REJOINDER: RE-BANDIT NEXT DOOR

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In its editorial on Sunday, September 20, 2020, tittled: ‘Bandit next door’, the Nation newspaper made some inaccurate and contradicting statements regarding Katsina State Government’s efforts at addressing the issue of banditry, affecting some parts of the state.
The Nation should not find this editorial funny, because all it did was to expose the newspaper’s sloppiness even in its EDITORIALS. Clearly, no effort was made by the authors of the editorial to fully understand the story upon which it was built.
The Nation’s editorial was generated from a report sent by its Katsina State Correspondent, Augustine Okezie, published on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, headlined, ‘Katsina woos bandits with houses, market stalls’.
The Secretary to the Governmentof Katsina State (SGS), Malam Mustafa Mohammed Inuwa was the source of the report sent by Mr. Augustine. The reported statement was made in Hausa, a language the reporter hardly understands.This obviously explains the reason for the misqoutation of what was actually said by the SGS.
The SGS did NOT make a categorical declaration on the alleged effort to give bandits houses and market stalls. In fact, in all the the SGS’s narrations, there was never a mention of ‘market stalls’.
What he actually said was, given that the bandits were located deep into the vast thick forest, most of which is in Zamfara State, the Katsina State Government was considering clearing out lands in some areas contagious to the forest, to provide to the repentant bandits and others to enable them build the houses of their choice by themselves, so that they could be integrated into the larger society. He never said the government would build the houses for them, nor did he even make mention of market stalls in his statement.
The editorial also stated that, “they (meaning Katsina State government) have cited the case of one fellow named Sada, who has reportedly given up his freedom in the wilds and turned himself in to troops at the Forward Operations Base in Dansadau. The reports had it that he gave up three AK-47 rifles, one sub-machine gun and two magazines. This seems teasing”. Teasing? It’s more like UNFORTUNATE, in our view, that a newspaper of the Nation’s reputation for clarity and fairness, would be so sloppy, clumsy and mischievous in, of all places, its OWN commentary.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Katsina State SGS never spoke about or made reference to Dansadau, which is a town and bastion of bandits in Zamfara State.
The nation’s Abuja reporter, Okodili Ndidi, who shared the byline with his Katsina State counterpart for the newspaper’s story, ‘Katsina woos bandits with houses, market stalls’, it was, who reported the Dansadau angle, generated from a press briefing by the army in Abuja. His story was about “a leader of the bandit named Sada, who has voluntarily surrendered to troops at Forward Operations Base in Dansadau”.
Hear the Nation’s Abuja reporter’s story; “Just as the SGS spoke, the Acting Director, Media Operations of the Nigerian Army, Brig-General Bernard Onyeuko said Dada surrendered following intensified pressure by Operation Sahel Sanity” at the Forward Operations Base in Dansadau. See the confusion, is it Dada or Sada, the name of the surrendering bandit?
Again, at one point the editorial quoted the Katsina SGS as saying that, “The state had so far propped up security agencies with N4.274b for the purpose of a resettlement centres near Rugu, Yantumaki, Maidabino and Sabwa/Faskari Forest for the penitent bandits”.
But two paragraphs later, the SGS was quoted as explaing that “the N4.274.b financial support to security outfits was USED for the provision of infrastructure, logistics, and payment of allowances of security personnel”. No mention of resettlement centres, and it was the statement sent by the Nation’s Katsina State reporter.
It’s uncharitable, perhaps mischief was the intent, of the Nation newspaper to suggest that “Katsina State government has decided that surrender is the preferred option to confrontation with the bandits”. That has never been an option for the government. Even the amnesty deal in 2016 with the bandits, then led by the, now late, infamous Buharin Daji, enjoyed the tacit imprimatur of the Federal Government, which was why the ceremonial surrender of arms and ammunitions by the repentant bandits in Kankara town was graced by the top hierarchy of the Military, the Police, the Department of State Security, among other security agencies.
To be sure, its on record that Governor Aminu Bello Masari has repeatedly charged the military to be ruthless with the bandits, who he says only believe in the power of the gun.
Only last month, at the opening of the Army’s Super Camp in Faskari Town, Katsina State, Governor Masari charged the army in unambiguous term to “go after the bandits without any show of mercy, because force is the only language they understand. Don’t be fooled by their false pretence of remorse and readiness for peace, they want you to lower your guards, so they could come out with more viciousness. Degrade the bandits seriously first, before any talk of negotiations with them”. A newsroom on top of its game, can not fail to know of Governor Masari’s intense dislike for the bandits.
Looks like the Nation has lowered its standard, for considerations that have nothing to do with editorial purity, otherwise how can its editors fail to notice that parts of the editorial are clearly in conflict with a story earlier published by the same newspaper? Is it likely that it is someone else’s hatchet job the Nation did, by copying and pasting the sloppy editorial, penned for it elsewhere?

Signed,
Abdu Labaran Malumfashi
DG Media.
Sunday, September 20, 2020.

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