The ongoing Operation Puff Adder initiative of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is yielding the desired results as the force Thursday arrested 93 suspected kidnappers, across Kaduna, Niger and Katsina states.
The suspects are believed to be masterminds of the spate of kidnapping along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway.
Operation Puff Adder was launched by Acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu as a response to the spate of kidnapping and armed banditry in some parts of the country, particularly in the North.
Addressing journalists at the Katari Police Division, Kaduna, Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO) DCP Frank Mba said a rocket launcher; 35 AK 47 riffles; 12 locally made guns; 21dane guns: foreign revolvers and pistols; as well as over 500 live ammunitions were recovered from the suspects.
He said, also recovered from the suspects arrested in different locations, including Katari Forest; Niger state axis and as far as Katsina state, were two operational vehicles, army camouflage, machete and daggers as well as $60,000 fake dollars.
Mba said the sophistication of weapons recovered from the kidnappers, stating that it was an indication of their desperation.
The FPRO said the force was determined to break them, bring them to book and bring the reign of terror to an end.
Speaking further, the police image maker said the successes recorded were as a result of collaborative efforts of the Special Tactical Team (STS); IGP Rapid Response Team (IRT); Police Mobile Force (PMF); Special Protection Unit (SPU); and other technical intelligence units in Zone 7 Command among others.
He said the operation was largely aimed at tackling kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry, saying the successes recorded so far were huge.
Mba also said the Abuja-Kaduna Highway had become passable with thousands and hundreds of people using the route on daily basis since the operation started, with almost zero incident of crime.
“The suspects were arrested from Katari Forest, Niger axis and some were pursued to as far as Katsina state. We are determined to descend very hard on criminals.
“We recovered 35 AK 47 rifles, 12 locally made guns, a revolver pistol, 60,000 fake US dollars, military uniforms and a foreign made pistol. Few days ago, the IG rolled out new counter kidnapping strategy, to also help us curtail criminality in Nigeria,” Mba said.
While commending communities on the axis, he urged them to continue supporting the police with intelligence information.
One of the suspects, who identified himself as Shuaibu Sabi, confessed to being a kidnapper and said his gang had kidnapped two people and collected N800,000 and N1million ransoms respectively, while he got N40,000 and N50,000 as his own share of the loot.
Also, one of those arrested alongside the suspects, Salisu Abubakar, who claimed to be a cleric, said he was aware his clients belonged to criminal gangs, but that he only supported them with ‘good luck charm.’
Speaking to journalists, President, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Alhaji Usemi Yusuf, said the situation was getting better with the efforts of the new IGP stating that for weeks now, there was not a single case of kidnapping as against what it was on daily basis in the past.
Kaduna CP assures
Meanwhile, Kaduna state Commissioner of Police Ali Janga has said farmers in Birnin Gwari and other volatile areas were now safe to return to their farms.
He said the new operations being conducted in synergy with all the commanders of various units had achieved tremendous success.
“Farmers who farm along Kaduna -Abuja Expressway, Birnin Gwari and other volatile areas can go back to their farms, it is now safe,” Janga said.
Reps decry low funding
In a related development, the House of Representatives Committee on Army has said the level of personnel and funding of the military was too low to confront the insurgents.
The committee said this Thursday when it visited Delta Company of the 251 Task Force Battalion- one of the frontlines military locations in Borno state.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Rimamnde Shawulu, said military officers in the frontlines were usually overstretched “giving the fact that they have to perform duties that are not directly military roles.”
He said: “The United Nations recommendation about personnel of the armed forces is ratio of 10 percent of the population. What we have in this country and here in the frontlines is much lower than what is required. This means that officers and soldiers here are overstretched most of the time; and given the fact that they have to perform roles that are not directly military.
“All hands must be on deck. For a country facing the type of security challenges such as ours, the level of personnel of the armed forces and other security agencies is too low to be comfortable.
“In the Niger Delta, and I also believe it also happening here too, commanders are engaged in peace building in communities. They resolve disputes in communities. This means they have a lot of work in their hands.
“We have seen the initiatives and efforts of the officers and soldiers are putting to securing the North-east and Maiduguri metropolis. We have seen that they have a lot of work in their hands, and the equipment they have now is lesser than what they require to do their job.
“We have recommended in the eight assembly that is already winding up that we must take the security of the country much more than we have. We need to increase personnel and resources of our armed forces; and more importantly we must ensure functionality of governments at the lower levels. When governments at the lower levels are functional, certain basic responsibilities such as conflict resolution at the community levels can be handled by them and not by military commanders that are deployed to keep peace.”
The committee had a meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Tukur Buratai and his commanders at the command and control centre of operation Lafiya Dole, where they were briefed by the military high command on the successes so far recorded in the fight against terrorism in the North-east and some of the challenges faced at the theater.
“I think it is good for the civil society group and critics of the activities of the armed forces in the North-east to visit the frontlines and see for themselves the challenges that our armed forces go through in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorists.
“We were at the military hospital and we discovered that acoustic trauma is one of the major problems of soldiers that have fought in the battle. People become deaf due to the sounds of the weapons they fired overtime,” Shawulu further said.
Theater Commander Major-General Benson Akinroluyo said the committee would be better informed about the challenges faced by troops in the frontlines, thus pushed for more funds for the military operations.
He said the lawmakers should find a way to “bring other governmental support rather than living the crisis for the military alone to solve.”