It was reported that the Emir of Yandoto, Aliyu Marafa, gave a chieftaincy title to a bandit kingpin, Adamu Aleru, who is on the wanted list of Katsina police. How did you feel when you received this news?

I was shocked. It was an unfortunate development. It was a bad Saturday for the people of Zamfara. I personally watched the video clip of the coronation ceremony which was attended by Aleru and a large number of his supporters and held at Yandoton Daji on Saturday, July 16, 2022. I also listened to the speeches made at the occasion, especially the ones delivered by the Emir of Birnin Yandoto, Alhaji Aliyu Marafa, and the Hon. Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs, retired DIG Mamman Tsafe. As a concerned citizen of Zamfara, I was disappointed. I was disappointed with our security agencies, particularly the police. The police claimed that Aleru has been on their wanted list since 2018 and placed N5m bounty on his head. He is accused of committing atrocities in Katsina State and beyond. He is said to be a banditry kingpin. It is, therefore, unfortunate on the part of the police to have failed to arrest him for over four years and allow him to continue to move around freely.

The emirate claimed Aleru was turbaned for the role he played to ensure peace deal between bandits and the people of the area. What do you make of this?

I conceded to the fact that Aleru had played a pivotal role during a recent peace process locally arranged between the Birnin Yandoto Emirate and the bandits terrorizing Tsafe LGA. It was not wrong to appreciate him for his efforts in some ways, but not by conferring him with a chieftaincy title of Sarkin Fulani. By the nomenclature of the title, he is the spiritual leader of the Fulani tribe within the boundaries of Birnin Yandoto Emirate which is highly wrong. The title is too big for a repentant bandit. It should be the prerogative and reserved for the highly respected persons who have demonstrated commitment over the years for peace and human development, people with clean record. It is not a bad idea to engage bandits who have surrendered their weapons in a dialogue. It is also not a bad idea for government to reintegrate them into society so as to change their mindset. Government should also have the capacity to arrest, investigate and prosecute those who are not willing to surrender. They should be punished by killing in line with the new Banditry Law of Zamfara State. In my opinion, the emirate was hasty in the decision. Remember, the emirate is barely two months old and the emir is weeks old. He should have taken time to study the situation before coming up with this idea. There should be uninterrupted peace for at least five years in the emirate before the emirate should contemplate the award. Few weeks ago, Mada town was attacked by bandits and displaced several people. Mada town is a stone throw away from Yandoto town.

Traditional leaders, particularly in Zamfara, have been fingered for compromise in the fight against insecurity in the state. Does this action further confirm that?

From the assumption of this government in May 2019, three emirs and some District Heads have been sacked for alleged culpability in banditry. Not only traditional leaders, almost every category of people are involved and are compromising the fight against banditry in Zamfara. It will shock you to know that high profile government figures, politicians, security agents, lawyers, judges are directly or indirectly involved in the business. At the moment, banditry is the most lucrative and profitable business and the fastest growing enterprise in Nigeria. A lot of people are making a fortune out of it; that is why it refuses to go.

The state government has ordered the suspension of the emir, but there have been counter reactions that he should be sacked, arrested and prosecuted. Where do you stand?

The government was right in suspending the emir because that is the standard procedure. It is just an allegation of crime which has not been proven. Zamfara State government suspended the emir on July 17, 2022 and constituted a committee under the leadership of Hon. Yahaya Gora Namaye to investigate the circumstances leading to the action of the emir. The outcome of the investigation of the committee will either indict or absolve him. It will, therefore, be unfair for the government to sack the emir at this stage. That will amount to the infringement of his fundamental rights of presumption of innocence under Section 36(5) of Nigeria’s Constitution.

There were also counterclaims to that of the government which immediately went ahead to distance itself from the coronation event…

One funny thing about the whole saga was how the government distanced itself from the process. I find it difficult to agree with the government. My father was a village head before he died. I am also a holder of two traditional titles. I know what it means to confer chieftaincy title on someone. I know the process involved. Logically, the coronation preceded the appointment. What I mean is, one will be appointed first, then coronation follows. They hardly occur on the same date. I do not know when Aleru was appointed, but I am sure it was not on Saturday, July 16, 2022. It is great failure and tremendous embarrassment on the part of the government to claim that it was not aware of both the appointment and the coronation. That apart, some key government functionaries attended the coronation and delivered speeches, including the Hon Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs, retired DIG Mamman Tsafe, and the Hon. Chairman of Tsafe LGC. Were they there for themselves or for the government? Their speeches demonstrated that they were for their people and for the government. I was expecting the government to suspend the duo in the manner it suspended the emir, because, to me, they committed the same offense.

On the 20th of July, 2022, Zamfara State government issued a directive that, hence forth, any appointment for chieftaincy title by an emir or Senior District Head or District Head must be approved by the government. I personally don’t think that measure is sufficient to address the problem. We need a law to streamline the procedure for the appointment of chieftaincy titles. The governor does not have to be involved in everything. Local Government Councils Chairmen can handle it.

What should be the way forward to end the lingering insecurity in Zamfara?

I am personally not satisfied with the way government is handling the issue. It is sad that in spite of government efforts, people are being killed and kidnapped on daily basis. We are not safe in our homes. We are not safe in our farms. We are not safe on our roads. Anybody can be kidnapped now including a soldier. Government should address the root causes instead of the insecurity itself. The poverty and illiteracy level in Zamfara is too high, government should reduce it to the lowest level. There should be a strategic plan on how to create jobs for the people, provide quality water, accessible roads, drugs, electricity and other basic amenities. There should be plan on how to deal with corruption and address the seeming collapse of the justice system. Something needs to be done to strengthen security at our borders. Government should collaborate with the neighboring state governments on border security.

The Community Protection Guards is a good idea but government should provide a law to regulate their activities. If the Guards are given the necessary support, they can secure our communities. They should be the only category of persons to bear arms. Their training should be carried out by the conventional security agencies. They should reach every nook and cranny of Zamfara. Their weapons should be superior to the ones in possession of bandits. They should be made to respect human rights of citizens. Their rules of engagement should be clearly spelt out. Their funding should be well thought out by government for sustainability.

While you were talking, the issue of self-defense came to mind. Governor Bello Matawalle sometime ago ordered the people of Zamfara to acquire guns and defend themselves. Do you see that also as a way out of the situation?

By Section 14(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), the primary responsibility of every government is to secure the life and property of its citizens. Whenever this responsibility is shifted by government to its people, that government is arguably a failure. It is my candid opinion that it is suicidal on the part of government to proceed with this security arrangement that will allow citizens to own guns. It will lead to state of anarchy and war. Government should use the money it intends to use to buy guns to buy food for IDPs, clothing, drugs, build decent homes for them and make strategic plan on how to return them to their communities. It is government’s constitutional responsibility to secure life and property.