PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday that he was “taken aback” by the resurgence of banditry and insurgency in the country.
But he promised to be harder on criminals.
Federal lawmakers who returned from their recess also expressed misgivings about the situation.
Both chambers of the National Assembly will today debate the worsening insecurity with a view to proffering solution having identified the need to rejig the nation’s security architecture.
The death toll in the Plateau State killings has risen to 33, causing discomfort for Governor Simon Lalong, who ordered the arrest of some community leaders.
Speaking to visiting Niger State Eminent Citizens led by Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello, the President said: “I was taken aback by what is happening in the Northwest and other parts of the country. During our campaigns, we knew about the Boko Haram. What is coming now is surprising. It is not ethnicity or religion, rather it is one evil plan against the country.
”We have to be harder on them. One of the responsibilities of government is to provide security. If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly,’’ he said.
President Buhari said the onslaught of the bandits had also affected agricultural output in some parts of the country, in spite of the favourable weather for farming, because many farmers were attacked, and others had to stay away for safety.
The continuous attacks on Niger State communities has been going on for three weeks consecutively, Senator Sabi Abdullahi told reporters on Tuesday.
Abdullahi, a member of the Niger State Eminent Citizens who visited the President at the Villa, said: “Arising from the last three weeks of continuous attacks, my colleague has cried out as it is customary of him as a representative of the people and this has led to Mr. President giving directives that the army and the air force should do the needful by identifying the target and where necessary shell the area so that this issue can be brought under control.
“We definitely thank Mr. President for the quick response but at the same time, call on him to look at a more holistic approach to taming this particular unfortunate situation”, he said.
According to him, the security architecture of the country had completely collapsed, adding that there was the need to restructure it.
“One of the new challenges the state is facing has to do with the renewed banditry attacks on our villages which is currently more serious and devastating in Niger East,” he added.
Speaking for the group, former Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu, said activities of bandits had rendered many homeless, while others could no longer go to the farms, thanking the President for taking more decisive action by directing aerial protection by the military.
In his welcome address, Senate President Ahmed Lawan said the Senate would discuss the implementation of the recently launched National Security Strategy (NSS) 2019 with the Executive.
He said: “The security in the country had deteriorated and the attendant loss of lives is not acceptable.
”We need to secure the lives and property of our citizens, as enshrined in our Constitution.
”We all are witnesses to how our economy is also affected by the inclement security situation. Therefore, we need to speedily seek for solutions to fix the security problem bedevilling our dear country.
“There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift and reform of the architecture and structure of our security systems.
“Equally important is citizen participation and collaboration in providing security.
”For a long time, major stakeholders in the security of our nation and police authorities appear to achieve consensus on the necessity of introduction of Community Policing in the country.
”The Senate is going to pursue the implementation of community policing vigorously.
”To this end, the police authorities will be invited to brief and update the Senate on the progress made so far.”
House of Representatives spokesman Benjamin Kalu said the House will give legislative backing to efforts to address the security challenges in the country.
He said “the insecurity in the land is too much. It is alarming. We can no longer paint it with beautiful colours. We can no longer discuss it in low tones.
“The cries of the people that have lost their lives are giving us sleepless nights and something needs to be done about it and this Ninth Assembly is going to look at various legislative interventions with regards to insecurity in the land to ensure that Nigerians are safe and better than they have always been because that is the core mandate of every government to protect lives and property.
“What is happening with Boko Haram in the Northeast and the introduction of the police to handle the issues is another thing. As you are aware, it is the responsibility of the police to take care of the internal security of the country. So, it is not a wrong decision for them to be called upon to play this role that the constitution has them mandate to play.
“There were aspersions on the police on whether they can do it or not. But recent report we are getting shows the police is capable of handling our internal security.
“There are some success stories coming from what they are doing at the moment. We are going to use legislative intervention to support them the more and not only that, for all the other role-players within the armed forces to make sure that the people are motivated the more to protect Nigerians”.