Niger has made the list of states bedevilled with serious security challenges in the country. In the most recent attack, at least 21 persons were killed while another 40 were kidnapped in some communities of Shiroro Local Government Area of the state. According to an eyewitness account, the attack occurred last week Monday when gunmen said to be numbering about 300 on motorcycles stormed four villages of Kurege, Sabon-Gida, Sararai and Rafin Kanya. Their sporadic shootings led to the death of many and the abduction of others.
An indigene of the area, Malam Galadima Salisu who witnessed the incident, expressed worry over incessant attacks in the area by bandits; saying unless government at all levels intervened quickly, the area could be taken over by ruthless bandits who operate at will. When contacted, the Secretary to the Niger State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, confirmed the incident but could not confirm the actual number of the victims. He maintained that the state government was doing everything possible within its powers to address the problem of insecurity affecting the state.
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However, some youths in Niger State have accused the state governor of not showing enough concern for the affected communities. They took to social media platforms to lament what they called the failure of the state government to address incessant killings. The youths described Governor Abubakar Sani Bello as a ‘Ghost Governor’. Some of them compared the governor with his counterparts in Kaduna, Borno and Zamfara and scored him low. The post that generated critical reactions was on the “Nigerlites speak out” Facebook wall by one Farida Bosso and it reads in part: “Bandits are killing people in Niger State communities. In Kaduna State, we saw El-Rufai present in every scene in his state; same with Mutawalle of Zamfara. But in Niger State, we have a ghost.” Media reports indicate that the governor did not visit to condole and sympathise with those affected by the attacks.
Niger State has been the worst hit in recent times by banditry and abductions. Before now, media reportage has been on Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states. Until recently when the bandits extended their heinous crimes to communities along the Lambata-Kwakuti-Paiko road in Niger State, communities in Rafi and Shiroro Local Government Areas have been epicentres of banditry and abductions in Niger State. Tegina, Ogu, Garin Gabbas and Yakila are some of the communities that have also suffered attacks from bandits and kidnappers. In early February 2021, three persons were killed while over 50 were injured when bandits attacked Grumana community in Shiroro Local Government Area. The Chairman of Shiroro Local Government Area, Alhaji Suleiman Chukuba, told journalists that over 300 cows were rustled from a Fulani herdsman by the bandits who invaded the community on about 100 motorcycles and shot sporadically into the air to announce their arrival.
It is discernible from the social media reactions to the most recent attack that the state governor did not show enough empathy with victims of the attack in Shiroro Local Government Area. A visit by the governor to affected communities would not only demonstrate empathy for people who have suffered the loss of lives, houses and property but would re-assure them of the government’s commitment to providing security. Availing such victims with palliatives that may include food items, clothing and healthcare at their internally displaced camps is also an expression of empathy. To restore public confidence, the governor should do more.
As the governor plans to visit the affected villages, we advise him to encourage locals to expose bandits and strange visitors in their communities. We equally urge him to engage and collaborate more with security agencies in the state. The TRADOC in Minna, the Artillery Brigade in Kontagora and the Airforce Base in Kainji are useful security resource for fighting banditry. Collaborating with governors of neighbouring states is also a good strategy for curbing activities of bandits and kidnappers.