How bandits turned Sokoto residents to IDPs

How bandits turned Sokoto residents to IDPs

Residents of Sabon Birni in Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto State are living in pain as life turned sour for them when bandits stormed the town and neighbouring villages in their numbers and unleashed terror, leaving tales of anguish in its wake.

Reports said while some men were killed and cows rustled about two weeks ago, about 50,000 villagers were displaced in the attack that spread to many localities.

In Sabon Birni town, for instance, thousands of helpless women and their children are now internally displaced persons (IDPs) after taking refuge at the local government council secretariat and Abdulhamid Model Primary School, Sabon Birni.

 Our correspondent gathered that while the majority of the victims had relocated to Tudun Sunnah in Maradi State of Niger Republic, several others who would have also escaped to Niger could not because of some reasons.

Since the brazen attack which ruined the usual relative peace that the people had been enjoying in the villages, anguish, trauma and lamentations have been the order of the day for the embattled residents.

Our correspondent reports that unlike Zamfara, Niger, Katsina and Kaduna states, attacks in Sokoto are grossly underreported.

While some observers said political and community leaders are not forthcoming, the victims said the media must play its role in reporting what is happening, saying that was the only way to address the problem.

Our correspondent recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III recently said the number of people killed by criminals across the country was underreported.

He stated this at the 3rd quarter 2021 meeting of the inter-religious council in Abuja.

Citing Sokoto as an example, he said the level of insecurity in the country had worsened.

According to him, 76 residents of Sokoto State were killed and buried in one day.

“In eastern Sokoto alone, there was a day we buried 76 persons, who were killed in cold blood by criminals who came from nowhere, people don’t hear about that one. There was another day we buried 48 persons in the same Sokoto, but you didn’t hear about it,” Abubakar said.

“How can people who do these things be unknown? Where are our intelligence agencies? Don’t we have a proactive intelligence agency that will think ahead of the bandits?

“All the people committing such atrocities must be identified. The security agencies must up their game, find them and take action on this kind of carnage. If we start doing so, all this carnage we see in this country will stop,” he said.

Abubakar advised the government to seek help from “foreign powers to come and play the game we don’t know how to play”.

“I am making these comments with all seriousness because we are so disturbed by the way things are going,” he said.

Victims narrate ordeal

One victim that is in the deepest sorrow is Mrs Aisha, a mother of two, whose husband has been missing for over two weeks.

In a chat with Daily Trust, Aishat, who hails from Masawa village narrates her ordeal amid sobs.

“As I am talking to you, the whereabouts of my husband is still not known. I don’t know whether he is alive or not. We were living peacefully in our village before the bandits came to attack us about two weeks ago. They killed some of our men and rustled our animals.”

She also lamented that they hardly get two meals in a day, adding that they had gone to sleep several times without eating anything.

“We are now taking shelter at the secretariat because we are afraid to go back to our villages,” she said.

Jamila was lucky to have escaped with her husband by hair’s breadth during an attack on their village, Katsira.

According to her, they ran away from the village four months ago after it had been ransacked by bandits.

“We are living on hand-outs and intermittent benevolences from the locals. Some of us are staying with our relatives while some are provided shelters by good Samaritans. But our husbands still spend the night in nearby bushes because they are traumatized,” she said.

Jamila is very much traumatised because her year-old daughter has been suffering from chickenpox for two months.

Our correspondent, however,  gathered that relief will soon come the way of the victims as some officials of the local government authority have taken the inventory of the victims for distribution of relief materials.

“We are taking their numbers for easy distribution of relief materials provided by the state government and Gobirawa Development Association,” a staffer of the council said.

Members of the association, we gathered, had contributed over N10 million for the victims out of which half had been used to purchase food items for the IDPs.

The chairman, board of trustees of the association, Alhaji Ibrahim Alhassan, said they had an emergency meeting in Kano and discussed the plight of their people.

“It was at the meeting that we contributed over N10 million and agreed that half of the money should be used to purchase food items, mosquitoes nets among others for the IDPs in Sabon Birni town and the remaining half would be used to purchase same for our brothers that relocated to the Niger Republic,” he said.

He added that efforts by more people to escape to Tudun Sunna in the Niger Republic where over 50,000 residents of Sabon Birni are taking refuge failed because of bad roads.

“A journey to Sabon Birni which is 185 kilometres drive from the state capital is a source of worry for any motorist because plying the route is at the mercy of bandits who could strike at any moment,” he said.

It was learnt that the miscreants used the road to Gundumi Forest and other parts of eastern Sokoto State to perpetrate their nefarious acts.

Our reporter who was escorted to Sabon Birni by security operatives learnt that all the villages along that road had been attacked by bandits, except Lajenge only suffered abductions.

It was also gathered that it was the same road that two soldiers were recently killed in an ambush by bandits while five others sustained gunshot injuries.

Our reporter observed many checkpoints were mounted by vigilantes who were armed with locally fabricated guns.

One of the vigilantes told our reporter that they had no option than to rise and defend their communities against these “bloodsuckers.”

According to him, “Bandits are not only attacking us but are also using our area as transit routes,” he said.

In one of the villages, people were seen trooping to the resident of a former counsellor in the area who was just released by bandits after paying a ransom.

The counsellor, who introduced himself as Lawandi, said he was kidnapped from his home a few days ago.

“I had not been sleeping in the house for months but that day, I sneaked into the house in the night and my brother who is living with me in the house warned me not to sleep there. Initially, I heeded his advice, left the house and asked him to lock the entrance. But he didn’t.  I later had a second thought that after all, this is my house and I have not been sleeping there for long a time. Then, I decided to spend the night there.

Later, I started hearing gunshots which I believed was not from our vigilantes because the gun sounded very sophisticated. The bandits who were about 20 in number broke into the house, searched for me and whisked me away. We trekked for hours. They forced me to carry their truck gun on my shoulder throughout our journey,” he said.

Lawali, however, disclosed that he was released after an undisclosed amount of money was paid as ransom. “It was a devastating experience. But as a Muslim, I took it as a will of God.”

Sabon Birni is one of the eight local government areas of Sokoto East Senatorial District that has continued to suffer incessant attacks by bandits.

How boys of notorious bandit, Turji, laid siege to eastern part of Sokoto

Similarly, life has become unbearable to the residents of the eastern part of Sokoto State due to incessant attacks by bandits suspected to be boys of Turji, a notorious bandit in the area.

Turji had declined negotiation when he was contacted by the state government some years back.

Our correspondent learnt that there were two groups of bandits terrorising the zone, with one belonging to Halilu and the other commanded by Turji.

It was gathered that while the Halilu faction had accepted the peace deal initiated by the state government, Turji rejected it. Turji’s group later split into smaller groups following an unresolved feud among its members which resulted in a gun battle between them, leading to the death of many of them.

The Commissioner for Careers and Security Matters, Colonel Garba Moyi (rtd) who confirmed this to our reporter said after the feud, some of them ran to Sabon Birni Forest while some ran into Gundumi, Anka and Bakura forests from where they were attacking their communities.

“They are the ones attacking villages in the eastern part of the state, killing, rustling animals and robbing residents of their belongings,” he said

Moyi, however, explained that their main targets were former business partners who collected their cows and refused to pay them.

“They also kill Yan Sakai and those who go after them to recover their cattle,” he said.

“But all the same, this thing is unacceptable. We will not continue to allow some unscrupulous elements to make life unbearable for our people,” Moyi said.

Government measures to curb banditry

As a measure aimed at curbing rising insecurity in Sokoto State, Governor Aminu Tambuwal has restricted movement on tricycles and motorcycles in the metropolis and 14 other local governments areas of the state with immediate effect.

Tambuwal, who termed the restriction as an executive order in response to the security challenges, also imposed a ban on the sale of petroleum products in jerry cans.  He also directed motorists in 13 local government areas of the state not to buy more than 5,000 naira worth of fuel at a time.

While stating that he is exercising the powers conferred upon him by subsection (2) of Section 176 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 to issue the order to be known as Security Challenges (Containment) Order, the governor also banned the sale of animals in markets in 13 local government areas of the state.

While addressing newsmen on behalf of the governor at the government house in Sokoto, the Commissioner for Information, Isa Bajini Galadanci, said carrying three passengers on motorcycles and more than three on a tricycle throughout the state was prohibited.

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