The crackdown ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari on bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements terrorising Nigerians, has been extended.
Security agents have been given the order to shoot anyone found carrying AK-47 illegally, the Presidency said on Wednesday.
Helicopters that violate the ‘no fly zone’ slammed on Zamfara State will also be brought down as the government goes tough on banditry and other criminal activities in the country.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Mallam Garba Shehu, who stated this on Wednesday, spoke on the Hausa Service of the BBC.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Monguno on Tuesday announced the Presidential directive that Service Chiefs should be hard on criminal elements to secure Nigerians.
Asked if the President’s directive to security agencies to go after abductors of the Zamfara schoolgirls and bring them to justice is not too weak, Shehu said: “What can be stronger than the fact that the President has directed the operatives to shoot anyone seen with dangerous weapons like AK-47, on sight, in as much as the person is not a security operative.
“Government is doing this with all seriousness. The President equally directed that the security should go after them and kill them except they lay down their arms.”
Giving an insight into the ‘no-fly zone’ order on Zamfara State, he said: “There are reports not only in Zamfara State but also in some parts of northern Nigeria, that drones and helicopters are being used by miners. There are allegations that weapons are being taken into the bush to the terrorists.
“And these planes are being used to pick up gold that is being mined in some parts of Zamfara and exported. This is strong because at the moment, there is a Nigerian gold market in Dubai. The government is losing, the people of this country are losing. That is why mining was stopped for unlicensed miners,” he said.
He added that security operatives had been instructed to take action on any aircraft found flying in the area.
“Gold mining is of two types, there are licensed and permitted miners, there are those doing it without permission, because they think they can protect themselves even if they are prohibited from doing the mining,” he said.
The presidential spokesman lamented that instead of kidnapping slowing down, it seems to be escalating.
“If there is any contribution to be made by this insurgency in gold mining and these planes entering and leaving these areas, then the government has said stop,” said Shehu.
He added that there is a complex issue of identifying licensed and unlicensed miners, but that the government knew what to do next.
“The one who is allowed is the one who is allowed. This is not just a Nigerian issue. There are people, especially foreigners, who come in and set up camp to pick up the resources that God has given us. They run away with the resources and bring weapons to the bad guys in these forests.