Zamfara bandits were forced to kidnap and kill, repentant commander says

The commander said harassment and intimidation forced many into taking up arms to commit heinous crimes.

Bandits have run rampage in Zamfara until recent peace talks initiated by the government (image used for illustrative purpose) [Naija News]

Dantawaye said this during a peace meeting held at the palace of the Emir of Tsafe, Muhammadu Bawa, in Tsafe local government area of the state on Monday, August 5, 2019, according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Zamfara has been terribly-hit with a wave of kidnappings and killings by bandits over the past year before new state governor, Bello Matawalle, initiated peace talks.

While speaking on Monday, Dantawaye said harassment and exploitation by state and non-state actors forced them into the life of crime that has claimed scores of lives.

He said, "We were forced into this, because apart from cattle rustling incidents we faced some years back, we also faced serious harassment and intimidation from security personnel and Yan Sakai (a local vigilante group).

"We cannot go to markets. Our children cannot go to school. Whenever they see our children or wives in town, they killed them.

"If security personnel arrest us, we have to spend a lot of money before we are released, sometimes security agencies launch attacks on our homes and kill us without any offence.

"With this ugly trend, we have no option than to embark on kidnapping, attacks and others crimes."

Alhaji Madele, a Fulani leader, called on security agencies to protect them from Yan Sakai and some other security agents who attack them unjustly in markets and towns.

"We have agreed to embrace peace and dialogue, we commend the commissioner of police for inviting us for this meeting," he said.

After assuming office in May, Governor Matawalle initiated peace talks that involved leaders of Fulani associations, vigilante groups, including Yan Sakai, as well as traditional rulers.

The Yan Sakai have been blamed in many peace meetings of unduly targeting the Fulani herdsmen and arresting their wives and children, leading to provocation.

They also expressed displeasure with the deprivation of their ancestral lands, grazing reserves and marketing activities in the state.

Last week, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, revealed that 249 kidnapped victims were rescued between July 9 and July 23 from bandits and militias operating in the forests in and around Zamfara State.

Many of them are believed to have regained their freedom as a result of a prisoner swap with bandits, one of the resolutions of the peace talks.

After a meeting last week, governors in the northwest region announced amnesty for bandits and cattle rustlers, describing the move as a sacrifice necessary for peace to reign in the region.

"Herdsmen and their families should be allowed to go about their normal businesses, attend markets and worship places without molestation provided they don't carry arms.

"Those bandits who rustled animals from communities should immediately return them to the government or Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).

"Bandits should surrender their weapons and immediately release all those kidnapped and now under their custody," read a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting with security agents, vigilante, volunteer groups, herdsmen and farmers last week.

Governor Matawalle also noted that the states would provide grazing reserves for the herders to settle in one place in the zone.

"We are concerned that herders are always roaming around with their animals thereby exposing themselves to different kinds of hazards.

"The governors took a uniform measure. You should also take a uniform decision not to rustle animals, kidnap or kill anyone. 

"You should immediately release all people in your custody in order to show the world that you have truly repented," Matawalle said.

While speaking in Tsafe on Monday, Zamfara's Commissioner of Police, Usman Nagogo, said the peace talks will provide lasting solution to the problem of insecurity in the state.

"Our aim is to have sustainable peace and development in the state, therefore, all stakeholders should cooperate with us in this task," he said.

He said anyone found violating the terms of the peace talks would be made to face the full wrath of the law.

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