The prolonged incessant killing of innocent people in Katsina State in the name of banditry is becoming so alarming, thereby causing serious setback in the socioeconomic development of the state.
I once asked in a write-up who these Katsina bandits and what the rationale behind the amnesty offered them and the dialogue engaged with them by Katsina State government. As a peace and conflict resolution practitioner, the then programme was not spelt out and explained because it was copy and paste from Zamfara State governor.
What led to the frequent attacks in Katsina state is a failure of the authorities to critically understand the situation before embarking on the mission of ending the conflict through non-kinetic approach.
Banditry in Katsina is totally different when compared to Zamfara banditry conflict. The situation in Zamfara was categorized into economic war and unwillingness of the then governor to take action before it slipped out of his finger. There were early warning signals in Zamfara because government allowed illegal miners to operate in some communities.
In a nutshell, the Zamfara banditry is more of gold mining and failure to secure the lives of the people, especially in the affected communities.
Katsina case is entirely different because there are no mineral resources like gold or silver in the affected areas. The state’s resource is potassium and has no physical value in the eyes of many Nigerians so, it’s not worth killing people for it.
I am not disputing the fact that engaging the bandits through dialogue is wrong, because dialogue is a very important instrument of resolving conflict and peace building peace, but these bandits are conflict entrepreneurs who will never rest without a comprehensive plan. They are same bandits that the Zamfara State government engaged and paid handsomely.
They moved to Katsina and engaged with the government authorities and also collected their share, paused the attacks and released people.
Katsina banditry will be difficult to resolve if government continues with the current strategy without considering the various factors involved in the conflict. Firstly, there is explosive population growth and climate change, these issues are exacerbating economic anxiety and fomenting lawlessness, especially in the communities that border the Niger Republic.
There is no restriction in these areas, Nigerien can come to Nigeria, commit any sort of crime and go back to their country. Corruption also plays a significant role here because some security agencies are collecting bribe from Nigeriens and granting them access without proper checking and investigation.
This kind of negligence and corruption in the security sector the reasons. We have Boko Haram and ISWAP in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has launched multiple military operations in the North-West region since 2016 all because of banditry and kidnapping, but these interventions have not recorded much progress because the government stepped into the crisis too late. If the government had adopted the right approach at the beginning, the situation would have been resolved since.
Government must understand the needs of the people, study the crisis very well, dialogue, and ensure proper administration of justice before this problem can be solved. Everyone must participate for us to win this war.