The Zamfara State Police Command has announced a drastic reduction in the crime rate in the state. The spate of criminal activity consists of killings, kidnappings and cattle rustling. What began in Zamfara has extended to neighbouring Katsina, Niger, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kebbi states. The banditry reached such a scale the federal government had to call in the military and other security forces to complement the effort of the Nigeria Police.
It appears this combined campaign against the well armed and ubiquitous bandits is paying off handsomely. Speaking during the week in Gusau, the Zamfara capital, Commissioner of Police Usman Nagogo said the crime rate in Zamfara had been reduced by 98 percent and “peace is gradually returning to the state following a series of meetings held with leaders of Miyetti Allah, ‘Yansakai’, farmers and representatives of bandits organized by the police.” The dialogue led to the release of 51 Hausa and Fulani captives by both the bandits and ‘Yansakai’.
Mr. Nagogo explained: “On the 4th of July 2019, I led a team to Dansadau where twenty five Fulanis who have been held captive for up to 4 months were released unconditionally to me at the palace of the emir of Dansadau. This gesture by the bandits is phenomenal. On July 5, I also led a team to Shinkafi local government area where we successfully negotiated the release of 15 Hausas from captivity. They were also released without a dime paid to their abductors.”
Two days after, according to Nagogo, another 11 captives held at Gidan Dawa in Kaura Namoda and Kamarawa in Shinkafi were released to him. “This brings the number of people that secured their freedom through the committee headed by me to 51 men, women and children”, he said. Efforts were ongoing at freeing 26 more captives, he said. “After that, the next of the dialogue will be disarming and collection of all rifles and other weapons that are in the hands of both local militias and the bandits”.
Nagogo explained the form the dialogue took. It was either face to face or through phone calls or proxies. “This has assisted me to dictate the tone of the dialogue,” he said. “The persuasion and energetic pleading dug deep into their nerves and facilitated actions that have positive consequences. The governor_elect of the state, though not yet inaugurated, has appointed me as chairman of the committee on reconciliation, disarmament and amnesty.”
The people of Zamfara who have suffered untold hardships under the terror unleashed by the bandits will welcome the cheering news coming from the police. They will be encouraged to return to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Two things to draw from this success story of Mr. Nagogo: firstly, dialogue sometimes works better than use of force because it builds confidence instead of instilling fear. Secondly, it means nobody is killed and ensures a win-win outcome.
However, much as we commend the security forces for what they are doing in Zamfara and the other states affected by banditry, we want to urge them to be slow to speak but quick to act. Saying that the large scale banditry that consumed tens of thousands of human lives, livestock and destroyed farmlands has been reduced by 98% is too good to be true. It is more so that the prisoner releases have been achieved through phone calls. All this is more like chests beating by the police. They should learn from the blunder of the military that, at one time, said Boko Haram would be destroyed in three months. It took 3-4 years to reduce the violent religious sect to what it is today, a smouldering ember, not a fiery fire that it once was. If the police are doing such a fine job in Zamfara, let people see the salutary result on the ground. A gani a kasa, the Hausa say.