President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a military crackdown on bandits terrorising communities in Niger State, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu said in a statement yesterday.
Shehu said the directive to launch a major military campaign in the Northcentral state was handed over to the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) by the President.
The President’s order came barely two weeks after the Federal Government published the court order classifying bandits, kidnappers and others as terrorists into a Gazette.
It also came on a day that gunmen killed three and abducted 28 people in Farin-Shinge, Kulho, Jigawa, Dogo Fadama communities of Mashegu local government areas of Niger State.
The rampaging gunmen reportedly demanded for seven 50 litres of fuel, packs of Viju Milk and other drinks as a ransom for the abductees from Farin-Shinge community.
Niger State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Wasiu Abiodun, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) confirmed the attack in Jigawa and Kulho communities.
He said 15 people were abducted in the Kulho attack “on 14/01/2022 at about 1300hrs, suspected armed bandits/terrorists entered Mashegu village through Jigawa area of Mashegu and rustled a yet to be ascertained number of cattle, while they broke a provision shop at Kawo village.
According to the Gazette signed by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) and published on June 5, bandits, anybody or group found guilty of all the offences will face trial under Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011.
Other offences punishable under the gazette, include kidnapping for ransom, kidnapping for marriage, mass abduction of school children and other citizens, cattle rustling, enslavement, imprisonment and severe deprivation of physical liberty.
Those who will face the wrath of the law are perpetrators of torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, other forms of sexual violence, attacks and killings in communities and other commuters and wanton destruction of lives and properties in Nigeria.
The Gazette, which came five years after the classification of Boko Haram insurgents as terrorists, set the state for the deployment of the Super Tucano fighter jets in the battle against bandits.
Also yesterday, gunmen, operating on motorcycles invaded Damari in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, forcing villagers to scamper for safety.
The gunmen, who were said to be on a revenge mission, allegedly encircled the village.
Many communities in Niger State have been experiencing upsurge in terrorist activities leading to mass killings, abductions and destruction of properties in recent time.
Last Wednesday, suspected gunmen invaded two communities – Nakuna and Wurukuchi – leaving some villagers dead.
They also destroyed houses and barns filled with food stuff.
Eye witnesses put the casualty figure at 34 but the State Police Command said in statement the following day that only 13 persons were killed by the invaders.
The Presidential aide said yesterday that Buhari, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, had initiated the military operations for Niger State to restore security and calm.
Shehu said in a statement: “President Muhammadu Buhari as Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s armed forces has set the ball rolling for a major military operation in Niger State which has faced continued attacks on its communities by bandits and remnants of Boko Haram terrorists fleeing theaters of war in the Northwestern and Northeastern parts of the country.
“In a directive to the Defence Headquarters a few days ago, the President asked the military to respond robustly to the cases of killings and kidnappings in the State and to give effect to the strategic objectives through the use of force.”
According to the statement, in his message to the government and people of Niger State, President Buhari had said: “I would like to express sincere sympathies to the government and people of the State following recent security incidents.
“The President reiterated that security is a responsibility of every member of the community and only through solidarity and cooperation with law enforcement agencies can we defeat the problems finally.
“The Federal Government is willing to strengthen support and cooperation with all the states. I believe that with the full cooperation of the citizens, we will surely overcome this problem.”