Niger State: Armed Bandits Storm Communities, Rape Women, Kidnap Villagers
HELL! That is the best expression to qualify the situation that befell the people of Shiroro, Rafi and Kagara local government areas of Niger State during the week as they did not have any moment of respite from hoodlums for three consecutive days. Many residents of the three local council areas were forced to flee their homes while being dispossessed of their belongings by bandits, who were said to have emerged from the forests of neighbouring states. Investigations by Saturday Telegraph shows that communities attacked were Kukoki, Kusherki, Rafin-wayam, Rafin-kwakwa and Gidan Dogo-Gurgu communities in the three council areas, leaving behind, sorrow, tears and blood.
This is coming barely a week after some North West states, including Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states, started negotiating with bandits to drop their weapons and get amnesty.
According to security sources, the striking of peace deals with the criminals is taking a toll on the North Central state, as the hoodlums were said to have found a new haven in Niger, having reached an accord with North West governors not to disturb the peace in their states. A retired police officer, who pled anonymity, told our correspondent that the situation in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and elsewhere in the North West, might have forced the bandits to ply their trades in Niger State. “The idea of negotiating with common criminals, which is becoming a fad among many state governors, has led to this.
These bandits have been paid and they have promised not to disturb the peace in all the states they used to attack.
“They have no choice than to fulfill their promise to those states helmsmen because they were handsomely rewarded to stop the madness, but at the same time, the hoodlums also want to continue their illicit trade, so they have no choice than to channel their skills towards Niger State”, the retired officer said. Further findings reveal that most of the victims of the frequent attacks were women and children who were seen crossing a stream in order to reach a safe zone where they are currently taking refuge in a school at Kagara in Rafi Local Government area of the state.
Multiple sources, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented that the bandits, on Wednesday alone, raped over 10 women while confirming that one of those raped is now hospitalised at the General Hospital, Kagara, receiving medical attention. Only one was killed.
The Niger State Police Command however denied the news making the rounds that there were multiple killings, noting that only one person, Abubakar Kaura, was killed and three others kidnapped by unknown gunmen who invaded Kusherki Community in Rafi Local Government Area of the state.
It was reliably gathered that the deceased was shot dead after he told the kidnappers that he was a farmer and had no money to part with. Condemning the renewed attacks on Shiroro and Rafi local government areas of the state, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello appealed to the affected communities to cooperate with security agencies in the area by providing credible intelligence that would lead to the hideout of the bandits, stressing that the issue of security was a collective responsibility. Massacre on Sunday One of the villagers, who gave his name as Ahmed Garba, told our correspondent that the attackers invaded some houses about 1am on Sunday while it was raining heavily and took three people away.
Ahmed said: “The kidnappers took one of my cousins, Jafaru Jibrin, and he was wearing only shorts and a shirt. Apart from Jibrin, two other people, one Abdulrashid Muhammad and the daughter of the slain farmer, Safina Kaura, were also kidnapped.”
He added that the kidnappers had contacted some relations of the kidnap victims, noting that they demanded N20 million ransom and threatened to kill their victims. He also called on the federal and state governments to be more proactive to prevent further attacks. “We are calling the attention of the authorities concerned to take proactive measures to forestall further attacks”, he said.
Havoc on Monday
As if the villagers had not had enough, the following day (Monday), another set of bandits numbering about 200 took over Kukoki village, sacking most people from their homes. Confirming the incident in a telephone conversation, the Director General of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Ahmed Inga, said he received a report from the area that the gunmen had invaded the community in broad daylight on Monday, shooting sporadically into the air.
Disclosing further that the villagers, in their hundreds, fled their homes through the forest and by crossing rivers, Inga said: “We have given palliatives to the people and we are still going to do more because the number of IDPs has increased”. A villager, who gave his name as Ibrahim Abubakar also corroborated the report, saying that the bandits were fully armed. “They subjected some of our people to torturing, beating some of them to the point that they became unconscious.
They took away some of our women”, Abubakar said. He added that the bandits ransacked many houses in the village, dispossessing the people of their belongings including food, clothing materials and cellphones. Cattle rustling on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the communities were again attacked by bandits, who rustled cows and other flocks. The attacks by the bandits were witnessed in Rafin-wayam, Rafin-kwakwa as well as Gidan Dogo-Gurgu villages. Confirming the Tuesday incident, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Muhammad Abubakar, told the Saturday Telegraph that the invasion took place around the hinterland, adding that men of the force had swung into action and would do everything to protect the lives and properties of the people in the affected areas.
“We are aware of these attacks in that area. The Police are reviewing the security architecture of communities in the hinterland because it appears they are prone to this type of security breach”. Abubakar also assured the people that the bandits would be apprehended and brought to book.
Eyewitness accounts told the Saturday Telegraph that some heavily armed bandits that attacked on Tuesday operated on motorcycles numbering over 30, with each cyclist having two passengers.
The witnesses noted that the hoodlums ransacked the three communities and forced people to run to Kagara, the headquarters of Rafi Local Government. One of the eyewitnesses, Malam Dahiru, said: “The bandits were armed with guns and other dangerous weapons; they encircled us at Rafin Wayam village and took all our foods especially breads and beverages before they left for Pangu-Gari community. “As at 6:45pm on Tuesday, there was mass exodus from the three villages with people numbering over 800 hundred moving through the forest and waters to safer places especially to the open camps in Kagara.”
Youths on the rampage Wednesday As a response to the incessant attacks, youths of Kagara town, on Tuesday and Wednesday blocked the Lagos-Kaduna Highway to protest the banditry and kidnappings in their area, while chanting solidarity songs and calling on the federal and state governments to swiftly respond to their plight, lamenting that they had been abandoned to their fate. Some of the youths carried various placards with different inscriptions, such as; ‘We need help’, ‘Government, save us’, ‘Help us with food, water’, among others. Some of them were chanting anti-government slogans over the slow approach to the plight of displaced persons sacked by bandits for three days consecutively. Lamenting the poor conditions of the Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDPs), one of the youths who gave his name as Jamilu, said: “There are no foods, water and makeshift sanitary facilities.” He also called on the state government to urgently send food and other basic necessities to the affected IDPs from Kukoki, Rafin Wayam, Rafin Kwakwa, Gidan Dogo-gurgu, Maranji and Hanawanka areas.
Thursday: IDPs protest against govt When the state government visited Rafi LGA on Thursday, the Internally Displaced Persons taking shelter at a temporary shelter in Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area blocked the Tegina-Minna Road protesting over an alleged failure by the state government to address the security challenges in their communities. The protesters mostly women and children accused the government of handling their situation with levity. One of the women, Aisha Mohammed, said: “For the past four days after the bandits sacked us from our homes, we have been living under harsh conditions without any serious attention from the state government. “More than 10 of our women have been raped.
As I am talking to you now, we have lost hope in the government because we have neither eaten nor slept well. There’s nothing tangible to show that the governments have us in mind.” Other women, who expressed their anger over the alleged nonchalant attitude of the government also blocked the roads with firewoods and used tyres in protest. Another victim, Maimuna Hassan, said: “We rejected the relief materials because, they are not things that we need. They should protect us and guarantee our security so that we can go back to our homes.”
It was gathered that, youths in the camp rejected the food items that were given to them by the government, saying they were not enough to cushion their needs. The items were however received by the elderly ones. Bello dispatches delegation to IDPs However, Governor Bello, while condemning the renewed attacks, appealed to the affected communities to cooperate with the security agencies in the area by providing credible intelligence that would lead to the arrest of the bandits, stressing that the issue of security was a collective responsibility. In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mrs. Mary Noel Berje, the governor said that the security operatives had been mandated to arrest the criminals. “We have made passionate appeal to the military to utilise the vast forest (hideout of the bandits) along the state’s boarder with Kaduna and Kebbi states by either establishing a formation or a training camp to checkmate their activities. “The criminals take advantage of the vastness and difficult terrain of the forest to unleash terror on innocent people.
We are fully supporting the joint security taskforce to chase the bandits out of the state”, he said. The governor also said that the state government was reviewing security strategies along the Rafi Local Government axis, adding that deployment of the joint security taskforce would be intensified. While sympathising with the victims of the recent banditry attacks in Kukoki and Kusherki communities, Bello who dispatched government’s delegation to the camp of displaced persons in Kagara, headquarters of Rafi Local Government of the state for safety assured the people that, the bandits would be chased out of the state. Senator Musa sues for peace Also, the Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, has described as unfortunate the situation which had forced more than 500 people to flee their homes. He decried that the people were living in fear, dispossessed of their means of livelihood. While calling for renewed vigour on the part of the police and other security agencies, in their fight against banditry in the state, he urged the Federal Government to, as a matter of national importance, immediately dispatch a detachment of the military to tackle the renewed spade of attacks in Rafi and Shiroro local government areas of the state. He said: “In the last few days, our people have not had a moment of peace.
They are on the run, forced to flee their homes and dispossessed of their belongings by the attackers. This cannot go on. So, I urge the security agencies to immediately take action to handle the situation. “It hurts to see our people running helter skelter due to the operations by bandits.
They have been sacked from their homes and almost all they have laboured for taken from them. I am really pained. “As a Senator representing Niger East, my people are being subjected to such inhuman treatment; something urgently needs to be done to restore hope to the affected persons.”
More lamentations One of the women who lost her produces, Hassana Mohammed, blamed the state government for abandoning them allowing the bandits to attack them continuously for four days. According to her “what offence have we committed? What have we done wrong that our children are being killed mercilessly? We are villagers and we are the once the government should treat and protect. “We farm and cultivate out produces and the government comes to buy from us at very cheap rate. If we do not farm, what then will the government eat?
“For abandoning us, and allowing these bandits to rape our women, kill our children, steal our produces and render us homeless, we will not forgive the perpetrators, we regret voting for the governor. “Instead of protecting us, the government has connived with the bandits to kill our children. It is the government that sent the bandits to kill us the villagers and God will punish him.” One of the aggrieved youths, Ahmed Suleiman, who also spoke with our correspondent said: “this government is insensitive and we do not want a reign of tyranny.
This is unacceptable and there is nothing we can say to the Governor (Abu Lolo) than to say God will fight for us and the way he has treated us, same way God will treat him and his family”. Police give assurance Again, the PPRO confirmed to our correspondent that, the police in Niger State had sent their men and officers to the affected communities, adding that “we have even sent our men after the bandits. We are also applying intelligence tactics. “We have resolved this. There will be no hiding place for these bandits, the challenge we have is that they (bandits) are taking advantage of the hinterlands. You know how big and vast Niger State is, and the Police cannot be everywhere at the same time. “So, we are calling on the people to monitor their areas and inform us on any strange movements.
Source: New Telegraph