By Ese Awhotu Abuja and Lawal Sa’idu Funtua, Katsina
The rapprochement between Katsina State government and bandits, holed up in the expansive Ruga forest, which is contagious to eight local government areas in the state, has received a significant boost with the first exchange of five kidnapped victims held by the bandits and nine detained bandits held by security agencies.
This was contained in a statement by Abdu Labaran Malumfashi,DG Media to Governor Masari yesterday, said the exchanges, which took place in the Katsina State Government House before Governor Aminu Bello Masari, all the security chiefs serving in the state and two representatives of the bandits, sealed pledges earlier made by both sides during a six-day peace engagement, which took place in extremely remote locations of the affected local government areas between government official, led by the Governor on the one hand, and the commanders of the bandit on the other.
The statement recalled that, “The peace dialogue, which took three Nigerian Governors to Maradi Region in the Republic of Niger over the weekend where they discussed cross boarder banditry with their Maradi counterpart Alhaji Zakari Umaru, was initiated by Governor Masari, and, after painstaking preparations, began on Wednesday last week at Dankolo village in Sabuwa local government area. Governors Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Muhammed Bello Matawalle are the others on the Maradi trip.
“The meeting also took place in Dandume, Faskari, Kankara, Danmusa, Safana, Batsari and Jibiya, which together with Dandume make up the eight local government areas subjected to savage banditry, often resulting in the loss of lives, arson and destruction of properties in villages close to the hideouts of the bandits.”
Speaking during the exchanges, Governor Masari disclosed that another 29 kidnapped victims would be released by the bandits later in the day, adding that the process would continue for the next couple of days during which all captives in the hands of the bandits would be released by them, while those of the bandits’ unconvicted detainees in the hands of security agencies would similarly be set free.
The Governor further disclosed that in tandem with the exchanges of detainees from both sides, would be the voluntary surrender and return of arms and ammunitions by the bandits to the security agencies.
The statement said the released bandits and their two representatives, took an oath by the Holy Quran, pledging never to revert to banditry, even as the also promised to assist government in persuading their colleagues to drop arms and embrace peace.
However, Governor Masari warned the bandits that while the government would walk its talk to its later and spirit, it will not tolerate violation of the agreement by them as it would wield the big stick with all the required ruthlessness to enforce its will and have its way.