By Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
The escalating banditry in the North West may not be unconnected with the migration of dislodged terrorists in the Northeast, the Nigerian Military has said.
The Military observed that the sophisticated weapons used by the bandits, suggest that the Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) fighters fleeing the following the continued air and land bombardment of Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province terrorists hideout have transformed into bandits.
It further noted that “because criminality is their industry and business, it is not impossible that they are migrating from northeast to northwest, after all criminality is universal”.
Coordinator Defence Media Operations, Major General John Enenche stated this during the briefing with Defence Correspondents on military operations across the Federation.
He argued that criminals, who were operating in Northeast as terrorists, will move with their weapons if they are migrating to another location.
Enenche disclosed that bandits had upgraded in terms of caliber of weapons they are using in the Northwest.
According to him, “they use to operate with AK 47 rifles, but today, they use sophisticated weaponry like PKT and even antiaircraft guns, saying PKT is a caliber of weapons that can bring down an air craft flying at lower a altitude.
The Coordinator said that the Armed Forces of Nigeria is studying the situation in Northwest with the view to fashioning a potent strategy that would arrests the ugly development.
On the successes recorded thus far against the criminal elements, he said, “the Armed Forces of Nigeria has continued its major operations across the country with renewed vigour and attendant successes. During the period under review, troops’ encounters with the criminal elements resulted in the destruction of their structures and equipment, as well as the capture of arms and ammunition. Our gallant troops also rescued some hostages with some criminal elements surrendering to the troops. The ground troops of Operation Lafiya Dole had no fewer than 17 encounters with the BHT/ISWAP criminals in the North East theatre of operation.
“These encounters resulted in the killing of 75 BHT/ISWAP fighters, capture of large arms and ammunition, as well as vehicles and equipment. Also recorded were the capture of some criminal elements and spies as well as recue of 35 BHT captives, while 4 of their fighters surrendered to our troops. Between 2 and 3 June 2020, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole conducted comprehensive precision strikes, to mark the launching of its subsidiary Operation Long Reach II on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno State. The massive air strikes resulted in the obliteration of BHT structures used as meeting venue at Mainyakare Village on the fringes of Sambisa Forest. In the process, several of their fighters were neutralized.
“More of these criminal elements were also killed and their logistics facilities destroyed in devastating air strikes executed at Mina along the Gulumba Gana-Kumshe Axis in the Northern part of Borno State. Furthermore, 17 BHT/ISWAP criminals were killed by troops of 25 Task Force Brigade on 7 July 2020. A total recorded number of 92 enemies of our country were deleted in the North East Zone within the period under review.”
He added that in continuation of intensive clearance operation in the North-West Zone of the country, troops of Operation Hadarin Daji continued to record tremendous successes against the bandits.
He revealed that troops killed 58 armed bandits in Katsina and Zamfara States with others escaping with gunshot wounds, stressing that 3 repentant bandits embraced peace and surrendered to the troops with their arms and ammunition.
“In addition, 367 cows and 184 sheep rustled were recovered. As part of efforts to mitigate the current spate of banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other activities of criminal elements in the North-West Zone, the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Burutai launched subsidiary Operation Sahel Sanity under Operation Hadarin Daji. Already, Operation Sahel Sanity has recorded significant successes with the neutralization of 46 armed bandits in Yargamji village in Batsari LGA of Katsina State on 7 July 2020,” he said.
General Enenche also said the Maritime Component of Operation Delta Safe specifically, Nigerian Navy Ship Delta and Pathfinder impounded 565,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO.
These significant feats he noted were recorded in Opumami community and Opuedebubor Creek in Warri South LGA of Delta State as well Mejikiri, Buguma in Asari Toru LGA of Rivers State.
He said, “Troops of Sector 1 Operation Delta Safe in conjunction with Forward Operating Base Escravos have deactivated all illegal Refining Sites (IRS) identified within Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) pipeline general area. During the operations, a total of 17 IRS were deactivated at Agor-Illa Warri southwest LGA while 30,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 125.7 barrels of stolen crude oil were impounded.”