The governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, has said not all bandits who terrorise parts of the state and other neighbouring states are criminals.
The governor stated this on Thursday after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that most of the bandits take up arms due to the injustice meted on them by some members of the society.
Hundreds of persons have been killed or kidnapped by the bandits in Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa States in recent years.
Contrary to the claims by the governor, there have been suspicions that the criminality is a fallout of the artisanal mining of gold, lead and other mineral resources in those areas.
Despite the attacks on innocent citizens, Mr Matawalle has repeatedly called on the federal government to grant amnesty to repentant bandits.
Injustice on bandits
While explaining the reasons for the attacks, Mr Matawalle said those saddled with the responsibility of protecting the community sometimes rustle their cattle and destroy their livelihood.
He said since they have nobody to speak to, they resort to violence.
“Not all of them are criminals. If you investigate what is happening, and what made them to take the laws into their hands, some of them, sometimes were cheated by so-called the vigilante group.
“They normally go to their settlements and destroy property and take their animals. They did not have anyone to speak with, so sometimes, they go for revenge. When the vigilante group attacks them, they go for reprisals. That is exactly what happened,” the governor said.
He also indicted the military, whom he said contribute to the problems in the villages.
“Some of them are living in settlements close to villages or towns. When there are military operations, the military will go and destroy their property and animals. They are angry with such actions sometimes. If you are talking to them, you can understand where they are coming from and their problems,” Mr Matawalle said.
“It is important for us as leaders to sit down with them and understand what is the genesis. You can’t just conclude that this person is a criminal. You have to listen to him. What led him to go into such activities?
“It is not all Fulanis that are criminals. Some are good citizens, but due to some circumstances, they subscribed to such criminality but when we had the information, we called their leaders and sat with them, they told us their grudges and we sorted out the way the communities and the Fulanis can resolve their issues without any serious crisis.”
He said he believes the problem will be put to an end if governors can follow in his footsteps.
“In my state, I am constructing RUGA for them, like a settlement that can contain some of them because sincerely speaking, if we allow them going around from one place to another, we cannot find a solution to this issue.
“So the only thing the governors should do and we are discussing that is to contain them in one place. Like a Fulani from Zamfara should not migrate to another neighbouring state. How are we going to do that? This is something that needs a lot of resources because you will have to create something that can engage them.
“You have to provide social amenities for them. Like the RUGA that we are doing, we have many amenities like school, hospital, veterinary clinic, market and even mini stadium.
“If we allow them to migrate from one place to another, that is where the problem is. I believe that very soon, the Nigeria Governors Forum will discuss that so that we can be able to know what action all the governors should take to contain them in one place,” the governor stated.