Nigerian Army said it is prepared to end banditry in the northwestern part of the country and restore peace in the troubled areas. The resolve came as the service said it has made significant achievements in the battle against bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers in the zone.
According to the Army, troops have degraded the operation of bandits in Zamfara State, which remains the most volatile area and the epicentre of banditry in the zone. The Nigerian Army claimed it achieved this through a series of raids on bandits’ hideouts, fighting patrols and clearance operations conducted to contain the threat of the bandits.
It was learnt that several bandits were neutralised and captured with lots of ammunition, magazines, firearms and locally fabricated weapons confiscated. Also animal rustling prevalent in the area had been reduced to the barest minimum as a result of the activities of OPERATION HADRI DAJI, with several animals recovered and returned to their owners through the State Committee on the Recovery of Rustled Animals.
Daily Sun learnt that, by March 20, 2020, 3,567 cattle, 2,499 sheep, 973 goats, 15 camels and 14 donkeys were recovered from rustlers and bandits in Zamfara State.
The Army Headquarters said recently that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, would soon relocate to the North-West to join troops on ground in curbing the activities of bandits, kidnappers and other criminals in the area. Buratai said he would be there to end what he described as “the madness of the bandits” and put them in proper check.
The relocation of COAS to the North West according the experts is a welcome idea, but the Army must do more to show that it is in control of the situation by assuring the citizens that they can sleep with their eyes closed.
Six states in the North Western part of the country have been at the mercy of criminals as bandits have continued to harass residents of the affected areas, including Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina states. Reports indicated that at least 70 persons were killed within the last two weeks in separate attacks by bandits across a number of communities in the Katsina.
Experts believe the relocation of the army chief would shore up the confidence of the people, especially as it seems that the security of the area has collapsed completely. They said the presumed collapse of security is not an indication that the commanders of troops in that area were not doing much to curb the menace, but the citizens must join hands with the military to defeat the insurgents.
The presence of Buratai, they said, will add impetus to the war against criminality in the North West and boost morale of the fighting force. Indeed, the troops have continued to decimate the bandits in numbers, especially with the continued bombardment of hideouts of the bandits who intermittently come out of their hideouts to either kidnap for ransom or rustle cows from unsuspecting citizens.
A security expert said the criminals in Zamfara State were able to succeed because the state is mostly surrounded by forests, from where bandits launch attacks on outlying towns, highways and villages. The Rugu, Kamara, Kunduma and Sububu forests, have become major hideouts for criminals, who capitalised on the fragile state system to inflict harm to defenceless rural communities in the state.
The military recently said the bandits would no longer have the needed oxygen to carry out its nefarious activities, especially as it has reawakened its operation in the zone.
Between January and April 2019, a number of operations by the Nigerian Army, such as OPERATION HARBIN KUNAMA, OPERATION DIRAN MIKIYA, and OPERATION PUFF ADDER, were launched in the bid to tackle banditry in the North West. The Defence Headquarters said that in the last one week, forces on counter-insurgency operations in the North East killed 45 terrorists and bandits and recovered several arms and ammunition.
Between February 10 and 20, 2020, it was also learnt that troops of OPERATION HADRI DAJI conducted clearance operations in several locations in the North West including: Tungar Mata, Tuduki, Kawaye and Mararaban Kawaye villages in Anka Local Government Area, Moriki town in Shinkafi Local Government Area, Belhi, Ruwar Kura, Kyaram, Gallai and Shirkai villages of Bukkuyum Local Government Area, all in Zamfara State.
Tsauwa, Dankar and Yan Gayya villages of Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State and Gallai, Shirkai and ‘Yarkuka villages in Kebbi State and intercepted 4,630 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition around Moriki and neutralised 13 bandits with several others fatally wounded.
Eight bandits were arrested during the operation including a woman. It was learnt that troops also recovered seven Kalashnakov rifles (AK-47), eight loaded magazines, 22 motorcycles, two dane guns, four mobile phones and 30 jerry cans of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
Major General Eneneche, Director, Defence Media Operation, said the soldiers rescued about 40 hostages held by the terrorists and also made some arrests. The arrest is said to have brought relative peace to the surrounding communities.
He said in the North-West, troops have continued to build on recent successes against armed bandits operating in the region following intensive ground and air assaults on their identified bases, with scores of bandits killed.
It was learnt that the land and air components of Operations HADARIN DAJI, KATSINA and ACCORD, carried out aggressive clearance operations at several identified bandits’ enclaves. Most importantly was the attack on three camps operated by one Adamu Aleiro in a forest along the Katsina-Zamfara boundary. Scores of bandits were killed during that encounter, with several others injured. Troops also apprehended three suspected bandits, including one Ibrahim Isa clad in military camouflage while six kidnapped victims were rescued.
The Air Component of Operation HADARIN DAJI also destroyed an armed bandits’ logistics store and neutralised no fewer than 30 bandits in air strikes conducted in the Doumborou Forest in Zamfara State.
Gen. John Eneneche in a statement recently explained that the operation was executed based on credible Human Intelligence reports indicating that a thatched structure within the Forest was being used by the bandits to store their logistics items. He said an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft on patrol spotted some of the armed bandits on motorbikes and tracked them to the storehouse where they lodged some items:
“The Air Component therefore dispatched an attack helicopter to engage the location, scoring accurate hits resulting in the destruction of the store, which was seen engulfed in flames. The attack helicopter subsequently trailed the armed bandits who fled the location and mopped them up in follow-on attacks, neutralizing no fewer than 30 of them as later confirmed by HUMINT sources.”
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, commended the Air Component of Operation HADARIN DAJI for their professionalism and directed them to remain resolute in the conduct of air strikes while continuing to provide close air support for on going ground operations in order to eradicate all armed bandits; thus achieving the directives of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin, to restore normalcy in the North West.