Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan Ali on Tuesday warned those collaborating with bandits to desist of face the full wrath of the law.
Relying on security reports, the minister said some highly placed persons, including traditional rulers, had been collaborating with troublemakers.
In a statement issued in Abuja by his Public Relations Officer (PRO), Col. Tukur Gusau, the minister said the Federal Government and the Nigerian Armed Forces had taken proactive steps to curtail the problems in Zamfara by launching various operations, but the activities of the collaborators have been frustrating the efforts.
He lamented that those profiting from the situation have been providing information to the bandits and other criminal elements within the Northwest zone to escape the onslaught of the various military operations and strategies.
Gen. Dan Ali maintained that the government would not shy away from its responsibility of making the country safe and secure, warning that those compromising military operations would be made to pay for their crimes legally.
The minister said: “The Ministry of Defence is very concerned about the security challenges in the Northwest, particularly, in states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Birnin-Gwari axis of Kaduna. Due to the recent prevailing security situation in the states, the Defence ministry, through the Nigerian Army, is now conducting Exercise HARBIN KUNAMA IV simultaneously in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states.
“The purpose of the exercise is to effectively flush out the activities of criminal elements in the Northest. The Nigerian Air Force has also intensified air strikes against the bandits in Zamfara. So far, the combined efforts have yielded lot of successes, leading to the killing of many bandits, rescue of many innocent persons, including the renowned Islamic scholar Sheik Ahmad Suleiman.
“The government is also addressing the remote and immediate causes that gave room to high spate of armed banditry in the states. Recently, the government acted on the advice of the Ministry of Defence to suspend all mining activities in Zamfara State and environs following intelligence report that suggest close collaboration between the activities of the bandits and illegal miners.
“It is instructive to mention here that insurgency and terrorism are global phenomena that cannot be addressed through military actions only. The whole society has to rise in unison to support the government’s efforts to address the problem.
“However, in spite of the concerted efforts of the Armed Forces and other security, some unpatriotic persons, including highly placed traditional rulers in the areas, were identified as helping the bandits with intelligence to perpetuate their nefarious actions or to compromise military operations.
“In the last three years, the Ministry of Defence had carried out several reforms geared towards the reorganisation and expansion of the Armed Forces in order to meet up with contemporary security challenges across the nation and the sub region.
“In line with this, the Nigerian Army established 8 Division with headquarters in Sokoto to cover Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states while the Headquarters of 1 Brigade was relocated from Sokoto to Gusau.
“Presently, the tactical headquarters of 8 Division has since located to Gusau. Similarly, the Nigerian Air Force also established Quick Response Force in Gusau and landing areas in Gusau and Birnin Magaji, respectively.
“The Ministry of Defence, therefore, wish to warn any person or group of persons who choose to connive or sympathises with the bandits to perpetuate crime against the law abiding citizens to henceforth retract their steps or face the full wrath of the law.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria have been directed to deal decisively with anybody identified helping the bandits under whatever guise, no matter how highly placed the person or persons may be.
“The Ministry of Defence wants to, once again, use this medium to assure Nigerians that the Armed Forces of Nigeria, in conjunction with other security agencies, will continue to protect lives and properties of law abiding citizens of this country. The general public is also requested to cooperate with the Armed Forces to discharge of its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”