John Shiklam writes on the recent killing of 51 people in Kaduna communities and the deadly activities of bandits terrorising communities and on the highways
Although insecurity is a general problem across the country, the persistent and brutal activities of bandits in Kaduna state have become very worrisome. Rarely a day passes without gunmen invading communities, killing or abducting people for ransom.
Indeed, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara
States seemed to have become a haven for these criminal elements who have destroyed the economic and social life of the people, who now live in perpetual fear.
There is pervasive fear of kidnappers across the state as people no longer feel safe in their homes and on the highways.
Efforts by security agencies to tackle the bandits has yet to make much impact as the hoodlums continue to launch deadly attacks, killing, maiming, burning houses, abducting people and demanding for millions of naira as ransom for their release.
The latest of these barbaric act took place on Sunday March 1, 2020, in some communities in Igabi and Giwa Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state where 51 people, according to residents, were killed. The hoodlums were said to have operated in the morning for about three hours, going from one village after the other, killing people and setting houses ablaze.
A councillor representing Karewa Ward in Igabi Local Government Area, Alhaji Daiyibu Kerawa, described the attacks as horrific and unprecedented. He said some of the affected villages, include Zareyawa, Kerawa, Marina Rago, Hashimawa, and Unguwar Barau, all in Kerawa Ward.
Thousands of women and children who fled their homes, were said to have relocated to a primary school in Birnin Yero for refuge.
The councillor who spoke on the attacks in an interview with the Hausa Service of the Voice of America (VOA) said: “What happened was unprecedented. We have never seen such kind of horror in our lives. These killers are Boko Haram. They stormed our village killing indiscriminately, they spared nobody, the young, the old, even Almajiris were not spared.
“They continued to shoot people, setting fire on the dead and on property. It was extremely horrific!’ They went from one room to the other, a man and his children were killed, even new born babies”.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address the situation in Igabi Local Government Area, especially Igabi West, where the bandits were said to have been abducting people almost on a daily basis.
“We all must die one day and returned to Almighty Allah, even the bandits were saying so. Therefore, the government should fear Allah. We are in a terrible situation. We saw a plane, but it just passed like it was flying to Makkah. These killers are not just bandits, they are Boko Haram, they did not steal anything, they just killed and burnt peoples’ belongings,” he said.
The District Head of Karewa, Alhaji Ibrahim Damu during Governor El-Rufai’s visit, appealed to the state government to intensify efforts in tackling security challenges in the area.
He lamented the persistent invasion and kidnappings in the communities, saying economic and social activities have been destroyed.
Residents of the communities said the bandits were many and were well armed and they operated freely for about three hours without response from security agencies.
However, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who visited some of the affected communities on Monday, March 2, 2020, assured that the government will not rest until the bandits were completely wiped out.
Unlike his counterparts in Katsina and Zamfara states, where the hoodlums were granted amnesty, yet killings have not stopped, El-Rufai foreclosed any possibility of negotiating with or granting amnesty to the criminals.
“In Kaduna State, we don’t give bandits amnesty and we don’t negotiate with them” El-Rufai said, adding that security agencies had been asked to wipe them out.
“We will not rest until the bandits are completely wiped out. It is our duty to wipe them until we send them to their maker, the security agencies are taking the war to the forest and we are eliminating them,” the governor said.
But contrary to claims by the villagers that security agencies did not respond promptly to the attacks, the governor said shortly after the bandits started the attack, there was security intervention both on ground and in the air and the bandits were wiped out.
He said: “The security agencies are doing the best they can, but they find it difficult to get to remote areas in good time due to poor access roads while the native also find it difficult to alert security agencies due to poor GSM network.
“But I am grateful to the Airforce, Army, police and DSS for being always prompt. It would have been worse. If not for their prompt intervention, they would have wiped out the entire villages. I also came to apologise to the community for failure to them protect fully, we are doing our best to minimise situation. We are hoping that this bandit issue will be addressed because security are onground to manage the situation”.
He explained that Kaduna has very vast land and “if the security close one area, the bandits attack another area”.
El-Rufai called on the people to continue to be patient and vigilant and “continue to forgive us where we have failed to fully protect them, but nevertheless, we will continue to do our best”.
The governor, who was accompanied to the visit by the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ali Janga; the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Faruk Yahaya and the Kaduna State Director of DSS, directed the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to provide relief materials to displaced victims.
Since the beginning of the year, the attacks have become so daring and deadly. For instance, in January 6, over 30 people were reportedly killed by bandits in an attack on 10 communities in Chikun and Birnin Gwari LGAs of the state. The bandits abducted 58 and demanded for N100 million ransom.
On January 14, 2020, six people were killed while five others were injured when bandits attacked the convoy of Alhaji Umaru Bubaram, emir of Potiskum, Yobe State, along the Kaduna Zaria road.
On January 24, 2020 gunmen invaded the Juji, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis at about 10pm, broke into the residence of one Dr. Philip Ataga and abducted his wife and two children.
A member of the vigilante in the community was killed by the bandits during the operation, which was said to have last for six hours.
The bandits who were said to have demanded a ransom of N120 million, later killed the Mrs. Ataga and dumped her body for the family. The children were released following the payment of an undisclosed amount of money.
On February 12, 20 people, including a family of 13, were killed by bandits in an attack on Bakali village, Fika District of Giwa LGA. The incident, according to a resident of the community, took place at about 6:00pm. That same day, bandits wearing military camouflage invaded a local market in Maro village, Kajuru at about 6:00pm when traders were just closing from and killed seven people.
Following this helpless situation several groups and individuals have asked the governors of the 19 northern states, to take a cue from their South-west counterparts, by establishing their own version of Amotekun, a regional security outfit, jointly established by the South-west governors to tackle insecurity in their region.
A former senator who represented Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, while condemning the latest killings in a statement, accused the Northern governors for failing to take independent steps to protect the people.
He said Northern governors are afraid of confronting the federal government and taking independent action to protect their people while killings and the kidnappings goes on.
Sani lamented that killings and kidnappings have become a daily occurrence in Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Niger States.
According to him: “the North has become a region of endless funerals and perpetual bereavement. Bandits in the North have become a state; they impose fines and taxes, send notices, control spaces, determine life and death and operate without much challenge.
“Banditry has further impoverished the North and turned it into a cemetery. The lives of ordinary people in the north has become cheap, dispensable, disposable and ordinary. The pervasive insecurity in the North is reinforced and sustained by the silence and sycophancy of its elites as much as the inaction of the government.
“Muslims are not much being seen as victims of the killings in the North because many Islamic leaders prefer to massage the image of the government in the face of the killings of their followers while Christian clerics are leading protests in the streets. The North must wake up, buckle up or perish.”
Also lamenting the situation, President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Mr. Jonathan Asake said government should collaborate with communities to protect themselves from bandits.
“The way out is what has happened in the South-west, people should be allowed to organise vigilante groups to protect their communities. The government should collaborate with communities because the communities don’t have the resources for the required logistics.
“There is a great advantage when you involve the local communities, they know the terrain and the bushes and the hideout of the bandits in their localities. The involvement of communities in addressing the security situation will yield better results than the huge amount of money that is being gulped by conventional security agencies which are plagued with corruption,” he said.
Also commenting, coordinator of the Joint Action Committee of Northern Youth Association ( JACNYA), Murtala Abubakar, noted that security challenges is not peculiar to Kaduna alone.
He said what is worrisome is the nonchalant attitude of Northern leaders in addressing the problem.
He noted that insecurity is rooted in socio-economic issues and until the issues of illiteracy, unemployment, poverty are dealt with, “there is no how we can tackle insecurity. We need to invest heavily in education and job creation”.
Security agencies have recorded some successes in the fight against banditry, but they also have their challenges also.
A police source said security agencies have taken the war to the door steps of the bandits and several of their hideouts had been raided with some of the killed during exchange of gunshots or arrested.
He said the kidnappers along the dreaded Abuja – Kaduna road have been crushed. According to him, the bandits on the highways have been chased from the highways and have resorted to invading communities.
He said in spite of challenges security agencies also face, they have been doing their best to secure Nigerians.
He said besides shortage of manpower, poor communication facilities and the difficult terrain in the communities, bad roads or lack of motorable roads pose serious impediments to the fight against bandits.
“The security agencies have been doing their best, but it is not possible for the police or soldiers to be in every village or hamlet. Even when we received news of these attacks are reported, the terrain in the villages are very difficult, in addition to bad road or lack of motorable roads.
“Even if you are flying a helicopter you have to be careful to avoid the communities. I agree with the idea of security agencies working with local vigilante groups and hunters who knows the nooks and crannies around their environment,” a senior police who spoke on condition of anonymity said.