By Johnson Eyiangho
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Buratai, has promised that the army will continue to support civil authority in tackling all forms of criminality, including banditry and terrorism.
Buratai gave the promise on Monday in Gusau, while addressing troops after he launched “Exercise Harbin Kunama III” – Scorpion Sting, designed to flush out bandits from Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto States.
The exercise is expected to last for three months.
Represented by Maj-Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, the Chief of Training and Operations, Buratai stressed the need to make the three states and country at large safe for the citizens to go about their socio-economic activities.
He restated that it is the constitutional responsibility of the military to aid civil authority like the Police in ensuring internal security.
Earlier, Buratai said Harbin Kunama was supposed to have be conducted in June, but “current threat and threat assessment necessitated the rescheduling of the exercise and expansion its mandate to cover forest areas that have served as safe haven for bandits.’’
He said the menace of the bandits had persisted in the North West region and along border lines.
“The unwholesome and dastardly acts of these bandits have adversely affected socio-economic activities with attendant effect on human and economic security,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the bandits for some years now have infiltrated Zamfara forests, rustling cattle, killing innocent people, looting and of recent resort to kidnap for ransom.
NAN also reports that President Muhammadu Buhari, in July 2016 launched Harbin Kunama I in the state to tackle the menace, thereby bringing the activities of the bandits to the barest minimum.
The phase two of the exercise was conducted in Kaduna state in 2017 in the heat of the farmers and herdsmen clashes which rock mostly the southern part of the state.
In an interview with newsmen, Maj.-Gen. H.O. Otiki, the GOC 8 Division, said the exercise would complement the ongoing “Operation Sharan Daji in tackling banditry in the division’s area of responsibility.”
Otiki said Harbin Kunama III would help in blocking gaps observed in operation Sheran Daji and enhance what was being done to flush out the bandits from Zamfara in particularly, Katsina and Sokoto States.
Also, in an interview, Mr. Bashir Ahmad, the Acting Director-General, Press Affairs, Government House, Zamfara stated that the state government had recruited over 8,000 vigilantes to fight the bandits.
Ahmad noted that the state had experienced the challenge of banditry “for almost a decade’’ but commended the military for what they had been doing to rid the state of the menace.
He said the state government would continue to provide support for security agencies to flush the criminal out of the state.