The Senator representing Sokoto East Senatorial District, Ibrahim Gobir, has raised the alarm that bandits dislodged from Zamfara State by the Nigerian military forces have relocated to his constituency where the criminals now communicate freely with their informants, using the telecommunications network of the Niger Republic.
Gobir, in an interview with our correspondent, said the development had worsened the security arrangement in all the local governments in Sokoto East especially due to the senatorial district’s proximity to the Niger Republic.
The lawmaker, who moved a motion that led to a Senate resolution designating bandits as terrorists, lamented that over 50,000 of his constituents were currently taking refuge in the Niger Republic while no fewer than 600,000 had been killed by the bandits.
He noted with concern that the situation worsened recently when the military launched an onslaught against the bandits in Zamfara and the criminals had to flee to save havens in Kaduna, Sokoto, Niger and Katsina states.
Gobit faulted the operational strategy adopted by the military and wondered why the onslaught was not launched simultaneously in all the states where the bandits could escape while feeling the impact of the military’s heavy attacks.
The Senate had on Wednesday, following Gobir’s motion, asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to declare bandits as terrorists in the country. The red chamber also asked the commander-in-chief of the Armed forces to wage a total war against the criminals including bombing all their locations to annihilate and eliminate them.
The Senate equally asked Buhari to declare all known leadership of the bandits wanted and track them wherever they were, for arrest and prosecution.
Gobir told our correspondent that the shutting down of telecommunications networks in Zamfara and other states was a good idea but noted that the action was becoming counterproductive in his own constituency.
The lawmaker lamented that Sokoto East Senatorial District had now become a haven for bandits, following a crackdown on them by the military in Zamfara State.
He said, “There is no section of Sokoto East Senatorial District that has not been attacked in one way or the other. It is becoming a real problem. Most of our areas are very close to the Niger Republic.
“With the shutting down of telecommunications networks to prevent communication between the bandits and their informants, we have discovered that the bandits are now using the telecommunications network of the Niger Republic so that they can be communicating.
“That is why they decided to relocate to my constituency. So, they now use the services of the Niger Republic and they have been speaking to one another and their informants.
“Our people in the area are also taking the advantage of the services of the communication network of the Niger Republic to speak among themselves.
“Before the crisis escalated, our people usually called the Army with the network of Nigerian service providers until they were shut down.
“Now there is nothing like that and this is part of the problems we have. The major problem we have is the lack of coordination because when you are going for a military onslaught, you need to consider all the frontline areas like Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states.
“The military should have carried out operations in all these areas simultaneously so that bandits cannot escape from either of the five states to another.
“Unfortunately, the bandits are running away from states where there is a heavy military presence to areas that are safe for them.
“There must be synergy among the security agencies. The bandits are now terrorists and they can be bombed anywhere.
“Despite the situation, however, I am not going to call for the restoration of the network because the shutdown was done for a purpose which is to prevent contacts with bandits. “The best approach is to embark on simultaneous onslaught.
“The military should start the type of operations that would make them visible in all the frontline states.
“I have never seen a situation like this in my life when someone would enter a village and start killing people and take away vulnerable ones for ransom. There are many towns that had been deserted completely due to the constant bandit attacks.”
Gobir advocated a situation whereby residents would bear arms to protect themselves if the military were already overwhelmed.
He said, “It will be chaotic if people are forced to own and carry sophisticated guns for their protection and self-defence but if the situation calls for it, so be it.
“The only difference between our people and the bandits is the Ak-47 guns the criminals are carrying.
“If I have my gun, you can’t come to me. It is either the government protect the people or the people protect themselves.
“Most of our people are now fleeing to Niger Republic. We have over 50,000 people now in Niger Republic.
“Why should that be when we have resources to save our people? Our people are still fleeing to the Niger Republic and we sometimes get help from the Nigerien Army.
“We don’t have enough military personnel and deployment of sophisticated equipment to sight the bandits at a far distance.
“I sympathise with the Nigerian Army because they are losing personnel to bandits attacks.”
Gobir assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would still declare bandits as terrorists but that it might take time because of the usual bureaucracy.
He said, “FG usually do whatever we ask them to do. It might be a difficult thing to declare them as terrorists but by all standards, and meanings, they are terrorists and they need to be treated as such.
“They deserve to die. All the known sponsors of bandits should also receive the same treatment.”