Insecurity: Why we opted for dialogue with bandits, others – Stakeholders
A cross section of farmers, community leaders, security agents and other stakeholders in Jigawa, Gombe, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara have given reasons behind their decision to adopt dialogue in addressing peculiar security challenges in their areas.
The stakeholders spoke in separate interviews while responding to a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the security challenges in the country.
According to them, dialogue is important in addressing the crisis even if it is on temporary basis.
They however all agreed that full scale security offensive is necessary to completely wipe out bandits and other terrorists in the long run.
In Gombe State, which faces the challenge of farmers-herders clashes, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Oqua Etim said the command has been successfully tackling farmland invasions through effective dialogue among stakeholders.
He said that the clashes between farmers and pastoralists is gradually becoming “a thing of the past” since the adoption of dialogue to amicably address it.
Etim said that he engaged stakeholders and worked out strategies that helped address the problem in the state.
He also said the state government had constituted an assessment committee of grazing lands and cattle routes to prevent further encroachment of the routes by farmers.
”If farmers encroach, they would be advised to vacate.
“We equally met with the representatives of the herders and cautioned them against encroachment of cultivated farmlands.
“As humans, we are bound to have quarrels because even the tongue at times gets harassed by the teeth.
“In that case, we can never say we don’t have a friction but it has reduced to the barest minimum.”
The commissioner of police said clear policies had been laid out to guide the dialogue.
He said all the parties involved were not supposed to take laws into their hands.
“As long as the grazing areas and cattle routes were not encroached, and if a cow destroys a farm, the damages would be calculated and the cattle owners bear the cost.”
According to Etim, there is no crisis that could not be resolved through dialogue.
“Once we bring ourselves open for dialogue, then the incidences of clashes will be a thing of the past,” he said.
The Commissioner of Police, therefore, urged farmers and herders to eschew violence and coexist peacefully.
In Jigawa, the police alongside the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), also said recurring farmers-herders clashes was the major security threat in the state.
The command Public Relations Officer, ASP Lawan Shiisu, said the command had initiated meetings with stakeholders and built synergy with other security agencies to address the menace, and protect lives and property.
He said that as part of the efforts, the Command recently hosted a meeting with local council officials, community leaders, members of vigilante, hunters groups and security agencies to find durable solution to the problem.
According to him, similar forum will be organised across the 27 local government areas of the state.
Also, Mr Adamu Shehu, Spokesman of NSCDC in the state said they were pursuing practical measures to promote harmonious coexistence between farmers and pastoralists.
“Whenever we receive report of a clash between farmers and herdsmen, our Agro Rangers operating in the affected area swiftly move to the scene.
“The squad usually intervene to protect the interest of the parties involved, and if that is not achieved, then arrests are made,” he said.
According to him, the mechanism is yielding positive results.
He added that the Corps has been working with relevant agencies of government to resolve conflicts, and foster peace and harmony in Jigawa.
Shehu said the state government is currently reviewing land allocations along cattle routes and grazing lands as part of measures to end farmers-herders clashes.
On its part, the state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state of Zinder in Niger Republic, to curb activies of criminal cross-border herders.
The MoU was signed in May 2023 by Gov. Umar Namadi of Jigawa and his counterpart in Zinger, Mr Lawal Ahamdu-Madugu.
The agreement seeks to integrate and secure livestock routes, as well as control illegal influx of cattle.
Meanwhile, farmers in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states said that the peace agreements they entered with bandits was their only option of survival.
“We opted for peace with the bandits to ease the suffering we go through as a people and community,” Bello Abubakar, a resident of Isa in Sokoto state, said.
“It is to ease the merciless attacks we suffer almost on daily basis,” he added.
Abubakar explained that the agreement will allow farmers to cultivate their farms at a cost.
“The term of agreement varies depending on what the bandits demanded from the communities.
“Some bandits enforce monthly levy while others agree on quarterly or even annual levy to be paid by the community members.
“The peace agreement with bandits was not official, however it gives the effected communities a way of living together with the bandits without any intimidation or harassment,” he added.
According to Abubakar, the agreements were solely community driven, with no knowledge or input from the government or security agencies.
In Tsaskiya, Katsina State, the community has also gone into such agreement.
A resident who is also a member of the local vigilante group, told NAN in confidence that since the peace deal with the bandits, the community has been at peace.
“We have all returned to our farms without fear, and so far there has been no breach of the agreement,” he added.
He however refused to disclose the terms of the peace deal and with which group of bandits.
In Zamfara, a community leader in Zurmi local government area who spoke with NAN on condition of anonymity said they had also sealed a peace deal with bandits operating in the area.
“The peace deal is to allow us to farm. Money was given to them to exclude our area in their attacks and kidnapping activities.
“There was no involvement of security agencies in the agreement between us and the bandits; and so far the deal has not changed,” he said.
However, Secretary to Zamfara Government, Malam Abubakar Nakwada, said the state government was not aware of such deals, and emphasised that the government would not negotiate with the bandits.
“We reject any move to negotiate with bandits in order to address the security challenges bedeviling the state, the previous efforts at negotiating with the bandits were fruitless.
”The present administration in the state under Gov. Dauda Lawal has no intention of negotiating with criminals
“We are prepared to work in collaboration with security agencies in the fight against insecurity,” Nakwada said.
In Kebbi where bandits have been unleashing terror on citizens, a resident, Alhaji Salim Ka’oje called for use of technology to deal with the criminals.
“Nowadays security personnel needed not to go to battle grounds before fighting their enamies, because with the use of technology they can strike anywhere they want,” he said.
Ka’oje also stressed the need for security agencies to brace up to the challenges and do the needful.
“Security personnel should not relax until the bandits attack before they trail them, they should be brave enough to trace the criminals to their hideouts,” he added.
Ka’oje who led the parents of the school girls abducted from Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri who spent about two years in captivity, said government should not relax until the criminals were eliminated.
Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner, Mr Samuel Titus-Musa, said that the command had received new fighting assets to face the bandits.
NAN gathered that the state government recently ordered the payment of all allowances owed security personnel in crisis prone areas of the state.
Mr Musa Aboki, the Executive Director, Voluntary Aid Initiative, a civil society organisation, believed that the new Service Chiefs have the capacity to initiate new measures to tackle the lingering security challenges in the country.
“I am using this medium to call on stakeholders to cooperate with the new Service Chiefs to succeed in the new assignment given to them”, Aboki said.
Similarly, Ahaji Sa’idu Ibrahim, Vice Chairman Sokoto State House of Assembly Committee on Security canvassed the support of the general public to security agencies, to enable them protect citizens and restore peace and stability.
Ibrahim said the security challenges facing the country needed collective engagement to address.
“Our security personnel are doing their best but government commitment will put them in the right track,” he added.
However, Dr Halilu Mohammed, a Bauchi-based Sociologist, attributed the spate of security threats to poor implementation of security policies in the country.
“Poor policy implementation; weak security systems and lack of probity in security budget financing led to security threats in the country,” he said.
He therefore urged governments at all levels to implement policies and programmes that would improve social and economic wellbeing of citizens to promote peace and stability in the country.(NAN)