The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), says “harder times’’ await bandits whose disruptive activities have brought sorrow to Nigerians, kept many away from their means of livelihood, and heightened insecurity in parts of the country.
The President stated this when he received a delegation of Eminent and Respected Citizens of Niger State led by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello in the State House, Abuja, on Tuesday.
The retired general maintained that the activities of the bandits had forced many to abandon their farms and homes, adding, “we will now be harder on them."
In a statement released by his media aide, Femi Adesina, via his verified Facebook page, Buhari said, “I was taken aback by what is happening in the North West and other parts of the country. During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising.
“It is not ethnicity or religion, rather it is one evil plan against the country.
“We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security. If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly.’’
He said the onslaught of the bandits had also affected agricultural output in some parts of the country, in spite of the favourable weather for farming, because many farmers were attacked, and others had to stay away for safety.
The President said the poverty level in the country would be significantly controlled by diversifying into agriculture, instead of the heavy reliance on oil, urging more Nigerians to take up agriculture.
President Buhari said the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Chad Basin, Benue trough and Bida, and some parts of Bauchi and Gombe, would further bolster current efforts to strengthen the Nigerian economy.
He advised leaders in the Niger Delta to “counsel those who blow up pipelines, resulting in spillages that affect farming and farmlands’’, noting that the loss had always been collective, sometimes turning hard-working farmers to victims.
The Eminent and Respected persons said they needed to show appreciation to Buhari for his interventions on infrastructure, security, and appointment of indigenes of the state into key positions of government.
Speaking for the group, the former governor of Niger State, Aliyu Babangida, said activities of bandits had rendered many homeless, while others could no longer go the farms.
Babangida called on the President to intervene in the completion of some federal roads, like the Mokwa-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road and Kotongora road.
He also asked for more attention to the Minna airport, which should complement access to the FCT.
In his remarks, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, assured the President of continuous support, praying, “May God give you strength and wisdom to handle the affairs of our great country, Nigeria.’’