Foreigners operating mining sites in Zamfara State have been given 48 hours to vacate the locations as the Federal Government on Sunday launched an operation to flush out bandits terrorising residents of the state.
The government formally extended its Operation Puff Adder to Zamfara State on Sunday.
The operation had been launched earlier last week to address rising incidents of kidnappings along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway.
This directive is coming as President Buhari Muhammadu Buhari described as “ridiculous,” suggestions in some quarters that he did nothing to stop the killings in Zamfara.
He also appealed to some people whom he claimed were politicising the killings to stop henceforth.
But the Peoples Democratic Party said if the President was finding the “job too difficult to do, he should call for help or quit.”
The opposition party also advised President Buhari to rejig his security architecture and find lasting solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country and the citizens.
However, while addressing State House correspondents in Abuja on Sunday after a meeting with heads of other security agencies, the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, explained that there was a link between mining and banditry in Zamfara State.
Adamu stated that government’s first move was to immediately suspend all mining activities in the state until further notice.
He warned that any foreign miner, who flouted the order, did so at the risk of losing his operational licence.
Adamu said the security operation against the bandits would be jointly carried out by the police, the military and the Department of State Services.
The IG’s text read partly, “As part of sustained efforts to flush out and permanently put an end to banditry and criminality in Zamfara State in particular and the North-West in general, the Nigeria Police Force in collaboration with the Nigerian military and other security services has commenced Operation Puff Adder, which is a full-scale security offensive against the bandits.
“The operation is aimed at reclaiming every public space under the control of the bandits, arrest and bring to book all perpetrators of violence in the area and their collaborators, achieve a total destruction of all criminal camps and hideouts, mop up all illicit weapons fuelling the violence and attain a full restoration of law and order in the affected communities.
“Our commitment at protecting the sanctity of life and property is irrevocable, and we will not scale down the pressure on the bandits until they are totally flushed out.
“Meanwhile, in the face of intelligence report that has clearly established a strong and glaring nexus between the activities of bandits and illicit miners – with both mutually re-enforcing each other – the Federal Government of Nigeria has directed as follows:
“Mining activities in Zamfara and other affected states are hereby suspended with immediate effect. Consequently, any mining operator who engages in mining activities in the affected locations henceforth will have his licence revoked.
“All foreigners operating in the mining fields should close and leave within 48 hours. I want to assure the general public, especially in the affected areas, that the security services are doing their best to address the situation.
“May I appeal for the cooperation of the local communities, especially the traditional and religious leaders within the community.”
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The IG also said that some persons used the social media to spread what he called “fake news” on the security situation in Zamfara State.
He appealed to such persons to verify their information before passing it to the public.
Stop politicising Zamfara killings, says Buhari
Meanwhile, Buhari again said that his administration was determined to crush the bandits killing innocent citizens in Zamfara State, adding that it was ridiculous for anybody to say that he was unmoved by the killings.
He also appealed to some people whom he accused of politicising the killings to stop doing so.
In a series of tweets on his verified twitter handle, @MBuhari, in the early hours of Sunday, Buhari explained that the security deployment would also cover Katsina State, the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway and Niger State, where kidnappings had lately become a daily nightmare.
“Let me again offer our deepest condolences to all the victims and their families and loved ones. We feel your pains, and there is nothing more important to me at this time than ensuring that these bandits and criminals are completely neutralised,” one of the tweets read.
In another one, he wrote, “We are fully determined to tackle this challenge ferociously until these remorseless killers are crushed and utterly defeated. We have deployed security agents to all the areas currently under attack, and we are constantly fine-tuning and escalating our security strategy.”
Buhari tweeted, “It is ridiculous and unfair to suggest that I am not concerned about the situation in Zamfara or doing anything about it. Ensuring the protection of the people of Nigeria is one of my primary responsibilities and functions. No other issue dominates my attention as much.
“I want to appeal to Nigerians that we should not politicise this tragic situation in Zamfara. How can I be indifferent to the senseless killing and kidnapping of my fellow citizens by bandits and the deep trauma and impoverishment that these attacks inflict on them?
“Operation Sharan Daji and the newly-launched Operation Puff Adder are focused on Zamfara, Kaduna (including the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway), Katsina, Kogi, and Niger states. These are all multi-agency operations, bringing together the military, police, the DSS, and others.
“I am constantly in touch with the security chiefs, and receive regular briefings on the situation in Zamfara and across the country. Let me assure Nigerians that we will continue to do everything to motivate and equip them to respond effectively to all our security challenges.”
Rejig security architecture, nobody is politicising killings, PDP tells Buhari
However, the PDP urged President Buhari to face his job and stop looking for excuses for his errors.
The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the President should act as a father to the entire nation.
He said, “We will rather call on the President to act like the father of the nation and take decisive action, instead of looking for excuses that are not there.
“Nigerians will recall that the All Progressives Congress and the President came into power by politicising the killings in the North-East zone of the country in 2014 and 2015.
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“Instead of joining the country then to look for ways of looking for solutions to the killings, the APC and the President feasted on it.
“As you can see, no one has spoken or politicised the killings in Zamfara. But because the President did the same before, he feared that opposition parties would do the same.
“We are all appealing to the President to sit up, rejig his security architecture and find lasting solutions to the myriad of problems facing the country and the citizens.
“If the President is finding the job too difficult to do, he should call for help or quit. We are tired of burying our children, wives and brothers. Our women should stop being made widows at young age.”
Meanwhile, the senator representing Zamfara Central in the Senate, Kabir Marafa, and his colleague from Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, on Sunday faulted the recruitment of charmers to arrest the bandits ravaging Zamfara.
The Zamfara State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy, Bello Dankande, had on Wednesday at a security meeting with traditional rulers and local government council chairmen, said the state would employ 1,700 charmers, who would work with the civilian joint task force to tackle the bandits.
But the two senators, who spoke with one of our correspondents in separate telephone interviews, condemned Governor Abdulaziz Yari for resorting to the use of charmers when billions of naira was being spent on the military and security agencies in the country.
Marafa said, “I don’t believe in whatever Yari is doing on this security situation in Zamfara State. The governor is not serious. He is part of the problems we are having in Zamfara State.
“I have even on the floor of the Senate; accused his government of complicity in the crisis. Up till today, nobody has come out to dispute what I said. People thought I was playing politics while I was drawing the attention of Nigerians to the insecurity situation in Zamfara State but everybody has now realised that I was saying the reality.
“This man (Yari) is only interested in retaining power in Zamfara and he is ready to sacrifice anything and anybody to achieve his purpose. He had spent billions of naira to perpetuate himself in power.”