Bandits deserve sympathy from Nigerians: Zamfara Governor
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara on Thursday said some bandits terrorising Nigerian countrysides deserve the sympathy of citizens because many of them did not set out to go into armed criminality.
Mr. Matawalle, a member of the opposition PDP whose state has been inundated by violent attacks linked to armed bandits in recent years, said some of the attackers were radicalised by the Nigerian Army and local vigilante groups.
“Not all of them are criminals. If you investigate what is happening, and what made them 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’s exactly what happened,” he said.
Thousands of people have been killed while hundreds of thousands have been displaced by armed attackers in Zamfara since regular banditry returned to the state in 2016.
But the governor said there were more issues to the situation than many Nigerians have been led to believe.
“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 while briefing reporters at the State House on Thursday morning.
The governor’s comments come as bandits successfully attacked Kagara, a community in Niger State, seizing many students of a government college.
President Muhammadu Buhari has come under immense pressure to address the worsening exploits of armed bandits, whose rampage has rendered several communities across Nigeria’s northwest and north-central inhabitable.
While Mr. Matawalle’s position on the root causes of armed banditry may be probable, there are widespread reports that most of the attackers are doing so out of sheer criminal motive to pillage scarce resources in remote parts of the country, killing, maiming and destroying assets in the process.
Last week, Islamic scholar Sheikh Gumi visited bandits in Zamfara to negotiate with them to surrender their arms, but the final outcome of the meeting remained unclear.
The Zamfara governor said efforts should be intensified to negotiate the armed bandits out of their criminal endeavours.
“It is important for us as leaders to sit down with them and understand what is the genesis,” Mr. Matawalle said. “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?”
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