Matawalle is giving bandits attention at the expense of kidnap victims –Zamfara APC chieftain


A stalwart of the All Progressive Congress in Zamfara State and former member of the National Assembly, Abdulmalik Bungudu, shares his thoughts on the no-flying-zone order and other issues in this interview with MAIHARAJI ALTINE

The Federal Government has imposed a no flying zone order on Zamfara State. What is your comment on this?

Thank you very much for this question. First of all, I want to bring to the notice of everybody that based on constitutional provision, there is a specific section which states that to save lives and properties is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government. We all heard that the National Security Council meeting held in Abuja and presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari and other security chiefs announced the no flying zone order in Zamfara based on intelligence reports they have, which necessitated the order. They banned planes from coming into the state, because they came to understand that those planes are being used to aid bandits’ activities, because they were being used to supply weapons and other necessary facilities to the bandits to carry out their activities. They all agreed that the no flying zone order would help to curtail the supply of weapons to bandits.

Every right thinking Nigerian knows that the action taken by the Federal Government is in order and is in the best interest of the state. So, I don’t see any reason why anybody should complain about this. And to my utmost dismay, the Zamfara State House of Assembly ignorantly passed a vote of no confidence in the National Security Adviser, Babagana Mungonu. This is complete rubbish. Is the NSA working under Zamfara state Government? The action of Zamfara lawmakers is embarrassing to the entire people of the state.

I want the people to understand that mining, which is considered as the major cause of increasing banditry activities, has also been stopped. As such, we shall commend the Federal Government for the action taken to save the lives and properties of the people of the state. We in the APC welcome this idea and we pray to Allah to help the security agents to effectively control the menace.

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Is the Zamfara State Government’s peace deal with bandits working?

This question can be answered by the people of Zamfara with a capital no. The negotiation is not working at all. The people of the state can testify to the fact that the current negotiation with bandits embarked upon by Governor Bello Matawalle’s administration has further worsened the situation. The bandits are not serious about the negotiation, because as I am talking to you now, those who were said to have repented are not up to 1,000 and you can imagine the number of bandits we have here in Zamfara State.

I want the government to have a rethink over this peace process, because we have not seen any change in the security situation. Things are becoming worse by the day. These people are still kidnapping and killing people. One disheartening situation is that those who said they have repented are not even up to 10 per cent of the bandits currently living in Zamfara forests. Then, one will wonder what kind of peace process is this. You can imagine that up to this time, the bandits who have said they have repented have not surrendered their weapons. I therefore want to suggest that any bandit, who wants to repent, should do so together with his family and should surrender his weapons. I also advise that any bandit, who refuses to repent and surrender his weapons, should be fought by the government.

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Matawalle is not the only governor, who introduced the peace process. The former governor, Abdul Aziz Yari, also used the same method. If you will recall, thousands of rifles and other weapons were surrendered by bandits as a result of Yari’s peace accord. They were all destroyed at the Trade Fair Complex with the help of some experts. Then, peace gradually returned to the state. But the problem was that the repentant bandits used to go to the neighbouring states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Kaduna to kidnap people and bring them into Zamfara State.

Yari told the repentant bandits that he would not agree with their habits of kidnapping people from neighbouring states and bringing them to Zamfara State. The repentant bandits refused to listen to Yari and that was what brought to an end the peace process.

Why do attacks still persist despite the peace deal?

It was not built on a solid foundation; therefore, there is no way it will work. The governor was in a hurry to tell the world that he had dealt with the issue of banditry, not knowing that the bandits are insincere people. I told you already that the peace process was haphazardly done without a solid and tentative plan. How can you say that you have reconciled with a criminal and you leave him with his rifles? Another reason why the attacks persist despite the peace deal is that the bandits are given more priorities than the people of the state, who are being kidnapped or killed.

Because of the undue attention given to them by the state government, the bandits now see themselves as masters, while the people of the state are their slaves. The governor places priority on the welfare of bandits than the villagers, who are always at the receiving end. Bandits can attack a village and kidnap the villagers without the security agents checking them. But by the time the villagers defend themselves and luckily kill a bandit, the whole community will be in trouble, because they will be arrested and quizzed for taking the law into their own hands.

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How will you describe the Matawalle administration in the last three years?

I have nothing to comment here because you can’t compare this government with the past administration of Abdul Aziz Yari. It is very glaring to anybody in the state. They know what happened during the former governor’s administration in terms of developmental projects and what is happening in this government at the moment.

Your party, the APC is saying that it will win the state in 2023, how realistic is this?

 It depends on how God wants it to happen. But I don’t think there is anybody who does not know that Zamfara is an APC state. As far as our party is concerned, we are ready to go into elections even if they will be conducted this year. I am very sure that the people of the state are not with the PDP going by the series of problems being encountered by the generality of the people of the state.

I am telling you, the people are tired of this government and are looking for a way out. So, let us wait until 2023 and you will see what will happen.

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