Buhari declares Zamfara a “no fly zone” at Security Council meeting

*Reaffirms ban on mining in the state

*As Senate clears Service Chiefs, urges them to take war to bandits, terrorists

By Ignatius Okorocha and Myke Uzendu

As part of efforts to curtail spiraling banditry ravaging mainly the Northern parts of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared Zafrara state a “no-fly-zone”.

According to analysts, a “no-fly zone”, also known as a “no-flight zone” (NFZ), or “air exclusion zone” (AEZ) is a territory established by a military power over which certain aircrafts are not permitted to fly.

Such pronouncements are usually made in respect of an enemy power’s territory during a conflict, similar in concept to the aerial demilitarised zone.

Making the president’s decision known to journalists was the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd.), who stated that Buhari came to the conclusion during the National Security Council (NSC) meeting held in the Presidential Villa yesterday.

According to the NSA, the president equally restated his 2019 ban on mining activities in the state.

He disclosed that the intelligence and security community in the country ”have been mandated to go after all non-state actors, whose activities have been fueling chaos, for prosecution”.

He said that Buhari “has charged the new Service Chiefs, who attended the meeting for the first time, to reclaim all areas under the control of bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and other criminals across the country”.

On whether there were concerns over some people choosing to live in forests, rather than where others live, the NSA said: “We are not going to be blackmailed. The government has the responsibility to assert its will. Citizens can reside wherever they want to reside. Anybody who is a criminal should be brought to book.

“The president has also warned against ethnic profiling. We have (had) enough of chaos. Any individual that thinks he can cause disunity should have a rethink.”

At the meeting were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha; the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; and the NSA.

Others were the Ministers of Defence, Interior, Police Affairs, and Foreign Affairs; Maj-Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), O’gbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Muhammad Dingyadi and Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, respectively.

Security chiefs in attendance included the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice-Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amoo and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Rear-Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo.

Also at the meeting were the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu; Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Yusuf Magaji Bichi; Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Rufai Abubakar and the Chief of Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Maj.-Gen Samuel Adebayo.

*Take fight to bandits, terrorists, Lawan charges new CDS, Service Chiefs 

Presiding at the plenary where the new Service Chiefs were confirmed, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has charged them to take the fight to their enclave across the country. 

The confirmed Service Chiefs participated in their first NSC meeting which was presided over by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa.

During the Senate session, Lawan bemoaned the poor security situation in the country, empasising that the Service Chiefs should place squarely on their shoulders, the responsibility of addressing the problems of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency. 

He said: “Let me take this opportunity to thank the former Service Chiefs for doing their best, and also advice the new Service Chiefs that Nigerians expect so much from them.

“We are in a very serious situation. The security situation must be improved, and the buck is now going to stop on their tables as far as operations are concerned,” Lawan said. 

While underscoring the importance of security in Nigeria, he assured of the continued support of the National Assembly to the new leadership of the military. 

He described as “unacceptable” recent activities of bandits which saw the kidnapping of students in Katsina, Niger, and Zamfara states, stressing that “there is no better investment today in Nigeria, and, indeed at anytime, than investing in the security of our country, to protect the lives and properties of our people. 

“In situation where bandits will come to a school, take over 300 hundred students on motorcycles and disappear into thin air without any trace is not acceptable.

 “Something has to give in, because apparently this is becoming an industry. Some people are benefitting from this, and we have to unravel who this people are and fight bandits and insurgents until we rescue our country.”

He also advised them to ensure there is inter-agency cooperation.

*Troops battle Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists in Dikwa

In another development, Defence headquarters said its troops have foiled attempts by the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists to infiltrate Dikwa, earlier recovered from the bandits.

In a statement by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig-Gen. Mohammed Yerima the troops of Operation LAFIYA DOLE decisively routed the terrorists as they attempted to infiltrate and attack Dikwa town in Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State.

The terrorists, according to him, stormed the town in an unconfirmed number of gun trucks and motorcycles, but were visited with heavy bombardment and overwhelming firepower by troops of 81 Task Force Battalion with reinforcement from other formations of the Nigerian Army, aided by air support of Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE.

“The terrorists attempted to invade the town to loot food items and other logistics having got wind of the recent food distribution to residents of the town by the state governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum.

“They came in their droves through the Marte axis but could not gain access to the town due to the combat readiness of troops who were positioned there.

“The terrorists subsequently lost initiative as they were cut off completely following the recent successful recapture of Marte town by the gallant troops.

“In desperation and to scare off residents from returning to their homes, they planted series of landmines on the roads which were also detected and successfully detonated by troops.

He also debunk insinuation that the terrorists attacked UN Base in Borno, trapping 25 Aid Workers, saying there was no truth in such report.

*Sokoto records wanton killings, kidnappings within 4 days

Sokoto State has recorded wanton killings and kidnappings of innocent citizens by bandits in three border local government areas within a spate of four days.

Areas visited by the marauders were Gwadabawa, Amarawa and Gatawa towns, in Illela and Sabon Birni Local Government Areas respectively.

The state Police Command PPRO, ASP Sanusi Abubakar, confirmed this in a press statement.

He said, “Suspected kidnappers had earlier visited Gwadabawa Local Government Area and whisked away the PDP local government chairman, Alhaji Nasiru Isah, whose whereabouts is yet to be ascertained.”

Also, in the past two days, bandits and kidnappers struck at the two towns of Amarawa and Gatawa, within Illela Local Government Area, and Sabon Birni Local Government killing dozens of people with livestock rustled.

At Illela, the bandits succeeded in whisking away a wealthy businessman, kidnapped several persons from Gatawa, while many others were maimed and internally displaced.

Many were also kidnapped by gun-wielding bandits who unleashed terror on residents of Sabon Birni Local Government.

ASP Abubakar, however, assured that all hands are on deck to redress the ugly situation.

“The launching of Operation PUFF ADDER II will provide adequate security in areas already overwhelmed by the activities of bandits targetted at five local governments of Sabon Birni, Rabah, Goronyo, Gwadabawa, Wurno and operational extension to Illela.

“Similarly, there are 15 brand new vehicles aimed at complementing and strengthening the five units of mobile personnel already deployed for the operation by the IGP,” he stated. 

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