By Suleman Ahmad Tudu

One of the immediate decisions of Gov Bello Matawalle’s administration was disbanding the vigilante group popularly known as Yan Sa Kai as one of the conditions for dialogue with bandits in his efforts to bring solution to the decade of bloodsheds in Zamfara state which was believed to be a farmers-herders clashes then. The dialogue has recorded some early successes in almost a year of its initiation.

Unfortunately, despite given this ample opportunity for the bandits to completely lay down their ams and embrace a lasting peace, some of them refused to subscribe to the dialogue while those who subscribed to it refused to honor the truce or opt out shortly after the subscription. They continue launching and intensifying their deadly attacks on communities—killing, kidnapping and rapping women unabated taking the advantage of vacuum created by disbandment of their sworn enemies, the Yan Sa Kai.

Some negative implications of disbanding the Yan Sa Kai are that many communities that gallantly resisted bandits prior to the disbandment have now submitted to them; palaces that are no-go-areas to bandits before have now become accessible to them thereby having unrestricted access to espy them to their advantage; and the morale of many vigilante members have been killed. The bandits has also taken the advantage of the dialogue to deceive government and gets many resources as well as kidnap many people including school children for ransom to procure more arms, to mention but a few.

But we can honestly understand the justifications behind the disbandment of Yan Sa Kai in the first place as a sine qua noon for dialogue to thrive. The activities of this group has actually fueled the crisis for their jungle justices—extrajudicial killings and ethnic profiling of criminals. To the Yan Sa Kai, all Fulanis are bandits which is absolutely wrong!

Now that Gov Matawalle has reversed his decision to reactivate the Yan Sa Kai in the fight against terrorism (banditry) which is very good at the moment, there is need for a caution in the recruitment, administration and operations of the about to be born-again group. We actually need Yan Sa Kai whose activities are tamed and guided by rules of engagements, monitored by security forces and coordinated by established authority; Yan Sa Kai with some basic military training and improved weaponry not the locally fabricated, non-cartridge guns, bow and arrows that can not match the arsenal of the terrorists.

Achieving this requires an efficiency right from the recruitment process. Government should not simply dust-off the list of the previous members without scrutiny to fish out those whose morale has been killed or no longer believe in the course of the group. Liaising with traditional institutions will be an effective way only if those who have cases to answer are sidelined in the process. Government should also not make a mistake of recruiting members of the born-again vigilante group from the communities that were adjudged to have completely submitted to bandits before or during the dialogue initiative. These measures could help to avoid enlisting bad eggs who would compromise or sabotage the activities of the group.

Training of the carefully selected and thoroughly profiled members of the group will go a long way in shaping their mindsets and inculcating in them the rules of engagements, discipline, command, control, coordination and mend their relationship with the security forces with which they should work together as a team. This can be possible within at least, a month of rigorous training.

Granted that Yan Sa Kai knows the bandits, their collaborators and hideouts better than the security forces, yet storming weekly markets in the name of hunting bandits or their collaborators is a flawed strategy that have to be changed. It was during such operations that extrajudicial killings that sometimes affects innocent people use to be carried out. This time around, the strategy of the group should be offensive by jointly reaching out to the bandits’ enclaves together with security forces every now and then. And if the group have to defend and hunt, the defense should be restricted to every member’s immediate community while the hunt should be on the check points to be placed in strategic places.

While NO suspect deserve to be (extrajudicially) killed but arrested and prosecuted accordingly, I can command that any civilian seen wielding AK-47 riffle should be “shoot at sight” as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari!

May Allah grant us an everlasting peace in Zamfara and Nigeria at large. Amin.