Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and John Adams, Minna
President Muhammadu Buhari ordered air strikes against bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers that have been attacking remote communities around Dogon Gona forest in Niger State.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement said, Buhari gave the order after he received assurances that with the harmattan dust gradually easing its hold on the skies, the strike would happen this week.
Buhari, who described the repeated attacks leading to the losses of several lives in the communities “as a disaster for the nation,” had authorised the deployment of air power to support troops and policemen deployed to the “difficult terrain,” to counter the menace of the attackers operating in the forest area bordering Kaduna, Niger and Zamfara states.
The statement read: “In line with this directive, the Nigerian Air Force is setting up refueling facilities at Minna, Niger State to support the aircraft operations, giving assurances that given the improved weather conditions, a major exercise to ‘visually acquire targets’ and launch attacks will soon follow.
“The Police Command in Niger has equally given assurances that the planned dedicated air raids to complement the police helicopter gunship operations remain the best approach given the lack of motorized roads in the areas constantly under attack.”
President Buhari commiserated with the government and people of Niger State following the attacks and the loss of lives that followed, and assures that victim communities in the state will not be abandoned by the rest of the country.
Niger Governor, Abukar Sani Bello, also said that the deployment would be backed with 24 hours air surveillance across the three LGA’s currently under siege by bandits.
In a statement issued in Minna yesterday, by Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mrs. Mary Noel Berje, Bello, condemned the “inhuman activities” of the bandits and said that air and land surveillance would help a great deal to fish and flush out the bandits.
The statement is coming barely 24 hours after bandits numbering about 50, overran no fewer than five communities in Shiroro LGA of the state, killing 11 people and rustled over 300 cattle, in the early hours of Saturday. The bandits who invaded the communities at about 6am ransacked the entire communities as they moved from one house to another without any resistance for hours.
Communities that were affected in the latest attacks are: Kudodo, Galapai, Dnakpala Makera and Dnalgwa.
Bello expressed regret over the continued loss of lives and property daily, pointing out that the criminals were taking advantage of the vastness of the terrain to unleash terror on innocent people. He said that the State government would fully support the joint security task force to chase the bandits out of the state.