January 15th of every year has long been set aside as the day to commemorate the Armed Forces code named “Armed Forces Remembrance Day”. A day like this makes any patriotic Nigerian reminiscent of our fallen heroes who paid the supreme price, while some who are still alive have different degrees of physical, mental or health challenges as a result of their efforts to keep the country safe.
To ensure that the labour of these heroes are not thwarted, government at all levels are expected to ensure the safety of its citizens.
It is against this backdrop that this article intends to flash back a little on the efforts made so far by the Niger State Government in collaboration with the security agencies to ensure a safe State for its inhabitants.
It is a known fact that live has become difficult for some residents of the State especially those living along the borders of North-Western States of Nigeria comprising Zamfara, Kaduna, Kebbi; and the international border with the Benin Republic due to the nefarious activities of bandits as well as other criminal elements, with Niger state having its own story to share.
It is imperative to note that the Niger State Government under the leadership of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is worried about these incessant attacks and has deplored all available resources and efforts to bring the ugly menace to an end.
Particularly in the year 2020 which looked promising from the beginning as Governor Sani Bello’s proactive measures by meeting with security chiefs in the state started yielding positive result with various operations carried out which led to the crushing and flushing of armed bandits from their enclaves. Some of these operations included the Karamin Goro, Operation whirl punch, Sharan Daji, and Ayem Akpatuma amongst others.
The government resolve to quash the bandits’ activities suffered a setback with the breakout of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria, which affected the global economy. The COVID-19 pandemic did interupted the pace at which Governor Sani Bello was fiercely fighting the bandits, though not resting on his oars
Also, with intensified combat activities by joint security operatives of the country against the bandits in the North-West and with Niger State sharing borders with the region; the bandits have found the size and topography of the state a safe haven where they maim, kidnap, rustle as well as carry out other monstrous activities without any hindrances.
All the measures put up by Governor Sani Bello, including regular visits to the service chiefs Abuja and the President, commander in chief of the Armed forces of the federal Republic of Nigeria, seeking drastic action to be taken against the bandits got some share of response even though the total defeat of these bandits is yet to be sighted.
Among the measures the government has taken it to involve the locals that are the victims of the banditry attacks. Majority victims of these bandits in Niger State are within some local governments.
Shiroro and Rafi local governments where attacks now is most frequent due to their borders with Kaduna State and the vast Allawa and Kwangoma Forests. Same fate goes to Munya LGA as it shares border with Kaduna State and not too far from the Abuja-Kaduna Express Road. Likewise, Mariga LG shares borders with Zamfara, and of recent, the bandits’ activities have stretched to Borgu and Agwara due to their borders with the Benin Republic.
To reduce the carnage and activities of these men of the underworld, the government has put a lot of resources which have gone unnoticed since security issues are confidential.
On the other hand, informants (locals within the communities) of the bandits have thwarted the efforts of government making it look as if not much is happening by dishing out plans taken against the bandits for just material gains.
In one of the visits of the governor to commiserate with victims of bandits attack in Rafi local government, he urged them to rise and defend themselves too as he was fully aware that the number of security personnel in the country was not sufficient.
Some communities have risen to the task in defending their areas and not solely waiting on the government to do everything for them. They identify the bandits and informants within them and treat them accordingly.
Thus, the government noticing the importance of the local vigilantes has revamped them with the provision of logistics such as vans, motorcycles and firearms to boost their confidence and courage to confront the bandits.
As a responsible government, Governor Sani Bello magnanimously approved the sponsoring of education of the children of slain vigilantes, a proof that the government is doing everything to end this situation of insecurity.
Also, a biometric data of vigilantes in the state is being collated; the government wants to start giving them stipends even though they are doing voluntary work; however, appreciation like this, will spur and encourage them.
However, to end this banditry and other despicable acts by these criminal elements, certain things needed to be put in place. Chief among them is to treat all arrested bandits as armed robbers so that they cannot get bail on whatsoever ground. The truth be told, these bandits are armed robbers.
A law should be enacted to criminalize anyone caught aiding bandits either as an informant, supplier of drugs, fuel and food vendors amongst others. Such persons should also be classified as armed robbers because they are gaining from the illicit loots of the bandits.
To gain success in this operation against bandits, the state government needs to take a bold step banning the use of commercial motorcycles both in the urban and rural areas because this is the means of transportation that the carnage is perpetrated with.
Niger State is now the dumb site where commercial motorcycles have converged on as most states have banned their outright use. The ban on commercial motorcycles have once been done in the state; this can be done again.
No political interpretation should be given on this because the life of the people matters most, and if this is one of the solutions, government should go ahead and ban commercial motorcycle use in the state.
With a fiercely motivated vigilante, the battle against bandits will get better, as the government has fully engaged the traditional rulers to initiate the ‘soft-power-concept’ which will lead to fishing out the Judas’ among them helping the bandits.
The government needs to use all approaches at its disposal to handle the bandits, therefore, there is no need of using an olive branch while handling security issues. it is time that government boldly deploy all it has to end the security challenges.
This, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has commenced with a visit to President Buhari at the beginning of this year 2021. He says the battle against armed banditry will not be lost as the bandits will never be given the opportunity to change the lifestyle of communities they terrorize.
“We will never allow for our ways of life to be threatened and at the same time give the bandits the opportunity to win this war”.
The Governor is optimistic that this year 2021, the state in collaboration with the Federal Government, is coming out with a different strategy in the fight against the bandits with specific focus on the communities in which most of the bandits have been incorporated and carrying out their nefarious activities.
It is however unfortunate that some community leaders have been conniving with the bandits unleashing mayhem on harmless, unsuspecting communities which has resulted in the sack of one village head in the state, the situation will be adequately addressed.
“We have noted, regrettably, the involvement of some Village and Ward Heads, and at the moment there are communities that harbour bandits for whatever reason. We are working with relevant stakeholders to address this situation”, he said.
Governor Sani Bello assured that the year 2021 will hopefully come with relief, especially in banditry, as the state will intensify collaboration with its neighbouring states of Kaduna, Zamfara and Kebbi states in ending banditry activities, as they were monitoring and gathering more intelligence on the modus operandi of the bandits.
The Governor added that, even though some of the bandits have shown commitment to end their ungodly activities, government will not relent but sustain its military operations in flushing them out as the genuineness of their repentance could not be confirmed nor guaranteed.
Governor Sani Bello added that all hands must be on deck in 2021 for government to achieve its set objectives.
From the Office of the chief Press
Secretary to the Governor of