By Tom Oke
When recently, President Muhammadu Buhari summoned Service Chiefs and Heads of Security Agencies in the country over insecurity, it became glaring that insurgency, banditry and all sorts of criminalty tormenting the nation, military hard bombardment, has made it impossible for it’s usual operations.
It is however, common knowledge that terrorism in the Northeast, criminal and illegitimate industry of armed banditry in the northwest and North Central flanks of the country had existed for over three decades.
Fortunately, the ferocity with which it re-launched its murderous enterprise in recent months provoked the Armed Force of Nigeria and other security agencies to go all out against the sworn enemy of the people and the resultant effect dots the landscape of local and international media.
Like the proverbial stubborn fly that follows the corps to the grave or unwitty fellow that challenges his god to a fight, the misguided felons have unwittingly dared the nation’s military and other security apparatus and they are of course worse off for it.
There is hardly any day that passes by in the past six months or more that reports of killing, impounding of weapons and arrests of these misguided armed bandits does not occupy prime space in the nation’s newspapers, online publications, radio and television air waves, as well as security journals and periodicals.
Only recently, the military arrested two notorious armed bandits in Niger state suspected to have Sudanese ancestry, while killing several others during air interdiction operations in the state.
But notwithstanding, the difficulties unintentionally emplaced on state forces by international legal instrument governing armed conflict, which criminals do not adhere to, the Armed Force of Nigeria has continued to make significant progress in counter terrorism and anti banditry Operations in the northeast, northwest and north central zones.
Though the focus of this write up is to x-ray the continued military air and ground onslaught against criminal empire, which had made it cumbersome for armed bandits in northwest and north central states to now operate, it is noteworthy to observe that the shattering of terrorists in the northeast has also exacerbated banditry in the country as terrorists are migrating to other zones with lethal weapons in disarray, following sustained military attacks on its locations and hideout.
Chronicling some of the injuries, surrender killing, arrests, confiscation of arms and ammunition inflicted on armed bandits in recent weeks and months, the Coordinator Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche in seperate statements documents particularly air and land artillery bombardment of these non state actors illegally weilding sophisticated weapons.
He noted that in furtherance of the operational mandate to decisively stamp banditry out of Northwest zone, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji have neutralised scores during a daring aggressive clearance operation.
According to him, “On 11 July 2020, following credible intelligence that armed bandits have rustled unconfirmed number of cows around Daki Takwas and Tashar Kuturu in Anka and Talata Mafara LGAs of Zamfara State, troops tactically deployed to the scene and contact was made with the armed bandits.
The determined troops overwhelmed the recalcitrant bandits with superior fire and during the encounter, scores were neutralised while others escaped with gunshots wounds.”
General Enenche disclosed that the troops successfully recovered 302 rustled cows, 412 sheep, one empty magazine and 5 mobile phones.
He said efforts are ongoing to hand over the rustled animals to their owners.
“In another development, troops rescued 3 kidnapped victims in Isa LGA of Sokoto State. Also 2 other kidnapped victims were rescued by own troops at Yayi village in Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State.
“The victims on interrogation stated that they were kidnapped on 1 June 2020. All the victims have been handed over to the Sokoto State Government.
“Relatedly on 10 July 2020 while on patrol, troops arrested 5 members of Yan Sakai group and a gun fabricator along Maga- Kyabu-Tadurga village road. Items recovered include one motorcycle, 10 dane guns, one catarpult and one knife. Others were one saw,16 plugs, one axe and 3 mobile phones,” the statement reads in part.
In a similar development, General Enenche disclosed that troops of Nigerian Army Super Camp 4 Faskari deployed to Operation Sahel Sanity killed 46 bandits in the latest encounter while others escaped with gunshot wounds.
He disclosed that the troops received a distress call of the invasion of armed bandits in Yar Gamji town in Batsari LGA.
The Coordinator Defence Media Operations averred that the gallant troops who were just inducted into operation responded swiftly to the call.
According to him, “Troops of Operation Sahel Sanity are presently in exploitation phase and have dominated the general area with aggressive patrols. The general public is enjoined to disregard news making the rounds in some online media giving unsubstantiated and false information on the incident”.
Nevertheless, the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Yusufu Buratai congratulated the troops for their swift response and gallantry.
Also, the High Command of the Nigerian Military said that its troops of Operation Hadarin Daji inflicted heavy casualty on armed bandits in Northwest zone and in the process 3 of the criminal elements surrendered to government forces while one logistics supplier and bandit collaborator was arrested.
It explained that the killings and arrests was recorded in continuation of the recently launched Operation Accord aimed at reinvigorated and aggressive kinetic operations to decisively curtail the activities of armed bandits in the northwest region.
The Spokesperson of military operations noted that troops of Armed Forces of Nigeria have continued to conduct intensive clearance operations to identify bandits enclaves in the northwest, with attendant successes against the criminal elements.
According to the statement, “On 3 July 2020, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji stormed a bandits’ camp at Sanu village in Zurmi LGA of Zamfara State sequel to actionable Human and technical intelligence on the heavy bandits’ presence in the vicinity.
Adopting aggressive tactical maneuvers, troops stormed the hideout and engaged the cowardly bandits who fled in disarray, scores with gunshot wounds. Troops pursued the bandits and made further contact with them, overwhelming them with heavy volume of fire.
Exploitation of the general area led to the recovery of one AK47 rifle and one SMG rifle. It was also revealed that several bandits suffered heavy injuries, as evident in the vast pools of blood along their withdrawal route. In a related development, troops made contact with bandits at Bawan Daji village and neutralized one bandit while many others were fatally wounded.”
He said that the troops further raided bandits’ enclave at Gidan Zamfarawa about 10km from Mashanyin Zaki.
The bandits he said fled on sighting troops from afar but were pursued by the determined troops who engaged them with aggressive firing.
General Enenche noted that troops exploited the general area and destroyed 7 major bandit camps while one AK47 rifle, and 2 Motorcycles, amongst others were equally recovered.
“Similarly, on 5 July 2020, troops stormed an identified bandits’ camp at Salihawa village in Batsari LGA of Katsina state following credible intelligence on their activities in the village.
Troops overwhelmed the bandits with superior firepower and neutralized one of the criminals while several others escaped with fatal gunshot wounds.
Troops also apprehended a suspected bandits’ logistics supplier, Mohammed Illela at Illela village on 4 July 2020 following a tip-off.
The suspect was arrested while attempting to convey 13 jerrycans and 30 litres of Premium Motor Spirit, petrol concealed in an ash-coloured Volkswagen wagon car, to suspected bandits. Still on 5 July 2020, troops conducted a Cordon and Search operation within Bawar-Daji village.
During the operation, troops neutralized one bandit and recovered one AK 47 rifle, 5 rounds of 7.62 mm special ammunition and one magazine, amongst others,” he said.
The Coordinator added that owing to intensified operations, projected by aggressive presence and posture of troops in the theatre, 3 notable bandits have surrendered to troops along with their weapons, saying the repentant bandits submitted one Light Machine Gun and 2 X AK 47 rifles.
This is even as troops of Operation Thunder Strike under the subsidiary Operation Accord successfully frustrated armed bandits’ plan to kidnap three locals at their farm in Gwazunu village, in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State.
The Military High Command revealed that the repelling of the bandits and frustration of their planned kidnap followed credible intelligence on the kidnap of some people by armed bandits from their farm in Gwazunu village, Chikun LGA of Kaduna State, troops of Operation Thunder Strike under the subsidiary Operation Accord.
General Enenche stated that troops were promptly deployed to the scene and engaged the bandits with effective firepower.
He said “The bandits escaped in disarray with gunshot wounds thereby abandoning the kidnapped victims. All the 3 victims were successfully rescued unhurt and have been reunited with their families.”
In a related development, the air strikes executed by the Air Component of Operation Hadarin Daji in the Zamfara State section of the Kagara Forest killed no fewer than 8 notable armed bandit leaders and several of their fighters.
The military noted that the success against bandit leaders and fighters was achieved on 9 July 2020 pursuant to Human Intelligence, HUMINT reports indicating that some armed bandits had relocated with a large number of rustled livestock from the Sokoto State side of the Forest and set up camp in the Zamfara State portion of the Forest.
The Coordinator DMO further explained that Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, ISR missions later confirmed the exact location of the camp.
General Enenche said,
“The Air Component dispatched Nigerian Air Force, NAF fighter jets and helicopter gunships to engage the location. As the attack aircraft approached the camp, some of the bandits and their leaders were seen fleeing towards the surrounding bushes. Consequently, the attack aircraft struck the area of vegetation taking out several of the bandits. HUMINT sources later confirmed that 8 bandit leaders and no fewer than a dozen of their fighters were killed as a result of the strikes.”
The Chief of Air Staff, CAS Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar commended the Air Component of Operation Hadarin Daji for their professionalism and urged them to remain resolute in the conduct of air strikes whilst continuing to provide close air support for ongoing ground operations in order to eradicate all armed bandits; thus accomplishing the directives of the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS to restore normalcy in the Northwest and North Central Zones.
The military hierarchy, General Enenche said applauded the gallant troops for their dedication and unwavering commitment, while urging them to remain committed and sustain the onslaught against the criminals.
The Northern Governors Forum, NGF commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Service Chiefs on the excellent performance of the gallant officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The group particularly commended President Buhari for his efforts in dealing with the security situation in the country particularly, the region.
It setup a three man committee headed by Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, with his Zamfara and Gombe States counterparts to Forster synergy between security agencies in the enforcement of security measures in the region.
Chairman of the Forum and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong at an interconference meeting recently agreed to raise consultative committee for adequate consultations with traditional, religious and community leaders in the north to generate consultative and involvement in tackling insecurity by interfacing with local vigilantees, hunters and community watch groups in the security architecture of the region in order to forster intelligence gathering, rapid response and sustained vigilance.
With all hands on deck coupled with the efforts of the Nigeria Military, insurgency, surely, will have no hiding place in the country and badits will find it difficult to operate.