Animasahun Salman examines the menace of banditry in the North and how it has left behind tales of woes often left behind by the criminals
“I was there when my father was killed by bandits and I will avenge his death,” were the words of Umar Mohammed, when reacting to the killing of his father by bandits in their Magami Village in Katsina State.
“My father was killed in my presence,” he said further, with a note of grief. “It is by the miracle of God that I’m alive today. I would have been killed. I was very close to our grinding machine at home. My father was trying to collect some vegetables when I heard the sound of the gunshot.”
Visibly hurt by the incident, he lamented further, “Yes, I know those who killed him. They said if they caught me, they would kill me, so I decided to run away, and my mum didn’t know where I ran to.”
In an interview that has since gone viral, Umar narrated how he ran to another community in the heat of the attack. He said when he reached Dandabi, he was with his brother and when he heard gunshots, he ran away, praying for God’s intervention.
Despite the fate that had befallen him, Umar’s dream of being educated remains intact. “I want to enroll in school to stop my mother from going into the forest,” he stated. “I want her to remain at home and even if she stops going to the forest, she has to look for what we will eat.”
Umar’s experience aptly captures several of such incidents in the country, especially in the northern region.
Many residents lamented that insecurity in the region had yet to abate despite the changes in the military and security apparatus. To date, women, children and even men are being killed, kidnapped, attacked and displaced by the bandits turned terrorists, while farmers have been chased from their farmland, stirring the possibility of poverty and hunger. And apart from the attacks, it has been argued that it is equally inhibiting the development of the country.
Not only the poor and middle income earners have been victims of the banditry, some political leaders, including state and national lawmakers, have also been unable to visit their constituencies.
A lawmaker at the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Saidu Ibrahim, representing Sabon Birni South, a few months ago lamented in a telephone interview with The PUNCH that bandits were in control of his constituency and that he had been unable to visit.
“No district head or village head, not to talk of a ward head, can say anything against the bandits. This is the true picture of the situation,” he stated. “Even when there are issues to be settled, no formal setting can intervene because everyone is afraid of the bandits.
“In most of the villages under Isa and Sabon Birni Local Government Areas, I swear to you, they are all under bandits’ control. Bandits are in charge. They have occupied the whole place.”
A few weeks ago, suspected Boko Haram terrorists ambushed vehicles of security agents who were escorting motorists on the Gwoza–Limankara–Uvaha Road, killing a soldier on the spot. Also, a patrol van was set ablaze while five commercial vehicles were also burnt down with the passengers inside roasted, even as a dozen bodies were unaccounted for.
Sources revealed that the incident happened around 5 pm when the soldiers and civilian JTF members were providing cover to passengers travelling to Gwoza, Askira-Uba LGA in Borno State and some parts of Adamawa State.
A military source had disclosed further, “The GOC (General Officer Commanding) was at the scene of the attack. A soldier and many passengers were killed in the ambush, and five vehicles, including a military van, were burnt with the passengers inside. A few female passengers were abducted by the insurgents but were released in the evening.”
A miffed Senator Ali Ndume, representing the Borno South, who also confirmed the incident, said, “The spike in killings in the Gwoza area has become rampant in recent times. It happens on a daily basis. So, we are calling on the military to take the fight to the enclave of the insurgents because we all know where they are.
“Farmers are now scared of going to harvest their farmland, so it’s high time the military led the civil (populace) who are willing to take part in the fight, provide them with logistics to liberate the area.”
Also in Borno State, marauding Boko Haram insurgents killed 10 farmers and abducted several others in the Mafa Local Government Area of the state. Aside from this attack, which occurred late Saturday afternoon in the fields between Bulakunkumma and Maiwa villages of the Baram Karowa ward of the LGA, the insurgents also obtained N4m from a businessman in Zannari ward as ransom.
Impeccable sources, who confirmed the attack to Saturday PUNCH, said between four and nine persons were abducted. “They raided various farmland in search of food and cash,” one of the sources told Saturday PUNCH, adding, “When the farmers said they couldn’t afford the amount they requested, they killed 10 of them instantly; all men, and went away with four.”
Insecurity in the North has degenerated such that many states in the region are faced with one form of challenge or the other.
Recently, in Nasarawa State, suspected bandits reportedly shot three students of the Isa Mustapha Agwai l Polytechnic in Lafia, the state capital.
It was gathered that the assailants also abducted one female student simply identified as Ajoke, an ND II student of Science Laboratory Technology. Students, who sustained varying degrees of gunshot injuries, were said to be receiving treatment at a hospital in the state.
The victims, Freedom Luka and Ogwuche Janet, said to be students of HND l Public Administration and HND II Business Administration and Management respectively, as well as one Danladi Nicholas said to be seeking admission.
From Zamfara to Kaduna, Katsina and some other states, students have been abducted by the bandits. Students, staff and residents have at different times drawn the attention of the authorities to the polytechnic’s porous security but with no response from any quarters until the bandits struck.
In Kaduna State, where there are several military formations, not much has changed in terms of security. Recently, bandits were said to have invaded Anguwar Dandali in the Zaria Local Government Area of the state, killing four people and injuring five.
Confirming the incident, the village head of the area, Mallam Sunusi Yusuf told our correspondent that the suspected bandits arrived around 10.30 pm on Friday night and started shooting aimlessly into the air.
He said the bandits succeeded in shooting nine persons and abducting five others before the arrival of security operatives who engaged them in a gun battle. “Out of the nine persons shot, four instantly died while five sustained serious injuries. Due to the superior power of the security operatives, the bandits after shooting their victims retreated into the bush, abducting four other persons,” he disclosed.
Saturday PUNCH gathered further that the four abducted victims were later intercepted by members of a vigilance group at Jaji in Igabi Local Government Area on Saturday morning and were rescued and reunited with their families.
A distraught Musa Tanko, the head of the ward, said residents had been thrown into panic and serious grief over the spate of attacks which had continued to increase within the vicinity.
“This is becoming very alarming as the activities of the bandits in the vicinity are widening in scope to other parts of the community,” he said.
Also in the Southern Kaduna area of the state, suspected terrorists reportedly killed six persons in the Takanai community of Atyap Chiefdom in the Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The attack occurred barely five days after an earlier attack was launched in Kaura where a woman was killed and two of her children kidnapped.
- Bandits kill 11, rustle 300 animals in Sokoto attack
- N250m ransom paid for 121 abducted Kaduna pupils release -CAN
- Rampaging bandits kill 15 in Benue, Katsina attacks
The acting Secretary to the district head of the community, Mr Samson Markus, who confirmed the sad incident to The PUNCH recently, revealed that the terrorists invaded the village at around 7 pm and started shooting, killing four people in the same compound and two others in another family compound.
According to him, two children were among the victims of the deadly attack. He added, “We were going about our normal business when we heard gunshots. We thought it was the military at first until we saw that it was suspected Fulani who came in from Zango Urban.”
“Before the military arrived, they had succeeded in killing six persons, including two children. We appeal to the government and the military to redouble their efforts and declare war against these terrorists who invade villages and kill innocent people randomly.”
The situation is not different in other parts of the region, including Gombe State, where the police command confirmed the kidnapping of two persons in Shabewa community, Dukku Local Government Area.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, ASP Mahid Abubakar, told our correspondent during an interview that the police would utilise their partnership with the various local vigilance groups to ensure their timely release.
According to him, the Commissioner of Police, Oqua Etim, deployed operatives who would ensure that the unidentified captives were released unhurt.
For the people of Adu Village in Kwal District, Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, it was a bloody independence anniversary, following an attack by bandits, leaving no fewer than nine persons dead.
The spokesman for the Miango Youths Development Association, Nuhu Bitrus, confirmed the death of the villagers to Saturday PUNCH in Jos the following day. “Yes, nine persons were killed in an attack in Adu Village. It happened around 9 pm.”
In Katsina State, the police confirmed the kidnapping of five female students of Federal University, Dutsinma. However, a man suspected to be an informant to the terrorists had been arrested.
The spokesman for the Katsina State Police Command, ASP Abubakar Aliyu, who confirmed the incident and the arrest said, “The incident happened. An arrest has been made. I cannot say more than that for now as I am on my way to the institution. Our men are already on the ground there and are on top of the situation.”
Residents revealed that the terrorists invaded the private residence of the victims around 2 am, shooting indiscriminately.
Some residents who also volunteered information claimed that the five kidnapped students were females and final year students.
A few weeks earlier in Zamfara State, no fewer than 24 students of the Federal University, Gusau, mostly ladies, were reportedly abducted by suspected gunmen. This was independent of the eight prospective corps members who were on their way from Akwa Ibom to Sokoto but were kidnapped in Zamfara State by bandits.
A resident of Sabon-Gida, identified as Nazeer Sabon-Gida, confirmed that the gunmen invaded the community around 3 am and started shooting indiscriminately. He said three student hostels were attacked and all the students in the hostels were taken away by the bandits.
In Kogi State, some gunmen kidnapped a popular Islamic cleric, Fasasi Ola Mejabi, and his younger brother. The cleric and others were conveying the corpse of the Chief Imam of Ayegunle Gbede, Sheikh Musa Olorunkemi, from Lokoja to Ayegunle Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area of the state for burial when they ran into the ambush laid by the kidnappers.
One of the occupants of the car who escaped abduction narrated to our correspondent that the incident occurred at Oshokoshoko, along the Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba Road.
Another source told Saturday PUNCH that the victims’ telephones lines had been switched off since their abduction, but added that the kidnappers made contact with the family, demanding N10m ransom for their release.
The incident happened barely two weeks after medical doctors took to the streets of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, to protest the kidnapping of one of their colleagues, Dr Austin Uwumagbe, the Director of Victory Hospital Annex at Ogaminana, in Adavi LGA.
Our correspondent, who visited the Kogi State Specialist Hospital Lokoja, Federal Teaching Hospital Lokoja, and some hospitals within the state capital, noticed that some doctors were not at their duty posts to attend to patients.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association in the state, Dr Olusola Baoku, noted that medical practitioners had always been the target of the criminal elements as he lamented that over 48 doctors had been kidnapped in the last two years across the country.
Baoku equally bemoaned the impression that medical doctors were very rich and as such should be subject of kidnapping for ransom.
In Sokoto State, no fewer than three separate attacks were recorded within two weeks, leaving more than three persons killed with two others sustaining varying degrees of injuries when suspected bandits attacked Soro and Dutsi communities in Binji LGA.
The spokesperson for the police in the state, ASP Ahmad Rufa’i, said the suspects invaded the community to rustle their animals and steal foodstuffs. He added, “Information available to the command was that the suspects arrived at the community with the aim of stealing their foodstuffs, among others. The villagers in conjunction with security agents on patrol, including men of the Nigerian Army and policemen, engaged them in a gun duel before they ran away. Unfortunately, when they realised they could not overpower the security agents, they set the village on fire which led to the destruction of many foodstuffs in the community.”
Also, in Giyawa community in Goronyo LGA, bandits in two separate attacks killed more than five persons. It was learnt that one person was injured, four persons were still in captivity while 25 others captured by the bandits regained their freedom.
He said the police were in touch with the local government chairman on how to find a lasting solution to the situation, adding that the state government was doing its best to end banditry and other criminal activities across the state.
The military also called on Nigerians to always make useful information available to security agents to aid them in tackling insecurity.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, spoke with newsmen in Maiduguri on October 10 as part of his working visit to the Operation Hadin Kai Theatre Command. He said, “We want Nigerians to join in the fight against insecurity by sharing information and intelligence with the security agents. Fighting insecurity is not the responsibility of the military alone.
“When you see something, say something, and together we will succeed in the war against insecurity. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has charged us to ensure that there is peace in the North-East and the entire country. We will not relent in the fight; it is not yet over until we restore peace in the entire country.”
He promised that all abducted persons would be rescued nationwide.
For a challenge that has lasted years, many residents of the North asked security agencies to put an end to the insecurity, so as to save innocent lives and create a conducive environment for learning and economic development.