Armed Bandits Take Over 8 LGAs In Katsina

According to the governor, “our state is under siege by bandits,
kidnappers, with castle rustlers taking the third position. Armed
robbery is the order of the day.”

Agaju Madugba, Katsina

Barely
24 hours after Governor Bello Masari of Katsina raised the alarm on the
invasion of the state by armed bandits from neighbouring Zamfara, the
state government has expressed doubts if the general elections scheduled
to begin with the presidential polls next month will hold in parts of
the state because of the precarious security situation across some eight
local government areas.

Katsina under siege of bandits – Gov Masari

Governor
Masari had last Wednesday alerted the nation, at the opening ceremony
of an emergency security meeting at the Government House, that armed
robbers and kidnappers had literally taken over Katsina State as he
consequently tagged the state unsafe for anybody including him.

Briefing
reporters on Thursday evening, on some of the deliberations at the
meeting, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Mustapha Mohammed
Inuwa, warned that unless the security situation is addressed the
elections may not hold in at least eight local government areas of the
state.

Described as frontline locations controlled by bandits and
cattle rustlers, the local government areas are, Jibia, Batsari,
Safana, Dan-Musa, Faskari, Sabuwa, Dandume, Kankara and parts of Kafur,
Masari’s local government. Jibia shares “porous” boundaries with the
Republic of Niger, routes activities of unrepentant smugglers thrive
with regular bloody clashes with joint security patrol teams from
Nigeria and Niger. Apart from this, the local governments have a common
denominator governing them as they are all linked with the Rugu forest,
said to be some 2010 square kilometres stretch, starting from the
Republic of Niger, through to Katsina and parts of Kaduna State.
Comparable only to the dreaded Sambisa forest in Borno State, Rugu
forest is reportedly a comfort zone for bandits and other criminal
elements who apparently exploit the terrain to remain virtually out of
reach of the security forces.

According to Mustapha, “certainly,
if the situation continues this way, it is going to affect the
elections. If you ask INEC officials to go and conduct the elections in
the affected areas they may not be willing to go there. We have to
safeguard the places before the elections.”

The expanded security
council meeting had traditional rulers, security chiefs in the state,
interim local council chairmen from the affected local government areas,
village heads and religious leaders, among others in attendance.
Mustapha said that the meeting resolved to raise a committee which he
heads, to examine all the issues discussed and how to tackle them.

As
he put it, “I hope you are all aware of the measures this government
has been taking in handling the security situation in the state. We have
archived a lot especially in the area of cattle rustling and banditry.
We were able to curtail the issue of castle rustling to a reasonable
level and banditry to to some extent because of the measures taken by
government. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks back, the issue of
kidnapping became so serious to a level that the experience we had over
cattle rustling became a child’s play.

“The meeting identified
lack of synergy among the security forces fighting bandits in Zamfara
Kaduna and Katsina states. We agreed that these states and the Republic
of Niger must come together to tackle this problem headlong. The meeting
also identified that the security is grossly inadequate especially the
police and therefore mandated the governor to solicit the assistance of
the Inspector-General of Police to increase the police personnel and
equip them with modern equipment.

“We may also have to de-gazzete
some of the frontline areas where these activities take place,
particularly the forests close the urban centres in the state. Those
places were initially designed to be grazing areas for livestock but the
criminals have turned them to their hiding place. The Emirs of Katsina
and Daura as well as the ulama will be involved in this and we urge them
not only to intensify their prayers but to equally continually appeal
to their subjects to fear God.”

Analysing the security situation
in the state, an apparently embattled Masari had told participants at
the meeting on Wednesday that, “no one, including myself, is safe, I am
not safe.” He ranked cattle rustling number three on his list of acts of
prevailing threats to security of lives and property in the state,
noting that kidnaping and armed robbery have taken the centre stage.

According
to the governor, “our state is currently under serious siege, by
bandits, kidnappers, with castle rustlers taking the third position.
Kidnaping is now the order of the day in Katsina State. Armed robbery is
also now the order of the day in Katsina State. Only two days ago, some
people left my residence at about 3am and when they got to the Ring
Road area, a gang of of about five fully armed men robbed them at
gunpoint. So, this is how bad it has become now. All the security
reports I received today (Wednesday) is either about kidnapings or armed
robbery. So, our state is under siege and that is why we decided to
call for this extra-ordinary meeting. No one, including myself is safe. A
woman, I was told, was abducted by kidnappers and after demanding N5
million they shot the person who took the money to them.”

The Zamfara connection

The
eight most affected local governments in Katsina share boundaries with
Zamfara State where armed banditry currently reigns supreme, according
to reports. Traveling on the 150-kilometre Jibia – Gusua road through
Kaura Namoda has become nightmarish for motorists as bandits continue to
harvest commuters and abduct them into the nearby forests around Gidan
Jaja, Chabas and Yan Bedi, all close to Katsina. According a recent
report, victims whose relations are not able to pay the ransom demanded
are butchered and sold as spare parts to herbalists.

Last week,
some 2000 persons, according to the Katsina State Emergency Management
Agency, fled their communities in Zamfara and currently taking refuge at
various locations in Kankara local government area of Katsina.

Until
recently, bandits had found fertile ground in parts of Katsina State
with hoodlums embarking on bloody raids on a number of communities in
Safana, Batsari, Jibia, Danmusa, Kurfi, Dutsima, Kankakara, Dandume,
Faskari and Sabuwa local government areas.

It’s leadership failure, PDP claims

Reacting
to the Masari outcry, the main opposition People’s Democratic Party
(PDP) in Katsina State urged both Masari and President Buhari to step
aside, having failed, according to the party, to provide the necessary
security for citizens. According to the PDP Chairman who is also the
party’s governorship running mate, Alhaji Salisu Majigiri, “this is a
confession from the Chief Security Officer of the state and I think the
best thing Masari can do is to take the path of honour and step aside as
governor. His resignation will pave way for Katsina not to continue to
be under siege.”

Source:- Sunnewsonline