Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, was at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on efforts to stem insecurity in the State, and vowed not to negotiate with the bandits terrorising the people.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after his closed down meeting with Buhari, the Governor said “recently, we have been experiencing influx of bandits from neighbouring states and even though our security agencies are doing their best, I found it necessarily to update Mr. President on the situation. “So we had a very fruitful discussion and also pledged more support to the state on security matters so that either the shortest possible time we will address the security situation.
“We also discussed the issue of infrastructure in Niger State. At the moment, 80 percent of or more of traffic from the South passes through Niger State especially through Minna, the state capital.
“Over time we have witnessed some of our culverts, bridges and roads have been seriously destroyed because of the weight of trucks. So we try to encourage truckers to carry a maximum of 30 tons or 32 tons that should be able to keep our roads functioning for sometime.”
On the situation is in Niger state at the moment, Governor Bello stressed that “the situation is very bad. Niger is 73,000 square kilometers, it’s the size of the entire South-South or Southeast. So, first of all we have limited number of security personnel and I think we have to start thinking of increasing the numbers so that we are able to cover most of the local government within the state.
“Some of our local governments are up to 6,000 to 7,000 square kilometers one local government. For example, the Bobi grazing reserve which is a Programme between state government, CBN and the federal government, where we encourage herders to move their cattle so as to stop the movement of cattle from one area to the other so as to avoid herders/farmers conflict has become a target. Because, that is the only location where you can find in one constituency 5,000 to 6,000 herds of cows.
“So most of the bandits have started focusing their attention on the Bobi grazing reserve.
“But we are having influx of bandits from neigbouring states especially Zamfara and Kaduna states. It is difficult to patrol those areas because vehicles do not go there and there deep in the forest.
“Again, our border with Benin Republic, this is new. We recently started experiencing influx of bandits from Benin Republic border, we never use to experience that before. They find the national park very attractive.
“The national park alone is 5,000 square kilometers, so is a good call for bandits. Like I said, with limited resources we are doing the little we can to see that we secure lives and property. We have lost a few people, we still have people being kidnapped even today we have not less than 30 people that have been kidnapped but most times we are able to rescue them.
“I believe there is great value in working with the federal authorities in addressing this security challenges.
Asked if he is considering negotiating with the bandits, the Governor categorically said no, adding that bandits are not persons who can keep their words.
“To be honest, even when the process of negotiation was being advised, I recommended or agree to it. I have attended one meeting where the bandits were there and I cannot imagine myself as a state governor and chief security officer of a state, sitting down and negotiating with bandits.
“They have never been honest in their talks even when they were given the opportunity they failed to keep the agreement. And whenever they will surrender their arms and they don’t ask anything in return, then you can tell it is not an honest negotiation. Because, someone that is used to carrying arms to go and rob is now telling you he will drop his arms without asking for anything in return, I don’t think there is any sincerity in that.
“So, I have never subscribed to that negotiation. In any case, the bandits are mostly Fulanis that have no one to control them even their parents cannot control them. We call them bandits but these are common criminals, they are armed robbers.
“I don’t see how someone who is used to robbing at gone point or killing, will say let’s go to negotiating table, I will drop my arms, I will just move on with my life without asking for some kind of support as an alternative to their activities.
“I tried it once reluctantly it never worked, so I don’t think … (I will do it again)…. unless I see some evidence of sincerity but I am really not in such negotiations”, he said.