President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his government is not deploying excessive force against armed bandits because of the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers.
The president stated this in response to the recent kidnap of schoolgirls in Zamfara State.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how at least 317 schoolgirls were abducted by bandits on Friday morning during a raid on Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State.
Residents said the bandits woke up people in the neighbourhood as they raided the school, shooting into the air for over two hours.
The latest attack was the third mass kidnapping of schoolchildren in the last three months in the north raising fears among Nigerians in rural communities.
We’ll not succumb to blackmail
The president condemned the banditry, describing it as inhumane and totally unacceptable.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu quoted the president as saying he was sending out a strong warning to bandits and their sponsors.
“This administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.
“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government, the only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.
“We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits,” he said,
He said his government’s primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.
The president said, “a hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.
“Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
Mr Buhari appealed to state governments ”to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles”, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.
The president also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.
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