Mohammed Adamu, inspector general of police (IGP), says banditry in the northern region has an “international dimension”.
Adamu was speaking at a town-hall meeting on peace and security which held on Wednesday at the headquarters of Zuru local government in Kebbi state.
The IGP said an investigation revealed that most of the bandits in the country are foreigners.
He said it was discovered that most of them are members of the Islamic State of West Africa, adding that the issue is a “big one”.
“We have realised that most of the banditry has an international dimension. The bandits come from outside the country. We arrested Sudanese, Nigeriens and Malians, among other nationals,” IGP said.
“We also believe that because of what is happening in the north-east and the fact that the military troops are doing a great job in the fight against insurgency there, most of the bandits are running toward the north-west of the country and we have evidence.
“When we operated in Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, where we attacked a group of bandits, we realised that most of them came from Islamic State of West Africa, who are terrorists, kidnapping for ransom.
“So, the issue is not at the level you are looking at it, it is a big issue and we must work together to address it.”
Adamu said he was accompanied by a high powered delegation, comprising heads of intelligent community in the country, because of the seriousness the president attaches to security issues.
The IGP urged every Nigerian to see the fight against insecurity as a collective responsibility.
“During one of our briefings on security to the president, the issue of insecurity was seriously discussed as it affects the north-west in particular and we saw an emerging trend from Zuru emirate,” he said.
“And the president ordered us to move to Zuru and listen to the stakeholders and come up with a solution on how to bring lasting peace in Zuru emirate and that’s why we are here.”
He also reiterated the need for citizens to provide reliable and intelligent information about suspicious elements in society to security agencies.
According to Adamu, security operatives have found that insecurity is fuelled by the activities of “Yan Sa Kai” (local vigilantes), who went out of control because of lack of command in Zamfara and Katsina states.
“What fueled insecurity in terms of banditry in Zamfara is what is fueling insecurity in Katsina and invariably the same here in Kebbi state,” he said.
“When the situation was so bad in Zamfara, we brought all the stakeholders and in another development, we met with all the governors from the north-west to Katsina.
“A lot was discussed and we realised that Zamfara’s situation was caused by the problem of “Yan Sa Kai”. This is because there was no control of command of the activities of Yan Sa Kai. When we moved to Katsina state we wanted to know what had been fueling the banditry and reprisal attacks.
“Again, it was the activities of Yan Sa Kai because they organised themselves genuinely to protect their environment, their communities and their families but there was no command of control, so they went out of control and that is what is happening now in Kebbi state.”