The military had been reluctant in fully engaging bandits in the Northwest because of the fear of being dragged before the International Court of Justice, ICC.
The Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai stated this on Thursday when he featured on the weekly ministerial press briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the presidential villa, Abuja.
Nasir el-Rufai said while he had campaigned for the bandits to be classified as terrorists, there were some pushbacks on the ground that they do not have a recognized leadership structure.
The governor however, expressed delight over the court ruling, which recently declared the bandits as terrorists and therefore made them “a fair game.”
According to him, to deal with the criminality permanently, there must be simultaneous ground and air attacks in all the states hosting the criminals to prevent them from escaping.
The Kaduna state governor said the locations of the terrorists are known, adding that they must be wiped out at once rather than the present piecemeal approach if the problem must be solved.
He said the Fulanis who are involved in the criminality will never abandon the business on their own because they make far more money from it than they would have made from legitimate cattle business.
The governor affirmed that kidnapping and terrorism had since become business but with the added element of collaborating with Boko Haram even as he said the effort to tackle the menace had been uncoordinated.
According to him, some state governors had the impression that negotiating with the criminals would end the problem but later realized that it was a mistake.
He revealed that northwest state governments began a process of cooperation and co-financing the military operation against cattle rustling.
The governor regretted that the operation was not sustained because some of them backed out after some success was recorded only for kidnapping to take over.
On the statistics of the victims of the criminality in the area, he said in the reported cases, 937 were killed and 1,972 kidnapped by bandits in the state in 2020, while a total of 1,192 killed and 3,348 kidnapped in 2021, which he said suggested a deterioration in the situation.
He further regretted the challenge of lack of capacity of Nigeria’s security agencies in terms of adequate personnel and equipment, stressing the need to recruit more hands and procure sufficient equipment.
Mallam el-Rufai said, “I am persuaded that the insurgency in the northwest is far more serious than Boko Haram both in terms of the numbers of the people affected. I have shown you the numbers in Kaduna. I can assure you that the numbers on Zamfara, and Katsina are up to three times this if they are keeping taps. The numbers in Sokoto, Niger, and Kebbi will be about this.
“We are talking of tens of thousands of people getting killed, getting kidnapped. It is far more serious than Boko Haram. The only thing is that these guys don’t occupy territory, they are in the forest and ungoverned spaces. So, they do not attract the kind of single minded attention that Boko Haram does. And because Boko Haram’s ideology is religious, intentionally religious, it elicits more passion but really, this is a far more serious problem.
“Because, this is a situation largely in which people of about the same ethnicity, same religion are killing each other, stealing each other’s property. Creating an industry out of criminality. It’s very, very serious and it requires single minded attention.
“Yes, we know where these bandits are, we have the maps. But somebody has to go in and kill them. I can’t do that. If that somebody doesn’t have enough men, doesn’t have enough fire power, doesn’t have technology, no one is going to commit suicide. This is why under this administration, Nigeria’s governors forum collaborated with the federal government to take money from the excess crude account to buy super Tocano jets and other armaments to strengthen our Defence system.”