NIGERIA’S information minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that the federal government cannot take on the armed bandits causing mayhem across the country because it is concerned about destroying the forests from which they operate.
Since President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration came to power in 2015, Nigeria has been plagued by chronic insecurity. Apart from Boko Haram terrorists operating in the northeast of the country, heavily armed Fulani herdsmen are now laying siege to large parts of Nigeria,. bandits have taken over large swathes of the northwest and kidnapping has now reached epidemic proportions.
Totally overwhelmed by the situation, the government lacks the capacity to fight on so many fronts, so of late has taken to negotiating with the bandits. Last week, leading Islamic cleric Sheikh Abubakar Gumi met with bandit leaders in Makkai Forest in Zamfara State and passed on their demands to Governor Bello Matawalle, who in turn has met with President Buhari over the matter.
However, President Buhari has come in for criticism for being soft on the bandits and herdsmen in particular, while using an iron fist against groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), #EndSARS protesters and the Shiite Islamic Movement of Nigeria. Alhaji Mohammed has been pressed as to why the government has not sent in the military to deal with the bandits as it recently did with Ipob’s armed wing the Eastern Security Network.
Responding, Alhaji Mohammed said Nigeria’s ecosystem will be affected if the government destroys the forests where the bandits operate from. He noted that the better solution to eliminating bandits was to have better consultation between sub-national governments, the federal government and security agencies.
Alhaji Mohammed said: “We cannot destroy the forest because of climate change. The better approach is not to destroy the forest because it would affect the eco-system but what we need is better consultation with sub-national government and security agencies on how to secure the forest to make them safe for everybody.
“Those forest are used as hideouts but I think with technology today and when all our platforms are delivered, it will no longer be business as usual as the forest will not save those criminals and bandits. However, again we need collaborative effort of everyone.”