The Nigerian Government has warned all persons and groups conniving with bandits to carry out attacks in the north-west region to retract their steps.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, issued the warning on behalf of the government in a statement on Tuesday by his Public Relations Officer, Colonel Tukur Gusau.
He said the Ministry of Defence was concerned about the security challenges in the region, particularly in Zamfara, Sokoto, and Katsina States, as well as the Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State.
“In spite of the concerted efforts of the Armed Forces and other security, some unpatriotic persons including highly placed traditional rulers in the areas were identified as helping the bandits with intelligence to perpetuate their nefarious actions or to compromise military operations,” the statement said.
It added, “The Ministry of Defence, therefore, wish to warn any person or group of persons who choose to connive or sympathies with the bandits to perpetuate crime against the law-abiding citizens to hence force retract their steps or face the full wrath of the law.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria have been directed to deal decisively with anybody identified helping the bandits under whatever guise no matter how highly placed the person or persons may be.”
The government explained that due to the recent prevailing security situation in the states, the Nigerian Army was conducting Exercise Harbin Kunama IV simultaneously in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto States.
It noted that the purpose of the exercise was to effectively tackle the activities of criminal elements in the north-west while the Nigerian Air Force has also intensified air strikes against the bandits in Zamfara.
The government disclosed that so far, the combined efforts have yielded successes which led to the killing of many bandits and the rescue of many innocent persons, including the renowned Islamic scholar Sheik Ahmad Suleiman.
It said it was addressing the remote and immediate causes that gave room to the high spate of armed banditry in the states.
It highlighted one of the steps taken as the suspension of all mining activities in Zamfara and environs, following intelligence report which suggested close collaboration between the activities of the bandits and illegal miners.
The statement said, “It is instructive to mention here that insurgency and terrorism are global phenomena that cannot be addressed through military actions only. The whole society has to rise in unison to support the government’s efforts to address the problem.”
In the last three years, the government said several reforms have been carried out towards the reorganisation and expansion of the Armed Forces, in order to meet up with contemporary security challenges across the nation and the sub-region.
It stressed that it was in line with this that the army established 8 Division with the headquarters in Sokoto to cover Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states while the Headquarters of 1 Brigade was relocated from Sokoto to Gusau.
It added that the tactical headquarters of 8 Division has since located to Gusau, the Zamfara State capital.
The government said the air force also established Quick Response Force in Gusau and landing areas in Gusau and Birnin Magaji respectively.
It gave assurance that the military, in conjunction with other security agencies, would continue to protect the lives and properties of law-abiding citizens.
The government urged Nigerians to cooperate with the military to discharge its constitutional responsibilities effectively.