Buhari Obliges Senate, Approves Military Offensive on Bandits in North-west


Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Hours after the Senate called for special military operations in the North-west, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a plan by the Ministry of Defence to flush out bandits that had been terrorising the region.

The Senate had yesterday flayed the continued bandits’ attacks in various parts of the North-west of the country and urged the federal government to extend the ongoing special anti-banditry military operations to Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger States where banditry is now rife.

The president responded swiftly, approving the defence ministry’s “Operation Accord,” a major military offensive conceived to flush out bandits in the troubled region.

A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, described the proposed beneficiaries of the operation as contiguous states of Kaduna, Niger, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and some parts of Kebbi State.

The statement which described yesterday’s Senate resolution which commended Buhari on the military offensive, he ordered in Katsina State, as perfectly in order, explained that the president in his duty as the Commander-in-Chief had already approved the commencement of this North-west operation.

According to him, no other details on the mode, scope, timing and other essentials of the operation would be revealed beyond this announcement to avoid compromising its success.
He stated: “It is, however, important to outline the fact that all the states of the federation are equal and important before the president.

“None has suffered any discrimination up to this point, and none will be made to suffer any such discrimination in dealing with security and all other matters on the account of their political differences with the government at the centre.”

The Senate had yesterday flayed the continued bandits’ attacks in various parts of the North-west of the country and urged the federal government to extend the ongoing special anti-banditry military operations to Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger States where banditry is now rife.
It also urged President Muhammadu Buhari, who last weekend directed the military to flush out bandits from Katsina State, to order them to extend the operations to Sokoto and Niger States.

The call was a sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, who had in the motion anchored on orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Standing Rules, lamented that the daily occurrence of banditry in Niger State requires urgent intervention of Buhari.
Abdullahi said the Senate was “aware through a presidential spokesman that President Muhammadu Buhari has authorised the commencement of a major military operation to sweep bandits and kidnappers out of Katsina State; as major proactive measures by Special Forces to replace the reactive strikes against the camps of these bandits and criminals.”

According to him, “the criminalities by these bandits and kidnappers are carried out mostly under the cover of the contiguous forests reserves and areas stretching from Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger States with pockets of safe havens in Kebbi and Sokoto states.”
The lawmaker expressed concerns that “a major offensive in Katsina State alone is likely to make the armed bandits and kidnappers seek safer haven in Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger States, which host the Zurmi and Kamuku forests among others, further compounding the plight of hapless and poor communities along these forest corridors.”

While seconding the motion, Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC Sokoto East) had told the Senate that his constituents were at the mercy of Nigerien soldiers protecting them against bandits, as the Nigerian Army had allegedly abandoned them.
He described the security situation in Sokoto East senatorial district as being worse than in any other parts of the country.
According to him, within the last three months, no fewer than 300 people have either been killed or kidnapped daily by the bandits.
“The situation in Sokoto East as far as armed banditry is concerned, is pathetic and tragic because it is only Nigerien Army that had been coming to their rescue while the Nigerian Army looks the other way.

“In fact, based on very reliable and verifiable information from the area, many at times, that the people of the affected areas called on Nigerian Army for help and protection against the bandits, no response.
“But graciously, the Nigerien Army has been assisting in wading off the bandits, the very reason no fewer than 5,000 people in the affected areas have migrated to Niger Republic for safety,” the lawmaker said.

He added that hundreds of cows and other animals, worth about N2.5 billion, have been rustled by the bandits.
“The fallout of this is grinding poverty ravaging the affected people in the form of serious hunger since their cows and other animals are on a daily basis being stolen while some of them are even made to hurriedly sell some of the cows.

“The situation is so bad that we only get help from Niger Republic and not from Nigeria at all, be it from the military or the police.

“The affected people cannot be perpetually at the mercy of Nigerien soldiers and still be expected to proudly see themselves as Nigerians.
“Very urgent drastic action is required from President Buhari through the military in form of expansion of the anti-banditry operation currently being carried out in Zamfara and Katsina States to Sokoto State,” he said.

The Senate accordingly appealed to the president to expand the scope of the military operations to include Niger and Sokoto states and any other surrounding areas or states that the bandits may want to seek safe haven following the massive operation in Katsina State.
It also called on the military and the police to increase their surveillance operations to track the bandits’ movements to prevent them from relocating to other states they considered safer.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, said the security challenges were enormous but surmountable.
“Nigeria is definitely up to the task and Mr. President will deploy military in the areas for restoration of sanity as gradually being witnessed in Zamfara and Katsina States,” he said.