President Muhammadu Buhari says he is quite surprised by the prevailing level of terrorism, banditry and insecurity in the North and other parts of the country.
ExpessDay learnt that he spoke on Tuesday when the Eminent and Respected Citizens of Niger State, led by the Governor, Sani Bello, met him behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja during a courtesy visit.
Buhari pledged though, that “harder times’’ await bandits whose disruptive activities have heightened insecurity, brought sorrow to Nigerians, and kept many away from their means of livelihood.
“I was taken aback by what is happening in the Northwest and other parts of the country. During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising. It is not ethnicity or religion, rather it is one evil plan against the country.
“We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security. If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly”, he said.
He further noted that the onslaught of the bandits had also affected agricultural output in some parts of the country, in spite of the favourable weather for farming, because many farmers were attacked, and others had to stay away for safety.
The President said the poverty level in the country will be significantly controlled by diversifying into agriculture, instead of the heavy reliance on oil, urging more Nigerians to take up agriculture.
He enthused that the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Chad Basin, Benue trough and Bida, and some parts of Bauchi and Gombe, will further bolster current efforts to strengthen the Nigerian economy.
The Eminent citizens had in their presentation urged Buhari to look for a holistic approach to tackle insecurity in the country, as the security architecture was becoming ineffective.
They also pleaded with the President to come to the aid of the State on road infrastructure, raising the alarm that the Federal roads in the State linking the South to the North have collapsed.
Speaking for the group, the former governor of Niger State, Aliyu Babangida, said activities of bandits had rendered many homeless, while others could no longer go the farms, thanking the President for taking a more decisive action by directing aerial protection by the military.
Babangida called on the President to intervene in completion of some federal roads, like the Mokwa-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road, Kotongora road, and he also asked for more attention on the Minna airport, which should complement access to the FCT.
In his remarks, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, assured the President of continuous support, praying: “May God give you strength and wisdom to handle the affairs of our great country, Nigeria.’’
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, a member of the delegation and Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said that said that one of the new challenges in the state was the renewed banditry attacks.
Sabi declared that that there was a need to restructure the security architecture in line with new challenges, as the nation’s security architecture had collapsed.