Interview

We’re empowering local vigilantes to tackle criminals in Niger –Gov. Bello

Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, during the week launched the Niger State Special Vigilante Corps (NSSVC) and donated 10 operational Vans, 20 Motorcycles as part of effort to tackle insecurity. In this interview with DANIEL ATORI, he spoke about the security challenge in the state and efforts aimed at tackling them. Excerpts…

Your Excellency, now that you are back what should Nigerlites expect from you as the Chief Security Officer of the state?

Well now that I am back, Nigerlites should expect what we have been doing because government is a continuous process. Even in my absence the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso, tried his best to represent me effectively in collaboration with the members of the State Executive Council.

While you were away, how was it like for you knowing that there are security challenges faced by the state?

When I was abroad, I was speaking with them about five to 10 times a day. The Deputy Governor, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the Executive Chairman of Rafi Local Government Council, we spoke not less than 10 times a day. So, I knew everything that was going on and I knew everyone’s efforts. So, Government is a continuous process, when the governor is not there the deputy governor is there. It is not about the person, it is about the system. And I am glad that the system worked very well in my absence.

When you say very well how do you mean?

Sincerely speaking, it worked very well. Most of these things you are seeing here happened in my absence. A good system is a functional system that works with or without a particular person being around.

What is the update on the abduction of the students and teachers of the Tegina Islamic school in Rafi Local Government area of the state?

Well, we are working on it, we are making progress but we are being very stingy with information. And let me be blunt, we are stingy with information because as we speak here there are people providing information to armed bandits within the political circles and possibly within the media circles. Let me say that some people are sending messages indirectly to bandits of what we do. As I am speaking to you now, bandits are listening and they are watching. So, if you have the interest of those children, you have to be careful because some members of my cabinet including some media are being used as instruments by the bandits. When we talk, the bandits would call later to say this is what the Governor said. Even in Government House, on a small group. So, this situation of armed bandits, kidnapping is uncalled for. No kidnapping takes place without the informants. Somebody tells them where and when to follow up because they know that we do not having enough policemen and women. Whenever we send policemen on patrol, someone would go and tell the armed bandits to take a different route.

Your allegation that the media also give armed bandits information, is it through our stories or by direct personal contact?

Well, I cannot give you every detail but we have to be very careful so that we can all sleep in Niger State with our two eyes closed because whatever we transmit on air… and we even have people within the cities – we used to call them that this is what is happening. The bandits have informants everywhere because they cannot operate without the informants.

You mentioned the media and politicians; would that mean that these politicians are also with you on the corridors of power?

Yes, they are everywhere because you need to understand the dynamics, and the danger that we are dealing with organised crime, very organised. You may think that the armed bandits are illiterates, but believe me, they are very organised. I don’t talk to anybody because in a situation where we sit down and we would discuss where we are going and what is needed to be done and yet the bandits hear about our private discussions. Children are being kidnapped and they are very little kids of between three and half years and 11 years old, taken away from their parents for about two weeks. We, as a government, are concerned, the parents too are concerned and everybody is concerned. Day and night, our security personnel don’t sleep and we don’t sleep. We are day and night strategising, thinking of how we can bring back these children who have been abducted by bandits safely. But at the same time, some people are also strategising, thinking on how to make money or how to make a name for themselves. And that is why the case is more complicated because now you have some interests. And for whatever interests we may have, for the sake of the children, we must be united and we must pray hard for them to come back safely because we are talking about the children of between ages three and 11 years. But things have gone so bad that we all have different interests. Somebody wants to make name for his network so that his employers would say he is working and in the process taking actions that compromises the underground arrangement being made while somebody somewhere also wants to make money by saying we can bring them back, so give us money. Okay, if we give you money where do you want to go and drop the money and bring them back?

What informed the donation of 10 Nissan Hilux Vans and the 20 motorcycles to the Niger State Special Vigilante Corps (NSSVC) at the State Command of the Nigeria Police on Tuesday in Minna?

Thank you very much for the question. First of all, we have to think. I would consider how the people and government of Niger State protect themselves first and that is not for public knowledge.

Recently, when you were in Kasuwa Garba in Mariga Local Government Area of the state you promised to provide the local vigilante group with automatic Pump Action Rifles in order to battle with armed bandits there. With that promise, where are we now?

Yes, the local vigilantes in Kasuwa Garba are there, they are working under the instruction of the police, they are doing their best and I believe whatever is required or needed for the vigilantes to use would be provided and I have not had any complaints. So, they are working under the police and I believe they are making progress within the confines of the Law.

Apart from the vehicles and motorcycles, we observed that there were no communication gadgets and body armour vests for the Special Vigilante Corps to do their job effectively?

Well speaking about the issue of bullet proof vests, the threats in Minna is quite different from the threats outside the city. You will recall that about a month ago, almost on daily basis, youths in Minna were coming out with cutlasses, fighting themselves and in the process attacking and injuring bystanders and pedestrians alike. It is really unfortunate that in the state capital, Minna, we are having such issues. The State’s Special Vigilante Corps are there to restore law and order working with the police in Minna. They are to complement the efforts of the police so that this menace of youth restiveness nonsense would stop so that people can move freely. At some points in Minna, it was scary because you were not sure of what you would come across whenever you go out. With regard to the issues of bullet proof vests, their operation is going to be within Minna metropolis and we do not expect an exchange of firearms. This is more of civil defence situation and they know most of the trouble makers. So, since they know most of the trouble makers, if you make trouble they would identify your house, bring the police, get you arrested and detain you. So, we don’t expect them to be engaging armed bandits. The operation of armed banditry is completely different from this one.

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