From Uche Usim, Abuja
Kaduna Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has said the only way to put an end to banditry in the country is for the military to bomb the forests where they are hiding and eliminate them completely.
The governor spoke at a dialogue: “Financing Safe Schools: Creating Safe Learning Communities” in Abuja, yesterday, claimed his other colleagues were in agreement that bandits must be completely wiped out.
“Our position as governors and we are unanimous in this because we, the northern states’ governors, met with the president on this subject…our unanimous position is to wipe out the bandits. We must go into these forests, nobody living in that forest is innocent, and just kill them all. It is the only way to end this.
“We need the combination of air power, and we need troops on the ground augmented by local expertise and knowledge. We need just one, two, three months operation to just try to kill all the bandits. It’s the only way to stop this. So long as these bandits are being paid, it’ll remain a business. So the only option that we have is to ensure that we kill them all.”
The Kaduna governor claimed there has been a decline in the operation of bandits across the northern part of the country. He said the reduction in banditry is due to the efforts of the Nigerian air force.
“I’m very happy that the chief of air staff has been bombing them. So, you’ll see there’s a decline in banditry. What you see is the coordinated action with air power, use of drones.”
He advised that more advanced weapons must be acquired to make their operations more efficient.
“I think the security agencies also need more advanced technology. The Air force needs more drones. Drones are much cheaper than planes and there are drones now that can carry missiles. Because they (bandits) know when they hear the sound of the aircraft and hide in the bushes. But drones can be more targeted, more selective and quiet. And drones can also fly in circumstances that airplanes cannot due to bad weather.”
He added that banditry can also be stopped if people stopped negotiating with and paying them ransoms.
“People ask if my child was kidnapped and I say that I won’t pay, it is a personal decision, which we do not all support. So, the only way to stop banditry is to kill them all.”
In 2016, El-Rufai acknowledged that his government tracked down some militant, aggrieved Fulani and paid them to stop killing Southern Kaduna residents and destroying their communities.
“For southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (retd) to find out what was going on there. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence. Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries.
“Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across Southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them. Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulani are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle.So, many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge.
“So, a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria. We got a hint that the late Governor Patrick Yakowa got this information and he sent someone to go round some of these Fulani communities, but of course after he died, the whole thing stopped. That is what we inherited. But the Agwai committee established that.
“We took certain steps. We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger Republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.
“In most of the communities, once that appeal was made to them, they said they have forgiven. There are one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they have forgiven the death of human beings but want compensation for cattle. We said no problem, and we paid some. As recently as two weeks ago, the team went to Niger Republic to attend one Fulani gathering that they hold every year with a message from me.”
In her intervention, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, confessed that the country is sitting on the precipice of socio-economic disaster and a full education crisis, calling for urgent multi-stakeholder solution to remedy the situation.
She stated this against the backdrop of sustained attacks on vulnerable schoolchildren by terrorists.
She said it was important for government and private sector to immediately join forces to stop the attacks on the fundamental rights of children to a safe learning environment.
She said if the current fractured state of education is sustained, the country would have failed to guarantee a safe learning environment, secure and protect the dignity of children, their teachers, and school administrators.
“Parents are increasingly more nervous about sending their children and particularly their young girls to school, with some choosing to withdraw existing students. The time to act is now. Even before the pandemic, Nigeria accounted for approximately 20 per cent of the Global out-of-school population. With an estimated 13 million children currently out of school in the country, we sit in the precipice of a socio-economic disaster and a full education crisis, if we do not act in a coordinated manner to stop the current wave of systematic attacks on the fundamental rights of our children to a safe learning environment.”
The minister said the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have posed unprecedented challenges globally and in Nigeria.
She said the government has been proactive in its response to the pandemic, and has established and implemented the Economic Sustainability Plan and other interventions, including the scaling up of social safety net programmes.”