The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has berated the Federal Government for allegedly sabotaging the ongoing fight against banditry in Zamfara State with secret meetings with bandits.
Recall that Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State had accused the Federal Government of negotiating with bandits without the knowledge of his government.
In a statement signed by his spokesperson, Sulaiman Idris, the governor said a delegation allegedly sent by some agencies of the Federal Government had been holding talks with bandit groups in Zamfara.
The Minister of Information, in a statement on Tuesday night, denied the claim that any of the federal government’s agencies are negotiating with bandits and accused the Zamfara governor of politicising security matters.
Reacting to the statement by the minister, Governor Dauda insisted that his government has hard evidence of the Federal government’s sneaky negotiations with bandits.
The governor also mentioned locations where such talks were held with bandits, such as Birnin Magaji, Maradun, Mun Haye, Ajah, Bawo, and Bagege areas of the state.
Reacting in an interview with Vanguard, the spokesman of the Forum, Professor Tukur Muhammad-Baba, argued that these negotiations are weakening the rule of law and establishing a dangerous precedent for other criminal elements in the country.
The ACF spokesman expressed fear that the secret meetings might inspire other groups to take up arms and engage in similar acts.
Describing the move as weak, Muhammad-Baba urged the federal government to reconsider its stance on negotiating with bandits.
He said: “How will you begin a negotiation in Zamfara state without involving the Zamfara state government? You and I know this is a serious aberration and should not be taken lightly. There is no way you can come into my house without my knowledge, even if we are of the same father, and start doing this kind of thing is not good.
“It’s incredible. We are a Federation, and the Federal government is in charge of all security forces, but the governor is the chief security officer of the state. How can anybody, in any sense, engage in such an activity without involving the state government? Negotiation with bandits has not worked in the past, and there is no evidence that it will work. Look at the characteristics of those involved in the banditry; they don’t have a central organization, they don’t have a central leadership.
“What we know about them is that they are bandits who go about taking guns and taking the law into their hands. According to a report by UNICEF, there are over 300 such groups in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara. So, if you’re going to negotiate with them, who will you negotiate with? Are you going to negotiate with over 300 groups? It doesn’t make sense. And if you’re going to negotiate, does it not make sense to involve the state government? In the video, the negotiation was being manned by soldiers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in a state where there is a governor, so it doesn’t make sense. I doubt very much if the central government or the presidency is aware of it.
“Someone, somewhere, is trying to sabotage the government of Zamfara State; someone somewhere is doing that without thinking of the repercussions on the ordinary people in the rural villages and on students who are being harassed by these bandits. We heard on the radio someone giving orders that the bandits should be allowed passage. Are you saying that they should leave Zamfara state and go to another state, and you’re providing them security coverage? This is a very terrible strategy, and I call it dead on arrival.
It doesn’t make sense, whoever did that should be investigated and should be punished by the government in power. This is not just about sabotaging the government in power, it is also sabotaging the federal government efforts itself. You cannot do that. You cannot negotiate with a faceless group and allow them passage with their guns and everything.
“Our organization is not happy with that. There cannot be an end to this insurgency without synergy between the federal government and regional synergy in all the states that are affected by this banditry. From Sokoto to Taraba, from Kaduna State to Kogi State, from Borno to Nasarawa State, it has to be coordinated and a well-executed strategy to involve all the state governments and communities that have been affected by this banditry.”