By Princess Simon (Bureau Chief North Central, in Minna)
Niger state government has lamented that its landmass which used to be a blessing is now becoming a source of pain, as an appreciable number of combined forces of Boko-Haram and the ISWAP are in the state and openly operating in Borgu and Shiroro Loca Government Areas.
The state at the moment cannot give a vivid account of the number of attacks and casualties because attacks and invasions by the armed men are almost on daily basis happenings in some distant remote villages, including Borgu, Babana, and along fringes of Benin and Niger Republics.
Secretary to Niger State Government (SSG), Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Matane, disclosed this while briefing journalists for the first time about the seeming complicating security situation and efforts being made by the state government to check the trend.
The briefing is coming after months of attacks and counter-attacks by the terrorist group whose activities caused the killing of both members of security forces and civilian targets and as well abduction of hundreds of people, particularly women and their daughters and properties destroyed.
Matane said efforts by the ISWAP and Boko-Haram who already have a stronghold in Zamfara state forests and in the Chukun area of Kaduna state, to establish a sanctuary in Niger state have not been successful notwithstanding the state's vast land to its advantage.
“Some villages and local government areas will take you as much as seven hours before you get there. So, how do you engage a group of people who use sophisticated equipment, satellite phones, and gun trucks with the type of equipment we have?", Matane asked.
He told journalists that like Niger state, all the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja have been infiltrated by the combined ISWAP and Boko-Haram joint forces trying to indoctrinate their victims with their Islamic ideologies.
“There is an appreciable number of joint ISWAP and Boko-Haram forces along with border town to the Benin Republic and they have been trying to install Hakimis and forcing communities to pay a kind of royalty for traders and farmers before allowing them to access their farmlands. They were the ones responsible for the kidnap of the Dodo of Wawa”.
In trying to establish a Kalipha around the Kainji National Park located in Borgu Local Government Area, the SSG said the group try to deceive the locals by claiming that they are not bandits, but are sent by God as they try to indoctrinate them with their beliefs.
“Though the Benin Republic has closed borders against them, the joint ISWAP/Boko-Haram are operating around the periphery, trying to discourage the locals from sending their children to school and accept their teachings and forget about what the government is telling them”.
On the possibility of states in the North-Central zone forming a joint force to tackle the menace headlong, the SSG said forming a joint force is not going to be possible, but every state has its own way of approaching security threats, hence, the more challenges facing Niger state.
Lamenting that states battling to free its citizens from the crutches of Boko-Haram and ISWAP have been doing so without much help from outside, Matane regretted that, “Insecurity, a national issue may not end too soon except if it is tackled headlong using the federal might”.
Ibrahim Matane said it was due to the near impossibility of using lethal force to confront the group that the state government took a number of alternative security measures such as the ban on the sale of particular brands of motorcycles, regulating the number of motor parks, and as well operations of commercial motorcycles across the 25 Local Government Areas. NNL.