Police, Air Force raise alert levels as bandits roam free

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Sopuruchi Onwuka

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has charged its operational commanders across the country to deal ruthlessly with roaming bandits that have encircled the country with terrorism, abductions and killings.

The directive came as the Nigerian police said it deployed additional manpower around Abuja to bolster security, days after local reports of an attack at a checkpoint near the capital.

In issuing directives to its operational commanders after the presidential advice, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao told commanders show no mercy and ensure they employ maximum firepower against terrorists posing security threats in the country.

Air Marshal Amao said in statement released by the Air Force after a meeting that the security situation “remains fluid and uncertain” with armed groups now roaming freely in the northern states.

Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said in a separate statement that Inspector General Usman Alkali Baba had allayed residents’ fears concerning “recent perceived security threats.”

He said the force would deploy more personnel and assets within the Federal Capital Territory and its environs to secure lives, critical national assets and vulnerable facilities.

The directives which are not new in the normal statements from security agents playng hide and seek with bandits and insurgents came after a fresh spate of national outrage over the weakness of the nation’s security architecture in the face of daring assault by militants, bandits and insurgents of the Fulani extraction.

Apart from extending their control from the northeastern parts to the entire northern half of the country, the bandits and insurgents have also encircled the entire country with cells of terrorists that have bombed churches in Ondo State, threatened to attack Lagos State, seized parts of Abia and Imo states and also sacked villages in Ebonyi State.

The loose gangs of bandits attacked a presidential convoy in Katsina State, threatened the President and also demolished the Kuje Prison in Abuja to free their jailed members even after serving warning that they were coming.

The national outcry that followed the bold gains by the bandits and insurgents had forced the National Assembly to attempt and weak and belated move at impeaching President Muhammadu Buhari whose popularity has since sunk below failure rate.

In a normal meeting after criticisms, President Buhari had summoned security chiefs to a meeting where he reportedly asked them to dismantle restraints in dealing with worsening insecurity in the country.

Air Marshal Amao said the security situation in the country has become uncertain, compounding fears that the security forces are still low on intelligence about how the bandits and insurgents operate.

He said pointed at information that the bandits are roaming freely in northern states where they mix easily and enjoy acceptance in the local society.

But the militants popularly called Fulani bandits have states in the southeastern parts of the country where they enjoy cooperation of the military personnel stationed in the area.

Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, His Eminence Dr Sunday Uche, had stated after he was freed with N100 million from the Fulani bandits that currently rule Abia State that the criminals have the cooperation of military personnel stationed at innumerable checkpoints in the area.

In Ondo and Ekiti States where the bandits had held sway before they were routed by the regional Amotekun vigilante outfits, all captured gunmen of Fulani extraction were freed from police custody without prosecution, an unwritten rule at all security posts across the country.

Some field officers in the military have taken to social media to complain informally that their commanders have restrained them from going after the bandits who operate mainly on motorcycles, saying that ending banditry in the country should be difficult for the military forces.

It was also reported that intelligence reports on the planned attack on the Kuje prisons were never acted upon by the presidency, raising a paradox after President Buhari condemned the Department of Security Services (DSS) over the ease and speed with which the insurgents overran the Kuje prison facilities.

President Buhari said on Tuesday that his government had given security forces “full freedom to deal with, and bring to end this madness.”

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