The piece, Insecurity, dialogue and sustainable peace, which appeared on the back page of the Thursday, October 10, 2019 edition of Blueprint pewspaper contained many factual errors and misrepresentation of events.
The writer (columnist), Mr. Baba Jibrin Ndace’s claim that at state level Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle of Zamfara state pioneered dialogue and negotiation with bandits, is incorrect.That credit goes to Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina state.
The (dated) picture used in the piece was taken on January 14, 2017, in Kankara town, Katsina state, during the ceremonial surrender of arms and ammunition by repentant bandits to Governor Masari, witnessed by security top brass from Abuja and Katsina state. Over 440 assorted arms, including 97 AK 47s and AK 49s, were handed over on the spot. In under a week of the negotiations, the tally of these sophisticated assault weapons returned by the repentant bandits reached as much as 250.
In the picture are Governor Masari, left, then Commanding Officer of 35 Battalion, Katsina, right and the infamous Buharin Daji, then considered Capo de Capo of the Fulani bandits, holding the gun.
Also, it not true that “in Katsina on September 5, 2019 bandits reportedly said they would not accept any dialogue unless their colleagues in prison were released”.
At no time was there ever such a declaration by or from the bandits. In fact long before that alleged avowal, the bandits had released 71 kidnapp victims in stages voluntarily. And only last week, the remaining 15 known kidnapp victims still in the hands of their captors were released to Governor Masari.
To put the records in clearer perspective, there were no “financial considerations” involved in the negotiations. Katsina state government neither promised nor made monetary inducements to the commanders of the bandits and the leadership of the various Fulani communities as a condition for the bandits decision to bid farewell to arms and banditry for good.
What the government promised, and has so far walked the talk, was to facilitate the release of those unconvicted Fulani who were detentained by various security agencies. Some of these have been in detention for more than two years without being taken to court, apparently for lack of convincing evidence against them to warrant conviction.
It’s instructive for those who cynically see the government’s engagement with the bandits as capitulation to criminality to remember that no war, conventional or otherwise, is ever won on the battlefield alone, without resort to the negotiation table. This is why both international and regional groups, like UN, EU, AU and such pan regional associations include the dialogue option among their protocols.
Malumfashi is DG, Media, to Governor Masari of Katsina state