The Katsina State government has exchanged nine bandits in the custody of security agencies for the release of five abducted persons.
According to a statement by Abdu Malumfashi, the director general, media to Governor Aminu Masari, the government did this “to secure the release of more detainees.”
The state, like many others across Nigeria, has been rocked by a spate of violent crimes that has led to the killings and abductions of many Nigerians in recent months.
Katsina recently ‘reached out’ in controversial peace overtures to the bandits, who have carried out majority of the violence.
“The rapprochement between Katsina State government and bandits, holed up in the expansive Rugu forest, which is contiguous to eight local government areas in the state, has received a significant boost with the first exchange of five kidnap victims held by the bandits and nine detained bandits held by security agencies,” the release noted.
According to the statement, the exchanges took place in the Katsina State Government House “before the Governor, all the security chiefs serving in the state and two representatives of the bandits, (who) sealed pledges earlier made by both sides during a six-day peace engagement”.
Speaking during the exchanges, Governor Masari reportedly disclosed that another 29 kidnapped victims would be released by the bandits later in the day.
He said the process would continue for the next couple of days “during which all captives in the hands of the bandits would be released, while bandits in the hands of security agencies would also be set free”.
“The Governor further disclosed that in tandem with the exchange of detainees from both sides, would be the voluntary surrender and return of arms and ammunitions by the bandits to the security agencies.
“The released bandits and their two representatives, swore oaths on the Holy Quran, pledging never to revert to banditry and promised to assist government in persuading their colleagues to drop arms and embrace peace,” the statement read.
Mr Masari reportedly warned the bandits that while the government “would walk its talk to its letter and spirit, it will however, not tolerate violation of the agreement as it would wield the big stick with all the required ruthlessness to enforce its will and have way”.
Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, is one of the North-western states troubled by the dreaded bandits.
Many local governments have been ransacked and dozens of inhabitants and property carted away in attacks by bandits.
Troops of Harbin Kunama III of the Nigerian Army have arrested dozens of the bandits and their collaborators in Katsina State.
Other states troubled by banditry activities are Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and some parts of Niger.