The Department of State Services (DSS) is aware of the presence of Jihadi elements from Far Burkina, Mali, Niger and Libya in Nigeria’s Northwest region seeking alliances with armed groups, the Director-General, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, has said.
Bichi was represented by Dr Hakeem Adebola, an Assistant Director with the agency at a conference organised by Umaru Shinkafi Legacy Foundation as the Organisation commenced its annual Umaru Shnkafi Security Summit in Memory of the Late Umar Ali Shinkafi, Marafan Sokoto.
He said the agency had information and was following developments in the region and called for more synergy between states and the Federal Government in the fight against insecurity, especially around the border and forest areas.
“There is intelligence in some local communities, especially along the border where we have seen foreign mercenaries coming like an exploration, like in a community in Sokoto we had a situation where the people had to tell them to go back but sometimes before you know some of them have moved to Zamfara and then Katsina states,” the director-general said.
“We also know that because of the way the borders are connected they are in Niger State and even extending to Nasarawa and sometimes we can even see their activities on Abuja-Kaduna highway.
“We have observed that what they are doing is because of the ungoverned spaces in the forest area and porous borders; we see they are utilising these abandoned areas,” Bichi said.
“However, we are working with other security agencies on how to control the ungoverned areas.
“Aside from those coming from Niger Republic, there are others coming to Karma area in Niger State from there they can even go to Kwara; so it has really become an issue,” he said.
The director-general said that access to intelligence in “the Northwest is very important,” adding: “We also have to assess the capabilities of our security forces.
“What we have noticed is while Operation Lafiya Dole is dealing with jihadists in the Northeast, a lot of them are coming to have alliances with the bandits in the Northwest. There is a nexus between bandits and terrorists.
“We are also concerned about availability of arms in the region because most times these people come in form of herders or selling animals but they bring along arms. It makes it easy for them, there are a lot of cartels in the areas,
“I think the states should engage in averting this network of supplies, cartels and bandits use bikes and horses. If you look at the Nigerian map it is very easy to move from the Niger Republic areas to even Niger State and even Abuja and Nasarawa State.
“The bandits carry the arms our security use that is why we are always having casualties. We need to re-tool our forces, we are suggesting the use of technology like drones,” Bichi said.
He said most times the bandits engaged in violence because they were shot of resources, adding: “they kidnap when they are shot of resources from Libya, Chad, Niger Republic and Mali.”
Participants in the conference included the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, and his Zamfara State counterpart, Bello Matawalle, former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, his Zamfara State counterpart, Abdulaziz Yari, as well as former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mrs Farida Waziri..
The conference deliberated on a number of issues affecting the region, including regional cooperation.
Northwest Nigeria has been a centre of terrorist activities in the last few months with communities sacked by criminal elements engaged in stealing, kidnapping, murder and cattle rustling.
Following incessant attacks which have led to Nigerians taking refuge in camps in Nigeria and neighbouring Niger Republic, the Federal Government has ordered military deployments and the military launched different operations to restore order in the region.