Nigeria: Displaced Zamfara Villagers Returning Home After Governor's Aide Meets Banditry Kingpin

PREMIUM TIMES has listened to an audio recording of a conversation between an aide of Governor Bello Matawalle and the banditry kingpin

Villagers evicted by a banditry kingpin identified simply as Turji started returning home Sunday morning after an aide of the Zamfara State governor met with the outlaw.

Bandits loyal to Turji had sacked several villages in Shinkafi Local Government Area and kidnapped more than 50 people, according to sources.

Turji was said to be angry that some residents of the area provided information to security agents that led to the arrest of his father at the Kano-Jigawa boundary.

PREMIUM TIMES' reporter has listened to an audio recording of Turji's conversation with Moyi Sidi, a special assistant to Governor Bello Matawalle who is also from Shinkafi local government area.

In the clip, Turji said he was angry because "two influential Hausa persons facilitated the arrest of my father," saying they were the only people in Zamfara State giving him trouble.

When the governor's aide pleaded with him to release the abducted persons in his camp and allow those fleeing their villages to go back, Turji responded: "You know I protect them (villagers) more than the DPO of the area. But when I started protecting people by fighting other bandits to reclaim stolen cows and give it back to people, they started envying me."

Turji told Mr Sidi how the "Hausa men started blackmailing me and my father. At a time, he relocated to Katsina and started planning against me. That was how they got at my father.

"But I don't understand how they would just go and arrest my father. I am the one who has issue with them, my father is innocent and they know where I am with my boys.

"Why would they arrest my father? They said my father is the one keeping all the cows we stole from Kebbi. Imagine, they said my father took cows from Kebbi to Jigawa! How would my father lead cows from Kebbi to Jigawa? Where did he follow to reach Jigawa State? Just imagine the lie!"

The banditry kingpin promised to release the abducted prisons in his camp, assuring that nothing would happen to them because he has no problem with the Zamfara State Government "save for some five people. Two Fulanis and two Hausas".

He told the governor's aide: "I promise you. If Musa can bring my father to the riverside, let him just call me and hand over my father to me, Wallahi I will release all the people in my camp. What would I even do with them?"

However, a source in Shinkafi local government council said those who spent the night at the secretariat have started moving back to their villages.

The source sent exclusive pictures to confirm the development.

It was not immediately clear if the development was connected to Turji's promise to the governor's aide.

Commenting on the development, however, the chairman of a socio-political group, Zamfara Circle, Aminu Tsafe, lamented the state of law enforcement in the state.

"These are about 900 people with 900 guns, assuming each of them is carrying one gun, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. These people cannot be hidden. It is clear that the fight against banditry is not being accorded the attention it deserves," he said.

The security adviser to Governor Matawalle, Mamman Tsafe, declined to comment on the development.

But a director in the department confirmed that the displaced residents were returning to their villages and those kidnapped have been released.

When asked whether the state government led discussion to ensure that Turji's father was released, he said "Well, I'm not even sure whether the guy's father was arrested. But in the audio you sent to me, he didn't mention Zamfara State. He doesn't have issue with our government so, I don't know what you mean by asking whether we've released his father."

He said the state government and the security office will release statements on the issue.

Mohammed Shehu, Zamfara state police command spokesperson, didn't respond to calls and SMS sent to him.

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