By Omeiza Ajayi — Abuja
Amid the rising wave of banditry and other crimes in some parts of the North, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello has reiterated his earlier position not to negotiate with criminal elements, saying recent history has shown that criminal gangs often take advantage of such official gesture to wreak more havoc as a result of the illusion that government negotiated out of a place of weakness.
Bello spoke on Wednesday in Abuja during a breakfast show on a national television monitored by our correspondent.
The governor cited an instance where a criminal gang was offered amnesty in Nasarawa state following the intervention of a top politician, lamenting that the group however reneged on its agreement with the government as its members have continued to terrorise the people.
“When we went to Nasarawa state for a meeting, some bandits were said to have repented and that we should grant them amnesty. I did say that I would never negotiate with bandits or criminals.
“Not up to two weeks after, the head of these bandits who I saw with my naked eyes and his lieutenants went on the rampage again kidnapping, killing and maiming our people”, he said.
He pointed out that strong political will was required to tackle security challenges of any type and the steps his administration took in a state bedeviled with security challenges was to deal ruthlessly with crime perpetrators and their sponsors.
Governor Bello added that security was not only the responsibility of the Nigerian Army, the police, and other security operatives but community ownership must also be instilled to facilitate trust and active participation of the people in their own security and safety, particularly intelligence sharing.
He said; “What we did in Kogi state was to ensure that the citizens owned the security architecture and work with the defence, security and intelligence service by way of giving them information”
According to Bello, the decision of the North Central Governors Forum to establish military barracks in flashpoints within their states was in a bid to further strengthen the existing effective security architecture in the region adding that such barracks would be a designated training location for military operatives from where special forces could be easily deployed for operations.
The Governor stated that it was a common practice by politicians who aspired political offices to engage the services of thugs to help intimidate their opposition adding that when the political season was over these people were often abandoned by their employers.