Just when Zamfara and Katsina states appear to be having some respite from incessant bloodletting as a result of armed banditry, the tide seems to be tilting towards Niger and neighbouring states whose communities are being soaked with innocent blood from unbridled killing by the bandits.
Some communities in Niger State and neighbouring Kaduna State have lately come under serious premeditated armed banditry which left many dead and scores injured while others were held captive.
The situation has already induced a humanitarian crisis as thousands of residents of the affected communities have fled their homes and are now taking refuge in an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
The communities affected include Katarma and Kuduru in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, as well as Ingu Kasa, Anguwan Bussa, Galuwi, Almujere, Toko, Galuwi Anguwan Zarumai and Anguwab Kwata communities in Munya Local Government Area of Niger State. Other recently affected communities include Kudodo, Galapai and Nakpala, all in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
The bandits recently attacked Senator David Umaru’s community, Kaure, Kwaki Ward in Shiroro, where they killed eight residents. Four soldiers were also killed in another community, and a few days later, another attack was launched against more communities including Munya Local Government Area from where the chief iman of Beni Central Mosque, Mallam Umar Mohammed, was abducted. Twenty other members of the community were said to have been kidnapped in the process.
Marauding bandits seize residents, property
According to residents, over 50 of the bandits moved from one community to another, dispossessing people of their belongings including cattle, and moved to Kudami in Paikoro Local Government Area in the early hours of the next day where they caused mayhem. There, 20 members of the community were also kidnapped.
About 32 other people were reportedly kidnapped in a separate attack while 2,000 cows were rustled in Kusuku community in Shiroro Local Government Area.
The chairman of the local government area, Comrade Sulaiman Dauda Chukuba, told newsmen in Minna that the incident ocurred at about 3:00pm penultimate on Saturday when residents were on their way to a village market in four vehicles.
Then another attack on Kufofo and Lakpma axis of Shiroro Local Government Area led to the death of three other persons.
Residents flee for life
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that residents of the communities thereafter fled to other neighbouring communities for safety while some of the injured are receiving treatment at different health centres around the area.
It was gathered that the bandits had prior to the incident, been chased away from Munya Local Government Area.
Heavily armed bandits were sighted moving around at Kusasu in Shiroro from about 6:00am till about 6:00pm behind a river bank, trying to cross the river near the Shiroro Hydro Power Dam and River Kaduna with their cattle.
“It was at the boundary between Kaduna State and Munya and Shiroro Local Government Areas of Niger State. We are calling on the government and security agencies to come to our aid because of the dangers posed to us by the forests in Alawa in the local government as well as the forests in Sarkin Pawa, Kusaba forest and Dogo Gona, all in Munya LGA of Niger State,” the local government chairman said.
He further said, “The bandits had a very fierce gun duel with a detachment of mobile policemen deployed to Malfa, but upon the realization that the police had superior firepower, they called for reinforcement from somewhere, after which they divided themselves into groups on about 53 motorcycles and were able to withstand the policemen who were about 38 at Erena area of Shiroro LGA. After the reinforcement, the police went back because of perceived shortage of arms and ammunition to further confront them.”
It is believed by residents that most of the bandits attacking Niger communities are said to be those fleeing from Zamfara and Kaduna states because the attacks have been in border communities between Niger and Kaduna states.
More attacks, more refugees
Over 2,000 persons are said have been rendered homeless and are taking refuge at an Internally displaced persons camp in Shiroro Local Government Area and Sarkin Pawa Primary School with yet another population in Munya Local Government.
At the Dr. Idris Ibrahim Primary School are thousands of victims taking refuge, most of them women and children who live under harsh conditions without hope of when they would return home.
Among them are pregnant women, two of who gave birth at the camp. The two women according to the council chairman, are Jemima Buhari and Zarau Bashiru, indigenes of Mazuku and Mazuga communities respectively.
Council chairman, senator lament
Comrade Sulaiman Dauda Chukuba said at an interview with newsmen at the camp on the sidelines of the presentation of food items and other relief materials to the IDPs by the Director General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Inga, that the refugees were in serious condition and urged the government to find a lasting solution to the banditry which he said had put his people out of business, rendered many homeless, and made hundreds of children orphans.
A 25-year-old woman was seen with a very deep machete wound on her head, an injury she sustained after she was reported to have resisted being raped by the bandits while being held captive.
The council chairman who disclosed that the woman was being treated in a hospital around the council area stressed that the government was footing her medical bill, as well as the bills of the two women who gave birth at the camp.
“In fact, the lingering insecurity in my local government, occasioned by the constant armed bandits attacks in some remote communities of the council is already taking its toll on our very young administration, as the problem has almost prevented us from embarking on development efforts and programmes that can impact positively on the lives of our people at the grassroots,” he said.
The senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Mohammed Sani Musa, decried the incessant killing of his people by the bandits who he said had continued to cause mayhem in communities in Shiroro, Rafi and Munya local government areas.
He lamented that despite several appeals and outcry by himself and other people, the situation remained unchecked as the bandits continued to unleash terror on the people.
He described as unfortunate, the fresh attacks in the area from January 14, 2020 which left people including a village head dead while over 30 others were reportedly abducted.
He added: “For several months now, my people (Niger East) have not had a moment of peace. Bandits have taken away sleep from their eyes, be it in the day time or at night. Many lives have been cut short, women have been raped, some even before their spouses, children have been turned to orphans and many have been abducted with huge ransoms being demanded. “Cattle are being rustled, farm produce and other valuables are being stolen. This is besides thousands of persons who have been rendered homeless.”
He said despite several calls and appeals to concerned authorities for action on the situation, not much had been done, adding that he was forced to cut short his trip after he received news of the fresh attacks.
He appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari, the state governor and all the service chiefs to find a lasting solution to the menace.
“I have no doubt that the federal government has the capacity to tackle the problem once and for all, considering the efforts of Mr. President at tackling the insurgency in the Northeast since his assumption in office.
“I also wish to call on the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Abubakar Bello, not to relent in the quest to handle this situation. I urge him not to relent but continue to deploy all necessary machinery to arrest the menace once and for all.
“While I commend the resilience of security agencies in the state, I also urge them to redouble their efforts by ensuring that the perpetrators of these heinous and dastardly acts are not only flushed out but arrested and adequately prosecuted.”
Musa assured his constituents of his unwavering determination to ameliorate their sufferings, particularly ensuring that the current security challenges in their communities are brought to an end and urged them to cooperate with security agencies by providing useful information that would help in their operations.
Security agents hunt bandits
Following the attacks, the state government mobilized the joint task force for reinforcement and they are now reported to be on the trail of the bandits.
Governor Abubakar Sanni Bello, has condemned the renewed attacks, saying air and land surveillance by security personnel had been deployed to the areas to flush out the bandits.
The governor emphasised that the criminals were taking advantage of the vastness and difficult terrains in the forests to unleash terror on innocent people, adding that the state government was fully supporting the joint security taskforce to chase them out of the state, as many of them were reported to be cattle rustlers.
While sympathizing with victims of the recent attacks, Governor Bello directed that strigent military actions be taken to bring an end to persistent attacks, warning that a decisive position had to been taken to take down the bandits.
He said the menace of insecurity in the state was made more difficult by bandits crossing over from neighboring Zamfara and Kaduna states into the axis to create mayhem.
He called for calm in the affected communities and Shiroro Local Government Area in particular, and appealed to them to cooperate with and assist security agencies by providing credible intelligence reports that would uncover the hideouts of the bandits.
The governor accused certain people of divulging information to the bandits on the state’s efforts at combating the attacks and politicizing the matter.
Speaking during a security press briefing at the Government House in Minna with heads of security agencies, Bello said the meeting became necessary because the security situation in the state was becoming very challenging, adding that there was a wide gap between the government, security agencies and people of the communities.
“We are not inclined to say everything we are doing with the security agents but it has become necessary for the general public to have an idea of what the government has been doing.
“Generally, reports from various security outfits in the state say despite the security challenges in some areas, major parts of the state are calm. Incidents of bandit attacks and cattle rustling have been a major problem and we have been helpful in providing security vehicles, and supporting the security task force, despite this, there are still challenges to overcome, “ he said.
He added that the government was restrategising to increase combat forces and the local vigilante.
“Special forces have been sent by the police, army and air force. We will continue to support the security agencies and ensure that Internally Displaced Persons return to their various homes,” he said.
He also called on people of the state to stop politicizing the issue but support the government to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
He also mobilized the Vigilante Group of Nigeria with the presentation of 120 motorcycles and 12 vehicles to ease their movement.
The governor told members of the vigilante group that the security situation in the country was getting out of hand but with their support, the situation could be checked.
“The vehicles will assist you. The ones we have now are for local governments where attacks are prevalent. I know you don’t have guns that can match these bandits but I know you are all prepared,” he said.
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