Nigeria: Why Bandits Succeed With Mass Abductions in Northwest Nigeria - Katsina Governor's Aide

interview

The Katsina official also speaks on what the state government is doing to tackle banditry and other crimes in the state.

Ibrahim Katsina is the Special Adviser to Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, on security matters. The former director at the State Security Service (SSS) has been coordinating the fight against insecurity in the banditry-prone state since 2019.

In this interview, he tells PREMIUM TIMES why the state government decided to involve traditional rulers in its campaign against insecurity.

Excerpts:

PT: The security situation in Katsina is dire as in most states in the North-west region of Nigeria. What is the state government doing to reverse the situation?

Mr Katsina: Well, the general security situation in Katsina is improving gradually because we are on top of the situation and we are also understanding the dynamics of the threats and we have been doing the needful through community networking and synergy. The attacks have also reduced drastically and we are happy for that. What we need now is cooperation from the public to understand us and volunteer information on informants (of bandits) because without such cooperation, there is no way you can achieve what you set to achieve. But generally, the level of understanding we are getting from the people is impressive and I am sure we will succeed.

God has been on our side and the results are out there for all to see. We are winning against the bandits. Despite the fact that the issue is multifaceted, I can assure you that we have been recording success. We are not there yet but we shall win. The most important thing in issues like this is to find out what the problem is and we have found out what the problem is and we have made plans and measures are being taken.

PT: What exactly have you found out about the problem and what measures have the state government taken to address the situation?

Mr Katsina: You get results through community networking. The challenges we are facing are locally-oriented that started from the rural areas. For these crimes, we need local content solution and that is why I said our synergy with the members of the public in local areas and security agencies has been yielding positive results. If you aggregate the quantum of the threat perspective in Katsina and compare it to other states in the Northwest region, you will definitely give us a pass mark because the measures we have put in place are helping us to overcome the challenges. What we are doing so far has been paying positively.

PT: Is what you are dong enough in terms of impact?

Mr Katsina: No. I know that we need a permanent solution. As I stated elsewhere, we need to find solutions that are long-lasting. During Mr President's last visit, he ordered the governors in the region to bring an end to banditry and I am telling you they have started tapping from what we have done; that is community networking.

Even neighbouring states are copying our strategies because of how effective they are. I am sure you know the effectiveness of our three-tier committee. We have also included people we know have knowledge of social issues and insecurity. People like Mamman Dan Musa, Dr. Bashir Kurfi and others have been co-opted as part of our efforts to study the issue holistically.

PT: Tell us about that community networking and why you think it is effective.

Mr Katsina: Thank you. We have enacted a law on three tiers security arrangement which is giving an impetus to security management. That law, through involvement of traditional rulers, is the best solution to security challenges, not only in Katsina or the north but the whole country. When you go to countries like UK and others, they still respect their traditional institutions. In England, the Queen is still very strong and influential. So, why not in Nigeria?

We are changing the dynamic of security management by domesticating it and making it responsive. This arrangement involves everyone and not necessarily only the traditional rulers. But we want them to be fully involved because they are the next to the people, especially in the rural areas. We believe that by engaging the traditional institutions, we are reviving their role, especially in identifying threats to avert problem. Our traditional rulers used to be vibrant but the local government reforms of 1976 took away their role which we decided to give back to them.

PT: Do you think that will solve the problem?

Mr Katsina: This is part of many plans to bring an end to the menace. When something occurs in a community, we expect the immediate traditional ruler to know and also be able to unravel the nature of the crime and who can commit such crime because we believe most of these bandits are not from somewhere else; they're people known in the society.

We are gradually co-opting the traditional rulers into our calculations. And I also want to remind people to know that you cannot make change overnight. We will gradually reach our destination. If we can cooperate with this arrangement, I am sure that everything will be history. You know all these issues are due to hostilities between groups and people. When someone does something to you and you feel he has cheated you and the immediate traditional ruler in your community has the power to sit you two down and deliver judgment on the issue, why would there be hostility?

PT: Despite assurances that you are on top of the situation, how was it possible for bandits to abduct over hundred of people at a time, like the Kankara students and worshippers in Jibia, and hide them from the community, government and security officials without trace?

Mr Katsina: Most of the kidnappers are Fulanis; they know the terrain more than the security agents. This is an asymmetric warfare; the enemy has its own identified target and they assimilate with the community, identify with the people of the community and undertake attacks. That was why I said earlier that this is a local issue and local leaders need to be involved. These bandits are local people disturbing their own community, a father being kidnapped by his son and so on. How do you solve this issue without understanding the dynamics of the conflict?

But thanks be to God now that we have identified that such things happen because of the knowledge of the bandits as regards the forest, hence our decision to involve the traditional rulers and other local stakeholders to help in containing the menace. And I am proud to say that Katsina State Government is doing what has not been in existence since after the arrival of colonial masters. By involving traditional rulers in the activities of their domains, we are saying that people who know the terrain, who know the area very well should be involved.

PT: Governor Masari and some of his officials were seen in public meetings with some of these bandits. What sort of engagement is the state government having with bandits?

Mr Katsina: That was before and I was not the security adviser then. But to be fair and honest to them, the state government then thought dialogue or to use your word, engagement, was the only way out of it. In every conflict, dialogue is an option. Governor Masari is a person of integrity and he is very humane. He went to sit with the bandits, hoping that it would solve the problem. But when he realised the bandits were not sincere, he stopped all engagements with them. Masari has done his best and he wanted to find a lasting solution.

Dialogue is not bad. Look at how sophisticated the U.S is but it has to sit and dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

PT: Is dialogue still an option?

Mr Katsina: We were betrayed by the bandits and I know the governor has made it clear that he would not be in dialogue with them again. But we are finding other solutions. The issue is complicated and they (bandits) have contacts with many people who inform them of plans to attack them.

PT: Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai said he does not believe in negotiating with bandits and kidnappers. He believes that other North-west governors should engage the bandits with force alone...

Mr Katsina: (cuts in) Katsina is Katsina, Kaduna is Kaduna. I have no authority and I can't speak for Kaduna. But I know that the decision the governor took was based on his conviction that Kaduna can fight insecurity without discussing with bandits. As far as I am concerned, the issue of Kaduna State is based on the understanding of the dynamics of the challenges facing them.

PT: But the security challenges are the same...

Mr Katsina: Yes. But different approach. I challenge anybody, including you journalists, to do a comparative analysis on which state in the Northwest is doing better in fighting insurgency than Katsina.

We have passed the stage of dialogue too. This three-tier committee arrangement is our new approach to the issue so it is not all about dialogue. Our plans have gone beyond dialogue. Dialogue is an archaic, old fashioned aspect of fighting banditry. What we are doing now is to address the reasons for banditry and not to sit and discuss with bandits.

PT: Do democratic institutions like chairmen and councillors have roles in the three-tier committee?

Mr. Katsina: Yes. The chairmen and councillors in the local areas are a part of the committee. The law has given them roles because they too are part of the community. They are all members of our ward councils. You know we have ward council, village council and district council. Chairmen and councillors are definitely part of it and they know the role we gave them.

This committee will help security agents to relax and do their real duty of augmenting the efforts of the community. We are doing domestic approach.

PT: What is the position of Katsina State on state police?

Mr Katsina: We have an action committee on state policing. When you do proper community policing, you don't need state police. The agitations for state police is because of the absence of effective community policing. The whole essence of policing is to build trust and confidence and you can have it with an effective community policing.

PT: Has your office done any other thing apart from the three-tier security committee?

Mr Katsina: Yes. I have also inaugurated a special committee to fight drug abuse and trafficking. It comprises influential people and security agents and traditional rulers. We meet regularly to discuss issues, especially on how to tackle the circulation of hard drugs in the state. We have made headway on it too because it helps in making sure that the drugs don't reach bandits and other criminals. We all know that drugs help them in becoming bold and heartless.

PT: Let's talk about gun trading especially with Katsina being a border state. Have you done anything to tackle gun trading in the state, like reaching out to Niger Republic to have a common approach?

Mr Katsina: I am sure you have heard of ECOWAS Protocol. I will give you an example. When we launched this committee in Mai'Adua Local Government Area, a traditional ruler told us that there was a fugitive running from the law from Niger Republic who had built a sachet water factory in the area. Because of our committee, he was unearthed and taken back to Niger. I gave you this simple example that with the ECOWAS Protocol, we will not have problem of cross-border crimes. So, I assure you that no one can commit crime or engage in gun-running from Niger and find it easy here because the immediate traditional ruler in the area would be involved and investigation would be made as to who exactly the person is.

In situations where we have cases like that of gun-running, we have ways of reaching out to the country through the appropriate security means. The recent killing of a notorious bandit who kidnapped an old woman in Daura and took her to Jigawa State was achieved through this arrangement. There are several successes made by the security agents in the state.

PT: What is your call to the people, especially those in the frontline local government areas?

Mr Katsina: I want them to understand the situation, to understand the efforts we are making as a government and to understand the efforts and sacrifices the security agents are making. We need their understanding and cooperation because without community partnership and cooperation, the war against banditry will never end. I am insisting on this because without them volunteering information on bandits, we will keep going in the same circle. I keep repeating this but it is worth it. Our security issue is locally based. So, no matter what we do or intend to do, we must have synergy with those at the local level. They know some of the actors, they live together in the local areas. For example, with this three-tier system, we expect them to work with us and point out those helping the bandits.

What we need is community cooperation because the informants are within the communities, they are part of the communities and some people of the communities are helping them. When we expose the informants, we suffocate the problem and wipe it out completely.

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