By Bosun Awoniyi
LAGOS, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The Nigerian government has expressed worry and grief over the high spate of banditry in the northwest part of the country, which has claimed dozens of civilian lives.
Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi, on Friday, pledged the commitment of the government to sustain the ongoing security operation in the northwest, where violence has soared in recent years as criminal gangs involved in cattle rustling and kidnapping.
The Nigerian security forces in February announced a sweeping operation aimed at armed gangs in the restive northern area.
The operation, according to the police minister was aimed at decimating all forms of crimes in the region to ensure peace, safety, and security of lives and properties.
He said the operation had yielded positive results by neutralizing the attacks by the bandits and dislodging them from their hideouts.
Also, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday directed the military to enhance their operations to end frequent attacks by gunmen and criminal gangs in the country.
Buhari gave the order following attacks by gunmen in the northwestern Nigerian state of Sokoto on Wednesday, in which at least 70 people were killed.
The gunmen, believed to be bandits, rode on motorbikes and estimated to be in their hundreds stormed the villages of Garki, Dan Aduwa, Kuzari, Katuma, and Masawa, all about three kilometers from the town of Sabon Birrnin Gobir in the northern state of Sokoto on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people have been killed by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings in the northwest part of the country since January this year.
Such attacks have added to security challenges in Africa's most populous country, which is already struggling to contain Boko Haram insurgencies in the northeast and communal violence over grazing rights in central states.
In April, gunmen killed 47 people in attacks on villages in the northwestern state of Katsina.
In neighboring Kaduna, unknown gunmen killed more than 50 villagers in two local government areas of the state in March.
Also in February, another 16 members of a family were killed by unknown gunmen in the north-central state of Kaduna.
Commenting on the attacks, Chukwuma Okoli, a lecturer and resident researcher at the Federal University Lafia, said the federal government's current counter-banditry effort, based on military reconnaissance and raids, is good and commendable.
The way forward is the development of grassroots policing, enriched by local personnel and intelligence, the political science expert told Xinhua.
According to him, banditry and other causes of insecurity in northern Nigeria have been allowed to degenerate into a complex national emergency with dire territorial implications.
Authorities in Zamfara, a troubled state in northwestern Nigeria, have decried the worsening security situation in the state. The state has witnessed a series of onslaughts by gunmen in recent months.
More than 50 people were confirmed killed by gunmen who camped in a thick forest in the state in April.
Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal told reporters in Abuja on Friday that he has demanded from the President more military intervention to check the activities of bandits.
"Apart from the previous attacks, only two days ago through banditry attacks, we lost about 74 people in a very heinous and dastardly act of aggression from the bandits," the governor told reporters after a meeting with Buhari.
In the same vein, Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna, who also met with the Nigerian leader, said his visit was to find a lasting solution to the problem.
"The Sokoto story only hit the headlines just a few days ago, but in Zamfara, in Kaduna, in Niger, in Katsina, this banditry has become a northwestern scourge and we have been battling it with the support of the military," he added.