President Muhammadu Buhari has warned bandits to desist from criminal activities, following the abduction of schoolgirls from Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara.
The President also cautioned Nigerian governors against the policy of amnesty for bandits.
He stated that rewarding bandits with money and vehicles by some states may “boomerang disastrously.”
SaharaReporters had earlier reported that the school which is located within the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of the state came under siege by some bandits at past midnight.
The gunmen were said to have arrived in the school around 1 am and loaded the girls in buses.
Reacting in a statement on Friday evening, Buhari said the criminals should not mistake government’s restraint for “weakness”, adding that they are not too strong to be defeated.
“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government adding that the only thing standing between the security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement,” he said.
“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits,” he said, stressing that “our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.
“A hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.
“Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
The Zamfara State Government had in its 2021 budget earmarked a total of N200 million for its amnesty programme for ‘repentant’ bandits.
In a copy of the budget seen by SaharaReporters, N354 million was also budgeted for projects related to grazing reserves.
The Bello Matawalle-led government had in 2019 entered a peace agreement with bandits.
The governor said negotiation with the gunmen is the best option for lasting peace in the state.
He explained that he chose to offer cows because the bandits need the cows to advance their economic interests.
In January, SaharaReporters exposed how 15 brand new Hilux vehicles and cash gifts were given to leaders of different ‘repentant’ banditry groups by Matawalle.