Amnesty for bandits, terrorists has failed to achieve objectives — Army chief

THE Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Taoreed Lagbaja, has declared that amnesty extended by some state governments to bandits and terrorists has failed to achieve expected objectives.

Lagbaja, who spoke when he hosted Zamfara State governor, Dauda Lawal, in Abuja, said amnesty, in most cases, emboldened the criminals to reorganise themselves to carry out more attacks on defenceless Nigerians.

“We also have the issue of the amnesty programme that has been instituted, and which has failed not only in Zamfara, but so many other states of the North-West,” Lagbaja said.

“So, I think we need to look at this issue of the amnesty programme because the criminal elements have proven to be incorrigible.

“The issue of amnesty has created an avenue for them to regroup and reorganise to launch attacks on our defenceless citizens. So I think we need to look at that.”

Lagbaja said he has directed the deployment of more platforms and release of funds to reactivate unserviceable to boost troops’ operations in different parts of the country.

He noted that the Zamfara crisis is a mix of farmer-herder clashes, ethnic confrontations and the quest for economic empowerment driven by mining activities.

The COAS assured that the Army is determined to tackle the security challenges in the state.

“We will not have a situation where some people constitute themselves into outlaws and just go into communities and kill children and defenceless women,” he added.

“By working on this with the state government and other critical stakeholders, we can eliminate these outlaws and reduce the insecurities by a significant percentage.

“So I want to appeal to you your excellency that as we come up with this strategy to address the issue of the Yan Sakai and other regional groups, the state government should be disposed to the implementation of the measures that we will recommend.

“So that together, we will address the activities of these criminal elements.”

Zamfara State is one of the worst-hit by banditry in Nigeria. In recent years, the state has experienced a surge in attacks by armed bandits, who have killed, kidnapped, and displaced thousands of people. The attacks have had a devastating impact on the state’s economy and security.

In an attempt to address the problem of banditry, the Zamfara state government, led by its former governor, Bello Matawalle, announced an amnesty programme for bandits in 2020. The programme offered bandits the opportunity to surrender their weapons and renounce violence in exchange for government assistance, including financial compensation, education, and job training.

The amnesty programme was initially met with some success. In the months following its announcement, hundreds of bandits surrendered their weapons and renounced violence. However, the programme soon began to unravel. Some bandits who surrendered their weapons later returned to banditry, while others used the programme as a way to buy time before launching new attacks. By the end of 2021, the number of bandit attacks in Zamfara state had increased significantly.

The government was forced to abandon the programme, and the state remains mired in insecurity.

In addition, the amnesty programme was criticised for being too lenient on bandits. Critics argued that the government was offering too much financial compensation to bandits, encouraging them to continue their criminal activities.

Banditry has also remained a major problem in Katsina State for many years. In 2016, the state government, under former governor, Aminu Masari, initiated an amnesty programme for bandits. The programme offered bandits the opportunity to surrender their weapons and renounce banditry in exchange for a pardon.

The programme was initially successful, with hundreds of bandits surrendering their weapons. However, the program collapsed in 2019 after some of the bandits who had surrendered their weapons resumed their criminal activities.

The programme was reactivated in 2020. It was more comprehensive than the first program, offering bandits a wider range of benefits, including financial assistance, educational opportunities, and job training.

The second amnesty program was also initially successful, with hundreds of bandits surrendering their weapons. However, the program has since collapsed, and banditry has again become a major problem in Katsina state.

In 2021, there were renewed calls for the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to bandits. These calls were led by Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic cleric who has been a vocal advocate for bandits.

You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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