Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered security agents to shoot anyone illegally possessing sophisticated weapons such as AK-47, his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, has said.
Shehu told the BBC in an interview on Wednesday that the president also directed a clampdown on bandits who have refused to surrender.
Shehu confirmed to THISDAY on Wednesday that he granted the BBC the interview on efforts by the president to arrest the worsening insecurity in the country.
The presidential directive came just as governors of the six states in the North-east, the epicentre of insurgency in Nigeria, unfolded plans to set up a joint security agency to combat insecurity in the zone.
They also pushed for new military approaches to restoring normalcy in the zone.
Giving further insights into efforts to battle banditry that’s prevalent in the North-west, Shehu quoted the president as ordering the deployment of kinetic warfare against the outlaws.
“The president has ordered security forces to go into the bushes and shoot whoever they see with sophisticated weapons like AK-47.
“He ordered that whoever is seen with terrible weapons at all should be shot immediately,” he said.
On Tuesday’s declaration of Zamfara State as a no-fly zone, Shehu said the federal government took the decision following intelligence that arms were being transported to the bandits with private jets.
He stated that the private jets are also used to cart away gold from the state to Dubai, which, according to him, prompted the ban on mining activities, also announced on Tuesday.
“These jets are being used to pick up gold that is being mined in some parts of Zamfara and exported. This is strong because at the moment, there is a Nigerian gold market in Dubai.
“The government is losing, the people of this country are losing, that’s why it is said that gold mining is banned for those who are not made by the government,” Shehu said.
However, the North-east governors, at a meeting in Bauchi, tasked the service chiefs to come up with new strategies in combating the growing insurgency in the region.
The governors, who met under the auspices of the North-east Governors’ Forum, expressed concern that the insecurity in the country seems to be defying solutions, despite crippling all aspects of national life.
At the opening ceremony of the fourth meeting of the North-east Governors’ Forum in Bauchi, the Chairman of the forum and Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, said in addition to the logistical and financial support the governors had been rendering to the armed forces in their fight against insecurity in the zone, they would consider the possibility of forming a security outfit, within the ambit of constitutional precedent and operational feasibility, as has been done in other parts of the country.
“If, and when we decide on a regional security outfit, the vigilante groups and Civilian JTFs in our respective states may form the basis for the outfit,” he said.
Zulum stated that at their previous meetings, they had identified most of the challenges facing the zone and outlined the possible ways of tackling them.
He listed the challenges to include insecurity, poverty, banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, gender-based violence and youth restiveness.
“The most formidable and by far the most daunting challenge we, in the North-east and indeed Nigeria as a whole, have is the current security situation which seems to be defying solutions and which has a telling effect on virtually all aspects of our lives.”
He, however, said with the appointment of new service chiefs, a new set of strategic initiatives is expected to be deployed to combat the security challenges.
Zulum expressed concern about insurgency worsening with the renewed spate of attacks on soft targets and innocent civilians. “We shall be expecting a significant improvement in the security situation in the sub-region and the country at large.
“As it is now, especially in Borno State, violence, being perpetrated by the insurgents, seems to be on the increase, both in scope and viciousness; and it has become a matter of tactical necessity for the new service chiefs to devise new and offensive strategies to counter the current attacks and forestall any future attacks,” he said.
He, however, stated that the commitment of the military to the war against the insurgency remains unquestionable.
But Zulum said: “With the current escalation of deadly attacks by the terrorists, the various courses of action being pursued seem to have some limitations in terms of the expected impact; hence the need for a new set of pragmatic and result-oriented initiatives to completely subdue the terrorists and ultimately end the insurgency.”
He, however, lamented that the de-radicalisation of Boko Haram terrorists or Safe Corridor Initiative have not worked to expectations.
He said those who had passed through the Safe Corridor Initiative or had been de-radicalised, went back to rejoin the terror group, after carefully studying the various security arrangements in their host communities during the reintegration process.
“In addition, the host communities where the reintegration process is going on usually resent the presence of Boko Haram terrorists, even if they have been de-radicalised, because of the despicable and atrocious activities they have committed in the past.
“So the idea of de-radicalisation, as currently being implemented, needs to be reviewed because the main goals and the underlying objectives behind the initiative are not being achieved.
“The best option is to immediately prosecute the terrorists, in accordance with the Terrorism Act,” he said.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, had said the urgency of the security challenge in the North-east demanded an innovative and out-of-the-box security infrastructure.
“We must be honest in appraising the situation, be bold in confronting those who want to destroy our country and be patriotic in the choice that we must make to stop the enemies of our states. If we must be honest, the public opinion at the moment is that we have failed; that many of our compatriots have adamantly resorted to self-help in order to get away from this despondency.
“We must accept the fact that an over-internal-centralised security arrangement is an obsolete tool for tackling the monstrous and death scenario playing out in our country, especially our region,” he said.
Mohammed stated that his predecessor as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, who is presently Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, had advocated the need for state police.
“Now, I agree with el-Rufai and other governors who have called for it,” he said.