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Zamfara Governor continues peace talks with bandits despite ongoing military operations

Despite ongoing airstrikes and land operations by the Nigerian Armed Forces against bandits in the Northwest part of the country, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara on Saturday said that he is continuing with peace deals with leaders of bandits operating in the State for the attainment of total peace.

The Nigerian military had on Saturday morning announced that Nigerian Air Force (NAF) massive airstrikes between Wednesday and Friday killed “no fewer than 135 armed bandits and “decimated” several of their camps in the Northwest of the country, especially in Katsina and Zamfara States.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the banditry and violence in parts of Northwest region has fueled Nigerian refugee figures to 60,000, as they flee to safety and security in Niger Republic. Last month alone, 23,000 Nigerian desperate women and children flee bandits’ attacks to take sanctuary in neighbouring Niger Republic Maradi region.

The Nigerian refugees speak of the bandits’ extreme violence against civilians, murders, kidnappings for ransom and pillaging and looting of villages.

Then, penultimate Sunday, President Muhammadu Buhari authorised the commencement of a major military operation to sweep bandits and kidnappers out of Katsina State.

But Governor Matawalle said on Saturday in Zamfara State capital, Gusau, while condoling families of those affected by the recent wave of banditry in the villages of Unguwar Rogo, Karda, Bidda and Kajera of Tsafe Local Government Area as well as Kabaje of Kaura-Namoda that he is still interfacing with the leaders of the bandits towards cessation of hostilities.

The attacks in the affected villages left no fewer than 10 persons dead and several others wounded before the arrival of security agents.

The Governor prayed God to grant the souls of those who lost their lives an eternal abode in paradise, and their families the courage to bear the loss.

According to him, “I have been working round the clock, having sleepless nights, holding meetings with the security chieftains and other stakeholders. We have assurances from the leaders of Fulani groups who have embraced our peace overtures that they will reach out to the recalcitrant groups responsible for the attacks and persuade them to accept our peace pact. While we are committed to our dialogue and reconciliation initiative, we will spare no effort in enforcing the security of lives and property of our people.”

He added that the State government would continue to honour the agreement reached with the bandits who chose the path of peace, but would confront those who reneged with the full force of the law.

The Governor, who called on members of the public to report any suspicious movement to the nearest security post for prompt action, urged them not to relent in praying for lasting peace in the state and the country.

But security sources have always frowned against the States Governors of Zamfara and Katsina States for “making the terrible mistake of negotiating with the bandits. There was no basis for it because it was a lie to say that they were disgruntled because of perceived injustice. They were criminals that grown over time. A normal Fulani man would rather die rather to resort to crime such as banditry and kidnapping.”

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