Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State has said not less than 165 civilians, 25 security personnel, and 30 local vigilantes were killed within 17 days this year.
The governor announced the figures after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He said his state recorded 50 attacks and loss of lives between January 1 and January 17, while not less than 300 communities were also invaded by bandits within the same period, while 200 persons, including three Chinese nationals, were abducted.
He, however, expressed optimism that the state would witness remarkable improvement in security.
The President had, on Sunday, asked the military to respond “robustly” to the cases of killings and kidnappings in Niger State and to give effect to the strategic objectives through the use of force.
The governor said: “This afternoon, I came to visit Mr President to give him an update on the security situation in Niger State with regard to banditry activities, kidnapping, and cattle rustling among others.
“We had a very fruitful discussion. We were able to review some of the invasions in the state. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you all. In the last few days, there have been a lot of activities in Niger State. Hopefully, in the next two weeks, we will see some relief with regard to banditry.
“I also gave an highlight on some of the challenges. Of course, our size is a disadvantage, almost nine million hectares. We lost some forests.
“In January this year alone, we suffered not less than 50 reported attacks and loss of lives, between 1st and 17th January. Within the same period, not less than 300 communities have been invaded by bandits. The number of people kidnapped is 200, including three Chinese nationals. We also lost some security personnel. Their number is 25. Unfortunately, we lost about 165 civilians and 30 local vigilantes. So, it’s a very dire situation that we have been battling since the beginning of this year.
“But with the kind of zeal I have seen from our security agencies and all services. I’m very optimistic that the situation will be addressed. And hopefully, we should get a very peaceful state within the shortest possible time.
“But there is still a lot of work to do. We share borders with Kaduna, Zamfara, and Kebbi States. And these bandits have the habit of hibernating between forests, moving from Zamfara to Kebbi, and Kebbi to Niger. They take advantage of the cattle routes which they already know. They move on motorcycles. And most the areas and communities they attack have no access roads. So, you cannot drive there. So, our response time is slow.
“But going forward, there will be new strategies which I earlier mentioned. It will help us. But I can’t disclose some of those strategies. But basically, the States of Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi would have to work together to address the situation.
“What I realize is that they have been taking us on a merry-go-round. When we deal with them in Niger, they move to Kaduna. When Kaduna deals with them, they move to Katsina. They have been hibernating in the forest. Some of these operations need to be handled simultaneously so that we get the result.
“We are not happy and we are sad with the developments in these states. We are doing whatever we can, using kinetic and non kinetic efforts to see that we address the present situation.”