Zamfara state Governor Muhammad Bello Matawalle has clarified the statements he made on Thursday on bandits, where he was reported to have said that “not all bandits” terrorizing his state and other parts of the country “are criminals.”
A statement by his spokesperson, Zailani Bappa, on Friday, said the governor “tried to make clear his known and popular view that not all Fulani are criminals.”
The governor “went on to explain the injustices meted on them such as rustling their cattle as reasons that pushed them to criminality.”
“If indeed he mentioned the word bandits instead of Fulani, then it was an inadvertent mistake as common sense dictates that banditry cannot at any time be justified as a non-criminality,” the statement said.
On Thursday, Matawalle who spoke with journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said it was wrong do declare all Fulani as criminals because some of them are only avenging the series of injustices meted to them over time.
Bandits have been terrorizing Zamfara, Katsina. Kaduna, Niger and Sokoto states, razing down communities, killing, maiming, taping and abducting people for ransom.
But the governor aid the Fulani in his state went berserk and took up arms because of the sustained attacks on them by vigilante groups, and even the military.
Matawalle said the vigilante groups “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.”
The military compounded the problem during their operations, the governor said. “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.”
He said dialogue with the bandits is the only option out of the quagmire thus: “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.”
“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 neighboring 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,” he said.
He said the government 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.”