Francis Sardauna writes on the need for the federal government to beam its security searchlight on Katsina State to end bloodletting orchestrated by bandits and kidnappers
In the past month, more than 200 people were massacred and scores kidnapped in fresh onslaughts orchestrated by armed bandits in some communities of Dutsin-Ma, Danmusa, Safana, Batsari, Sabuwa, Faskari, Kankara, Dandume and Kurfi Local Government Areas of the state.
The renewed attacks have forced hundreds of residents of the affected local governments who survived the deadly invasions to flee their ancestral homes to the headquarters of the council areas including Katsina, the state capital.
Sadly, these local government areas have been under siege by the armed bandits and kidnappers with repeated attacks, killing, and maiming of women at many local communities in the areas, forcing thousands of farmers to abandon their farmlands.
For instance, the latest simultaneous onslaughts on Batsari communities, according to residents, had killed 34 people and forced residents of Kurmiyal, Yandaka, Maidoriya, Tashar Kadanya, Garin Goje, Watangadiya and Dutse Maizane to abandon their villages.
Hundreds of residents, mostly women and children who survived recent deadly invasions in Batsari communities are currently taking refuge in Batsari town and some of them have relocated to Shagari-low cost, Modoji, and Sabon Gida in Katsina metropolis.
One of the survivors of the attacks in Batsari, Tasi’u Farouk, said the hoodlums had within one month killed over 50 people and kidnapped several others in various communities in the council area, rendering hundreds homeless.
Farouk, whose wife and three children were killed in a recent attack in Tsauwa village lamented that Batsari has become a theatre of war due to prevailing attacks orchestrated by the armed bandits.
He said: “The bandits burnt my wife and three children beyond recognition in Tsauwa. I left the village after the attack on February 14 and I am now taking refuge in Shagari-low cost with some of our relatives without food.
“They kill our people every day and cart away all their means of survival. We are appealing to the state government to come to our rescue because these attackers are bent on eliminating us all.”
Another refugee, Sefinatu Idris, whose father, Idris Yusuf, and Uncle, Kabir Isa, were killed in Kurmiyal village, explained that banditry and other heinous activities have made life unbearable for her and the entire family.
Sefinatu, who wept uncontrollably while narrating her ordeal, said: “Since the untimely death of my father and uncle, I and my mother have resorted to begging as our means of survival. We hardly eat in a day. The government should please assist my mother.”
The armed bandits had on February 15, 2020 launched attacks on Tsauwa and Dankar villages of Batsari, where they killed 30 people and burnt many children beyond recognition.
While the bandits met stiff resistance in Dankar from the security operatives and residents, they had a field day in Tsauwa where they sacked the village and looted shops, houses and rustled unspecified numbers of cattle.
Similarly, the hoodlums had last March, killed 73 people and rustled hundreds of cattle belonging to residents in Dutsin-Ma, Safana, and Danmusa Local Government Areas of the state.
The multiple attacks, which started at Kuraichi village of Dutsin-Ma Local Government spread to 12 other villages across the three local government areas.
Residents said the miscreants invaded the affected villages on motorcycles, firing gunshots into the air and then started moving from one house to another killing people. Shortly afterward, they rode their motorbikes with abducted people and disappeared into the forest.
One of the residents, Turaki Sedique said: “The bandits killed five persons at Kuraichin Giye, six at Kuraichin Malam. They also killed one person at Dogon Ruwa and seven persons at U/Bera. All these villages are in Dutsin-Ma Local Government.
“While in Danmusa Local Government, they killed 17 at Gurzar Kuka and 13 at Gurzar Gamji. In Safana Local Government, the bandits killed 19 people at Makanwaci village and five were also killed at Daulai village. The total number of dead bodies evacuated in all the villages is 73.”
He explained that the bandits attacked Kuraichi village but were repelled by residents and the vigilante, saying: “some residents went after Fulani houses, burning them and their foodstuff, which resulted to multiple attacks”.
Sedique said: “The bandits mobilised themselves as early as 6am and burnt down Balza, Gurzar Kuka and Gurzar Gamji villages and Makurachi. The bandits numbering about 100 on motorcycles, also injured many people in the villages”.
Three days after the killing of 73 persons in Dutsin-Ma, Safana and Danmusa local governments, the bandits stormed Sabon Layin Galadima in Faskari Local Government Area of the state and killed three persons.
Residents said the bandits in large numbers on motorbikes invaded the village about 4:39 pm and launched the deadly operation for two hours, burnt down houses, and rustled many animals.
Malam Ibrahim Tsauri, who survived the attack said: “They killed a medical worker, Sanusi Bello, at Unguwar Doka; the two others are Safiyanu Abdullahi and Hassan Sani”.
The marauding bandits had on April 12, 2020, also massacred 11 local hunters in Dajin Giwa forest of Kankara Local Government Area, injuring five others.
The victims, according to reliably sources were hunting in Dajin Giwa forest when the hoodlums ambushed them with sophisticated weapons, killing 10 on the spot.
The slain hunters, who were from Kaurawa, Gidan-Goge, Tashar Tsamiya and Zan-Bago villages, went to the forest for their normal hunting activities on Sunday night when the bandits launched attack on them.
A source said: “They (bandits) killed 10 on the spot and injured many others, we brought their corpses and those injured to Kankara General Hospital. Unfortunately, one of the injured persons died the following day, bringing the number of death to 11”.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari, while speaking on renewed attacks by bandits in the state, lamented that the state was under siege again by bandits and kidnappers.
The governor explained that in the last 14 days, the marauding bandits have killed over 50 persons and rustled an unspecified number of animals in some communities bordering the deadly Rugu forest.
Masari, was speaking when he received the Chief of Defence Training and Operations in the Army Headquarters, Major-General Leo Irabor, who paid him a courtesy call at Government House recently, said heinous activities orchestrated by the bandits were worrisome.
He added that because of the resurgence of banditry and kidnapping in the state, citizens were losing confidence in the ability of government to protect them and are threatening to resort to self-defense.
The governor who affirmed that the state was in a serious and desperate condition considering the resurfacing of banditry and kidnapping said food shortage might engulf the state following the inability of farmers to access their farmlands.
He added that the bandits converged on Zamfara, Kaduna, and Katsina before launching onslaughts on communities within the states, saying the recalcitrant among them were overpowering those who accepted the peace accord.
He said: “We are in a very serious and desperate condition. As the raining season approached, even those who can access their farms cannot because of the activities of bandits who have now taken over major parts of the state.
“Two weeks ago, we lost over 50 people. The bandits now carry out operations on a daily basis. People are losing confidence in us and are threatening to take arms. Unless these miscreants are flush out of the state by security personnel, if not there will no be peace in Katsina”.
Meanwhile, the evolving strategies put in place by Governor Masari aimed at tackling bloodletting and the heinous activities of armed bandits and kidnappers cannot be overemphasised.
The governor in his doggedness to restore peace in the state, granted amnesty to bandits after a tour to Fulani settlements and strong enclaves of the bandits in Rugu Forest on September 4-9, 2019, during which the famed bandits and their forest commanders denounced banditry.
He thereafter banned the activities of the volunteers popularly known as Yan’sakai, who were accused of extra judicial killings in the open markets and warned unrepentant bandits to stop their nefarious act of kidnapping and killing of innocent citizens.
The peace accord was adopted by the North-west Governors following a Peace Summit convened in Katsina by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, that facilitated discussions with representatives of the bandits from the affected states of Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna, and Zamfara States.
Accordingly, agreements were reached between the state government and the bandits. These agreements include the release of their (bandits) members detained by security operatives by government, the release of all kidnapped persons in their custody as well as to surrender their arms and ammunition to security agencies.
Others were the provision of social amenities —schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water to Fulani settlements and rehabilitation of houses destroyed during the skirmishes between bandits and Hausa farmers and establishment of RUGA settlement in some communities in the state.
Accordingly, 70 per cent of the agreements are fulfilled by the state government and the bandits had so far released over 250 captives in their custody while the government, in turn, freed more than 50 bandits detained by security operatives in Katsina, Kano, and Kaduna correctional centres.
The governor, flanked by the Secretary of the State Security Council who is also the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, after the dialogue tour, held a series of security meetings with security chiefs, repentant bandits and their leaders to ensure the sustainability of the peace accord.
Despite the rapprochement between the state government and the hoodlums, banditry, and kidnapping resurfaces between November and December 2020 in Dutsin-Ma, Danmusa, Safana, Batsari, Sabuwa, Faskari, Kankara, Dandume, and Kurfi.
Irked by the resurgence of the menace, the governor quickly summoned security chiefs, repentant bandits and their leaders to an emergency meeting at the Old Government House, where he issued a two-day ultimatum to the bandits to desist from their evil ways and release the remaining captives in their custody.
Masari, who was represented at the meeting by Dr. Mustapha urged the unrepentant bandits to end the resurgence of banditry and other nefarious activities bedeviling the state or face unprecedented fire-fight by the army and other security agencies in the state.
Interestingly, barely 48 hours after the government’s ultimatum, the bandits released two Customs officers who were kidnapped on January 8, this year at Mallammawa town in Jibia Local Government Area of the State to troops of 17 Brigade of the Nigeria Army.
To further restore peace in the state, the governor had on January 15, 2020, signed into law an executive order restricting the movement of commercial motorcycles between 7 pm to 6 am every day across the 34 local government areas of the state.
The restriction was as a result of continuous effort in tackling cases of violent crimes in the state, particularly the influx of armed bandits from the neighbouring states which adopt the use of motorcycles to unleash mayhems on communities across the state.
Despite these measures by Governor Masari, there is an urgent need for the federal government through the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, to deploy adequate and well-trained personnel to Katsina State with sufficient modern war equipment that will crush the bandits and kidnappers terrorising communities in the state.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu should also deploy additional personnel to support the overstressed officers on the ground. Police in the state lack tools to fight the bandits and kidnappers. They need averagely 30 armored personnel vehicles to be stationed in eight frontlines local governments bordering the deadly Rugu forest.
Therefore, rather than dishing out mere orders, effectively containing the Katsina crisis in the immediate requires more serious practical security measures that are outside the ordinary approach of the federal government.