John Adams, Minna
Worried by the rise in banditry in parts of the state in the last two months, Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has declared an all-out war on the armed criminals terrorising the state.
The governor said the dialogue and amnesty offered the bandits seems to have failed and that therefore “the government needs to take drastic action against because, as government, we can not fold our hands and see criminals takes over the state.”
The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mary Noel Berje, in a statement in Minna quoted the governor as saying: “It has become clear and obvious that the amnesty programme for some of the bandits is not working.”
The state government had at the height of the bandit attacks in the state, entered into dialogue with some of them and followed it up with the release of twelve bandits that had been arrested by security agents.
The governor’s declaration of war on the bandits is coming on the heels of recent attacks which has rendered over 2,000 people homeless, with the displaced taking refuge in primary schools, in addition to fifteen murdered victims and many others injured.
Recently, a commander of a local vigilante squad and six of its members were ambushed and slaughtered by bandits in Rafi local government area, one of the epicentres of their attacks.
According to the governor, the government must assert its responsibility to the people by using whatever means available to end the activities by the bandits as “we have tolerated their recklessness for a long time now.”
He expressed regret that all civilised approaches engaged in by the government, including “providing the bandits with a way of life to stop their activities, have hit the rocks.”
The governor was particularly worried by the way the bandits have continued to unleash mayhem on local communities.
“The bandits have continually perpetrated their criminal act, and deny the locals access to their farms due to incessant attacks and cattle rustling,” the statement reads, adding that if this is not checked and stopped, it will lead to severe consequences, including hunger since the people can no longer access their farms.
“The danger here is that the bandits have refused to let our local people, our farmers, to operate [and] we are heading towards famine and starvation,” the governor said.
Governor Bello, who is the Chairman of the North Central Governors Forum, disclosed that a teleconference is being organised with the governors of Niger, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Sokoto and Katsina States, states that share common boundaries and are being terrorised by bandits, to review the situation and come up with a policy on how best to end the crime wave in the shortest possible time.