The governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, says not all bandits terrorising residents in Northern Nigeria are criminals.
The governor who is one of those demanding amnesty for the criminals who have recently skyrocketed their activities, said injustice meted out the herdsmen forced them to take up arms.
Pastoralists largely from the Fulani extraction are speculated as being behind insecurity bedeviling the nation. In the North they are called bandits but in the South they are addressed as violent herdsmen.
It appears the federal government is helpless in tackling insecurity, a development that has led the Defence Minister to advise armless Nigerians on combating the criminals.
“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,” the Zamfara helmsman said yesterday after meeting President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
“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.
“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.
“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,” Matawalle added.
He also appealed to other state governors to emulate him by establishing Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) to curb the crisis arising from herders and farmers clashes.
“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,” the governor said.
“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,” he added.