Defence Minister Expresses Concern over Security Situation in North West

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•Says security improving in North Central, North East

•Wants Nigeria to engage US diplomatically to avert sanction over designation as country of particular concern

From Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Tuesday raised the alarm over the worsening security situation in the North West due to deadly activities of armed bandits.

At the Security Council meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House Abuja, Dan-Ali who is also from Zamfara State, the epicentre of the deadly banditry in the region, appealed to the President and the Security Council for urgent action to arrest the situation.

The President had in 2016 launched Operation Harbin Kunama in Dansadau forest of Zamfara state to crush the cattle rustlers, armed bandits and other criminal gangs terrorising that part of the North West encompassing Katsina, Sokoto, Kano and Kaduna States.

A statement issued by the minister’s Public Relations Officer, Col. Tukur Gusau, said the Dan-Ali drew the attention of the council to what he described as “the incessant killings and kidnappings by armed bandits and criminal activities across the North-West which is becoming alarming and worrisome”.

He mentioned Abuja-Kaduna expressway as “a source of concern as there were still recorded incidences of kidnappings within the period under review”.

Dan-Ali also stated that “the upsurge in incidents of security concern in Zamfara State is quite disturbing and calls for more robust approach to tackling the threat. The situation is characterised with killings and kidnappings by armed bandits and criminal elements predominantly in Anka, Maru, Kaura Namoda and Talata Mafara LGAs of the state.”

He suggested to the Council the need for Defence Headquarters to launch a Joint Task Force Operation similar to Operation Safe Haven in Jos to cover Zamfara and Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State with its headquarters in Gusau, Zamfara State.

He also harped on the need to employ other channels with the affected states to reduce tension by suspending the implementation of the Anti-Open Grazing Law while also negotiating safe routes for the herders.

The minister, however, thanked the President for his support to the Nigerian Armed Forces in the conduct of its operations, which he noted was yielding success in other areas of conflicts, especially in the North Central and North East.

In the North-Central, the minister said herdsmen-farmers clashes in Benue and Taraba States had reduced considerably.

He said: “Several arrests have been made in connection with the killings and destruction of properties by (our) own troops in conjunction with other security agencies. While in the North-East, the Boko Haram Terrorists activities have been contained as there is significant improvement in security situation in the Zone. The Nigerian Army has launched Operation Last Hold to flush out the insurgents from their hideouts in the Lake Chad Basin and free the communities to enable IDPs to return to their homes. The operation is to last till end of August 2018.

“Similarly, the MNJTF is currently engaged in Operation to dislodge Boko Haram Terrorists in the fringes between Niger Republic and Nigeria. The Task Force has so far dislodged the insurgents from Arege, Kangarwa, Metele and few other islands on the Lake Chad. So far, 296 persons have been rescued and are undergoing profiling. The number is envisaged to increase as troops intensify clearance operations.”

In the same vein, Dan-Ali said in the South-South/South-West illegal oil bunkering, militancy and pipeline vandalism had declined following the effort of the Federal Government to engage stakeholders in dialogue.

According to him, Operation Awatse has continued to dislodge militants and pipeline vandals from Arepo and other areas in Lagos and Ogun waterside.

“It is pertinent to state that the award of contract for the procurement of the Mi-35M helicopters was completed before the Act was signed into Law in August 2017.”

Dan-Ali also stressed the urgent need for the Nigeria Police and Department of State Services to prosecute all the suspects arrested in the states.

He also said there was need to hasten the establishment of a National Commission on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria.

The statement said Dan-Ali also touched on the recent designation of Nigeria by the United States as a country of particular concern, expressing fears about its implications.

It noted that the minister informed the council that “the United States of America conveyed to the Government of Nigeria information about the implementation of Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act Section 231.”

Against this backdrop, Dan-Ali, according to the statement, emphasied the “need to engage diplomatic channels to ensure US sanctions do not affect Nigeria.”