An end to terrorism and banditry in Northwest is in sight, the Presidency assured Nigerians yesterday.
Pointing to the success recorded in the fight against insurgency in Northeast, it said the escalation of terrorist activities in the Northwest would also be brought under control soon.
The Presidency said there was ongoing re-equipment and reorganisation of the security and intelligence forces.
The North has been reeling under serious terrorism and bandit attacks which have taken a turn for the worse.
There have been daily attacks, including kidnapping for ransom, insurgency, killings and incessant farmer-herder clashes, among others.
In a renewed wave of terror, gunmen on March 26 attacked facilities at the Kaduna Airport, killing an airport worker.
Two days later, terrorists blew up rail tracks on the Abuja-Kaduna route, killing eight passengers, injuring 41 people and abducting many.
Yesterday, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Kukah slammed the Federal Government for allegedly failing to halt the worsening security situation.
Describing the security system as “broken”, he accused the government of prioritising the integration of repentant terrorists over freeing kidnap victims.
The bishop likened Nigeria to a fully-occupied emergency unit in a hospital.
But, the Presidency appealed to the families of the train attack victims to be patient, assuring them that efforts were on to rescue their loved ones.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu told our correspondent that much was being done and that the result would soon be apparent.
On the Boko Haram/bandits’ alliance and the impression that the security agencies had failed to carry out President Muhammadu Buhari’s orders, Shehu said the current security crisis was a recent development.
Quoting the international terrorism index, he said the Northeast security crisis, which the administration inherited, had been degraded by 90 per cent.
“This is why the military – the defence establishment, is re-strategising. They are reorganising with new technologies.
“We are hoping that in the coming weeks, people will see the real difference. We’re hoping incidents, such as the rail bombing, will never again happen,” Shehu said.
On success recording in Northeast, he said: “Virtually all the major roads in Borno State have been re-opened. All the major markets have been re-opened.
“Trading across the border has resumed and if you see what the international terrorism index indicated recently, more than 90 per cent of Boko Haram terrorism is no longer happening.
“So, that is to say, that things are happening and Nigerians should appreciate the fact that the military, the intelligence and the police are working hard and they are getting results.
“I’m not denying that there has been a spike recently in some states, particularly Kaduna, Plateau, Niger Benue, and to some extent, Zamfara, which has witnessed a calming down of the situation for some time.
“Essentially, you’re talking about the government’s success in degrading sustainable threats, such as Boko Haram.
“That is not to say that there are not occasional threats; they might strike from time to time and this is in the nature of symmetric warfare.
“But the government is preparing well, is planning well, is making acquisitions – drone technology, airpower.
“We’ve just been given approval by the Americans to buy nearly $1 billion worth of military hardware – 12 helicopters.
“So, we’re getting somewhere and you know that the Super Tucanos have come; the drones, we have got two more.
“They were being assembled and the operators were being trained. All of these things are being hastened.
“Changes have happened in commands in the manning of this dangerous axis and the results will show.
“So, Nigerians should be patient with the administration. We are getting results. It may take time, but we’ll get there.”
‘Abducted train victims will be freed’
The Presidency appealed to families of those taken hostage from the train attack to be patient as the government works to secure their freedom.
Shehu said: “Relatives of those taken as hostages by the terrorists, speaking during a media briefing in Kaduna on Friday, had told Federal Government not to resume the Abuja-Kaduna train service until those being held had been set free from captivity.
“Government has already fixed the rail tracks. They’ve been tested and ready to resume train service.
“However, there is also concern about family members who are holding up this process and they insist that their family members must be brought home from the bandits before the service is restored.
“You can understand the emotion, and the government doesn’t want to appear to be insensitive.
“But again, by stopping this rail service, you’re also in a way exposing other families who have not been so affected by other dangers.
“There must be a meeting point and I’m sure that the security and intelligence community, with the police, will be able to work with the family members to reassure them that they will not be abandoned and that their family members will not be abandoned to their fate.”
The presidential spokesman explained why such rescue operations may take time.
“If the idea is to just bomb out everyone – the bandits, the terrorists and their captives, this can be done in a day.
“But this is a rescue operation and rescue will only be successful when you bring people out alive and well.
“If they are brought back in body bags, what’s the purpose?
“The family members should please bear with the administration as it works to ensure that the people who are trained to deal with this situation, give the direction on what to do,” Shehu said.
Declare emergency on security, says Senator
Also yesterday, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa/ NEPAD Chimaroke Nnamani, urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on security.
The former Enugu State governor, who represents Enugu East, in an Easter message, said: “There is no use pretending or shying away from the fact that Nigerians are no longer safe in their homes, workplaces, schools, worship centres, roads and everywhere.
“We must, therefore, take the necessary steps to declare an emergency on the security situation.
“All hands must be on deck to tackle the situation headlong but the government must lead the way.”