By Sanni Onogu, Abuja
The Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, on Monday urged the Nigerian Army to fish out bandits and kidnapper that reportedly killed 15 travellers along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway, on Sunday.
At least 15 people were said to have been killed on Sunday and many others abducted when kidnappers reportedly blocked the Kaduna-Abuja expressway around 5 pm.
The incident was said to have happened around Gidan Busa, a village not far away from Rijana, which is 133 kilometres to Abuja.
However, Ndume’s directive came as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major General Usman Mohammed, debunked reports about the killing of 15 persons during the attack.
Usman said that only two persons were killed during the attack and assured that the Nigerian Army would do all in its power to arrest the killers as well as dislodge the bandits/kidnappers now making life unbearable for commuters along the Abuja-Kaduna route.
Ndume and Maj. Gen. Usman made these assertions during an oversight visit to various Army formations in Kaduna State by the Senate Committee on Army.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Ndume (Borno South), while noting reports about recent killings and kidnappings along the Kaduna-Abuja road, urged the Army to go after the bandits and kidnappers in their various hideouts.
He said: “In the last few months, we have had peace along the Kaduna-Abuja road. But on Sunday, what happened is worrisome. Along the Birnin Gwari (axis) the security situation is also alarming. Unfortunately, the Army doesn’t have the number needed to provide security.”
The Borno South lawmaker further expressed worry that the Nigerian Army was being overwhelmed and overstretched following the deployment of its personnel for internal security duties across various states of the Federation.
He lamented that the Army was currently operating in at least 33, out of 36 States of the Federation.
The former Senate Leader insisted that by constitutional design, the Army should not be involved in internal security arrangements.
Ndume, who was accompanied on the visit by four other senators, said that the Army needed support to be able to succeed.
He said: “We are delighted to be here. We insisted on this oversight visit for some reasons. The Army is facing its own challenges. By our Constitution, the Army isn’t supposed to be involved in civil security.
“But we have security challenges across every part of the country. The Army had to be drafted to provide internal security. Right now, the Army provides internal security in about 33 States in the country. We can’t sit in Abuja and talk.
“We need to see for ourselves. We are hoping that the Army will get back to its feet. As a country, we are known to have a formidable Army. But these days, we are worried.”
The GOC of 1 Div., Maj. Gen. Usman, told the lawmakers that contrary to media reports, only two persons were killed along Kaduna-Abuja road on Sunday and not 15.
He said the two victims comprised of a driver and a woman.
He also disclosed that nine persons who were kidnapped by the bandits were freed on Sunday by soldiers, who immediately swung into action as soon they got wind of the attack.
He said that the army has concluded plans to go after bandits during the Yuletide season, adding that camps belonging to bandits would be located and destroyed in the coming days.
Usman said: “We want to appreciate the support of your Committee. We are succeeding because of your support. We need your support to keep succeeding. We are not unmindful of the security challenges.
“Right now, we have three operations ongoing. There is one along the Kaduna-Abuja road. We are going after bandits during this Christmas period. We will flush them out. We have been seeing their recent hand along that road. We will keep doing our best.
“We always go after the bandits in their camps. We have dislodged them from their camps.
“On Sunday, only two persons were killed. Nine persons were kidnapped. We went after them and the kidnappers left their victims and ran away.
“It is false to say that 15 people were killed. That’s not true. We will keep dislodging them. We will redouble our efforts and ensure that they don’t have their way.”
A member of the Senate Committee who is also a retired Army Colonel, Senator Bulus Amos, urged the men of the Division to be more tactical in its operations as many villagers and peasants in areas where bandits operate, often serve as informants.
Senator Amos said: “Most people who are farmers, bike riders and villagers are informants. These bandits have informants everywhere. Soldiers need to go after them. If they meet them face to face, soldiers will finish them.
“Soldiers need to disguise and find a way to get the people to cooperate with them. These bandits live with us. They’re part of us and they live in communities. We need to do more.”