At a time the country suffered a major setback in its fight against insecurity and was mourning the death of 47 soldiers killed in an ambush by the Boko Haram terrorist group in Borno State, some suspected bandits carried out a deadly attack on a joint security patrol team that comprised of soldiers, civil defence personnel and policemen. While some reports in the media indicate that 29 security operatives and three civilians were killed in the assault, Daily Trust in separate reports recounted that gunmen on Sunday, March 22, 2020 attacked two villages of Galkogo and Zumba, in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State killing one mobile police officer and wounding three soldiers.
According to the reports, the attacks which lasted for hours in the two communities, involved over 50 suspected bandits who stormed the area on motorcycles. When contacted, spokesman of the Niger State Police Command, ASP Wadiu Abiodun, said the number of casualties was yet to be ascertained as information about the incident was still sketchy. The bandits, who reportedly engaged the security operatives in a gun battle, were also said to have suffered heavier casualties.
In recent months, Niger State has witnessed series of attacks from suspected bandits, leading to scores of deaths. While Rafi, Magama, Mariga and Kontagora local government areas of the state have all suffered from bandits' attacks at various times, Shiroro is evidently the worse hit. Violent criminal activities have not only rendered many Nigerians resident in these local government areas homeless and miserable but also kept them away from their farms and means of livelihood; heightening insecurity in this hitherto safe part of the country.
As the attacks continued unabated in Shiroro and parts of the state, the Niger House of Assembly in February this year urged Governor Abubakar Sani Bello to declare a state of emergency in the areas.
Soon after the Nigerian military, in collaboration with the Multi-National Joint Task (MNJTF) from Chad, Cameroon and Niger degraded and forced Boko Haram and ISWAP insurgents to the fringes of the Lake Chad, Sambisa forest and Mandara mountains, other lesser criminal activities including kidnapping, banditry, herders/farmers clashes and communal conflicts became recurrent decimals. This practically overstretched the Nigerian security forces that were deployed to more than two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari in January this year expressed surprise at the surge of insecurity across the country. He spoke at the State House in Abuja when he received a delegation of eminent and respected citizens of Niger State led by the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello. Speaking to the delegation, President Buhari made reference to his earlier promise of ending insurgency and thus frowned at threats by armed groups in the country. President Buhari thereafter directed the Nigerian Air Force to deploy its fighter aircraft to carry out airstrikes on outlaws operating in the forest bordering Kaduna, Niger and Zamfara states. In line with this directive, the Nigerian Air Force disclosed that it was setting up refuelling facilities at Minna, Niger State, to support air operations. Less than two weeks after this directive, the bandits reportedly shot down a police helicopter.
Insurgents and criminal elements, most often, succeed in carrying out ambush when troops fail to manage discreet information about the time, mode and direction of their movement with utmost secrecy. There is compelling need also for all security agencies involved in various security operations across the country to further strengthen their intelligence gathering and sharing mechanisms on criminal activities. This would help to forestall incidences of ambush by bandits and terrorist groups.
While we condemn the killing of soldiers and other security forces in the latest attack by bandits lurking around Galkogo forest in Shiroro Local Government, we urge government to provide support for the families of officers who died in the line of duty. We encourage all security agencies to remain resolute to end activities of outlaws in the country. They should not be intimidated by the attacks suffered in some of their operations.