Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, has exposed the underbelly of the prolonged banditry crisis in the North-West, revealing that conflict entrepreneurs are driving the unending strife. In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, Matawalle asserted that the banditry had evolved into an economy, fueling crime across the country.
Describing it as a nefarious business, Matawalle emphasized that a multitude of people in the North were actively engaged in this sinister trade. He labeled them “conflict entrepreneurs” and stressed that their interests lay in perpetuating insecurity, citing their involvement in drug sales, food, fuel, and other essentials.
The minister disclosed shocking economic dynamics, such as the inflated prices of goods when they reach bandit enclaves. For instance, he pointed out that a bottle of coke, sold for N100 in the city, could reach as high as N500 in bandit-controlled areas. Additionally, the cost of a bag of rice, originally priced between N18,000 and N21,000, could skyrocket to N80,000 in these regions.
Reflecting on his tenure as the governor of Zamfara, Matawalle illustrated how banditry extended into various aspects of life, from everyday commodities to the activities of conflict entrepreneurs. He noted that drastic actions were essential to curtail their influence.
Matawalle underscored that security is a collective responsibility and called on Nigerians to unite against the menace. Reflecting on his past actions as governor, he revealed that decisive measures, like cutting off communication networks in the state, were necessary to counter bandit activities. He emphasized the importance of neutralizing bandit informants, who had compromised military operations in the past.
While expressing concern over the lack of recognition for military sacrifices, Matawalle called for public understanding and support in the fight against insecurity. Debunking claims of negotiating with criminals, he highlighted the need for both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to tackle the multifaceted problem.
As the nation grapples with the intricate web of banditry, Matawalle concluded by emphasizing the necessity of dismantling the entire chain, including those indirectly benefiting from the conflict. He stated, “Yes, other non-state actors. How about them? We have to devise a way to tackle all segments of the violence so as to destroy the whole chain and free Nigeria from every shackle.”