Bandits in North are from Mali, Sudan; hired through social media —Gov Sani Bello
The Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani-Bello, has revealed that the bandits operating in the Northern parts of Nigeria were recruited from Mali and Sudan, both West African countries.
Governor Sani-Bello made revelation on Wednesday during a media chat with reporters at the State House after meeting with the President.
He further revealed that the bandits were recruited through the social media – especially Facebook and came into the country on motorcycles.
The governor, who noted that his state, Niger is one of the states in the North where banditry and kidnapping are rampant, said the attackers came from neigbouring Zamfara and Kaduna states.
He said: “The situation is very bad. Niger is 73,000 square kilometers. It’s the size of the entire Southsouth and Southeast (put together). So, first of all, we have limited number of security personnel and I think we have to start thinking of increasing the number 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.
“For example, the Bobi Grazing Reserve, established by the state government, the CBN and the Federal Government to stop the movement of cattle and avoid herders/farmers conflict, has become a target.
“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.
“Because we have investors that have started investing in capital, equipment and processing facilities. We do not want to discourage them.
“So, we applied most of our resources and efforts towards protecting the 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 it is a forest, which means we will need the federal might, especially the Air Force.
“By the way, the Air Force has been doing a extremely well in recent times to support our ground operations.
“In one particular case, we arrested bandits that are foreigners from as far as Sudan and Mali and they came on motor cycles.
“They are being recruited through social media, through Facebook in some cases. They confessed to this.
“They governor said the activities of bandits differ from place to place. Some are cattle rustlers. Some believe they are fighting some kind of jihadist activity.
“Some believe they are fighting corruption. They see any uniformed person, political office holders as corrupt.
“We have a major problem and it must stop.”
Speaking further, he added: “The dynamics of the criminal activities have changed. They started with armed robbery. Then, they moved to cattle rustling and then, to kidnapping as a means of getting money.
“But recently, the trend has changed. They started burning farms and animals. So, this has given me some concerns and at the same time, it has kept me thinking. What is the motive?
“I can understand if you kidnap, you are looking for money. But, when you burn farms, then, there is something else happening. Or when you kill animals. They go to villages and kill animals. They don’t steal.
“So, if you stop people from going to farms, it means you are trying to deprive that nation of food security. Why will someone want to deprive people of food security?”
Sani Bello also commented on the capacity of Niger State to feed the entire country as producers of lots of rice and maize but has been handicapped by the activities of herdsmen and bandits.