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Niger State to arm vigilante group with guns to combat bandits

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Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has promised to arm the vigilante group in the state with pump-action guns to enable them to confront bandits and address other security threats.

Bello said the security volunteer groups would be armed to confront “these enemies of the people across the state.”

Killings and kidnappings have spiked in recent weeks in the state.

Some bandits in Niger and other states in the North West have called for the disbanding of the vigilante groups, saying that was the only condition for them to lay down their arms and embrace peace.

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But Governor Bello has remained adamant, hence, equipping them with pump-action guns

“We are not going to disband the vigilante as a result of threat from the bandits,” he said.

“Even when banditry activities in the state are stopped, the vigilante will still be there to provide security in the local government areas,” he said.

But Nnamdi Obasi, International Crisis Group’s senior adviser on Nigeria, told BBC’s Newsday programme that Bello’s hope to overcome the bandits with pump-action guns is nearly impossible.

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“The rival bandits are using AK-47, GMPGS and more recently RPGs and then we are sending people with double-barred guns and pump-action guns to go face them,” Obasi said.

“It is a very unequal match and it’s going to lead to a more complicated situation than we have at the moment.”

He cited a “disconnect between federal government and state government efforts and most of the state government”, which had led state governments to deal with the security situation “as the federal government is not as responsive as it ought to be”.

Police spokesman Frank Mba said he was yet to see the report on the decision by the Niger State governor to procure arms for the vigilante and therefore could not comment on it.

“I have to see the report before saying anything,” he said.

Mohammed Saleh, a retired police officer, said the governor must have spoken out of frustration.

“Governors are facing a tough time; they are the chief security officers in their states but this is just in the name because they don’t control the instrument of coercion including the police and the army,” Saleh told DailyTrust.

“That is why you see the governors [turning to] volunteer groups for support.

“So, if you see a governor talking this way, it is because they want to assure their people that they are with them; that they share their pains.

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