From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Niger Governor, Abubakar Bello has said banditry in the state has gotten out of control with the influx of criminals from neighbouring Benin Republic and other states.
Bello who met with President Muhammadu Buhari to seek urgent intervention on both security and roads infrastructure in the state, said more security personnel and technological support were needed to tackle the crisis.
On how bad the security situation was, Bello said, “The situation is very bad. Niger is 73,000 square kilometres; it is the size of the entire South South or South East. First, we have limited number of security personnel and we have to start increasing the numbers so that we cover most of the local governments. We are having influx of bandits from neighbouring states, especially Zamfara and Kaduna. It is difficult to patrol those areas because vehicles do not go there and there are deep in the forest. Which means we will need the Air Force. I believe there is great value in working with the federal authorities in addressing this security challenges,” he said.
The governor stated this at a briefing with State House correspondents after a meeting with the president, saying he got assurances from Buhari that the security issue would be addressed immediately.
He ruled out all forms of negotiations with bandits to resolve the issue, saying once out of pressure, he tried it, but they were insincere and never kept to their side of the bargain.
“In any case, the bandits are mostly Fulanis that have no one to control them, even their parents cannot control them. We call them bandits, but these are common criminals, they are armed robbers. I don’t see how someone who is used to robbing at gun point or killing, will say let’s go to negotiating table, I will drop my arms, I will just move on with my life without asking for some kind of support as an alternative to their activities,” he said.
He also said he discussed the challenges bordering on infratsructrue with the President.
“We also discussed the issue of infrastructure. At the moment, 80 per cent or more of traffic from the South passes through Niger State, especially Minna, the state capital. Over time we have witnessed some of our culverts, bridges and roads have been seriously destroyed because of the weight of trucks. So we try to encourage truckers to carry a maximum of 30 tonnes or 32 tonnes that should be able to keep our roads functioning for sometime. However, the state of all roads in Niger State is in a deplorable condition, so there is need for federal intervention. Most of the roads are federal roads, but because the federal roads are bad, trailers have resorted to using state roads.”