The Katsina State government has exchanged nine bandits for six persons kidnapped by armed men.
Spokesperson to the state governor, Aminu Masari, confirmed the exchange saying it was done “to secure the release of more detainees.”
Katsina 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.
The state 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.
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”.