Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday vowed to intensify the government’s response to the problem of banditry which has plagued several parts of the West African nation.
Nigeria’s northwest region, in particular, has been troubled by years of violence resulting in the killings of thousands of people, displacement of tens of thousands of others, and destruction of property.
The insecurity stems from clashes between rival communities over land, attacks by heavily-armed criminal gangs, and revenge killings by vigilante groups.
In late May, Buhari ordered the military to increase its operations in that part of the country where banditry, kidnapping, and other criminal activities have recently become rampant.
In a tweet, Buhari singled out five states in the country’s north, northwestern and central regions where urgent action will be taken.
“Let me assure of more decisive military operations targeted at bandits in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger States, in the days ahead,” Buhari tweeted.
“The loss of lives from their dastardly attacks is sad and regrettable, and intensifies our resolve to ensure these bandits are not spared.”
Last week, Nigeria’s air force said that more than 300 armed bandits were killed and their camps destroyed in a military operation in Katsina.
Sadiq Abubakar, who warned bandits to surrender their arms and face justice, urged soldiers not to spare any of the criminals in an effort to allow farmers to return to their livelihoods.
The Nigerian government has launched several military operations to try to end the violence in the northwest. The latest one, Operation Accord, is one of multiple military operations by the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies in the northwest and north-central regions aimed at tackling banditry and other criminal activities.
State authorities have also tried to initiate peace talks to address the situation without success.