THE Zamfara State government and the Zamfara State Police Command have refused to comment on the new status of notorious bandit, Bello Turji.
The Zamfara State government, through Deputy Governor Hassan Nasiha, recently announced that Turji has repented and embraced peace.
Speaking at a security conference organised by the Students Union of Medina University, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, the deputy governor said Turji is now killing his unrepentant colleagues.
Nasiha added that Turji’s repentance had brought peace to Birnin Magaji, Shinkafi and Zurmi local government areas of Zamfara State.
“In the last three months, there has not been any bandits attack at Magami district as a result of the peace initiative with bandits,” Nasiha said.
“Everyone knows the notorious bandits’ kingpin, Bello Turji, who has operated on that axis.
“The state government, through the peace committee, entered into a peace deal with the bandits’ leader, and he agreed to stop the criminality and to embrace peace.
“Turji is now killing unrepentant bandits who unleashed terror on innocent citizens in Shinkafi, Zurmi and Birnin Magaji local government areas.”
The deputy governor reportedly added that the peace committee set up by the state government met with nine bandit groups in their camps at Magami and Dansadau emirates, where they raised their concerns.
“They said Hausas always attacked and raped their women, killing the Fulani on their way to or returning from markets,” he said.
Following the development, The ICIR contacted the Zamfara State government to find out if Turji, who reportedly killed several people as a bandit leader, has now been forgiven and would no longer be prosecuted for his criminal activities.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara, refused to respond to the questions.
Rather, he directed The ICIR’s reporter to contact the deputy governor.
Attempts to get the deputy governor’s response were unsuccessful as several calls and text messages sent to his phone line were not answered nor replied.
The ICIR also reached out to the Zamfara State Police Command to get its position on the matter.
Public Relations Officer of the Command Mohammed Shehu did not respond to calls and text messages.
However, commenting on Turji’s reported repentance, Bulama Bukarti, a Security expert and a Senior Fellow at Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, urged the Zamfara state government to exercise caution.
“The Zamfara State government says Bello Turji has “agreed to stop the criminality and embraced peace” and is “now killing unrepentant bandits”.
“I think the government needs to be very careful not to repeat past mistakes. They have previously announced similar deals, including with Bello Turji’s gang, only for the gangs to go back on their words.
“Asked in a Daily Trust documentary that aired last March why he reneged on previous agreements, Turji accused the government of violating the agreements but failed to give details.”
Bukarti said past agreements have failed to work because the government did not properly plan and implement the demobilisations.
“Proper demobilisation requires (1) demobilisation, (2) disarmament, (3) rehabilitation, (4) reinsertion and (5) regular follow-ups. None of this was done.
“They just claimed to have “repented” and brought the weapons they wanted to give up. The government simply collected what they brought and gave them money. The Zamfara state government is repeating exactly the same mistake.
“Most worrying to me is the Zamfara government’s announcement that this repugnant kingpin is “now killing unrepentant bandits” with the support of the government.,” Bukarti added.
He said the government had appointed a terrorist to serve as the judge, jury, and executioner of people suspected of criminality and terrorism.
“Turji has been licensed to continue his business of killing people, only that it is with the government’s approval now.
“A terrorist has been appointed to replace our security and law enforcement agencies as well as our military.
“How could this happen in a country that is supposed to have laws and systems?
“Now that the government is saying this, I would not be surprised if they have started or would soon start to support Bello Turji and his men with more arms, vehicles and logistics to continue to “help” them kill unrepentant bandits..
“What if Turji suddenly decided to renege, as we have seen in the past? And there is a high probability that he will renege again because, as I explained above, nothing has been put in place to stop him,” the security expert added.
Turji, one of the most wanted bandits in Nigeria, was notorious for his terrorising innocent citizens in Northern Nigeria, especially in Zamfara State.
He is the arrowhead of killings and kidnappings around Shinkafi – Sabon Birni and Isah local government areas of Zamfara and Sokoto states.
In 2021, Turji wrote Shinkafi Emirate Council, stressing his willingness to lay down his arms and embrace peace.
News of his repentance is coming barely two months after another Kidnap Kingpin, Ado Alero, known for terrorising communities in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara and parts of Katsina State, was turbaned as the Sarkin Fulani of Yandoto Daji Emirate.
The crowning of Alero generated controversy, and the state government denied having anything to do with the turbarning and suspended the Emir of Sabon Birnin Yandoto, Aliyu Garba Marafa, who turbaned him.