Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle has declared that not all the notorious bandits terrorising the northeast region are criminals.
Mr Matawalle said this when he spoke with the press after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday.
The governor said most of the bandits took up arms because of the injustice meted on them by the society.
The northern region of the country has been plagued with killings, kidnappings and other forms of insurgency caused by gun-wielding bandits whom many have started referring to as terrorists.
Despite the scores of attack on innocent citizens, the Zamfara State governor and renowned Islamic cleric, Ahmed Gumi have proclaimed that extending the olive ranch to these terrorists is the only way to put an end to the insurgency.
Matawalle said: “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.
“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,” the governor said.
Matawalle also accused the military of being a party to the insurgency by destroying villagers means of livelihood when they go for their military operations.
“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,” Mr Matawalle said.
“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 also urged state governors to follow his olive branch approach to ending the insurgency in the region.
“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.
“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,” the governor stated.