Francis Sardauna writes that the female members of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria in Katsina State are lending immense support to the ongoing war against bandits in the state
As the Nigerian Army, police and other security operatives continue to wage war against marauding bandits in Katsina State, some patriotic youths and adults refused to sit on the fence.
The youths under the auspices of Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), have continued to join forces with the security personnel to dislodge the hoodlums who are terrorising some parts of the state.
The exploits of members of the VGN by the state government to smoke out the bandits have been lauded by many security experts in the state but many are not aware that the female members of the group are also playing immense roles in their respective villages, communities and cities towards eliminating the bandits.
These women constitute 30 per cent of the 3,000 vigilante corps recruited by the state government to complement the efforts of conventional security personnel in the ongoing onslaught against the marauders.
They are witnesses to how the criminals rendered hundreds of their relatives homeless, crippled their businesses, ravaged their communities and killed their loved ones across the state.
Therefore, they resolved to sacrifice their lives to fight vehemently for the state to have a durable peace that will usher in development in the nooks and crannies of the state.
The young mettlesome women, alongside their men counterparts, were trained by security operatives at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) College of Peace and Disaster Management, Babbar-Ruga, Katsina, on intelligence gathering, community policing, armed combat and unarmed combat.
Also, they were acquainted with self-defence tactics and decoy so that they could fend off all patterns of security threats in order to surmount the security challenges bedeviling residents, especially those living in rural farming communities of Jibia, Batsari, Kankara, Faskari, Sabuwa, Safana and other frontline local government areas of the state.
Armed with these war strategies, the female vigilantes can sneak in and out of dangerous spots with ease and have robust intelligence on how to identify threats, especially the activities of bandits’ informants. They are currently sniffing out informants and their accomplices before they could do damage by reporting their nefarious activities to security agencies.
The female squads are committed to stopping the attacks that have almost become a norm in the rural communities. More importantly, they operate according to the constitutional provisions and legal requirements of the country, in addition to collaborating with the police and other security agencies to respond to the rising insecurity in the state.
With the military and police winning the war against banditry, the female fighters, though not adequate, continue to gather intelligence to frustrate plans of the bandits and their accomplices.The female vigilantes’ weapons and strength are in the clandestine way they operate not minding the horrible environment where they found themselves.
They told THISDAY in separate interviews that they took the decision to sacrifice their lives for the return of peace in Katsina while either mourning their neighbours, relatives, friends or parents felled by the bullets of the bandits. These women are the amazons of the waging war against the bandits in the frontline local government areas of the state.
One of the female vigilantes, Hauwa Usman, 30, said she joined the security outfit to contribute towards the restoration of peace in Katsina and to assist the government and security agencies in salvaging lives and property of the citizenry.
According to her, “I joined the VGN in Jibia, Katsina State, during the peak of banditry in the state. My major tasks are to gather intelligence and report to security agencies. I have received training on intelligence gathering and community police as well as how to escape dangers while discharging my duty.
“But what really led me to join the Vigilante Group of Nigeria was the death of my elder sister, Fatima Usman, who was abducted and killed by bandits while returning from Batsari market. Since then I decided to join the VGN to protect female folks and contribute my quota for the return of peace in Katsina”.
She added that through her peace-keeping efforts, many bandits and their informants as well as those supplying them with food and non-food items, have been apprehended in Daddara, Shimfida and other communities in Jibia Local Government Area of the state.
She, however, lamented that fighting crime in the state had been difficult for the vigilante members because of the lack of sophisticated weapons. She therefore appealed to the government to assist them with some rifles to enable them to fight crimes and criminality in their respective communities.
Another female vigilante, Zainab Khali Ibrahim said: “Since I have decided to sacrifice my life for this cause, I do not see any danger. I have sworn to tread this path and I will continue to do it for the rest of my life until the return of peace in our state”.
Asked why she decided to join the VGN, Zainab said: “I joined the formation when my mother, Hajju Ibrahim; a farmer and his Cousin brother, Ahmed, were abducted by some Fulani people in Bakiyawa village. They were later released after the payment of N1,000,000 ransom.
“Also, a friend and three of my neighbours were killed by the bandits. All these irked me and eventually made me resolve to work against the bandits by exposing them. And I did not face any resistance from my relatives when I decided to join the VGN”.
The 24-year-old vigilance member, said she participated in the arrest of three bandits and their informants who wanted to sneak into Batsari market to wreak havoc. “I was able to recognise them because they used to be my neighbours”, she added.
For 28-year-old Khadija, who refused to mention her surname, providing information and intelligence reports to security forces about the hideouts and movements of bandits, remained her cardinal objective as an agile member of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria in the state.
Khadija said when she discovered that exposing the criminals was yielding results, “We courageously joined the formation. Though no member of my family was lost to banditry, the killing of my neighbour, Saminu Tanimu, by the bandits really touched me. I desire to contribute hugely to the betterment of Katsina State”.
She appealed to the state and federal governments to support them with monthly allowances, weapons and find alternative sources of livelihood for them once the banditry ends. “We have family members who are in dire need of help so the government should be giving us allowances to enable us to assist them and sustain our daily needs”, she added.
Speaking about the activities of the women vigilantes, the State Commandant of Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Salisu Rabo, described their contributions as invaluable to the operations of the military and police against banditry and other heinous activities orchestrated by bandits in the state.
He said, “They are very important to our operations in the state. They are mostly used for intelligence gathering. They give information which we report to the military and security agencies and this has been useful in arresting many of the bandits.
“Without adequate information, we could not have achieved the level of success we recorded in the fight against banditry. In fact, these young women perform better than some of the men we have and they continue to show bravery at all times”.
He admonished the state government to complement the efforts of the vigilante members by paying them monthly allowances, provision of operational vehicles, weapons and other humanitarian needs of members of the corps in order to win the war against the bandits.
Rabo, however, applauded the government for empowering members of the community security outfit with 600 pieces of uniforms, 600 parade caps and 600 boots, noting that the government was committed to tackling banditry and kidnapping in the state.
According to him, “We are satisfied with the efforts of the state government towards ensuring peace in the state. But we are appealing to the government to assist us with operational vehicles and motorcycles. Government should also fulfill its promise of providing us with weapons so that we can do more for the state”.
He added that the recruitment of 3,000 vigilante members represents another step the government was taking to enhance security across the state in order to give the people greater confidence as they go about their legitimate businesses.
Meanwhile, out of the 3,000 vigilante members the state government had recruited, 1,100 have been trained so far and the remaining 1,900 are expected to embark on segmented training that will enable them to have vast experience and war techniques in order to ward off security challenges in the state.
Without adequate information, we could not have achieved the level of success we recorded in the fight against banditry. In fact, these young women perform better than some of the men we have and they continue to show bravery at all times