GOVERNOR Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has re-introduced an event called the Sharo Cultural Festival created to embrace repentant Fulani armed bandits and integrate them back into society as part of the peace programme aimed at ending the continuous bloodshed.
Over about the last year, bandits have run riot in Zamfara State, constantly terrorising the towns of Tsafe, Danjibga, Yan doto, Yan waren Daji, Kwarin Ganuwa and Keta. Local people have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to do everything within his powers to curtail the activities of the bandits who have been kidnapping, raping women, looting and killing innocent people across Zamfara State.
Last year, the then state governor Abdulaziz Yari offered to pay N1m ($2,750) for every AK47 Kalashnikov rifle handed in as part of a desperate attempt to mop up the large number of illegal firearms in circulation across the state. Like many of Nigeria’s states, Zamfara is awash with weapons and of late, the state has been the centre of some very brutal violence involving Fulani cattle herdsmen and local farmers.
In a bid to end the violence once and for all, Governor Matawalle invited the Fulani people and the repentant bandits for the festival in fulfilment of the peace agreement and reconciliation his government reached with the ex-bandits. His Sharo Fulani festival, which will be a yearly event organised at the end of the Eid-el-Kabir, was last held eight years ago before this year’s event.
Over 30,000 persons attended the festival this year where Fulani popular cultural activities were displayed and government functionaries, Fulani leaders and repentant bandits graced the event very happily. Governor Matawalle commended the reformed bandits and the Fulani leaders for accepting the peace initiatives brought up by his administration.
Governor Matawalle said: “I want to use this opportunity to thank my Fulani brothers for accepting the peace accord. This year’s Eid-el Kabir is the only one we witnessed where no live was lost as a result of banditry.”
He promised that his administration would soon come up with welfare packages for the Fulani people to enable them lead a decent life. Zamfara is one of the poorest states in Nigeria with a high level of illiteracy, limited infrastructure and almost no industry whatsoever.