Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has said that the “table is turning” against bandits in Katsina and other North-West states after security measures imposed by governors.
He also said the security measures were supported by the military, which stepped up its kinetic approach.
He said during a media visit to Katsina State on Tuesday,
In a copy of his remarks obtained by our correspondent, the minister said, “We are here to get first-hand information on the great efforts of the Katsina State government and other affected states in the North-west to combat the menace of banditry and sundry crimes.
“There is no doubt that the table is turning against the bandits since Katsina and other affected states came up with a number of novel measures that got the bandits boxed in, and the military stepped up its kinetic approach.
“Unfortunately, these positive efforts have not received the kind of media attention given
to the banditry. We believe these efforts should be trumpeted, not just for the sake of trumpeting it, but as a way of encouraging the states involved, the security agencies that have been risking it all to ensure that we are all safe and the federal government that has done so much, especially in the procurement of platforms, to put the military and other security agencies in a better stead to tackle not just banditry and kidnapping but also terrorism.”
Hundreds of troops backed by fighter jets began the offensive in early September in Zamfara State against gunmen responsible for a surge in mass abductions and attacks in the northwest.
The offensive and official telecoms blackout in Zamfara is the largest recent operation against the bandits, who for years have looted villages and kidnapped for ransom.
Zamfara and other states also imposed a raft of restrictions including a ban on sales of petrol in jerry cans and limits on cattle movement and on the opening hours of local markets as a way to curtail supplies to bandits.
But as pressure builds in Zamfara, residents of villages in neighbouring Katsina and Kaduna states reported an influx of gunmen fleeing Zamfara into their communities, raising fears of attacks.
There are reports that Zamfara bandits have been running out of food supplies and even asking for food as ransom from families of hostages instead of the cash they usually demand.
Authorities in Katsina have also cut telecom signals in about half of its 34 districts on the border with Zamfara. Sokoto State followed on Sunday, cutting mobile service in some areas.
The telecoms blackout is aimed at disrupting communications between bandits and their informants to help keep army movements secret.
But the shutdown also makes it difficult for residents to alert security personnel, said Bawa, who travelled to the state capital Katsina, 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, to make calls.