President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected accusations that his administration’s handling of insecurity and armed criminals devastating Nigeria’s North-west is less forceful, compared to his threats of armed response to the violence in the South-east.
“They are unfair,” Mr Buhari said in his NTA interview aired on Friday night. The interviewer told him some Nigerians had accused him of “double-standards” in handling insecurity in different parts of the country.
“They should go and ask governors of Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and find out how we have been deploying the police and the military to deal with the bandits,” the president said.
PREMIUM TIMES’ checks revealed there are military and police operations ongoing in the North-west, including Operation Sahel Sanity and Operation Accord. The latter is a joint operation and it includes the air force.
“We are not sparing anybody but Nigeria is vast, there is a lot of forests,” Mr Buhari further said, appearing to suggest a factor of terrain as limiting the performance of the armed operations in the northwest.
Earlier in the interview, the president had been asked to explain his “language they understand” threat, repeatedly used against armed militias of the separatist Eastern Security Network (ESN). The ESN is blamed for attacking state facilities and personnel and innocent citizens in the South-east.
The president also used that threat on Twitter and added an allusion to the country’s Civil War fought to stop an independent Biafran republic between 1967 and 1970. Millions of people died in the war. That tweet was deleted by Twitter, causing the government to ban their service in Nigeria, an action that has sparked condemnations.
“What I mean,” Mr Buhari said, as he explained his “language they understand” threat. “How can you go to a police station, kill the policemen there, loot the armory, and burn the place? What do you want to achieve? Go and open prison and allow criminals that have been tried through the legal system and let them get out?”
He continued, “And then, how can government sit and allow this to happen…no government can allow that.
“Look at the ENDSARS incident in Lagos. The previous governor of Lagos bought 200 buses to complement the transportation in Lagos but they went and burn them.”
Asked if he meant “fire for fire”, he replied, “we arrest them, try them, give them publicity. Then jail them so that people will know that if they misbehave they will not get away with it.”
The president, in previous messages, asked security operatives to “shoot-on-sight” any illegally armed person, without needing to arrest them or go through a judicial process.