By G9ija

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has said forests in northern Nigeria should be carpet-bombed to end banditry in the region.

”I’ve always believed that, you know, we should carpet-bomb the forests; we can replant the trees after. Let’s carpet-bomb the forests and bomb all of them,” El-Rufai said in an interview with Arise TV.

“There will be collateral damage, but it’s better to wipe them (bandits) out and get people back to our communities so that agriculture and rural economics can pick up,” he added

The Kaduna State governor said more investment in security personnel, technology and military equipment will wipe out bandits “once and for all”.

El-Rufai attributed the prolonged inability of security operatives to curb banditry in the Northwest to a lack of encouraging factors.

He said the military and other security agencies “are doing their best, but they are overstretched” and advised a more strategic approach to the fight against them.

“These bandits operate in the periphery because their hiding place is in the forest. It’s a major problem,” El-Rufai said.

“The reality is we don’t have enough boots on the ground to address the myriad of security challenges that we face, and these security challenges are asymmetric, widespread, and there’s no part of Nigeria that doesn’t have one security problem or the other,” he added.

A notorious bandit leader, Bello Turji, yesterday freed over 50 kidnapped victims in his custody in Zamfara State, following military raids on neighbouring bandit camps in Zamfara and Sokoto forests.

The Co-Chairman of the State Committee on Finding Lasting Solutions to Banditry, Dr. Abdullahi Shinkafi, confirmed the development to Channels Television.

Shinkafi noted that the released victims were about 70, adding that the notorious bandit kingpin released them ‘unconditionally’.

According to the police, arrangements are being made to evacuate all freed victims to the state capital, Gusau for profiling and medical treatment before they are released to their families.

Zamfara State Commissioner of Police Ayuba Elkanah, who briefed reporters yesterday at the Command Headquarters in Gusau, revealed that those freed included seven pregnant women, 19 babies, and 16 minors.

Giving a breakdown of the number of the returnees, he explained that 68 people were released in Shinkafi while 29 others regained freedom in Tsafe.

Elkanah said: “Following an extensive pressure mounted as a result of the ongoing military operation around the camp of a notorious bandits’ kingpin known as Bello Turji that covers Shinkafi, Zurmi and Birnin Magaji Local Government areas, on 3rd January 2022, police tactical operatives deployed at Shinkafi axis received an intelligence report that some kidnapped victims were seen stranded in the bush.”

He added: “The police operatives in collaboration with genuine repentant bandits and vigilante swung into action and rescued 68) victims from the forest.

“The victims were in captivity for over three months and they include 33 male adults, seven male children, three female children, and 25 women including pregnant/nursing mothers respectively. The victims hailed from Magarya, Maradun, Gusau of Zamfara State and Sabon Birni LGA in Sokoto State.”

The victims, according to him, were abducted for over 60 days from three villages namely Adarawa, Gana, and Bayawuri in Rijiya District of Gusau LGA.

Elkanah said all the rescued victims were treated by the joint medical teams of the state government and the police.

He stated that they would be debriefed and handed over to the state government before being reunited with their families.

Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs Samuel Aruwan said bandits killed nine citizens, injured five and rustled hundreds of animals during three attacks across Igabi and Zaria local government areas.

Aruwan said the bandits attacked Kudu da Gari settlement in Sabon Birni, Igabi and killed seven residents. The victims are Dahiru Bilya, Jibrin Bilya, Dayyabu Adamu , Bashir Habibu , Jabir Shuaibu , Buhari Habibu and Abubakar Habibu.

He added: “Four others were left critically injured, and were rushed to a medical facility for treatment. They are identified as Audi Mohammad, Mubarak Ilya, Balarabe Junaidu and Umar Bilya.”

The commissioner said that in another incident, bandits invaded a herders’ settlement called Ruggar Goshe, on the outskirts of Kangimin Sarki village, Rigachikun, Igabi. A man, Auwal Koshe, was shot dead by the brigands, who then rustled about 250 goats and sheep from the settlement.

“Furthermore, bandits attacked another herders’ settlement at Filin Idin Barebare, Zaria LGA, where they killed Abubakar Mohammad. Abubakar Aliyu sustained gunshot injuries to his ribs and is receiving medical attention. The bandits then rustled an unspecified number of cattle from the settlement, “he added.

Aruwan said troops have reported that two bandits were neutralised around the outskirts of Tumbau village, Kerawa, Igabi council.

According to him, the bandits were retreating to the Malul forest when they were intercepted by the troops, and two of them were neutralised in the ensuing firefight, with an AK-47 rifle recovered.