Niger stakeholders cry out: We’ve lost 500 lives to banditry, paid N200m ransom

Niger stakeholders have raised the alarm over the rising wave of insecurity threatening the peace of the state, saying the menace was taking its toll on the people’s lives and disrupting their economic activities.

In specific terms, they said over 500 people  had so far been killed by the bandits in 320 communities, while not less than N200million was paid as ransom at different times to secure the release of the abductees from their captors since the hoodlums stormed the state  in the last three months .

Besides, the stakeholders also said not less than nine local government areas had come under the bandits’ siege with tales of on its trail.    

The positions were made Tuesday by Shiroro Progressives Forum (SPF), an umbrella body for youths in Shiroro local government of the state and the Coalition of Public Interest Group (CPIG).

Addressing journalists in Minna at a joint news conference, President of the forum, Mr. Bello Ibrahim and Convener of the group, Mr. Mohammed Saidu Etsu said the state was yet to feel the impact of any intervention from the military since the hoodlums invaded the state.

Expressing worry over the security situation in the state, Mr. Ibrahim said the bandits had sustained attacks on several communities spreading across nine local governments of the state on daily basis, with little resistance from security agencies.

 He lamented that the recent order by President Mohammadu Buhari to the military to commence air raid in the areas under the bandits’ siege was yet to be effected three weeks after the presidential directive.

 Ibrahim said: “Military operations have not been seen in action in the area. We only saw helicopters hovering over our heads and this is laughable. We all know where these criminals are and everybody know that the bandits are camping in Alawa game reserve. The helicopter hovers around with no effect, no single bomb has been dropped. The military always say they did not see the bandits.

  “The situation is bad. It started from Alawa, a political ward in Shiroro local government and like a child play, virtually all the wards in Lampan development area of the local government have come under attacks of the bandits. As we speak, women have been raped, several people kidnapped, thousands of cattle rustled and farms destroyed.”

While claiming over 500 people had been killed since the banditry broke out in the state, he said: “We have the records that show that over N200million have been paid as ransom by some of our people to release persons kidnapped by the bandits.”

 While giving an update on the Gurumana attack which occurred few days ago, Ibrahim explained that the death toll had risen to four vigilantes while the injured ones, numbering 15, were receiving treatment at undisclosed hospitals.

 Also speaking, Convener CPIGP Etsu said: “As we are speaking, more than nine local governments in the state have been ravaged by the bandits and kidnappers who killed, raped and abduct on daily basis, while many communities have been sacked.”

 He listed the affected local governments to include Rafi, Munya, Paikoro, Shiroro, Mashegu, Tafa, Mariga, Lapai and Gurara.

 Call for northern security summit

Meanwhile, the Northern Coalition for Peace and Development (NCPD) Tuesday urged President Buhari to convene northern security summit with traditional rulers, religious leaders and critical stakeholders to proffer solution to security challenges facing the region.  

 Rising from its stakeholders’ meeting in Kaduna, the group lashed at those calling for the sack of security chiefs, saying they wanted the heads of security replaced with their stooges who they can manipulate.

They, however, called on the president to try the approach applied by Zamfara state government to address the nation’s worsening insecurity.

 These positions were contained in a communiqué read in Kaduna by National Secretary of the NCPD, Comrade Attahiru Adamu.

Describing security as everybody’s business, they said there was the need for all Nigerian citizens and residents to come together and address the insecurity retarding the development of the country, rather than politicise it. 

 “Majority of those calling for the sack of service chiefs are not sincere as they failed to offer reasonable alternative before now to Mr. President on how to tackle issues of security. They are only seeking the dismissal of the security chiefs in order to see the appointment of those they can push around to do their bidding at the expense of collective interest.

“Politicising the issue of national security by some group of do-no-good among our political elite is much dangerous. There is urgent need for all Nigerians to unite and support the efforts of both the federal and state governments towards fighting insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery among others within the corridor of their homes to bring a lasting peace and cohesion among us.

 “A typical example is the initiative done and change of narratives by the personal and official efforts of Zamfara state Governor, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, which has made the state safer than it was during past administration. Within few months in office, he brought all his colleagues together in Sokoto, Katsina to accept road map of entering accord with bandits in exchange for peace to their states.

 “We commend and pass vote of confidence on our service chiefs, the Inspector General of Police, National Security Adviser, Director General, Department of State Security toward their renewed efforts and assurance of combating menace of insecurity in our region and nation in general.

 “Suffice to state that, with commitment, support and goodwill, this issue of banditry, kidnapping and other crimes in our region can be reduced and eradicated completely,” they said.

 The group further called on Mr. President to arrest and prosecute those allegedly hiding under the umbrella of  the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to sponsor thuggery, incitement and mischief against the issue of national security, no matter how highly placed.

They said:  “These include those undermining the security of their states by hiring thugs or intimidating others with nefarious activities of rallies, political gathering, use of religious groups through uncultured language to foment trouble in order to achieve political sympathy.

 “It is with dismay and concern over reports of certain group of politicians in the North who are becoming so desperate on their motives of creating tension, political intolerance, crisis and use of thuggery in their states to score some cheap political goals with some governors after failing election or losing grip of power in their states. Such is happening in Sokoto, Zamfara and Bauchi states.” 

Efforts by Blueprint to speak to the Chief Press Secretary to the Niger state Governor, Mrs. Mary Noel Berje were unsuccessful as she neither picked our reporter’s call nor replied the text message sent to her GSM line.

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