When Marauders Struck in Sokoto

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Bandits recently attacked Tabbanin Gera community and three other villages in Gandi District, located in Rabah Local Government Area of Sokoto State. Mohammed Aminu reports that 39 persons including a village head were killed, while valuable properties were destroyed.

It was a pathetic sight at Gandi Model Primary School, a temporary camp for victims of recent attacks on Rabah local government area of Sokoto State. Large number of families, mostly women and children looked forlorn, famished, hungry and dejected. Most of them were women who lost their husbands and family members during the attacks on their villages by bandits, who infiltrated their communities from neighbouring Zamfara State on July 9, 2018.

The few men at the camp were still in shock over the killing of their loved ones by marauders who unleashed mayhem on their communities. The heinous act has created fear in the minds of the people especially those living in the communities bordering Zamfara State. In fact, about 10,000 people had deserted their villages for safety and are currently living in four internally displaced persons camp in Gandi town.

Tabbanni Gera is a village in Gandi District of Rabah local government area, which is over 100 kilometres away from Sokoto the state capital.

The village is in a remote area and is located very close to Maradun and Bakura local government area of Zamfara State. Residents of the affected villages of Tabannin Gera, Alliki, Dankilawa and Birwanga, had reportedly received threat letters from the bandits few weeks ago, who demanded a payment of a levy before conducting farming activities.

A resident of Tabbani Gera, Malam Ali Na-Huro, told THISDAY that residents of the village and neighbouring communities were served notices by the bandits to pay various forms of ransom so as to be allowed to cultivate their farms. He revealed that the bandits on Monday evening, invaded the village with over 100 motorcycles, shooting sporadically, resulting in the loss of several lives. He said that the bandits also set houses ablaze.

“I was in the farm working when the attack occurred. I counted more than 30 dead bodies. Some were drowned in the river while trying to escape. Many people were killed in my community including the village head and the chief Imam as well as women and children,” he said.

The Sarkin Rafin Dan Tassakko, a village in Goronyo local government area of Sokoto state, which is very close to the affected communities, Alhaji Muhammadu Bello Aliyu, told journalists that hundreds of people had been displaced in the attack in the area. Aliyu disclosed that over 200 farmers had abandoned their farms this year in his village because of the threats by bandits. According to him, over 70 people were kidnapped by bandits in the 17 villages under his district in the last two years. Aliyu revealed that the people of the area had paid about N100 million as ransom to the bandits during the said period.

He alleged that residents of the area see a helicopter that supplies arms to the attackers and also helps them to take their victims to a hideout.

Aliyu said: “Our people use to see a helicopter moving to the suspected hideouts of the bandits deep inside the bush. We are suspecting that it ferries weapons and other things to them from a neighbouring country and at the same time also conveying some of their victims to hideouts during negotiation for ransom.

“This has been going on for years but no one from our representatives at the state or national assembly ever visited us. As I am talking to you, we have a significant number of them who fled to our community, majority of them women and children. They are not the usual bandits who use to attack us, kidnap people or rustle animals. In fact, these ones, their mission is to kill anybody on sight.”

The Police Public Relations Officer of the Sokoto State Police Command and Deputy Superintendent of Police, Cordelia Nwawe, in an interview with THISDAY, said the Command had taken adequate measures to forestall future attacks. She said more mobile policemen had been deployed to ensure the safety of people residing in Rabah local government area and communities bordering Zamfara state.

“What I can tell you now is that adequate measures had been taken and more personnel also deployed to that area,” she declared.

Thirty two corpses were given mass burial at Tabbanni Gera in Gandi district of Rabah local government area on Wednesday while additional seven were buried the following day in the area.

Addressing the families of the victims who are taking refuge at Gandi Model Primary School, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was in attendance at the burial, said this was the first time that bandits unleashed mayhem on villages killing 39 persons in the state.

He described the situation as unfortunate, saying government would continue to support security agencies to tackle the situation.

“These marauders entered Tabanni village from Zamfara killing 39 people without taking anything there. We currently have about 10,000 people that left their villages for safety in four internally displaced persons camp.

“Government will continue to work with all security agencies to ensure the safety of the people especially at this difficult time. “Our presence here is in order to sympathise with the victims of this unfortunate incident and give them the necessary relief materials in order to ease their suffering most especially at this difficult time,” he said.

The governor assured the victims that the state government would continue to provide all the necessary materials for their stay at the camp.

He pledged: “We will continue to supply relief materials and medical assistance, ensure speedy rehabilitation of the victims as well as ensure their safe return to the communities.

“Government is working with all security agencies in the state in order to arrest the situation as quickly as possible. We are also in touch with the leadership of the security agencies in the country and in the next few days, more security personnel would be deployed to that axis.”

Commenting on the incident, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulazeez Yari, who led governors of Niger, Jigawa Adamawa, Borno and Katsina states on a condolence visit to Sokoto State on Thursday, described the menace of banditry as an internal problem that requires collaborative efforts by northern governors to tackle the ugly trend.

Yari maintained that the bandits and perpetrators of such heinous acts live within the communities, saying governors must look inwards to curb the wanton killings.

“We have to look inwards to find a solution to our problem. This problem is within us because the bandits creating this menace are within us. They cannot survive without drinking, eating and all the essential facilities needed for survival.

“So, how are they getting them? This is a chain that we need to check. We are seriously concerned because Sokoto has been relatively peaceful despite being a neighbouring state to Zamfara state. This is indeed worrisome and a serious concern to all of us. “Despite sabotage from within and outside, We know that as leaders, if we come together, we can achieve more in maintaining peace and harmony in our states,” he said.

He posited that the primary responsibility of government is to maintain peace and security and as such leaders must do more to combat banditry in their areas. Yari said they were in Sokoto to commiserate with the bereaved families and people of Sokoto state over the loss of lives of 39 persons in Tabani village of Rabah local government area of Sokoto state. He therefore, prayed against future occurrences and called for God’s intervention in the affairs of the nation.

On his part, Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), said the federal government would deployadequate security personnel in areas affected by security challenges and punish perpetrators. Dambazau, who led a federal government delegation on condolence visit to Tambuwal and the people of Sokoto State over the attack, said President Muhammadu Buhari was disturbed by the incident and promised to go after the perpetrators of the heinous act.

“President Buhari joins people of Sokoto to mourn the sad incident that led to the deaths of several people and displacement of others,” he said. He emphasised that new strategies would be adopted by beefing up security in the affected areas with a view to dealing with the bandits. “Measures to track the perpetrators have been put in place, and they will surely face the wrath of law, “ Dambazau stressed.

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