Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, in Wednesday, disclosed that he had since 2017 written to the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to designate bandits as terrorists, because it was the only way to change the game against the criminals.
El-Rufai, who expressed sympathy with all those who had suffered pains and sorrow from insecurity “despite our sincere and consistent efforts and investments of hard-earned resources”, urged the federal government to recruit some 774,000 youths to help fight criminality, even as he objected to self-help.
This is as the Kaduna State government has disclosed that a total of 343 people had been so far killed, while 830 others were abducted by bandits between July and September 2021.
Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, disclosed this while presenting the Third Quarter Security report to El-Rufai yesterday at the Government House, Kaduna.
In another development, no fewer than 32 passengers were on Wednesday kidnapped at Garin-Gabas village near Zungeru in the Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State.
El-Rufai, who spoke on the situation report in his state, however, said his government frowned at the actions of individuals, groups and political actors, who incited citizens to arm themselves.
“The rhetoric of self-help is dangerously misunderstood. It is a recipe for descent into anarchy. Individuals, who perpetrate violent attacks are very often not around, when retributive actions are taken by the victims, and so citizens, who are perceived to share ethnicity or religion with the attackers are then targeted in reprisal,” he said.
He disclosed that in 2017, his state government wrote letters to the federal government, requesting that bandits be declared as terrorists.
El-Rufai however aligned with a recent resolution of the National Assembly on bandits, noting that it was only when they were declared as terrorists that it would allow the Nigerian military to attack and kill the bandits without any major consequences in international law.
“We in the Kaduna State Government, have always aligned with the declaration of bandits as insurgents and terrorists. We have written letters to the Federal Government since 2017, asking for this declaration, because it is the declaration that will allow the Nigerian military to attack and kill these bandits without any major consequences in international law.
“So, we support the resolution by the National Assembly and we are going to follow up with a letter of support, for the federal government to declare these bandits and insurgents as terrorists, so that they will be fair game for our military. This is the view of the Kaduna State Government,” he said.
El-Rufai said the state government would soon establish a Farmers/Herdsmen Reconciliation Council in the state while committees would be set up at the local government, chiefdom and Emirate levels, noting that many state governments in the North West and the North Central had adopted an unconventional approach to help the federal security agencies to better protect communities.
“There is no alternative to launching simultaneous operations. I call for a consensus between the federal government and the the 36 states on an emergency programme of recruitment into the security agencies. Government can change the game significantly by hiring 1,000 willing youths from each of the 774 LGAs in the country into the security agencies.
“This will be a surge in numbers that is unprecedented since the civil war. An influx of 774,000 new boots on the ground will be a significant blow against criminals and an employment boost.
I assure you that we are working hard to solve this problem and it is our solemn duty to do so. We offer our condolences to the security agencies and the families of the security officers that have been killed while trying to keep our people safe,” El-Rufai said
Aruwan, while speaking on the mid-term report, claimed that 69 of the bandits were “neutralised” during the period under review, lamented that the activities of bandits were crippling rural economy and a threat to education as many schools were under threat by the criminals.
In the last two quarters, from January to June, he said a total of 545 people were killed while 1,723 others were abducted by bandits.
Aruwan, in the latest report, explained that the Southern Kaduna Senatorial district recorded the highest number of deaths with 193 while Kaduna Central and Kaduna North Senatorial Districts recorded 130 and 20 deaths respectively.
“From July to September 2021, a total of 343 persons died due to banditry, communal clashes, violent attacks, and reprisals,” he said, adding that, 50 of the victims were women and 22 were minors.
The commissioner said the high number of deaths in Southern Kaduna “is largely made up of victims of violent attacks and reprisals in Zangon Kataf, Kaura and Kauru Local Government Areas. These areas witnessed series of clashes early in the year, which spiraled into a succession of increasingly deadly communal and inter-ethnic attacks across the three LGAs.”
The commissioner said of the 830 people kidnapped in the third quarter, 732 people were abducted in Kaduna Central Senatorial District, with many of the kidnappings occurring in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Igabi, Chikun and Kajuru LGAs.
“Chikun LGA had 243 citizens kidnapped, Birnin Gwari LGA 143, while 132 citizens were kidnapped from Kajuru LGA. Igabi LGA had 106 kidnapped, while 98 persons were kidnapped from Giwa LGA.
“Southern Kaduna Senatorial District recorded 51 kidnapped persons, with Kachia LGA reporting the highest number of 28. The Northern Senatorial District recorded 47 kidnapped persons, with 16 of these from Zaria LGA in total, 222 women, and 179 minors were kidnapped in the third quarter across the state,” the commissioner disclosed, adding that 77 farms were destroyed across the state.
“Various reports were received of farms destroyed by roving cattle in the third quarter. In the third quarter of 2021, there were 77 reports received, relating to destruction of crops across the state, notably in Birnin Gwari, Igabi, Giwa, Chikun, Kachia, Kaura, Kauru and Zangon Kataf LGAs. The actual figure could be higher, taking unreported cases into account,” the commissioner said.
Aruwan said such destruction of crops had exacerbated tensions in frontline LGAs, many often resulting in violence. He, however, said, the state government was working on a template to manage the phenomenon.
He lamented that banditry has hampered farming activities in the frontline areas of the state as the criminals continued to attack and abduct farmers working on or on their way to their farms, noting that several farmers had been killed, even as the bandits extorted protection levies from some communities in return for permission to cultivate their fields.
“Many farmers in these areas, fearing for their lives and safety, have abandoned their fields altogether with an attendant negative impact on crop yields. The most affected communities are in the frontline local government areas of Birnin Gwari, Igabi, Giwa, Zaria, Chikun, Kauru, Kajuru, Kachia, Kagarko, Zangon Kataf, Jemala and Sanga,” he said.
Reiterating that primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the state remained under threat from bandits and that “teaching and learning activities in frontline areas have been severely hampered”, he said the health sector had also been affected as hospitals and other health facilities in frontline locations were equally under grave threat from bandits.
“Staff of hospitals and health centres have been killed, kidnapped and injured by armed bandits during these attacks, and this constitutes a
danger to healthcare service delivery in frontline areas”, Aruwan said.
Meanwhile, of the 32 passengers kidnapped at Garin-gabas village near Zungeru in the Wushishi local government area of Niger state, 18 of them were said to be in a Kebbi State Mass Transport Authority bus while the others were traveling in two Sharon buses.
THISDAY learnt that the incident occurred at about 2pm, when the three vehicles were heading towards Minna, the Niger State capital.
It was further gathered that the bandits numbering over 100 rode on motorcycles and blocked the road shooting into the air to create panic in the passengers.
An eyewitness, who escaped from the scene narrated that the bandits surrounded the passengers and forced them into the forest, where they were presently being kept, while their vehicles were abandoned by the road sides in Garin-Gabas. But no life has been reportedly lost.
Another report claimed that some bandits were also in neighbouring Kundu village, where they rustled unknown number of cattle.
Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Matane, when contacted, said he was just coming out of the weekly executive council meeting and had not heard the news.
Police Public Relations Officer, Niger State Police Command, DSP Wasiu Abiodun could not be reached for confirmation of the story.
On February 14, not less than 30 travelers in a Niger State Transport Authority NSTA bus were abducted in similar manner in Kundu village of Rafi Local Government Area of the state.
A few days later, the government announced that it had secure about 10 of the Passengers while the others did not regain freedom until after three weeks in captivity.
John Shiklam in Kaduna and Laleye Dipo in Minna