President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered security agents to shoot anyone with illegal possession of sophisticated weapons such as AK-47, his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, has said.
Shehu told the BBC in an interview yesterday that the president also directed a clampdown on bandits who have refused to surrender.
Shehu confirmed to THISDAY yesterday that he granted the BBC the interview on efforts by the president to arrest the worsening insecurity in the country.
The presidential directive came just as governors of the six states in the North-east, the epicentre of insurgency in Nigeria, unfolded plans to set up a joint security agency to combat insecurity in the zone.
They also pushed for new military approaches to restoring normalcy in the zone.
Besides, the pan-Northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has asked the president to declare Benue, Taraba, Borno and other parts of the country ravaged by bandits and insurgents a no-fly zone as he did in Zamfara State.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has kicked against the designation of Zamfara State as a no-fly zone, alleging that it is a ploy to impose a state of emergency on the state by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government.
Also, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed disappointment over what it described as Buhari's prolonged silence on alleged moves to polarise the military along religious line by a Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.
Giving further insights into efforts to battle banditry that's prevalent in the North-west, Shehu quoted the president as ordering the deployment of kinetic warfare against the outlaws.
"The president has ordered security forces to go into the bushes and shoot whoever they see with sophisticated weapons like AK-47.
"He ordered that whoever is seen with terrible weapons at all should be shot immediately," he said.
On Tuesday's declaration of Zamfara State as a no-fly zone, Shehu said the federal government took the decision following intelligence that arms were being transported to the bandits with private jets.
He stated that the private jets are also used to cart away gold from the state to Dubai, which, according to him, prompted the ban on mining activities, also announced on Tuesday.
"These jets are being used to pick up gold that is being mined in some parts of Zamfara and exported. This is strong because at the moment, there is a Nigerian gold market in Dubai.
"The government is losing, the people of this country are losing, that's why it is said that gold mining is banned for those who are not made by the government," Shehu said.
However, the North-east governors, at a meeting in Bauchi, tasked the service chiefs to come up with new strategies in combating the growing insurgency in the region.
The governors, who met under the auspices of the North-east Governors' Forum, expressed concern that the insecurity in the country seems to be defying solutions, despite crippling all aspects of national life.
At the opening ceremony of the fourth meeting of the North-east Governors' Forum in Bauchi, the Chairman of the forum and Borno State Governor, Prof.
Babagana Zulum, said in addition to the logistical and financial support the governors had been rendering to the armed forces in their fight against insecurity in the zone, they would consider the possibility of forming a security outfit, within the ambit of constitutional precedent and operational feasibility, as has been done in other parts of the country.
"If, and when we decide on a regional security outfit, the vigilante groups and Civilian JTFs in our respective states may form the basis for the outfit," he said.
Zulum stated that at their previous meetings, they had identified most of the challenges facing the zone and outlined the possible ways of tackling them.
He listed the challenges to include insecurity, poverty, banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, gender-based violence and youth restiveness.
"The most formidable and by far the most daunting challenge we, in the North-east and indeed Nigeria as a whole, have is the current security situation which seems to be defying solutions and which has a telling effect on virtually all aspects of our lives."
He, however, said with the appointment of new service chiefs, a new set of strategic initiatives is expected to be deployed to combat the security challenges.
Zulum expressed concern about insurgency worsening with the renewed spate of attacks on soft targets and innocent civilians. "We shall be expecting a significant improvement in the security situation in the sub-region and the country at large.
"As it is now, especially in Borno State, violence, being perpetrated by the insurgents, seems to be on the increase, both in scope and viciousness; and it has become a matter of tactical necessity for the new service chiefs to devise new and offensive strategies to counter the current attacks and forestall any future attacks," he said.
He, however, stated that the commitment of the military to the war against the insurgency remains unquestionable.
But Zulum said: "With the current escalation of deadly attacks by the terrorists, the various courses of action being pursued seem to have some limitations in terms of the expected impact; hence the need for a new set of pragmatic and result-oriented initiatives to completely subdue the terrorists and ultimately end the insurgency."
He, however, lamented that the de-radicalisation of Boko Haram terrorists or Safe Corridor Initiative have not worked to expectations.
He said those who had passed through the Safe Corridor Initiative or had been de-radicalised, went back to rejoin the terror group, after carefully studying the various security arrangements in their host communities during the reintegration process.
"In addition, the host communities where the reintegration process is going on usually resent the presence of Boko Haram terrorists, even if they have been de-radicalised, because of the despicable and atrocious activities they have committed in the past.
"So the idea of de-radicalisation, as currently being implemented, needs to be reviewed because the main goals and the underlying objectives behind the initiative are not being achieved.
"The best option is to immediately prosecute the terrorists, in accordance with the Terrorism Act," he said.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, had said the urgency of the security challenge in the North-east demanded an innovative and out-of-the-box security infrastructure.
"We must be honest in appraising the situation, be bold in confronting those who want to destroy our country and be patriotic in the choice that we must make to stop the enemies of our states. If we must be honest, the public opinion at the moment is that we have failed; that many of our compatriots have adamantly resorted to self-help in order to get away from this despondency.
"We must accept the fact that an over-internal-centralised security arrangement is an obsolete tool for tackling the monstrous and death scenario playing out in our country, especially our region," he said.
Mohammed stated that his predecessor as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, who is presently Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, had advocated the need for state police.
"Now, I agree with el-Rufai and other governors who have called for it," he said.
Extend Flight Ban to Benue, Taraba, Borno, ACF Urges Buhari
The pan-Northern socio-political organisation, ACF, has urged Buhari to declare parts of the country ravaged by bandits and insurgents a no-fly zone as he did in Zamfara State.
National Chairman of ACF, Chief Audu Ogbe, in a statement given to reporters yesterday in Kaduna by the National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, said a similar flight ban be extended to states such as Benue, Taraba, and Borno due to rumours that helicopters frequently drop arms for bandits and insurgents.
Ogbeh said: "We also plead with the government to extend the ban to other states like Benue, Taraba, Borno where there are rumours that helicopters frequently drop arms for bandits and insurgents operating in these states.
"We believe that such an extended ban will curtail the operations of the criminals in these areas."
No - Fly Zone Directive, a Plot to Declare State of Emergency, PDP Alleges
However, the PDP has kicked against the declaration of Zamfara State as a no-fly zone, describing it as an attempt to impose a state of emergency by the APC-led government on the state.
The PDP also called for an open investigation of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), accusing him of having a vested interest in the mining business in the state.
It stated that the level of insecurity in Katsina, Kaduna, Niger States and some other states that are under APC control, is the same with that Zamfara State, yet the federal government didn't declare no-fly zone in the other states.
At a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the no-fly zone declaration was a sinister plot by the APC, which is the ruling party, to surreptitiously take over governance in Zamfara State through an imposition of an orchestrated state of emergency.
"Our party rejects this attempt by power-mongers in the APC administration to undermine and subvert the democratic order in Zamfara State by creating the impression that the state government, under Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle, is to blame for the failure of the APC-led federal government to contain insecurity in the state.
"It is instructive to recall that the plot by the APC to derail the Matawalle administration and forcefully take over the control of the state started immediately after the Supreme Court handed him victory in the Zamfara State governorship election; a plot that heightened after Governor Matawalle refused the pressure to decamp to the APC," he stated.
Ologbondiyan also cited a statement by the party on December 19, 2020, on plots by the National Caretaker Committee of the APC, using an impostor, as a spokesperson, to heighten insecurity in the North-west.
He said the PDP had also warned of conspiracies by the APC to use the alleged impostor to destabilise North-west states, particularly Zamfara, by creating the space for acts of violence and blame it on Matawalle.
PDP urged the ruling APC to leave Matawalle alone and take up its responsibility of confronting bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and vandals, particularly those they brought from other countries.
"There is escalated banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and other forms of violent acts in APC-controlled states of the North-west, like Kaduna and Katsina; in the North-east of Borno and Yobe as well as the North-central states of Niger, Nasarawa, Plateau and Kogi, yet no attempt has been made by the Buhari presidency to intimidate the governors of the various states, seek to impose a state of emergency or declare such states as a no-fly zone," he stated.
CAN Decries Buhari's Silence over Gumi's Comment on Military
In a related development, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed disappointment at what it described as the prolonged silence by Buhari on alleged moves to polarise the military along religious divides by Gumi.
In a statement yesterday by CAN General-Secretary, Pastor Joseph Daramola, the association said that Buhari's prolonged silence was tantamount to an endorsement of Gumi's statement.
CAN expressed shock, pains and disappointment in Gumi over his alleged profiling of military operatives while addressing some bandits in Tegina forest, a border town between Niger and Kaduna States.
According to CAN, Gumi was quoted as saying: "What I want you people to understand is - soldiers who are involved in most of the criminalities are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and non-Muslims. The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite crisis."
The CAN described Gumi's allegation against the military as grave, evil, divisive, unpatriotic, ill-wind and reprehensible.
It added that if what Gumi said was attributed to a Christian leader, the security operatives would have invited him or declared him wanted and the presidency would have publicly condemned that Christian leader.
The CAN recalled how comments made by Apostle Johnson Suleiman, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, Prophet Isa El-Buba and recently, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, were handled by government agents, who hounded the Christian leaders.
"We call on Gumi to immediately withdraw the unpatriotic and divisive utterances credited to him in the interest of peace and unity of this country," it said.