Bandits in Katsina State on Wednesday told Governor Aminu Masari that they would not accept any dialogue unless their colleagues in prison were released.
The governor met the bandits who were drawn from Sabuwa and Dandume at Dankolo village in the Sabuwa Local Government Area of the state.
The bandits alleged that some of their colleagues had been detained for several years without committing any offence.
One of them, who gave his name as Idris Yayande, told the governor, “We have some complaints. Our biggest complaint is that some of our members were arrested and detained in different prisons across the state. Government should release them before any dialogue.
“They are Alhaji Lawal Bandu, Ibrahim Nabutamu, Sani Marji, Sani Zafi, Lawal Mairuwa and there are some of our children that were arrested by the army in Layin-Mahuta, Juro, Ali, Adamu, Abdulrahman and since then, nobody has told us where they are and what happened to them.
“So, we are pleading with the state government to release them to us. We don’t have anybody in our custody now. We promised before that nobody would farm within this area but because of the dialogue, we surrendered. If you hear of any attack, it is not from us.”
But another one who gave his name as Haruna Mazge, attributed the current security challenges facing the state to farmers who blocked cattle routes, declaring that 70 per cent of the cattle routes had been blocked by farmers.
He said, “Farmers in the state have blocked all cattle routes. Even roads that our cattle do pass, they blocked them. If you look at our problem, consider that of farmers too.”
He added that current government efforts at ending the security challenges in the state had made some bandits to repent.
Mazge implored other bandits terrorising the state to surrender their arms and embrace peace.
He declared, “This forest in which we are hiding is not beyond government’s power. Since the governor has forgiven us, we should not betray government in this dialogue by attacking another village in the state again.”
The leader of Volunteers (Yan- sakai) in the state, Lawal Tsoho, had earlier, accused the Nigeria Army, police and other security agencies in the state for allegedly fuelling bandits’ attacks in the state.
Masari, in his response, assured the bandits that the state government would secure the release of their members in detention as part of efforts to restore peace and normalcy in the state.
He said, “There are so many of them who have been in detention for more than two years. They have not been charged to court for any offence. You cannot be keeping some people for over two years without any charge.
“So, for those kind of people, we are going to release them on bail if the police are able to help us with the charges against them.”
The governor assured that the dialogue would bring peace to Katsina State, North-West and Nigeria, declaring, “we believe that we have started well and there is nothing better than peace.”
– The Punch