President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to secure Nigeria is in tatters, with Boko Haram armed terrorists now clearly having a strong foothold in Niger state, occupying no fewer than 50 communities in five LGAs.
Nigeria’s security officials erroneously call the marauding gunmen in the Northwest bandits, but Gov. Abubakar Bello of Niger has joined Governor Nasir El-Rufai in calling them what they are: terrorists.
Bello told newsmen in Minna today that Boko Haram members were responsible for the attacks on communities in the state.
He said they had taken over Kaure axis in Shiroro Local Government Area in the state. They are also in Munya LGA.
Bello spoke to newsmen when he visited the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp at IBB Primary School in Minna on Monday.
Over 3,000 IDPs from Kuchi, Kabula, Kazai Guni, Gini, Fuka Dan Daudu and Chiri in Munya and Shiroro local governments areas are taking refuge in the camp.
Bello said Boko Haram elements had hoisted their flag over Kaure axis, forcing women from communities around the areas to be members of the terrorist group.
“The implication of that is that the territory now belongs to them,” he added.
The governor said action must be taken to dislodge the insurgents otherwise “with the way things are going, not even Abuja is safe.”
“We have been saying this and no action has been taken, the Boko Haram elements are trying to see this place as their home, just like they did in Sambisa.
“Kauri is less than two hours drive to Abuja, nobody is safe not even Abuja,” he said.
According to the governor, he had engaged the Federal Government several times, but no action was taken to address the insecurity challenges bedevilling the state.
He expressed optimism that the resurgence of banditry would lead to coordinated military action “to confront the severe and very serious situation.”
He directed the IDPs who abandoned their communities out of fear to return to their homes, while those who were attacked should remain in the camp.
One of the IDPs, Mr Bulus Yusuf, from Kuchi in Munya LGA, said communities around Kuchi have witnessed several attacks and abduction of their women, with the whereabouts of many still unknown.
“These bandits attack us, take away all our belongings including our women. Some of our women were raped, and abducted and we had to pay ransoms amounting to millions for their release,” he said.
He called on the Federal and state governments to deploy a strong military presence to the area to dislodge the insurgents, so that they could return home.
Another victim, Mary Dauda, also said the bandits had invaded their community on several occasions.
“At first, when they came, we thought they will not come back, but the attacks became a daily affair which forced us to run for our lives,” she told the governor.
At a workshop later Governor Bello agonised over the financial implications of taking care of IDPs, in the face of dwindling resources.
He said the deserted villages have caused humanitarian crisis in the State.
He spoke when he declared open a two day workshop on strategies for enhancing Internally Generated Revenue of Local Government Councils in Minna,Niger State .
The Governor who acknowledged that the workshop is apt, stressing the need for local government Councils to look inwards and strengthen Internally Generated Revenue by expanding the tax net so as to meet the increasing demands in their Local Government Areas in particular and the State in general.
He noted that the present IGR cannot sustain the developmental aspirations of the State particularly with the security challenges that have bedevilled some parts of the State.
He said while Government is making efforts to boost its revenue, it must block leakages, cut down cost, adding that it will not hesitate to do away with Local Government Staff that are not adding value.
“As we speak we have not less that 50 villages deserted across 5 local governments.Where do we get the resources to take care of them if 80% of our resources goes to those that do not add value to the system?
“Now we have to deal with humanitarian problems and security problems, all these require resources that we do not have. So the only way we can survive is to increase our IGR.
“At the moment we have over 3,000 IDPs in Minna, apart from other local governments, he said.
The Governor urged participants to be attentive, actively participate and make meaningful contributions that will give them more insight into strategies of enhancing IGR for socioeconomic development at the local government levels.