and we have been involved with them in addressing these challenges. Some of them are very useful in giving information. In fact, some of them even go on operations with us to go and fight these bandits in the bush.
There are fears that initiatives like Yan Sakai could promote culture of this self-help and encouraging people to carry arms and defend themselves could lead to anarchy. What would you say to this?
Yes, as a matter of fact that is what I’ve told you, that the government is working assiduously to fill in the gap that has been existing over the years in terms of equipment, in terms of manpower, in terms of training and in terms of welfare. I have told you that this government effort has started manifesting and the idea of some people saying people should go for self-help will completely be out of place. Inasmuch as self-defense is very important to mankind, it has a limitation. You cannot be asked to defend yourself against somebody that is carrying sophisticated weapons, like AK47 rifle or general purpose machine guns, which so many of these bandits are having. You cannot have a person with a single barrel, double barrel and you expect him to defend himself from these kind of dangerous weapons, there’s no match. But be that as it may, as I’ve said, self-protection is good if you have the capability, considering the circumstances, it’s not always that you find yourself where you have the capacity to protect yourself. So that is why I said this has its limitations.
How is the operation in your neighboring state of Zamfara affecting the security situation in Katsina?
Yes, we are aware of the situation and of the operation going on in Zamfara and we are not sleeping either. We are also embarking on our operations. I don’t want to tell you the details, but the facts are very clear. The good people of Katsina State are aware of the fact that our men are out there engaging these bandits and we have taken measures to stop them from infiltrating the state either from Kaduna or Niger states, neighbouring states. We are not lying low, we are working as seriously round the clock. We have taken some measures to ensure that we stop possible infiltration of these bandits from other neighbouring states and also deal with the existing ones that are within our forests.