By Lateef Adegbite
Bello Matawalle, governor of the north western geo-political region of Zamfara state appears to have realised that the military and the Force alone, may not successfully crush the Bandits Group operating in the state, which Ibrahim Dosara, the Commissioner of Information had said have 100 Camps scattered all over the state with 32,000 armed followers without the support of the government of Niger.
This is because the security Challenges in the Maradi region of the neighbouring West African country, particular, kidnapping, cattle rustling, armed banditry, have become the lot of parts of north west geopolitical region states of Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina, President Mohammadu Buhari, a retired Army General , home state. The armed banditry in the Maradi region of Niger is so bad that it has escalated to Kaduna and Kebbi, two other states in the region and Niger, home state of Ibrahim Babangida, a retired Army General and former military President.
This may have informed why Matawalle has taken the bold initiative to meet with Bazoun, the Nigerien President, on Monday, December 13, 2021, to rub minds, on how to deal with security challenge in the Maradi region which is giving Nigeria too much trouble. The duo were said to have discussed the issues of the high level of insecurity in the Maradi region of the West African country and the north western states in Nigeria. They were said ‘’to have resolved to explore more areas of support and cooperation between the Sahel country and Zamafara state, in order to end the crisis, in no distant time.
Perhaps, to get President Bazoun, the country’s service Chiefs and Inspector General of Police , IGP, to support the Zamfara state government efforts to solve the security challenges in the region, Matawalle, who was said to have been accompanied to then meeting with the Niger Republic President and security Chiefs by Sahabi Yau Daura, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Representing Zamfara North, Suleiman Abubakar, an Engineer and member of the House, Representing Gummi/Bukuyum Federal Constituency, Mahmoud Gummi and Umar Maradun, had made a firm promise ‘’to support the country in the fight against the Bandits in order to stop extending their operations to Nigeri’’.
The Zamfara state governor was said to have promised to donate five brand new Hilux vehicles to the government of Niger Republic to provide special border Patrol at the Maradi region and other parts of the country which share border with Zamfara, Katsina, and Sokoto states. Matawalle, may have pleaded with the Nigerien President that the new vehicles when delivered should be handed over to the governor of Maradi region, who many believed is financially handicapped to procure enough patrol vehicles for the security operatives in the region to do their job.
Although, Matawalle and other northern states governors believe that the banditry activities in their respective states emanated from the Maradi region, Bazoun, the Niger President may have put the matter to rest at the Niamey meeting. He had said that ‘’the problem of armed Banditry across Niger is coming from Madawa and Bayan Dutsi but got escalated to Nigeria through the Maradi region of the country.
The question on the lips of most people was that since the Nigerien government knows about this: what step has it taken to ensure the Criminal elements from Mali, ,auritania, Burkina Faso, Loibya and other Sahel region member countries , did not use their country as a base to distabilise Nigeria?
Many believe that past and present President of Niger of Niger, may not have acted to stem the activities of the Bandits Group because they were looking up to for President Muammadu Buhari, to support the country with funds to get the needed weapons and Patrol vehicles for the Security agencies personnel to confront the Bandits who were armed to the tooth. The Niger President may have spoken his mind at the meeting with the Zamfara state governor and his entourage when he declared that with ‘’the support provided to the Nigerien government by the Zamfara state governor, the issue will be a thing of the past’’.
As a prelude to ensuring that the members of the Bandits Group are checkmated in Niger, the Bazoun was said to have requested the governors in the regional governors ‘’to implement a total ban on the importation of motorcycles into Nigeri’’a. Note that virtually all the transit motorcycles meant for Niger, imported through the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou and Bollore port, for the land-locked country , develop wings on the road as it ended up in the Nigerian market and ultimately in the hands of the Bandits.
The Zamfara state governor may have taken advantage of the Niamey meeting with President Bazoun and his security Chiefs, to open up on the peace initiates and re-conciliatory process that had been undertaken by his government. These includes providing intelligence to security agents on how best ‘’to trace those who provide information to the armed Bandits and their Collaborators’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of the Nigerien President and his service Chiefs and the IGP, when he disclosed that the state government had mounted Close Circuit Television, CCTV, Cameras at strategic Locations in Gusau , the Capital, that will monitor the activities and movements of people with the aim of tracking and tracing the criminal hideouts and their nefarious activities.
Given the importance attached to the meeting, may have informed why the Nigerien President had requested the Zamfara governor to make a case for a regular security meeting between Bashir Salihi Magashi, a retired Major General and the Nigerien service Chiefs, IGP, governors of Maradi . The Nigerien President had suggested that governors of Zamfara, Sokoto , and Katsina, should also be part of the meeting in a bid ‘’to end the lingering security challenges facing the two countries ’’.The good news was that President Bazoun, who has given his word’’to support Zamfara sate government in the fight against insecurity’’.
While Governor Matawalle, is looking beyond Nigeria, to resolve the security Challenges in his home state ,Zamfara, Usman Alkali Baba, Nigeria IGP, had described 2021, as a very challenging owing ‘’to threats to internal security by the activities of the Bandits Group in the north west states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina , Kduna and the north central state of Niger.
The IGP , may have alluded also to the threats of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, whose Leader , Nnamdi Kanu , is still in the Department of State Service, DSS, Custody and other secessionist groups , and Criminal elements and kidnapping syndicates ,across the country.
Already, the IGP, has concluded arrangements for the Launch of brand new Operational vehicles in 2022 to boost the Force performance ‘’to tackle the challenge of insecurity while recruitment of 10,000 police Constables is being worked on’’.
In a related development Babagana Munguno, a retired Army Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, has exposed Jamaat Naral-Islam Wal Muslimin, JNIM, the Islamic and Muslim Support Group, GSIM, and Islamic State In Greater Sahara, ISGS, as the three groups supporting terrorists Organisations in the Sahel region.
The NSA, made the disclosure on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, at the 14 Workshop of the League of Ulamas, Preachers and Imams of Sahel countries at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. He had said that ‘’ terrorism and the rapid escalation of the violent activities by the militant Islamist groups in the region since 2016 have been primarily driven by the ISGS which mainly operates in Mali and extends to the Niger Republic and Burkina Faso’’.
According to him, the terrorist groups activities in the Sahel region are further bolstered by JNIM and GSIM, stressing that the groups have continued ‘’to pose an imminent threat to the stability of the regon’’. The retired Army Major General further said that the possibility of the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, one of the terrorist groups operating in the north east part of the Nigeria creating an established Caliphate to rival the Lake Chad Basin Commission LCBC, countries, which includes Nigeria, has been checkmated by series of concerted and reinvigorated efforts of the member countries of the Sahel region.
Given an insider information on how the terrorist groups was were checkmated, he asserted that’’ the use of both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches by the LCBC countries to stem the conflict had played a major role. Appealing to the Ulamas, Preachers and community Leaders to support the efforts of the military and other security agencies personnel in the fight agaainst the terrorists in different parts of the country, he reiterated that ‘’it is the only way to end the menace in the region’’.
He noted that ‘’just as collaborations between governments are boosting the advance of the military and the Force in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria and other parts of the Sahel region, ,’’ alliance and group efforts like OPIS should be the backbone to rebuilding the terrorism – infested Communities in the north east and north west geo-political regions’’
. He stated that ‘’there is no gun more powerful than enlightenment and education at the grassroots level’’. The Ulamas, Preachers and Community Leaders, may have taken the message home that they were said to have started the enlightenment and education of the people in their service immediately to withdraw support for the Islamic Fundamentalist Group ,BokoHaram and ISWAP, including the Bandits Groups.