The federal government has begun a special operation code-named Puff Adder to flush out bandits in Zamfara state, Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mr Mr Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, said on Sunday.
Addressing State House correspondents in Abuja after a close-door meeting with service chiefs and heads of security agencies, the IGP said all mining activities in the state are suspended to ensure smooth security operations.
He said all miners, especially the Chinese, should vacate mining sites in the state within 48 hours, stressing that anybody found in the area would dealt with decisively.
He said the suspension of mining activities was indefinite because intelligent reports have substantiated a link between mining activities and the deadly banditry in Zamfara and neighbouring states leading to kidnappings, killings and sacking of villages and communities in the state.
He said: “As part of sustained efforts to flush out, and permanently put an end to armed 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 fueling 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 armed 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 armed 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. We 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. Meanwhile, we note the use of social media to spread fake news, falsehood and deliberate misinformation. We therefore urge our citizens to exercise restraint in circulating unconfirmed information capable of doing more damage to us all. Let us not allow the social media to hijack our sense of judgment and capture our minds negatively.”
The IGP, who briefed journalists alongside the Director General of State Security Service (SSS) Mr Yusuf Magaji Bichi and the Director General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, said the Joint Taskforce has been ordered to reclaim territories from the bandits and bring them to book while destroying their bases and arsenal.
He also cautioned the public against spreading false information about the situation in Zamfara on social media.
The meeting was held at the office of Chief of Staff to the President Mr Abba Kyari and had in attendance the Chief of Defence Staff General Gabriel Olonisakin, among others.