The Zamfara State Government on Tuesday threatened to sue SaharaReporters over a publication exposing gifts given to repentant bandits by Governor Bello Matawalle.
The government made the threat in a statement signed by Nura Ibrahim Zarumi, the state Commissioner for Justice.
Zarumi claimed that the publication had caused disgrace to the government but however refused to deny its authenticity.
SaharaReporters had exposed how about 15 brand new Hilux vehicles were given to leaders of different ‘repentant’ banditry groups by Governor Matawalle.
The governor also approved millions of naira to be given to the ‘repentant’ bandits as compensation.
A top military officer told SaharaReporters that the bandits now carry out attacks with some of the vehicles given to them by Matawalle.
The officer said, “Those bandits have different groups, so if they say they have repented, the governor will give them a Hilux vehicle but unfortunately they are now using the vehicles to carry out attacks.
“On Sunday, they attacked Jankara but were resisted by the local vigilantes, so they fled and left one of those Hilux vehicles and the motorcycles they came with behind.
“It’s so sad, he called it peace and reconciliation programme, but all you need to be rich now in Zamfara is to take up arms against the people.”
But Zarumi in his statement demanded from SaharaReporters “an unequivocal retraction with an apology carried with the same prominence” on its platform and three national dailies.
He said, “You are to also enter into negotiation for damage with the state government. It amounts to a suspicious gamble if you treat this letter with levity but if you decide to do, the gamble is clearly yours.
“It is our mandate to intimate you of this grievous breach on the image and hard-earned reputation of the state with patent collateral damage on its people.
“Our state finds it rather strange that instead of military and other security personnel in the state to appreciate the governor toward building an efficient and reasonable peace in the state by providing the security agents with adequate vehicle to ease their national assignment, including military in the state, your organisation chose to maliciously denigrate the governor by denting his image and that of his government.
“The whole scenario becomes bewildering after reading your publication and the description of the state is totally out of place and libellous.
“Having regard to your previous publications against the state government, our state has come to the conclusion that your publication is both malicious and libellous.”