Minister of State for Defence, Dr Bello Matawalle, has said conflict entrepreneurs were responsible for the unending banditry in the North-West.

Matawalle said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.

“Banditry has its economy, which is fuelling the crime in the country.

Conflict entrepreneurs don’t want insecurity to finish in this country. Many people in the North are part of the business.

“I call it business now, because those selling drugs are part of it, those selling food, fuel and other essentials are all part of it. The informants get a lot from doing that. They are paid handsomely for that crime.

“So, they don’t want the evil to end. Many people have keyed into the business,” he said.

He explained that during his tenure as governor of Zamfara, he observed that when a bottle of Coke was sold for N100 in the city, some people sold it for as much as N500 to bandits in their enclaves.

“Also, when a bag of rice was sold for between N18,000 and N21, 000, when it gets to the enclave of the bandits, it goes for as much as N80,000,” he said.

The minister, however, said that security was a collective responsibility for all Nigerians, urging all to put their differences aside, and team up to fight it.

He said if not for some of the actions he took as a governor, the Northern part of the country would have been burning by now.

“If not for some actions I took when I was a governor, by this time, northern Nigeria would be in a big fire.Remember that I was the first governor in the whole North, who cut off the communication network in his state.

“I cut off the network to allow security agencies to go in and push out those criminals. I did that because there were many times that if our soldiers were going to do some operations, before they reached the enclave of the bandits, the bandits would be informed.

“Their informants will inform them, so they normally ambush our soldiers, killing them.”

The minister said that the worst part of the situation was that people didn’t appreciate what the military was doing.

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“I feel so because if one civilian is killed, the news would be everywhere, but if it is a soldier that is killed, nobody says anything.

“There was a time that 22 army officers were killed, but because the conflict entrepreneurs were involved, people didn’t care but were busy promoting fake news, propaganda and all sorts of things.

“So, the issue of security is very delicate; the actions that we will adopt now are to make sure that we smoke out every single criminal in this country.

“We hope that with your people’s prayers, we can be able to achieve much through many actions that I know are going to be taken,” he said.

He further debunked claims in some quarters that the government was negotiating with criminals, saying, “Some people are saying that the government is negotiating. What kind of negotiation? With who and for what?

“They should come out and tell the world what kind of negotiation. In military operations, there is a kinetic and non-kinetic approach.

“In non-kinetic approach, for example, the community has to be involved, just like what happened in the Niger Delta.

“I was in the House of Representatives when amnesty was granted to the Niger Delta militants. It was for them to stop carbon deregulation and other criminalities in the region.

“But, if you look at bandits, what are they agitating for? Nothing. They are just normal criminals like armed robbers.

“But now, with what we have put in place through community reforms, we can fight these killers.”

He said the bandits were not faceless, pointing out that people know them.

“They are actually known, so it’s just to have proper equipment to clear them off. And we are going to do it one by one. We want to do it. We shall do it.

“But, even if we finish with the bandits, what about the people within the community who are already benefiting from that business? The informants. The fuel suppliers. The food vendors. The other people who are controlling the conflict entrepreneurs.

“Yes. 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,” he said.