Following abduction of over 300 schoolgirls in Zamfara State, President Muhammadu Buhari has asked state governors to review their engagement with bandits, stop payment of ransom and other rewards to the gunmen in their states.
Buhari further warned that the ongoing strategy of negotiating with bandits and releasing ransoms to secure abductees could boomerang and put the states particularly the northern region, at mercy of the gunmen.
The president, who stated these in a statement released on Friday by Senior Special Assistant, Media, and Publicity, Garba Shehu, advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.
He warned that the apex government would not entertain the option of rewarding bandits considering their actions across the northern region.
Buhari added that his administration would not succumb to blackmail by bandits that have resulted in targeting innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.
According to the President, no criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government and 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, stressing that “our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.”
Buhari noted that “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”.
He warned the bandits: “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.”