Repentant bandits in Zamfara State have in the last 18 months surrendered 148 guns and 1,418 ammunition to the government, a document seen by SaharaReporters has shown.
The 18-month period is between July 2019 and January 2021.
The governor has described negotiation with the gunmen as the best option for lasting peace in the state.
Matawalle, while hosting the Mohammed Adamu, Inspector-General of Police, Yusuf Bichi, Director-General, Department of State Services (DSS), and other security heads on 16th of July, 2020 also offered bandits in the state two cows in exchange for each AK47 rifle surrendered.
He explained that he chose to offer cows because the bandits needed the cows to advance their economic interests.
“For every rifle submitted by a repentant bandit, there would be compensation of two cows. We don’t want to give them money, so they wouldn’t use the money to purchase new weapons,” the governor said.
“We said we will compensate them with cows, they need the cows to advance their economic interest. We also told the repentant bandits that all “Dabas” (Camps) in the forests should be disbanded. We won’t accept a situation where the bandits will disarm and then go back to the forest and be staying in these camps or Dabas.
“We asked them to either come to town and be reintegrated into the society or be given economic empowerment where they are, so that they would start a new life. Most of them are residing in forests under the shades of trees and inside caves. That is why we came up with RUGA policy to help them.”
Among the surrendered weapons submitted to the state government between July 2019 and January 2021 include 8 General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG), 8 Fabrique Nationale (FN) rifles, 5 Light Machine Guns, 107 AK-47 rifles, 2 AK-49 rifles and 3 G3 rifles.
Also recovered were 3 LAR rifles, 4 AK-103 rifles, 2 Anti Aircraft guns, 2 Dane Gun, 1 Pistol, 1 R/Pistol, 1 L/Pump Action, 1 PKT gun, 44 magazines, 2 handcuffs and 1418 rounds of ammunition.
About 15 brand new Hilux vehicles and cash gifts have also been given to leaders of different 'repentant' banditry groups by the governor.
But despite the accord, communities in the state are still being attacked and residents kidnapped and/or killed.
A top military officer recently told SaharaReporters that the bandits were carrying out attacks with some of the vehicles given to them by Matawalle.
The officer had said, “Those bandits have different groups, so if they say they repent, the governor will give them a Hilux vehicle but unfortunately they are now using the vehicles to carry out attacks.
“Like yesterday (Monday), they attacked Jankara but were resisted by the local vigilantes, so they fled and left one of those Hilux vehicles and the motorcycles they came with behind.
“It’s so sad, he called it a peace and reconciliation programme, but all you need to be rich now in Zamfara is to take up arms against the people.”
A committee set up to investigate the menace of armed banditry in the region, headed by Mohammed Abubakar, a former Inspector General of Police, reported that in Zamfara State between June 2011 and May 2019, 4,983 women were widowed; 25,050 children were orphaned; and more than 190,000 people were displaced as a result of armed banditry.
Last year, Governor Aminu Masari, Matawalle's counterpart in Katsina State, said his administration had to pull out of the peace deal it had with bandits that had been terrorising residents of the state.
Masari said despite the peace deal, the gunmen continued to carry out attacks with their accomplices from Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger Republic, leading to “indiscriminate killings” and kidnappings in the state.
He said, “The armed bandits have betrayed our trust in them, following a peace agreement earlier negotiated with them, in our quest to find a lasting peace in the state,” he was quoted as saying.
"We chose dialogue for peaceful coexistence in the state and we have done our best; yet, the attacks continue.
“As a result of the peace agreement, the government banned vigilance groups and identified cattle routes and facilitated free movements of bandits to convey their livestock to the markets.”
Saharareporters, New York