…Possess over 500 AK47 in Zamfara .Says government’s team took pictures with bandits
…Masari meets Osinbajo, seeks urgent intervention
Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, has lamented that the armed bandits terrorising the state and some of the surrounding states in the North West have more sophisticated weapons than the Nigerian military.
The governor said this on Tuesday while briefing State House correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Yari disclosed that in a meeting the state government team and the military had with the bandits, it was discovered that the bandits had over 500 AK 47 assault rifles in their possession.
According to Yari, who is Chairman of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum, NGF, the meeting was to dialogue with the bandits for them to lay down their arms, but regretted that no meaningful achievement was recorded.
He also said that the government team including the security agents took pictures with the bandits inside their armory, adding that the only solution to flush the bandits out was the provision of adequate equipment to the military and a show of force.
Governor Yari welcomed the suggestion by his Katsina State counterpart, Aminu Bello Masari for collaborations between Katsina, Zamfara, and part of Niger Republic to curb the issue of banditry in the North West.
He said: “Well, I think it is not just state by state matter but a regional problem. Because, we are surrounded by forests. We have Kuyambana to Rugu down to Maradi Republic.
“The bandits are taking advantage of the fact that we are living like an Island because we are surrounded by forests from Sokoto we have Basuguma around, in Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, Niger, we have Kuyambana Dansado forest there, in Katsina, we have Rugu and at South East of Zamfara where we have Maradi, we have forest there.
“So as the governor of Katsina said, we have to collaborate. I know our security chiefs meet quarterly to review their performance, the gain and the loss, the same thing goes for our brothers in Maladi.
“I think the operations need to be carried out simultaneously because the issue is we are surrounded by a forest.
The point is, when Katsina puts pressure on the bandits they will run into the forest in Zamfara, if Zamfara puts pressure on them, then they will move to Minna or Birnin Gwari. So this is the issue, so there is need for collaboration.
“So the soldiers need to be equipped with the equipment that can stand the test of time. Yesterday (Monday), when we were having our security meeting, we could understand the constraints of the security personnel that are on ground there.
“We are definitely going to collaborate, especially since I am running on the last lap of my full tenure, I will ensure that in these months that are left, we will leave behind a peaceful state for the new administration that is coming in.”
On whether there was the likelihood of having new equipment delivered to the army to confront the bandits, he stated that the Federal Government had already given procurement contracts for the supply of military equipment.
He said: “The Federal Government has already given procurement contracts, inter-government transaction to the United States, China and other European countries.
Recall that in 2018, the Nigeria Governors Forum, approved $1 billion to support the federal government’s effort in equipping the security agencies.
“We believe the equipment will soon come into the country and it is our hope that the equipment will be used so that this worrisome situation that we are will become history.”
Ruling out the possibility of having dialogues with the group terrorising the state, he said that previous attempts made to dialogue with the bandits did not produce any positive results.
He said: “Well, I have told my people that that will no longer take place during my time because, I have done that three times but it did not work. This is in the sense that we know their capacity.
“For instance, during the first dialogue, they invited some of our team, army, DSS, police and my chief security officer as well as some traditional rulers’ representatives and we have seen what they have.
“They are in control of the kind of weapons that the Command In Zamfara State does not have. In one armory alone, they have over 500 AK47, we saw it. Our people were even given chance to take pictures.
“But when we said we will dialogue, offer amnesty, that they should surrender their arms, I can tell you till date we did not get up to 90 AK47, so it is a deceit. That is why I said no more dialogue during my tenure.
“During dry season they will look for dialogue because they know the security can gain access to anywhere in the forest and they have no place to hide. But when the rainy season comes and the forest becomes thicker, they will return to their normal practice.
“That is why I said there has to be show of force before anything else. I know that in any war, eventually you have to come to the table and dialogue but the situation we are right now sincerely speaking, dialogue is not needed at this point in time.”
Also speaking to journalists after meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, the Zamfara State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, said that he had met with the security chiefs on the menace of bandits in his state and that he was going to meet with the Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, and the Inspector-General of Police.
Masari, who is the governor of President Muhammadu Buhari’s state, said that the problem in Zamfara and the North West zone had passed the level of deployment of troops, rather, it requires a new strategy to tackle it headlong.
Asked on what he was doing to rid the state of banditry and kidnapping, he said: “Part of what we are doing is that, I have seen some security chiefs; before I leave Abuja, I will see the IGP and the DG DSS to further discuss and develop on what we are doing with the military and the people that are on ground presently.
“It is not only about deployment; it is about strategy.”
On why he was at the State House, he said, “I am here to congratulate him (Osinbajo), nothing more, nothing less.”
Governor Masari said that his next level in Katsina State was to continue to fulfill his campaign promises to the people.
“We made promises to the people of Kastina in 2015; they voted us on the basis of those promises and we are happy to say that we have done more than 70 per cent of what we promised the people of Kastina.
“We promised them that we will continue the agenda on education; health; agriculture, infrastructure, security and because what we have done in the last four years, they believed us and massively voted for us,” the Katsina governor added.