How Zamfara is pushing to have peace — Dosara, Commissioner for Information

Ibrahim Dosara, Commissioner for Information, Zamfara State, in this interview by MUHAMMAD SABIU, speaks on the security situation in his domain as well as the recent ban on aircraft and mining activities in the state by the Federal Government.

WHAT were you doing before you came on board as commissioner?

Before my coming as a commissioner, I held several positions. For instance, I was a special adviser to the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdul’Azzeez Yari: first on public enlightenment and later media. I was with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) before I joined politics. After leaving the office of special adviser, I established a television station which I managed as chairman and chief executive until I was appointed by the governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle to serve as a commissioner in his cabinet.

What specifically attracted you to politics?

In my life there are two things that I appreciate or like doing.  Teaching and assisting the downtrodden.  I was a teacher before I went into journalism; I like sharing my experiences with people which I also found enormous in journalism. The second thing I like doing is assisting the needy or the common man. And that was what attracted me to politics.

As the spokesman of the government, what do we expect from you?

Let me put it this way, I expect so many things. For example, I expect from the public absolute support and cooperation so that we can do the right thing in order to bring peace, harmony and tranquillity to our society. I also expect the people to be law-abiding, they should desist from doing anything that is against the law. Together we can bring development within the society and enjoy the dividends of democracy. I also expect the civil servants to be law-abiding and corrupt-free citizens. I want to see them having the love of Zamfara State at heart.

It is the responsibility of the ministry to ensure that the people are educated and enlightened about government policies so that the objectives of those policies would be realised.

How did the government and people react to the ban on aircraft by the Federal Government? Has it affected the state?

Before going to that question, I expect from you and members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other working journalists too to work with me in harmony and understanding. As a member of NUJ and as a representative of Nigerian Tribune, I need that support from you and your organisation as well as all the journalists to succeed.

On the ban of aircraft in the state, the government has no objection to that. Zamfara State Government is ever ready to support and accept anything from the Federal Government to ensure that peace and harmony prevail. We are not opposing to the idea of banning flights or either are we quarrelling with the Federal Government. We are even ready to do more as long as that decision would bring peace to the state.

Recently, two professors openly attacked the state government over its peace process. Their argument was that one cannot dialogue with criminals. Do you think the government has taken the right decision to dialogue with these bandits?

In the first place you said the professors argued over the peace process of Zamfara State. You see we are in a democracy and people are entitled to their own opinions. But I expect such caliber of people to understand that there is a variety of interests and opinions. They should have done their research well about the peace process, how it came about and why it is happening now. And this is what we are arguing about.

Honestly, the peace process is a process that was necessitated by the section of the constitution which says the essence of any government is the protection of lives and property of its citizens. And after over a decade, the issue of armed banditry in our state has been ongoing and we were unable to bring it to an end completely.

No responsible government will sit and watch its people get killed without taking necessary actions. Now you may know that in almost every part of Nigeria today, we have one crisis or the other. And going by the number of security personnel we have in the country, they are grossly inadequate.

We need sophisticated equipment to tackle this security challenges that are ongoing in almost every part of the country. So what do we do? It is an option for us to invite stakeholders to a roundtable comprising the bandits, the traditional rulers, the union leaders, the military officers, the police and other security outfits to sit down and study the way out. At the end of the day, it was agreed that the state government should try the peace process which might bring results.

As a result of the peace process, we were able to achieve so many things. One, we were able to convince some of the bandits to surrender and hand over their weapons and embrace peace. And as a result of that agreement, the state government is constructing RUGA settlements for them.

We earmarked three areas within the state. One is in Maradun; one is in Dansadau and the other is in Kaura. That of Maradun has reached an advanced stage. Within the RUGA settlements, we intend to provide all social amenities that will make life easy, including grazing land, water and electricity, schools and mosques so that they can stay in one place instead of moving around.

We were able to secure the release of over 2,000 kidnapped victims from the repentant bandits. And many of the victims were not even indigenes of the state. Many of them have been reunited with their families. So this had been ongoing until some people or saboteurs decided to connive with these criminals to sabotage the efforts of the state government.

For me, within and outside the state, the peace process is working and is something worth doing. We are doing it and if anybody is not happy or opposing us we want that person to tell us what to do to bring the relative peace we are enjoying in the state.

Do you have a special program for the repentant bandits?

As I earlier mentioned, we agreed to set up the RUGA settlements for the repentant bandits. These repentant bandits are helping in the peace process, including the son of the dreaded Buhari Daji who is also repentant; he brought many bandits to the government.

Recently, we had the unfortunate incident of abduction of school children. What is the state government doing to avoid this?

You see the kidnapping of school children is almost everywhere now especially in the North. And that has made almost every government to sit up. To ensure that we protect and safeguard people’s lives and property in Zamfara State, what we did was to ask our schools outside the towns especially the female schools to close down. Presently we are thinking of the best way to handle the issue of education. We told security operatives to ensure the protection of those schools within the towns.

What is the relationship between the government and security agencies? Are you satisfied with the way they are handling security issues in the state?

The relationship between the government and security agencies is very cordial. We enjoy working with them. They are trying their best. As you can see some of them lost their lives while protecting the people. We so much appreciate the security agencies working in Zamfara State. We salute them. The government will continue to do everything possible to encourage them to do their jobs without any interference.

Mining has been banned in your state. Could this also be a security issue?

Well, illegal mining has been there even before the coming of this administration. But the Federal Government decided to ban it when this administration came on board. The government has no objection to the banning of illegal mining in the state. You know mineral resources are exclusively under the watch of the Federal Government. So since the Federal Government has taken measures through the security agencies to ban it, the state government is a willing partner to support the Federal Government in ensuring that illegal mining is not encouraged throughout the state. So the state government has no objection to the ban.

Recently too it was disclosed that about 100 miners were kidnapped. Is the state government aware?

As far as we are concerned, we don’t just take pieces of information that we see on social media. You know how the social media is today. Everybody has become a journalist. And most of those who use the social media have no formal training.

So you will agree with me that most of these stories posted on the social media or even pictures are against the ethics of journalism.  There is no where that 100 miners were killed or kidnapped at once under this present administration.

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