As the surge in insecurity across the country continues despite government’s efforts, the Presidency on Tuesday reassured Nigerians that it has the might and competence to deal with banditry and terrorism.
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the President on media and publicity, assured Nigerians that “the nation’s armed forces are fully capable of dealing with the challenges of banditry and terrorism.” He asked for “more patience as the military takes appropriate steps to block gaps being exploited to unleash mayhem on innocent citizens.”
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved “a joint military and police operation specifically targeted at combing Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States to rid the areas of bandits, (and) assures that surveillance would be improved, with more night vision aircrafts already deployed under ‘Operation Accord’” which was launched three weeks ago.
“Nigeria’s military has displayed its capabilities in the past and will show it again by dealing with the current challenges,” he quoted the President as saying.
Shehu further said, “President Buhari appeals to the people of Katsina State to be patient and supportive of the ongoing military operations in the State, while sympathizing with those who are bereaved, injured, and lost properties. President Buhari admonishes that taking to the streets for protest could distract the military operations, urging Katsina indigenes not to give up on the military who over the years have a strong track record of quelling crises once given enough time.”
“The major forests in North Western Nigeria have been identified as home to the bandits in the region. The operation will clear all these forests,’’ he further quoted the President as saying.
The Emirs of Katsina and Daura, Abdulmumin Kabir, and Faruk Umar are meeting today with other senior district heads from the two emirates to discuss unabating banditry in the State. On Tuesday, youths in the state under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups took to the streets to protest increasing insecurity in the state. The protest started from the roundabout adjacent to the Muhammed Dikko Central Mosque, passed through Nagogo Road, Kofar Durbi, and GRA Roundabout and ended in front of the Government House, Katsina.
According to eyewitness accounts, some of the placards carried by the protesters said: “End banditry in Katsina”;” We need peace’; “Buhari, Masari, resign if you cannot protect us.” Yantumaki, Yankara, and Yangaya communities in the State had also staged protests against insecurity.
The Presidency had accused unnamed traditional rulers of aiding the bandits on the rampage in the state. Shehu had alleged on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on June 15 that some emirs and district heads in the state aid the bandits by giving them critical security information about the state in return for money.
“It is not that we are making direct accusations at anyone, but it is also true that even in the President’s native state of Katsina, some traditional rulers have been found in collaboration with the bandits to harm their own people. In neighbouring Zamfara State, emirs and district heads, quite a number of them, have been swept out of office. The issue is that they are beneficiaries of whatever rotten system you have,” said Shehu.
He explained that during military operation against bandits in Zamfara State, once the aircraft took off from the Katsina Airport, ‘unscrupulous elements’ in Katsina State informed the bandits in Zamfara State that an attack was imminent, and they escaped.
“At some point, the Nigerian Air Force had to keep a number of aircraft in Katsina, and they are still there when Zamfara State was the epicentre of banditry. They realized that once aircraft took off from Katsina Airport before it got to Zamfara State for operation, telephone calls would have been made and targets would have disappeared. In the end, we were forced to be flying from distant places like Kaduna and Kano in order to undertake operations in Zamfara State.”
Mansur Dan Ali, Minister of Defence, in April said fresh intelligence had exposed the complicity of some “highly-placed traditional rulers in the ongoing killings of Nigerians across the northern parts of the country.” Aminu Bello Masari, governor of Katsina State, in his Democracy Day broadcast, expressed frustrations over the spate of insecurity in the state.