The Defence headquarters has remained silent about security personnel divulging vital information on military operations to bandits.
This is even as security experts have said the ongoing military offensive against bandits in Zamfara State is yielding results amidst heightened offensive by security forces against them in the North West region of the country.
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that at least eight security personnel had been arrested for sabotaging military operations in the past.
But since the arrest was made, nothing has been said about the personnel feeding the bandits with information, even as their identities were not made public.
In March 2021, the Zamfara State government said a military officer and his girlfriend were arrested by troops for supplying ammunition and uniforms to bandits but did not provide details as to the identity of the officer.
Another seven military personnel were arrested in April 2021 in Zamfara for supplying uniforms, kits, and ammunition to bandits.
This is in addition to the large number of bandits’ informants arrested by security forces.
The Attorney-general of the federation and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) had also withdrawn the case against killer soldiers involved in the case of kidnap kingpin, Bala Hamisu, popularly known as Wadume in Taraba State.
But the director, Defence Information (DDI), Major General Benjamin Sawyerr, said the military institution does not condone indiscipline.
He said the administration of justice in the Armed Forces of Nigeria does not give room for cover-ups.
Sawyerr stated: “There are many cases of general court-martial being constituted to try military personnel who seem to have misbehaved.
“The administration of justice in the military is that we don’t cover anybody up. We don’t condone indiscipline because once you condone indiscipline then your Armed Forces is finished. This is an organisation that deals with the management of violence. So, you cannot afford to have people who are not disciplined.”
The Defence spokesman said he was not aware of “personnel giving out troops’ location to adversaries.”
Meanwhile, the security veterans who spoke exclusively with this paper said the strategy of shutting down telecommunications networks in the state is effective and should be extended to other states.
A public and private security analyst and trainer, Major Banjo Daniel (rtd), said several soldiers and officers had been court-martial for various infractions but not necessarily made public.
“What I know about the military is that when they are caught, they are pushed out. About four Generals have been martialed for acts of insubordination. Some were even jailed.
“Things of the military cannot be publicised all the time except when a soldier has committed a civil offence. If it is a criminal offence, he or she will be tried, dismissed from the army and handed over to the police then the case becomes public. Except if it involves handing over to the police, we’ll not hear much about it.”
Banjo however noted that President Muhammadu Buhari has only decided to speak with the bandits in the language they understand following series of failed mediation by the Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmed Gumi.
He said the military could not deal decisively with bandits due to the activities of informants who were constantly giving out movement of troops and locations to the criminals
“When the Telecommunication system was shut down, they (bandits) were unable to communicate. So, the military, especially the air force is having the day. They have been able to track them down and are able to pound them.”
He commended the service chiefs for the offensives and urged them to maintain the tempo.
“Until these present chiefs prove to me that they are professionals, I’ll continue to regard them as academicians. But with the recent happenings, they have proved their worth and if they continue, I’m sure,” he added.
On why it took this long for the government to unleash its might on the bandits, he said, “Mr President probably has a soft spot for the bandits; that is why it is taking this long to finish them.
“Probably Mr President was expecting Gumi’s mediation to make the bandits sheath their sword but they didn’t, so he has spoken to them in the language they understand. I think that is exactly what is happening now.”
Also speaking, the secretary-general of Veterans Federation of Nigeria (VFN), Dr Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu, said the government decided to shut down the telecommunications network in Zamfara because intelligence revealed that bandits were getting information about troops’ deployment from locals using the GSM.
“The DHQ came up with a strategy to tackle insurgency and general insecurity in Nigeria with particular reference to Northern Nigeria.
“One of the strategies was shutting down networks because it was discovered that there was very serious communication between the bandits and their informants. Banditry is one aspect of insecurity and the most dangerous form is informants that provide information to the bandits about the movement of security personnel. Once they are aware of troops’ movement and weapons owned by the security forces that will hinder the fight against insurgency and banditry.”
He said the security forces realised that and came up with this ‘strategy and policy of banning all networks within that axis and it is yielding results.
Aliyu said the strategy in Zamfara, if repeated in Katsina and other states, would reduce banditry to the barest minimum.
He noted: “With the same approach in Zamfara being carried out in Katsina, Kaduna and Niger banditry will reduce about 85 per cent.
“There is no country that has carved out the issue of insecurity 100 per cent. So, if we achieve 85 percent, I think we should be clapping for the government. The Bandits are being killed in their hundreds and equipment destroyed.”
He reiterated that while bandits are now begging for negotiation, the government has refused because they have seen the firepower of the military.
Aliyu who is the president of Northern Consensus Movement, a coalition of Northern groups and associations, said, “The strategy has opened the eyes of security agencies to the fact that if they had done this earlier, we would have possibly be singing a different song but it is better late than never,”
He however expressed worry over the reported cases of sabotage among security forces in the fight against insecurity, a development he described as “dangerous”
He noted that the military has a way of punishing erring personnel without the knowledge of the general public.
Aliyu added: “Military ways of punishing personnel are not usually broadcast and made public. It is usually silent but I can guarantee you very stringent measures are being taken. Soldiers are being sentenced to firing squad subject to the affirmation of the authorities. Some are being sent to prisons and others dismissed but it is not something that is being made public.
“Military is an institution where training and discipline are not being put on the table of the media except to serve as a deterrent to others.”
Police On Alert In Kaduna Over Operations In Zamfara
Meanwhile, the Kaduna Police Command has said there is no cause for alarm, as it is aware of an influx of people from Zamfara State following the offensive on the bandits in the State.
According to the Command’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Mohammed Jalige, the Kaduna State police commissioner has ordered all the police sectors to be on alert and watch against movement of suspicious persons into the state.
He said the police are fully aware that the bandits may want to use Kaduna State among other neighbouring states as hide out.
He however assured that they are not going to leave any stone unturned to ensure that they don’t have any hiding place in the State.
He said the police have been ordered to be suspicious of motorists and commercial motorcyclists coming into the state.
He called on the citizens to be mindful of their surroundings and report suspicious personal and movement to the security agencies for prompt action.
As part of security measures also, some schools that are located in security prone areas have been shut down temporarily pending an improvement in the security situation of the area.
Seek Return Of Personnel On Special Duties In Kwara
Also, wary of fleeing bandits from Zamfara and Katsina States, the commissioner of police in Kwara State, Tuesday Assayomo, has asked the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, to order the return of the state mobile policemen currently on special assignments in other states so as to strengthen the security of Kwara state.
He expressed worry that the bandits may be finding their way to Kwara State.
He said the fear of the people of Kwara State is that the bandits do not enter the state normally but through ungoverned vast forest in northern part of the state, especially in Kaiama area.
Assamayo who lamented the shortage of manpower in the state police command, appealed to the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba, to order the return of the state mobile policemen currently on special assignments in other states so as to strengthen the security of Kwara state.
“The shortage of man-power has affected our policing capacity in the state, especially now that bandits are being bombarded and chased away from Zamfara and Katsina States. The concern of Kwarans today is that they do not enter Kwara State through this ungoverned reserve forest in the northern part of the state, hence my subtle request to the IGP to graciously order for the return of our mobile policemen currently on special duty outside Kwara so as to help strengthen the security of the state,” Assamayo stated.