Libya, Niger, others are responsible for the killings in the North – Military
The Nigerian military has blamed the proliferation and massive flow of weapons from Maghreb countries through Mali, Niger Republic and Chad into Nigeria as being largely responsible for banditry and killings in Zamfara State and the North-West region.
The military explained that the Arab Spring in the Maghreb countries, consisting of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania, had led to more arms in-flow into West Africa, which bandits relied on to perpetrate killings and crimes in North-West Nigeria.
The Defence Headquarters, Abuja, confirmed these submissions on Saturday, noting that “since the Arab Spring and collapse of the Gaddafi administration, there has been a proliferation of arms coming from the Maghreb down through Mali into Niger, Chad and Nigeria.”
The Federal Government and its armed forces had taken the same stance in the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, when they identified Libya as the source of massive arms supplies to the terrorists.
It equally fingered Niger Republic and Chad as major corridors the insurgents utilised to ferry their weapons to Nigeria. The military also pointed out that the terrorists received training in Mali and Libya.
Speaking with newsmen, the acting Director, Defence Information, Col Onyema Nwachukwu, said there were deliberations with these countries to solve this challenge, because “this has become a sub-regional problem.”
Nwachukwu said that bandits came in from Niger Republic, which emphasised the cross-border nature of criminal activities in the North, compelling the military to adopt a multi-faceted approach.
The Nigerian Air Force also said it had intensified Operation Diran Mikiya in the North-West, noting that during its air interdictions, many bandits in Zamfara were seen fleeing across the border into the southern part of Niger Republic.
Recall that the NAF had refuted claims that it bombed innocent civilians as bandits, demanding the traditional rulers in Zamfara State to produce the evidence that civilians were targeted by the air strikes.
This demand came after traditional rulers in the state, the Zamfara Council of Chiefs, had alleged on Thursday that many innocent villagers were killed in misdirected air strikes by the military in the ongoing fight against bandits in the state.
The DHQ spokesman stated, “Since the Arab Spring and collapse of the Gaddafi administration (in Libya), there has been a proliferation of arms coming from the Maghreb down through Mali into Niger, Chad and Nigeria. We expected that and there have been deliberations with these countries to solve this problem, because this has become a sub-regional problem.
“The problem in Zamfara is not about banditry alone. You have some socio-economic interests also because of the illegal gold mining activities.
“On the issue of bandits coming from Niger Republic, we believe that there are some cross-border bandits and this makes it a multi-faceted task before us. That is why we believe the efforts should be all encompassing. Of course, we have that effort under the auspices of the Multi-National Joint Task Force in the North-East, and in the North-West region, it will be done also.
“There is this flow of arms coming in from the Maghreb. The porosity of our borders is a problem. Perhaps after the clearance of the bandits’ hideouts in Zamfara, those agencies in charge of the borders must be empowered to prevent such cross-border criminals.”