Solomon Odeniyi with Agency report
Residents of at least 23 local government areas in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi states are battling to survive as kidnappers, cattle rustlers and bandits make life difficult for them.
A check by the News Agency of Nigeria indicates that residents of the affected areas have been forced to migrate, enter into an agreement with the criminals or live a life of uncertainty.
In Sokoto State, residents said local government areas worst affected are Isa, Sabon Birni, Gwadabawa, Illela, Tangaza and Goronyo.
NAN gathered that residents had been forced to abandon their farms, while some villages had been deserted across the affected LGAs.
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ahmed Aliyu, Mallam Abubakar Bawa, said the state government was aware of the enormity of the situation.
Bawa said, “We are giving priority to ensuring a safe environment.
“Addressing security challenges has remained top on our administration’s nine-point agenda.
“Our target as a government is to ensure that citizens sleep with their two eyes closed and continue to live and relate peacefully with one another.”
Bawa said the Nigerian Army, police and other security agencies had been sustaining efforts to secure the areas.
Also, the spokesman for the Sokoto State Police Command, ASP Ahmad Rufai, said the Commissioner of Police, Ali Kaigama, had been engaging residents to facilitate the flow of actionable information to address banditry and other criminalities.
The police spokesman said local governments in the eastern parts of Sokoto State were mostly affected by the security challenges.
In Zamfara State, a civil society activist, Faruk Shehu, said many communities in the 14 LGAs of the state have been displaced, with residents of Maru, Anka, Shinkafi, Maradun, Zurmi, Gusau and Bungudu LGAs worst affected.
Shehu said previous attempts at dialogue with the bandits had failed, resulting in the escalation of the security challenges in the state.
“The security challenges in the state started as cattle rustling and later transformed into banditry and kidnapping,” Shehu said.
He expressed the hope that the ongoing engagement started by Governor Dauda Lawal with the military and other security agencies would lead to an escalation of attacks on the bandits to secure the areas they have dominated.
The Secretary to the State Government, Mallam Abubakar Nakwada, said the government would never dialogue with the bandits as done by previous administrations but would rather support security agencies to bring the criminals to their knees.
The situation in Kebbi State has already claimed the lives of at least 2,500 people between 2019 and 2023, according to Bamaiyi An’iko, the Secretary of Zuru Development Foundation.
An’iko said the 2,500 people were killed in Danko, Wasagu, Fakai, Sakaba and Zuru LGAs, all under Zuru Emirate.
He said bandits have been attacking and displacing rural communities in the emirate, adding that some communities around Bena, Danko, Wasagu had come under siege or total control of the bandits.
“Some communities had to sign an agreement with the bandits,” the foundation’s secretary said, adding that, “There are a lot of Internally Displaced Persons requiring urgent provision of relief materials, including food and toiletries, clothes and mats.”
He urged the state government and other agencies not to relent in providing relief assistance to the IDPs.
The state Deputy Governor, Senator Umar Tafida, said the government was determined to end the security challenges and would continue to provide support for victims of bandits’ attacks who have been forced to leave their homes.
He said, “The state government, under the leadership of Dr. Nasir Idris, will leave no stone unturned in making sure that banditry comes to an end in the state.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ahmad Idris, said, “The government is doing its best to ensure that the situation is fully tackled.”
The Director, Defence Media Operation, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, admitted that insecurity is widespread in the North-West region.
He added that the military had deployed troops to various locations in the region to address the scourge.
Buba said, “The issue of insecurity is quite widespread in North-West of the country. It is for this reason troops are strategically deployed to address the situation through Joint Task Force Operation Hadrin Daji; and Operation Whirl Punch, both of which are in the North-West.
“Periodic reports that have been made available to the media have indicated incremental improvements in the security situation as a result of these operations.”