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Shoot them or talk to them? What Nigeria must do with its bandits

Just what can Nigeria do with its bandits? Shoot them or talk to them? Already questions are being asked if the Sheikh Gumi-led mediation with…

Just what can Nigeria do with its bandits? Shoot them or talk to them?

Already questions are being asked if the Sheikh Gumi-led mediation with the bandits would yield positive results.

The cleric has been able to reach many notorious bandit’s groups suspected to be terrorizing people in the North West and preached to them to lay down their arms.

His intervention generated heated debates between Muslims and Christian clerics. But one question that keeps popping up is does Gumi agree that the bandits are criminals?

On the other hand, the National Security Adviser, the Kaduna and Niger states governors insisted that negotiations with bandits are a sign of weakness.

However, the role of mediation in ending banditry in the North West cannot be over-emphasized.

Through negotiations, some bandits in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto have laid down their weapons. However, recent students abductions in Kagara and Jangebe and attacks in Niger, Kaduna and Sokoto states have thrown spanners in the works.

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari issued a two-month ultimatum to bandits to surrender. This came a week after the presidency also declared Zamfara state a no-fly zone. While the Nigerian Army deployed 6,000 troops to the state to crush the bandits.

The state governor, Matawalle, estimated that about 30,000 bandits are hiding in the forests in his state alone.

What plans is the government putting in place should these number lay down their arms and rejoin society?

A repentant bandit, Awwal Daudawa, who led the Kankara Abductions, said that for peace to reign, the government must be sincere in its pronouncements.

The government’s refusal to fulfil its promises to herders is one of the reasons most bandit leaders are not taking part in the peace process.

Another bandit leader, Alhaji Tirji, also expressed the same feelings during a peace dialogue with Gumi.

Since it is agreed that not all herdsmen are criminals, security agencies should ensure that their freedom of movement of innocent herdsmen is guaranteed.

Also, overhauling the nomadic education system is key to the success of the peace dialogue between the government and the bandits. Education will give the herdsmen a chance to open new pages in their lives and give them alternatives to crime.

Since President Buhari has ordered the military to shoot anybody they sight carrying an AK-47, does this order also include the vigilante?

Since as the idiom says, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” it is important to establish skills acquisition centres to train the ex-bandit on handworks, cattle ranching, irrigation farming, fish farming and modern livestock farming.

Are the bandits themselves ready to learn new skills? If yes, is there any arrangement by the state governments to engage commercial banks to provide the herdsmen with a soft loan of cattle and other domestic animals?

Answers to these few questions and others will be critical to the government’s efforts to successfully fight banditry or mediate with the bandits in the North West.

The Sarkin-Fulani Galadiman Gusau, Alhaji Makwashi Janyau described the peace process as a success.

Janyau, who is also the Miyetti-Allah secretary Gusau branch, said, “Instead of giving the 2-month ultimatum, I think Gumi’s mediation should be encouraged by the federal government because it has recorded success here in Zamfara. Through his mediation, many villages that suffered bandits’ attacks before can now sleep with their two eyes closed. The state governor is doing well as well to support the mediation process.

“But my concern is about the government’s inability to make adequate plans for the provision of alternative ways for the survival of the already repentant bandits and those that might quit soon.”

Animal loan

Janyau added, “Most of the bandit are typical herdsmen who don’t know how to do any other thing. Therefore, there is a need for the government to source a loan for them. The loan should be refundable in at least six years. Thus, instead of giving them money, it is better to provide them with domestic animals like cattle, sheep, goats or even fowls.

“They should also construct boreholes, dams and schools for Fulani communities. Because right now, we have only three Ruga schools and they are like secondary schools. There is one at Maradun, one at Zurmi and another at Dansadau. They should build at least one nomadic primary school in every ward.”

‘Two-month ultimatum unfeasible’

Yahuza Ahmed Getso, a public security analyst expressed doubt over the two months ultimatum issued to the bandits.

He said that the military needs to study the depth of the forests that give the bandits access to the Trans Sahara routes.

“I don’t think the ultimatum is feasible because, in 2015, I conducted a study in Somalia which shows that herdsmen from Nigeria can travel down to Somalia and other sub-Saharan countries through these forests. These are the routes used by arms merchants for their illegal business. For any operation to succeed, there is a need for international collaboration between the countries in this region,” he said.

Need for psychological rehabilitation

Getso added, “Government should ensure adequate provision of alternative ways of livelihood for the repentant bandits. It is dangerous to allow them back into society without undergoing any psychological rehabilitation. Otherwise, the majority of them may end up going back into crime.”

Nomadic Education, solutions to banditry

The Acting Director, the Sokoto State Nomadic Education Board, Abdullahi Abubakar Balanga described nomadic education as one of the solutions to insecurity in the North West.

Balanga said, “It is a well-known fact that most of these bandits are not educated. What do you expect from somebody who had been neglected in the forest with neither Western nor Arabic education?

“In Sokoto State, we have about 83 nomadic schools in Balanga, Diddiba, Janzomo, Gidan-Dare and Kebbe. This number is significant compared to other states. Seven of them are even secondary schools and they are all doing well.”

While responding to the question of whether the government had embarked on rehabilitation or building new nomadic schools as part of its programme to disarm bandits in the next two months, Balanga said, “Actually, the government has not yet approached us on such a programme. But I believe both the federal and state governments are making efforts to overhaul the nomadic education system especially with the current security challenges the country is facing.”

All efforts to curtail insecurity in the North West region would be incomplete without an adequate plan for the future of nomads.

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