Foreigners operating mining sites in Zamfara State have been given 48 hours to vacate the locations as the Federal Government on Sunday launched an operation to flush out bandits terrorising residents of the state.
The government formally extended its Operation Puff Adder to Zamfara State on Sunday.
The operation had been launched earlier last week to address rising incidents of kidnappings along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway.
This directive is coming as President Buhari Muhammadu Buhari described as “ridiculous,” suggestions in some quarters that he did nothing to stop the killings in Zamfara.
He also appealed to some people whom he claimed were politicising the killings to stop henceforth.
But the Peoples Democratic Party said if the President was finding the “job too difficult to do, he should call for help or quit.”
The opposition party also advised President Buhari to rejig his security architecture and find lasting solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country and the citizens.
However, while addressing State House correspondents in Abuja on Sunday after a meeting with heads of other security agencies, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, explained that there was a link between mining and banditry in Zamfara State.
Adamu stated that government’s first move was to immediately suspend all mining activities in the state until further notice.
He warned that any foreign miner, who flouted the order, did so at the risk of losing his operational licence.
Adamu said the security operation against the bandits would be jointly carried out by the police, the military and the Department of State Services.
The IG’s text read partly, “As part of sustained efforts to flush out and permanently put an end to banditry and criminality in Zamfara State in particular and the North-West in general, the Nigeria Police Force in collaboration with the Nigerian military and other security services has commenced Operation Puff Adder, which is a full-scale security offensive against the bandits.
“The operation is aimed at reclaiming every public space under the control of the bandits, arrest and bring to book all perpetrators of violence in the area and their collaborators, achieve a total destruction of all criminal camps and hideouts, mop up all illicit weapons fuelling the violence and attain a full restoration of law and order in the affected communities.
“Our commitment at protecting the sanctity of life and property is irrevocable, and we will not scale down the pressure on the bandits until they are totally flushed out.
“Meanwhile, in the face of intelligence report that has clearly established a strong and glaring nexus between the activities of bandits and illicit miners – with both mutually re-enforcing each other – the Federal Government of Nigeria has directed as follows:
“Mining activities in Zamfara and other affected states are hereby suspended with immediate effect. Consequently, any mining operator who engages in mining activities in the affected locations henceforth will have his licence revoked.
“All foreigners operating in the mining fields should close and leave within 48 hours. I want to assure the general public, especially in the affected areas, that the security services are doing their best to address the situation.
“May I appeal for the cooperation of the local communities, especially the traditional and religious leaders within the community.”
The IG also said that some persons used the social media to spread what he called “fake news” on the security situation in Zamfara State.
He appealed to such persons to verify their information before passing it to the public.
Stop politicising Zamfara killings, says Buhari
Meanwhile, Buhari again said that his administration was determined to crush the bandits killing innocent citizens in Zamfara State, adding that it was ridiculous for anybody to say that he was unmoved by the killings.
He also appealed to some people whom he accused of politicising the killings to stop doing so.
In a series of tweets on his verified twitter handle, @MBuhari, in the early hours of Sunday, Buhari explained that the security deployment would also cover Katsina State, the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway and Niger State, where kidnappings had lately become a daily nightmare.
“Let me again offer our deepest condolences to all the victims and their families and loved ones. We feel your pains, and there is nothing more important to me at this time than ensuring that these bandits and criminals are completely neutralised,” one of the tweets read.
In another one, he wrote, “We are fully determined to tackle this challenge ferociously until these remorseless killers are crushed and utterly defeated. We have deployed security agents to all the areas currently under attack, and we are constantly fine-tuning and escalating our security strategy.”
Buhari tweeted, “It is ridiculous and unfair to suggest that I am not concerned about the situation in Zamfara or doing anything about it. Ensuring the protection of the people of Nigeria is one of my primary responsibilities and functions. No other issue dominates my attention as much.
“I want to appeal to Nigerians that we should not politicise this tragic situation in Zamfara. How can I be indifferent to the senseless killing and kidnapping of my fellow citizens by bandits and the deep trauma and impoverishment that these attacks inflict on them?
“Operation Sharan Daji and the newly-launched Operation Puff Adder are focused on Zamfara, Kaduna (including the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway), Katsina, Kogi, and Niger states. These are all multi-agency operations, bringing together the military, police, the DSS, and others.
“I am constantly in touch with the security chiefs, and receive regular briefings on the situation in Zamfara and across the country. Let me assure Nigerians that we will continue to do everything to motivate and equip them to respond effectively to all our security challenges.”
Rejig security architecture, nobody is politicising killings, PDP tells Buhari
However, the PDP urged President Buhari to face his job and stop looking for excuses for his errors.
The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the President should act as a father to the entire nation.
He said, “We will rather call on the President to act like the father of the nation and take decisive action, instead of looking for excuses that are not there.
“Nigerians will recall that the All Progressives Congress and the President came into power by politicising the killings in the North-East zone of the country in 2014 and 2015.
“Instead of joining the country then to look for ways of looking for solutions to the killings, the APC and the President feasted on it.
“As you can see, no one has spoken or politicised the killings in Zamfara. But because the President did the same before, he feared that opposition parties would do the same.
“We are all appealing to the President to sit up, rejig his security architecture and find lasting solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country and the citizens.
“If the President is finding the job too difficult to do, he should call for help or quit. We are tired of burying our children, wives and brothers. Our women should stop being made widows at young age.”
Marafa, Sani carpet Yari over use of charmers to curb banditry
Meanwhile, the senator representing Zamfara Central in the Senate, Kabir Marafa, and his colleague from Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, on Sunday faulted the recruitment of charmers to arrest the bandits ravaging Zamfara.
The Zamfara State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy, Bello Dankande, had on Wednesday at a security meeting with traditional rulers and local government council chairmen, said the state would employ 1,700 charmers, who would work with the civilian joint task force to tackle the bandits.
But the two senators, who spoke with one of our correspondents in separate telephone interviews, condemned Governor Abdulaziz Yari for resorting to the use of charmers when billions of naira was being spent on the military and security agencies in the country.
Marafa said, “I don’t believe in whatever Yari is doing on this security situation in Zamfara State. The governor is not serious. He is part of the problems we are having in Zamfara State.
“I have even on the floor of the Senate; accused his government of complicity in the crisis. Up till today, nobody has come out to dispute what I said. People thought I was playing politics while I was drawing the attention of Nigerians to the insecurity situation in Zamfara State but everybody has now realised that I was saying the reality.
“This man (Yari) is only interested in retaining power in Zamfara and he is ready to sacrifice anything and anybody to achieve his purpose. He had spent billions of naira to perpetuate himself in power.”
The senator also ruled out the use of state of emergency to address the situation, claiming that the arrangement would still retain Yari as the head of government in the state.
Sani, in his reaction, described Yari’s plan to recruit charmers as ridiculous, stressing that the development had exposed the inability of the federal and state governments to tackle insecurity in the country.
He said, “It is unbecoming of a state that practises Sharia to resort to sorcery and charms in an attempt to protect its people.
“The northern political elite by their hypocrisy have contributed tremendously to the insecurity situation in Zamfara, Kaduna and other states because they have all along been playing the roles of sycophants by refusing to tell the government the truth. They have instead resort to playing up the ethnic and religious cards.”
Rather than impose a state of emergency on the state, Sani advised the Federal Government to equip the military and other security agencies on different operations in the state with modern gadgets and technology.
Security overhaul necessary to stop killings – MBF
On his part, the President, Middle Belt Forum, Dr Pogu Bitrus, said an overhaul of the nation’s security architecture was necessary to address the situation.
He said, “The current security architecture structure is not effective. Our policemen and soldiers are just standing waiting for the bandits to attack before they respond; we cannot solve the problem that way.
“If they (states and Federal Government) had done enough, the problem would have been solved, certainly they have not done enough. The security architecture must be reviewed and overhauled, they have to beef it up.”
We killed 30 bandits in Zamfara, says NAF
Meanwhile, the Alpha Jet of the Nigerian Air Force has conducted air strikes on bandits’ bases in the Ajia and Wonaka communities in the Birnin Magaji Local Government Area of Zamfara State, killing about 30 of the hoodlums.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, who confirmed the operation on Sunday, said some bandits fled to the neighbouring Wonaka community, where they were taken out in subsequent air strikes.
Daramola said, “The Air Task Force for Operation Diran Mikiya has destroyed a bandits’ logistic base at Ajia and neutralised dozens of them at the Ajia and Wonaka areas. The ATF dispatched a NAF Alpha Jet scoring accurate strikes on the targets.
“Few survivors were seen fleeing the vicinity of the target area and they were taken out in follow-up attacks. Others, who managed to escape the area, were traced to Wonaka and were neutralised. Human intelligence sources subsequently confirmed that more than 25 bandits were neutralised in the attacks on the two locations.
“The air force is working in close coordination with sister services and other security agencies to sustain its operations to neutralise the bandits and deny them freedom of action in the North-West.”
Bandits attack wedding guests, kill two policemen, others
But in a related development, bandits on Saturday attacked the Katangi District in the Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State and killed two policemen. The Katangi District is a border community between Kaduna and Niger states.
PRNigeria reported that the bandits, who rode on motorcycles, descended on the village on Saturday at about 5pm, kidnapped and injured residents before setting their houses on fire.
The spokesman for the state Command, DSP Yakubu Sabo, who confirmed the attack, said the police killed three bandits, adding that six civilians were injured while the remaining bandits escaped into the bush with bullet wounds. He said two policemen were killed during the attack.
Those injured, Sabo said, were taken to the hospital for medical attention. Several houses in the village, the spokesman added, were razed during the attack.
The Chairman of the Birnin-Gwari Vanguards for Security and Good Governance, Ibrahim Maigwari, stated that most of those affected were attending a wedding at the palace of the district head when they were attacked.
He added that a police patrol van and shops were burnt before the attackers escaped into the forest.
Although he did not specify the number of those killed, Maigwari in a statement, said, “Several sources said many people were feared dead including high-profile indigenes of Kakangi that were attending a mass wedding.”
Maigwari gave the names of the villages attacked in the Katangi district to include, Katakaki, Dakwaro, Burji, Gan, Mashidi, Farno, Ungwar Maiyara and Biski.