Gov. Sani Bello of Niger has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for ordering massive onslaught against bandits and insurgents in the state.
The governor made the commendation while reacting to questions from State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja.
According to him, the security challenges troubling the state will soon be a thing of the past, as adequate steps are being taken to address the problem.
Bello expressed optimism that in the next two weeks, residents would start to witness some improvements in terms of security situation across the state.
He said: “I am very optimistic with the kind of zeal I have seen from our security agencies and all services. I’m very optimistic that the situation will be addressed. And hopefully, we should get a very peaceful state within the shortest possible time.
“But there is still a lot of work to do. We share borders with Kaduna, Zamfara and Kebbi States. And these bandits have the habit of hibernating between forests, moving from Zamfara to Kebbi, and Kebbi to Niger.
“They take advantage of the cattle routes which they already know. They move on motorcycles. And most the areas and communities they attack have no access roads. So, you cannot drive there. So, our response time is slow.
“But going forward, there will be new strategies which I earlier mentioned. It will help us.
“But I can’t disclose some of those strategies. But basically, the States of Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi would have to work together to address the situation simultaneously.”
Bello said he was in the State House to update the President on the security developments in Niger, adding that he had a fruitful discussion with Buhari.
“This afternoon, I came to visit Mr President to give him an update on the security situation in Niger State with regard to banditry activities, kidnapping, and cattle rustling, among others. We had a very fruitful discussion.
“We were able to review some of the invasions in the state. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you all. In the last few days, there have been a lot of activities in Niger State.
“Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we see some relief with regard to banditry. I also gave a highlight on some of the challenges, of course, our size is a disadvantage, almost nine million hectares. We lost some forests,” he said.
The governor, who gave a breakdown of casualties recorded during attacks in the state in the last 17 days, said:
“In January this year alone, we suffered not less than 50 reported attacks and loss of lives, between Jan. 1 and 17.
“Within the same period, not less than 300 communities have been invaded by bandits. The number of people kidnapped is 200, including three Chinese nationals.
“We also lost some security personnel. Their number is 25. Unfortunately, we lost about 165 civilians and 30 local vigilantes.
“So, it’s a very dire situation that we have been battling in the last few weeks since the beginning of this year.
“What I realise is that they have been taking us on a merry-go-round. When we deal with them in Niger, they move to Kaduna. When Kaduna deals with them, they move to Katsina. They have been hibernating in the forests.
“Some of these operations need to be handled simultaneously so that we get the result.
“We are not happy and we are sad with the developments in these states. We are doing whatever we can, using kinetic and non-kinetic efforts to see that we address the present situation.
“As we go on, we will try to update you from time to time on progress being made in this fight,” he added.
He called for recruitment of more security personnel as a way of sustaining successes recorded in the fight against bandits. (NAN)