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After Negotiating With Terror Groups, Zamfara Govt To Buy Arms For Anti-banditry Guards

The Zamfara State government says it has ordered the procurement of 7,000 guns to be used by operatives of Community Protection Guards (CPGs) against marauding bandits terrorising the state.

This came barely, two weeks after the Zamfara State government had a peace dialogue with various bandit groups and disarmed local vigilantes, confronting the terrorists hitherto. Not only that, the government also ordered the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their homes, but they refused, citing further attacks.

READ: Will Zamfara Police Boss Be Ruthless With Bandits Like He Was With Harmless Civilians In Kano?

It was during this time that the government also formed an alliance with Bello Turji, a notorious bandit kingpin who committed unforgivable sins against the state — burning travellers to ashes, killing villages in a marketplace…

Has the alliance failed?

Announcing the government’s honeymoon with Turji, Hasan Muhammad Nasiha, the Zamfara State Deputy Governor, said the kingpin has embraced peace and would be fighting his unrepented guys in the forest. So far, there is no media report on Turji’s war against his fellow bandits. Although, the state government later urged him to publicly lay off his arms. He is yet to do that.

To pacify the killer bandits, the state government also decided to release all seized properties “belonging” to them, hoping that would strengthen the ceasefire agreement.

The new strategy

The state governor, Bello Matawalle said the new guards that would subdue the bandits are currently undergoing training at the Police Training College and would be deployed to rural communities and villages to protect residents from assailants.

In a statement on Tuesday, Zailani Bappa, the media aide to Matawalle, said the state will assist the guards to process their firearms licenses with the police, adding that their deployment will commence as soon as they finished their training.

His words: “Right now, members of the first batch of the guards are being trained by the police at the police training college. But already, the governor has supplied the guards with 1,500 motorcycles and 20 Hilux vans to start with, and the government would assist them to apply for a licence to own guns legitimately.

READ: Zamfara Govt Disarms Vigilantes, Puts Trust In Bandits Over ‘Ceasefire Agreement’

“They would individually apply as citizens of Nigeria; the government would only assist them. The idea is that every youth endorsed as a good citizen by the community leaders would be given the opportunity to apply for a licence to own guns and defend their communities before the military comes, in case of any attacks.

“So, we want to employ at least 7,000 of them across the state because we have so many villages. The problem we are facing is that the military and the police are so overstretched. So, some bandits would come and do whatever they want to do in the villages before the military arrives.”

Bappa explained that many villages and rural communities are beyond the reach of the security forces, noting that the guards would act as the first line of defence during attacks by terrorists.

“Members of the CPG are living in the community,” he said. “They would be the first line of defence to defend their communities before the military comes in. This is the essence of the programme. The firearms and licence would be procured for every member of the community who is endorsed by the community and local chairman as a person of good character.”

Highlighting the overview of the security measures and the progress recorded so far, he claimed that Governor Matawalle has reached an understanding with the bandits to surrender their arms, “leading to the recovery of 1,000 weapons.”

Bappa added that the government secured the approval of the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector-General of Police before meeting with the bandits.

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