President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed surprise at the sudden rise of banditry in Nigeria which he said is one more evil plan against the country.
The President explained that Nigeria had been struggling to wriggle out of Boko Haram insurgency only to wake up and discover that banditry had taken over the country.
Buhari, who spoke today, January 28 as he received in audience, eminent and citizens of Niger State led by Governor Abubakar Sani Bello at the presidential Villa, Abuja, vowed to go harder on bandits.
He noted the activities of the bandits had forced many to abandon their farms and homes, adding: “we will now be harder on them.
“I was taken aback by what is happening in the North West and other parts of the country. During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising. It is not ethnicity or religion, rather it is one evil plan against the country.
“We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security. If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly.”
President Buhari said the onslaught of the bandits had also affected agricultural output in some parts of the country, in spite of the favourable weather for farming, because many farmers have been attacked, and others had to stay away for safety.
The President said that the poverty level in the country will be significantly controlled by diversifying into agriculture, instead of the heavy reliance on oil, calling on more Nigerians to take up agriculture.
President Buhari said that discovery of oil and gas reserves in Chad Basin, Benue and Bida, and some parts of Bauchi and Gombe, will further bolster current efforts to strengthen the Nigerian economy.
He advised leaders in the Niger Delta to counsel those who blow up pipelines, resulting in spillages that affect farming and farmlands, noting that the loss had always been collective, sometimes turning hard working farmers to victims.
The Eminent persons said they needed to show appreciation to the President for his many interventions on infrastructure, security and appointment of indigenes of the state into key positions of government.
Former governor of Niger State, Aliyu Babangida, who spoke on their behalf said that activities of bandits had rendered many homeless, while others could no longer go the farms.
He thanked the President for taking a more decisive action by directing aerial protection by the military.
Babangida called on the President to intervene in completion of some federal roads, like the Mokwa-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road, Kotongora road, and he also asked for more attention on the Minna airport, which should complement access to the FCT.
In his remarks, the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, assured the President of continuous support, praying: “May God give you strength and wisdom to handle the affairs of our great country, Nigeria.’’