Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, on Wednesday, said he was frustrated and helpless, adding that the military knew the location of the bandits wreaking havoc in the state, but was refusing to bomb their hideouts.
This is just it was learnt that five months after a Federal High Court designated bandits as terrorists, the Nigerian military had yet to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft in the North-West.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had on November 25, 2021 obtained a judgment designating all gunmen in the North-West as terrorists.
This was said to be a condition by the United States government for the deployment of the aircraft outside of the North-East.
However, top sources confirmed to The PUNCH that the Super Tucano had not yet been deployed in the North-West.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday when the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, visited the state to assess the situation following a terrorist attack on a Abuja-Kaduna train that left at least eight persons dead, El-Rufai said the terrorists’ hideouts should be bombed.
He said the location of the terrorists was public knowledge and even the Department of State Services usually monitors their telephone lines.
The governor stated, “We have enough intelligence for us to take action. The Air Force undertakes enough ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance); and the DSS has informants all over the place.
“We know what they (terrorists) are planning. We get the reports. The problem is for the agencies to take action. Don’t wait until they attack before you respond. The Army should go after their enclaves to wipe them out. Let the Air Force bomb them.
“Before, they were categorised as bandits and if you bombed them, you would have issues with human rights organisations and international criminal courts and so on. But, now that they have been declared terrorists by the court, they can be legally killed without any consequences from international human rights organisations.”
The governor insisted that the camps and phone numbers of the terrorists were known by the military agencies, stressing that Kaduna State was currently in a state of war.
“We know where their camps are, we know where they are; the SSS have their phone numbers, they listen to them, and they give me the report. We know what they are planning. We shouldn’t be waiting for them to attack; why can’t we go after them?” El-Rufai asked.
The governor said the bandit areas should be declared a warzone, adding that he was ready to allow a few innocent people to lose their lives in the process.
“We are in a state of war; this place should be declared a warzone. The Army, Air Force, and the police should go in there and kill them. Will there be innocent casualties? Yes! In every war situation, there are casualties,” he added.
The governor stated that train services should stop at 4pm as night time had become too dangerous.
El-Rufai stated, “We have written to the Nigerian Railway Corporation twice to stop the evening service. The last train from Kaduna to Abuja should leave by 4pm so that it will get to Abuja in daylight.
“If anything is to happen, the response time will be quick, maybe in 30 minutes. When something happens, the response time will be faster in the daytime. We were lucky the military response was just within an hour, because it (attack) was dead in the night.”
The governor expressed his frustration about the situation, saying, “I’m angry, frustrated and feel totally helpless. Let us establish military bases within Katari and Rijana (in Kaduna).”
On his part, Amaechi said the Nigerian Air Force would start escorting trains, adding that repair works on the bombed rail track would commence immediately as efforts were now on to install security sensors on the tracks.
He said, “I will speak with the President. He is already giving directives. I’m sure by the time we finish the repair of the rail tracks, we would have got approval for the security equipment and we would possibly have installed it.
“But even if it hasn’t been installed yet, we have spoken with the management of the Nigerian Air Force to escort the trains. They were previously escorting the trains, but recently the weather has been very bad and visibility dropped to below 500 metres, so they couldn’t fly.
“So, they’ve not been flying and this is why this (the attack) was successful. They have resumed flying and will escort the trains when we resume.”
The minister said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had approved that the ministry should employ people who would work on rail tracks for the next six to seven months until the security equipment was installed.
“We intend to employ villagers on the corridor so that they can report any suspicious movement to us and the security agencies,” he stated.
Amaechi said the Army had given maximum medical care to the patients, who were brought to the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna.
He stated, “They treated the patients with bomb wounds and for the lady with gun wounds in her heart, they are bringing in a specialist, a cardiologist, to attend to her.
“They have just seven patients left; the rest have been discharged. The Federal Government is grateful to the military for the assistance. We will liaise with the hospital to see how much money we can contribute to the victims’ medical bills.”
On when the repairs of the bombed tracks would be fixed, Amaechi said, “We will commence work immediately and the military has promised us security as we work. It is less than 2km of rail tracks. We will complete the work as soon as possible.
“If the Ministry of Finance releases the funds, then we can know the number of those to employ. But we will involve the DSS in screening the people we will employ.”
On passengers and other persons on the ill-fated train, who had yet to be accounted for, the minister said, “We are still contact-tracing to establish those missing.”
The Chief Medical Director, 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, Col Stephen Onochukwu, said the patients received by the hospital from the incident were all stable.
“We had 25 of them that were admitted. We discharged some of them that are stable but we are still following them up. Currently, we have seven of them left in the hospital,” he stated.
Attempts to get a reaction from the military proved abortive as the Director of Defence Information, Major General Ohwonigho Akpor, did not respond to calls or a text message. – Punch.