PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has broken his silence on the ongoing epidemic of kidnappings and banditry across the country revealing that his government will not offer any amnesty to bandits and insurgents terrorising the nation.
In what is now becoming a vogue, armed hoodlums, terrorists and bandits have formed the habit of kidnapping school pupils, knowing the outrage will lead to them being paid huge ransoms. Boko Haram started the trend in 2014 when it abducted 267 pupils from Government Girls Secondary School Chibok in Borno State and in December last year, over 300 pupils were kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School Kankara in Katsina State, while 42 boys were abducted from Government Science College in Kagara in Niger State.
Awash with arms and with about 80m Nigerians living below the United Nations poverty threshold, kidnapping and banditry is now a booming industry in Nigeria. Totally overwhelmed by the situation, the security forces look on helplessly as the criminal gangs grow in influence and wealth, using ransom payments to buy more sophisticated arms and equipment.
Fiercely criticised for doing nothing to address the crisis, President Buhari has finally broken his silence in the menace, saying those responsible for these crimes will not be given a blanket amnesty. Speaking during a meeting of northern governors and traditional rulers at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House in Kaduna, President Buhari said his government would continue to deal decisively with insurgents, bandits and kidnappers who have continued to hold the country to ransom.
He rejected calls for an amnesty for the bandits and insurgents from popular Islamic cleric Sheikh Abubakar Gumi and the Zamfara State governor, Bello Mattawale. Both have been in the forefront in the agitation for amnesty for bandits and insurgents in the north.
At the meeting, the Northern State Governors’ Forum also cautioned their southern counterparts and leaders in the south to refrain from unguarded utterances that could set the country on fire. However, their statement drew the ire of southwest governors and some leaders in the south, who accused them of doing nothing to combat the crimewave currently sweeping across the country.
President Buhari, who was represented by his chief of staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, also asked Nigerians to stop the ethnic profiling of criminals. He said his administration would continue to deal decisively with insurgents, bandits, kidnappers, and other violent criminals terrorising innocent Nigerians, stressing that he had asked the new service chiefs to device new strategies to deal with the threats of hoodlums and other criminals.
“This meeting is coming at a time the nation is making steady progress in addressing the many challenges impeding development and progress. We are providing critical infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports among which are critical to economic prosperity of our people as well as opening up economic opportunities for our citizens to pursue legitimate aspirations that grow the economy.
“At the same time, we are confronting the various dimensions of security challenges that continue to slow down the emancipation of our people from poverty and economic deprivation. The government shall continue to deal with insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals who constitute a threat to innocent citizens across the country.
“Criminals are criminals and should be dealt with accordingly without resorting to ethnic profiling. I have already tasked the new service chiefs to devise new strategies that will end this ugly situation where the lives of our people continue to be threatened by hoodlums and criminals,” President Buhari said.
Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar, who spoke on behalf of Northern Traditional Council, urged northerners to be patient with their governors. He noted that the governors were trying to rebuild what had been destroyed in the north over a decade ago, adding that the almajiri menace is poverty-driven.
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, the current chairman of Northern State Governors’ Forum added: “Our region continues to carry perhaps the heaviest burden of development in the country where the indices for quality of life are low within a large percentage of our population. Statistics have shown that we have a long way to go in terms of education, healthcare delivery, infrastructural development, food security, industrialisation and human capital development among others.
“All these are exacerbated by the insecurity that has bedevilled us and the entire nation for many years now. This is why at several periods, we set up various committees to look into specific issues and advise us on what kind of measures to adopt in changing the narrative and I am glad that at this meeting, we shall be receiving and considering several reports from those committees, with a view to charting a new way forward.”