President Muhammadu Buhari has claimed that concern over lives of hostages and civilian casualties has prevented security forces from launching overwhelming offensive against bandits.
Buhari, explained this while reacting Friday to the kidnapping of 317 schoolgirls in Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Zamfara State.
On one hand, he said the security forces have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate.
But the limitation, he said, “is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.”
He 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.”
“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government,” he said.
“The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement,” he said.
“our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.”
Nevertheless, Buhari sent out a strong warning to bandits and their sponsors, as he condemned the latest abduction of Jangebe schoolgirls, as inhumane and totally unacceptable.
“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,” he said.
Simultaneously, he warned state governors to stop rewarding bandits or terrorists with ransom payment.
On Federal Government part, he said it will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.
He urged the states “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”
He also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.