No fewer than 200 people, including security operatives, have been killed in various attacks by bandits on communities in Niger State this month alone.
The state governor, Abubakar Bello, disclosed this on Tuesday shortly after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa in Abuja.
He stated that the criminals who have been proscribed as terrorists by the Federal Government also invaded hundreds of communities and abducted scores of residents.
“In January alone this year, we suffered not less than 50 reported attacks and loss of lives between 1st and 17th January,” the governor told State House correspondents in the nation’s capital. “Within the same period, not less than 300 communities have been invaded by bandits.
“The number of people kidnapped is 200, including three Chinese nationals. We also lost some security personnel – their number is 25. Unfortunately, we lost about 165 civilians and 30 local vigilantes. So, it’s a very dire situation that we have been battling in the last few weeks since the beginning of this year.”
He lamented that residents of some communities in the state have continued to pay ransoms to terrorists in exchange for protection against attacks on their settlements.
Stressing that such payments were not enough to stop the attacks, he appealed to the people of the affected communities not to pay any money to the terrorists.
Governor Bello called for the massive recruitment of security personnel and deployment to the state in order to bring the situation under control.
Although he admitted that there were serious concerns about sustaining the fight against the terrorist group, he is optimistic that respite would come to residents of the affected communities in two weeks, with the current level of intervention.
But the governor stated that informants within the communities constitute a major challenge and urged states sharing borders with Niger, including Kebbi and Kaduna to come together in the fight against the criminals.
“We still have some communities where ransoms are being collected,” he said. “We will try to discourage them (residents) from paying such ransoms because even when they pay ransoms, it doesn’t stop bandits from attacking them again.
“When you pay levies to bandits, they use such money to purchase weapons and they come back to attack you.”