Bello Matawalle, the Minister of State for Defence has disclosed that banditry is being fueled by conflict entrepreneurs in the country.
According to him, they do not want insecurity to end because they are benefitting from it.
Matawalle, who spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN in Abuja yesterday, said during his tenure as governor of Zamfara State, he observed that people traded with bandits.
He said: “Banditry has its economy, which is fuelling the crime in the country.
“Conflict entrepreneurs don’t want insecurity to end in this country. Many people in the north are part of the business.
“I call it business now because those selling drugs are part of it, those selling food, fuel and other essentials to them are all part of it.
“The informants get a lot from doing that. They are paid handsomely for that crime. So, they don’t want the evil to end. Many people have keyed into the business.
“Also, when a bag of rice was sold for between N18,000 and N21,000, when it gets to the enclave of the bandits, it goes for as much as N80,000.”
The minister, however, said security was a collective responsibility for all Nigerians, adding that people must put their differences aside and team up to fight it.
“If not for some actions I took when I was a governor, by this time, northern Nigeria would be in a big fire.
“Remember that I was the first governor in the whole north, who cut off the communication network in his state.
“I cut off the network to allow security agencies go in and push out those criminals. I did that because there were many times that if our soldiers were going to do some operations before they reached the enclave of the bandits, the bandits would be informed.
“Their informants will inform them, so they normally ambush our soldiers, killing them,” he said.
Matawalle said the worst part of the situation was that people didn’t appreciate what the military was doing.
He said further: “I feel so because if one civilian is killed, the news would be everywhere, but if it is a soldier that is killed, nobody says anything.
“So, the issue of security is very delicate; the actions that we will adopt now are to make sure we smoke out every single criminal in this country.
“We hope that with people’s prayers, we should be able to achieve much through many actions that I know are going to be taken.”
Debunking claims in some quarters that the Federal Government was negotiating with criminals, Matawalle said: “In military operations, there is a kinetic and non-kinetic approach.
“In a non-kinetic approach, for example, the community has to be involved, just like what happened in the Niger Delta.”
He added that the bandits were not faceless, pointing out that people knew them.