Katsina Bombing: More Questions than Answers
Prof. Abdussamad Umar Jibia
In September 2019 after series of renewed attacks by bandits in local government areas adjacent to Zamfara state, the Government of Katsina State on the instruction of President Buhari engaged the criminals who are mainly of Fulani extraction in peace talks. Many of us who are victims of their violence opposed the decision of both the state and Federal Governments for reasons widely discussed. The peace agreement meetings took place in different locations and in front of press cameras inside or near the forest from which most of the bandits operate.
The bandit leaders who sealed these agreements with Katsina State Governor are well known. Some of them are Saleh Dangote, Abdulazeez Magware, Dan Karami, Dogo Gide, among others. The implication of these agreements is that the Government knows their capabilities and locations. They also know the numerical strengths of their bands, for as the Secretary to the state Government put it much later, “some of them have up to 300 men under them”. In other words, Katsina state Government did not go into peace agreement with the criminals without adequate intelligence on them.
In May 2020, after continuous breaches of the agreement by the bandits, the State Government publicly withdrew from the agreement with all the bandits and promised not to sit and discuss with any of them. While declaring the end of his agreement with the bandits, Governor Masari described them as “worse than wild animals”. He added, “What we see here is that the bandits come to town, spray bullets, kill indiscriminately for no purpose and no reasons. How can a human being behave the way that an animal cannot even behave? That is why I say that they are worse than the animals in the forest. For me, there are no longer innocent persons in the forests”.
About the time Masari was ending peace accord with the marauding criminals, the Federal Government said it was sending its specialized Air and Ground operatives to fight bandits in Katsina. And it did. The people in the frontline local government areas immediately saw the number of soldiers and their armoured vehicles that they never witnessed before. In the air over their communities hovered military aircrafts that even the elderly among them did not see earlier in their lives. Later, the Chief of Army staff himself moved to Katsina to lead the fight.
With the intelligence about bandits the State Government had, many people thought that sweeping them off by the military was a matter of bread and butter. They were disappointed. As I m writing this, almost two months after the military operations started, none of the bandit kingpins mentioned above has been killed or arrested. Again, the only camps destroyed were those they had already abandoned.
But has the presence of the Army Chief, his officers and men, Police and their Air colleagues deterred the criminals from their attacks on the communities? The answer is No. The attacks continued and they were many and devastating, with Batsari LGA being the worst hit. Faskari, Kankara, Jibia and other local Governments had their own share of those attacks.
Here, one would be tempted to ask, does the military truly want to end this violence? Many people would want to say no, for strong reasons. For example, the Army Chief was in Katsina when a prominent businessman/politician accused the state of Government of giving the General a ‘cash gift’ of N250m in addition to other unaccounted hundreds of millions said to be given to other security outfits including Police and DSS. Neither General Brutai nor the Army high command responded to the allegation, suggesting that there may be some truth in the claim.
Now, if not for the insecurity ravaging the state, what would make the state Government give even one percent of what was allegedly given to those agencies and/or their chiefs? If the violence is ended, where would they get extra money outside of their salaries and allowances? Assuming the money said to be given to the security chiefs were not even given to them but stolen by state government officials, what would have made that happen if there were no insecurity? Again even if the claim of the businessman were not true in the first place, what would have made him lie if not the insecurity in the state?
And as people were watching events unfold, one Major General John Enenche of Defence headquarters claimed to the astonishment of all of us that Boko Haram was migrating to the Northwest “with more sophisticated weapons to flee military onslaught in the Northeast which they have terrorized for over a decade”. The first question I asked is where the military was when those people are migrating across the country to the Northwest if at all that is true. Are our intelligence agencies on leave? To which location in the Northwest are they relocating? Or is this a strategy to prolong the solution to the crisis in the Northwest?
Everyone knows that the bandits who operate in the Northwest and parts of North Central are not the same as Boko Haram in their ideology and methods. While Boko Haram claims to be fighting to establish an Islamic state and even chant Islamic slogans when they launch attacks, the bandits in the Northwest are completely ignorant of Religion, do not claim it and have no ideology but stealing, killing, maiming, raping and destruction. They were never reported, even once, to chant any religious slogan while attacking their victims.
When Boko Haram started over a decade ago, their primary targets were military and Police and their structures. The bandits in the Northwest, on the other hand, started as cattle rustlers because most of them were said to be Fulani herders who no longer own cattle.
The methods used for attacks by the bandits are rifles and machetes whereas Boko Haram use bombs and rifles. A Boko Haram fighter can carry out a suicide bombing because they have been made to believe it would take them to heaven while bandits in the Northwest run for their lives in the presence of superior fire power.
The two criminal types are therefore different. I always disagree with armchair analysts who sit in their rooms and draw conclusions that the Boko Haram operating in the Northeast are the same bandits in the Northwest. But here is our defence headquarters giving it another dimension.
On Saturday July 18 a bomb was planted in the farm of one Alhaji Hussaini Maikwai around ‘Yarmama in Malumfashi Local government area of Katsina state. It killed five children and injured six. “Boko Haram is in Katsina”, a Facebook friend wrote. While laughing at his naivety I added, “And they have integrated with the bandits”. Is that what we are expected to believe? Haba!
But even as we continue to ask other questions, the big one is, where is Mr. President, the last hope of the common man when all these are taking place? Is he overwhelmed and cannot do anything about all these things that do not add up? Why must he continue to retain lieutenants that cannot perform? Is it possible that it is his detractors using his state to show that he is incapable? Why can’t he at least launch an investigation? OMG!