GOVERNOR Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State, to keen watchers of Nigerian democracy, is a patriot, a great reformer, who has shown total commitment towards Katsina and Nigeria’s development since his days as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The restoration agenda of his administration spelt out a vision of Katsina State that is prosperous, integrated, peaceful, secured and recognizes the full potential of its human capital, and as a respected player on the national stage. Masari was re-elected last year for another term of four years to chart a course to the Katsina State that the citizens desire as democracy serves no purpose if it does not advance the well-being of the people because political leaders are elected to think, plan and act in the interest of the people.
Since the inauguration of Masari administration for a second term, his government has been faced with insecurity manifesting in killings, kidnappings, banditry, cattle rustling and wanton destruction of rural economy. This resulted in corresponding rise in the number of displaced persons in the affected local government areas of the state as the government initiated series of engagement processes with key stakeholders and leaders in the various communities to explore the option of stabilizing security condition in the areas.
However, the government did not apparently get the total support from all stakeholders within and outside the state including the federal government. One of the cardinal objectives of President Muhammadu Buhari administration is the entrenchment of peace and provision of security to all areas of the country including the state. But this cannot be said to have materialized in his home state, Katsina, which has fallen far-short of what can be achieved in any part of the country and the North West geo-political zone in particular.
Until a couple of weeks ago, the performance of security agencies and military in the fight against insecurity in Katsina State had been very disappointing. The security situation in the state has worsened considerably, particularly in the nine frontline local government areas bordering Rugu Forest and about four of the local governments that share borders with the beleaguered council areas.
To many in Katsina, the federal government has refused to use its military might effectively against the bandits to create an enabling environment for socio-economic development across the state. But as Governor Masari expressed satisfaction with the intervention of Defence Headquarters through an on-going joint military task force operation, he however agreed that there was still room to do more.
The traumatized residents of Katsina told Vanguard that they were in a season of lamentation with tears flowing as a result of the activities of gunmen that had destroyed their livelihood, hundreds of lives and pushed thousands of them in Batsari, Safana, Faskari, Kankara and Jibya Local Government Areas among others into unemployment, poverty and IDPs camps.
It was further gathered that the activities of bandits inherited by the present administration in the state took a frightening dimension about a year or so ago and had steadily increased without drastic response from federal government to halt the wanton attacks on communities and individuals. For residents of the areas bearing the brunt of the kidnappings, killings and cattle rustling, a favourite belief is that is that democracy fared badly in their parts of the state in the past 12 months. Many said they perceived democracy to be an impediment to tackling the insecurity challenges being perpetrated by criminal elements.
On the incessant killings, kidnap incidences and cattle rustling, several residents believed that in Katsina’s democratic history, this year remains one of the most blood-bathed despite the amnesty granted repentant bandits in the state last year. The amnesty deal has been called off by the state government as the activities of unrepentant bandits or those relocating to the state spiralled out of control. All the strata of the society, the rich and poor, politicians traditional rulers in the state have become victims of the disturbing resurgence of insecurity more prevalent especially in the frontline local government areas bordering the Rugu Forest, despite Masari administration’s continued unflinching logistics support to security agencies in the state. Aminu Kabir, a resident of Yantumaki town in Danmusa Local Government Area of the state, where gunmen shot dead a traditional ruler less than two weeks ago, said in the last one year the area and several parts of the state had been like a bad dream.
”The spate of killings and denial of fundamental human rights in no fewer than 13 local government areas in the state since the threats to peace and security in the frontline council areas escalated is still like a bad dream to many in the state,” he said. Vanguard’s checks showed that no fewer than 2,000 grieving residents of Faskari Local Government Area had taken refuge in Faskari IDPs camp while many that had also been rendered homeless by bandits were taken in by their relatives and friends in the area. Legions of people whose lives and livelihood had been wrecked by violence in the hands of marauders that struck frequently in other council areas, have also found a temporary abode in IDPs camps in Kankara, Batsari and Dutsin-ma among others. Last month, the federal government initiated joint military taskforce to tackle the cruel and mischievous bandits that had perfected ways of wreaking untold misery and pains on innocent residents, particularly in rural communities of the worst hit areas.
The task force’s series of air and ground attacks in several strategic places in the frontline local government areas in Katsina State and neighbouring Zamfara have been yielding positive results. This feat, according to reports, has neutralized about 400 bandits in a spirited effort to scuttle the dastardly acts of the bandits but it has not completely stopped criminal elements from hitting several unsuspecting communities. While reflecting on warning of President Buhari to bandits surrender their AK 47 rifles or risk maximum wrath of government, several victims of the insecurity challenges and their relations are charging the federal government with standing up late to the criminal elements.
“They have operated without restraint as well as at an intolerable level for too long before the President seemed to be ready to walk his talk; the government has faltered in protection of fundamental human rights of the people living close to the boundaries between Katsina and Zamfara States,” a teacher and keen observer of the security crises, Kabir Ahmed, said.