John Ameh, Abuja

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday, described banditry as “one evil plan against the country”.

He stated that before the elections, everyone knew about Boko Haram, but admitted that today, banditry had become a serious problem.

The President spoke in Abuja when he received a delegation of Eminent and Respected Citizens of Niger State at the Presidential Villa.

They were led by Governor Abubakar  Bello.

The visit came barely 24 hours after Buhari ordered the Nigerian Air Force to bomb the bandits operating in Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara states.

Addressing the delegation, Buhari said, “I was taken aback by what is happening in the North-West and other parts of the country.

“During our campaign, 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.”

Buhari counted the cost of banditry, noting that besides the loss of lives and valuables, farmers were unable to go to their farms for fear of attacks.

But he urged Nigerians to stick to farming as the surest way to contain poverty and diversify the economy from dependence on crude oil.

On efforts by his regime to strengthen the economy, he told the delegation that the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Chad Basin, Benue,  Bauchi, and Gombe had given the country additional hope.

He advised  Niger  Delta leaders to counsel those who blow up pipelines, resulting in spillage that affect farming and farmlands, noting that the loss had always been collective, sometimes turning hard-working farmers to victims,” a State House statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr Femi Adesina, said on Tuesday.

The delegation said the visit was to thank Buhari for appointing Niger indigenes to key positions and efforts in combating criminality in the state.

Former governor of the state, Aliyu Babangida, told Buhari that the bandits had crippled the economy of many communities.

He appealed to the President to intervene in the completion of some federal roads, including the Mokwa-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road, Kotongora road in the state.

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