The Nigerian Army has alerted residents of Kogi, Kwara and Niger states to be vigilant and report movements of fleeing bandits to security agents.
The warning came as the army said the bandits had begun fleeing their haven in the North-west following offensives launched by security forces on their locations.
The alert followed the arrest of a fleeing bandit by troops operating along Mokwa-Jebba road, during a stop-and-search operation along the road on Sunday.
The army, in a statement said the arrest was effected about 9:00pm, when the troops intercepted a car travelling from Zuru in Kebbi State to Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The statement, issued by Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the heat on the bandits and other criminals in Niger State and the contiguous states had caused them to flee.
The statement said:
“Members of the public, particularly around Niger and contiguous states, are, therefore enjoined to be vigilant and report any suspected movement of fleeing bandits to security agencies.”
On the arrest of the bandit, the army spokesman said the vigilant troops spotted an occupant of the vehicle, who claimed to be Sgt. Aminu Sule.
“Upon a body search, the occupant was found to be in possession of a pair of camouflage uniform, military boots, knife and substance suspected to be charms.
“On further interrogation, the suspect confessed to be travelling to Ogbomosho in Oyo State. He further claimed that the uniform and boots belonged to his brother who is a soldier.
“However, on closely scrutinising the suspect, he was discovered to be fleeing from the ongoing operations in Niger State to a safe haven,” it said.
The army added that the suspect was apprehended and handed over to the police at Mokwa for further investigation.
No fewer than 1,000 heavily armed security operatives made up of men of the Nigerian Army, civil defence, the Nigeria Police, some vigilantes and local hunters were sent into the Niger forests on Monday to dislodge the bandits and rescue pupils abducted from an Islamic school in Tegina.
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, launched the operation during which he said government has now resolved to “take decisive measures to ensure the safe return of the children”.
According to Bello, the operation had become necessary because the bandits had reneged on all the agreements reached with parents of the abducted pupils for the release of their wards.
He said: “The abductors are not honest; they are not honourable after agreeing with parents they started shifting goal posts and now we are here to take action.
“Even though we have ruled out payment of ransom, it is time for government to take decisive measures towards ending the bandits’ activities that are forcefully changing the lives of the people, especially in the rural areas
“We have to try our possible best not to make them succeed in forcing us to change our normal lives; they started by displacing farmers from their farmlands, next, they moved to burning farms, then moved to kidnappings and forcing us to close our schools, now they have started attacking Islamic schools, only God knows what is next.”
He, however, said “most of these bandits are from outside the country; they are hired to cause problems for us. It is not the habit of the true Fulani to indulge in this kind of act.”
Bello also met with the parents of the 156 kidnapped pupils and other stakeholders at the palace of the Emir of Kagara, Alhaji Ahmed Garba Gunna, during which he commiserated with them and also pleaded for their patience as government was exploring all avenues to rescue their children.