From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja.
Governor of Niger State, Sani Bello on Tuesday disclosed that a total of 220 citizens comprising 165 civilians, 25 security personnel, and 30 local vigilantes have been killed by bandits in the state.
This is even as he declared that the bandits were taking citizens on a merry-go-round and only a robust deployment of modern technology will tame their activities will properly and police the areas they currently occupy.
He spoke with State House Correspondents after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to update him on the insecurity situation in the area including kidnapping and cattle rustling among others.
According to him, even though respite was underway but cannot completely eradicate the menace 100 per cent until all hands are on deck.
He said: “I’m very optimistic with the kind of zeal I have seen from our security agencies and all services. I’m very optimistic that the situation will be addressed. And hopefully, we should get a very peaceful state within the shortest possible time.
“We share borders with Kaduna, Zamfara, and Kebbi States. And these bandits have the habit of hibernating between forests, moving from Zamfara to Kebbi, and Kebbi to Niger. They take advantage of the cattle routes which they already know. They move on motorcycles. And most of the areas and communities they attack have no access roads. So, you cannot drive there. So, our response time is slow.
“But going forward, there will be new strategies which I earlier mentioned. It will help us. But I can’t disclose some of those strategies. But basically, the States of Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi would have to work together to address the situation.
“What I realize is that they have been taking us on a merry-go-round. When we deal with them in Niger, they move to Kaduna. When Kaduna deals with them, they move to Katsina. They have been hibernating in the forest. Some of these operations need to be handled simultaneously so that we get the result.
“We are not happy and we are sad with the developments in these states. We are doing whatever we can, using kinetic and non kinetic efforts to see that we address the present situation.
“As we go on, we will try to update you from time to time on progress being made in this fight.”
Bello said he discussed sundry issues with President Buhari, adding: “We were able to review some of the invasions in the state. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you all. In the last few days, there have been a lot of activities in Niger State. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we will see some relief with regard to banditry.”
He said the people will get respite in two weeks even though the situation was not yet uhuru. “Yes, I said earlier that in two weeks, we will have some improvement. But you cannot eradicate it for now 100 per cent,” he added.