Zamfara’s new police commissioner, Usman Nagogo, has announced a change of strategy in his approach to ending banditry in the state. Nagogo has said he would seek out dialogue with the armed bandits whose activities has led to a breakdown of internal security in the state.
“To achieve this goal, more of dialogue and less use of force is desirable,” he said.
According to a Council on Foreign Relations data, civilian deaths in Zamfara reached 606 between 2017 and 2019 (March).
CP Nagogo says he is not reinventing the wheel. He said the dialogue strategy stemmed the crisis before now. “In 2016, dialogue was applied and it worked…We shall build on that…We were able to build some level of trust between the government and the bandits. We opened channels of communication and contact, which led to the recovery of 13 to 15 different calibers of arms, including a rocket launcher.”
Why it matters: The CP noted that recent attempts at confronting the bandits fire-for-fire is failing because “the criminals (in Zamfara) are more sophisticated and daring.” Military officials have also confirmed to the press that the bandits have more firepower than they do following a December 2018 capture of a top military commander.
This is one reason that the CP Nagogo should be wary of his new strategy.
- Factors in the crisis have changed since 2016, and there is no incentive for the bandits to dialogue now as it appears the CP is acknowledging the weakness of the state forces. While it is unclear at the moment, a number of security and terrorism experts have linked the banditry in Zamfara to the resurgence of an al-Qaeda’s Faction in Nigeria which presents a bigger crisis than the simple communal dimension that has informed the CP’s approach.
Quick take: The dialogue option can remain on the table but it must not be explored before the reinforcement and re-equipping of the State security forces with superior capabilities. The State’s forces must show an unyielding resolve to crush the insurgents. The police should rather engage meaningfully with the community members who are the victims of the unrest and can serve as credible human intelligence for state forces.