Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto
The military has deployed more troops and equipment in the special operation approved by President Muhammadu Buhari to flush out bandits and kidnappers in the North-west, THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY gathered that before the take-off of the special operation, the Nigerian Army’s Operation Hadarin Daji in the North-west region was battling to tackle the incessant attacks by the bandits.
The operation, in conjunction with air support from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), was said to have initially paralysed the activities of the bandits terrorising some parts of Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States.
However, as the amnesty programme initiated by some states in the zone failed, the attacks continued unabated, fuelling public outcry for the military to change tactics.
Following Buhari’s order to the military to set up a special operation in Katsina State, the Senate had urged the president to extend it to other north-west states.
In line with the Senate’s request, the president approved the special military operations to cover Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and some parts of Kebbi States.
Speaking to THISDAY on the special operation, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of 1 Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Gusau, Zamfara State, Capt. Yahaya Ibrahim, stated that what made it different from the old military operation in the zone was that more troops and equipment were deployed.
Ibrahim said while more equipment was given to the troops, more military personnel were also deployed to strengthen those on the ground.
He said already, the bandits had been weakened by land troops in conjunction with air operation by the Nigerian Air Force.
“From the mode of their operations now, you can attest that their operation has been restricted to only the border towns where they usually hit and run,” he said.
He added that banditry has been restricted to Zurmi and Shinkafi Local Government Areas of Zamfara State, which share borders with Niger Republic.
He appealed to the residents of the affected areas to provide the military with useful information to help them wipe out the bandits.
Another military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the old military operation in the North-west lacked weapons and equipment to combat the bandits as the attention of the federal government was concentrated on fighting the insurgency in the North-east.
He described the special military operation in the region as a welcome development, stressing that “with more troops and weapons deployed in the region, the bandits would be defeated sooner or later.”
He berated Senator Abdullahi Gobir, representing Sokoto East Senatorial District, for claiming that the region is living at the mercy of Nigerien Army.
“The comments of the revered senator were uncharitable. We, the Nigerian Army, have done our best; some of our colleagues have paid the supreme price by laying down their lives in this fight.
“If not for the efforts of the Nigerian Army, the 2019 election that returned the senator would not have been possible,” he said.
Gobir, at the plenary last week, had said Sokoto State relied on Nigerien Army for protection against bandits.
According to him, no fewer than 5,000 people in the affected areas have migrated to Niger Republic for safety.
Gobir said the Sokoto attacks had been worse than in any other parts of the country, adding that within the last three months, “no fewer than 300 people in Sokoto East Senatorial District have either been killed or kidnapped by the rampaging bandits on a daily basis.”