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Fear as bandits kill vigilante chief, others in Niger

In recent times, activities of armed bandits in some local government areas of Niger State have taken a new dimension. More attacks have been recorded…

In recent times, activities of armed bandits in some local government areas of Niger State have taken a new dimension. More attacks have been recorded on communities and it seems that government’s efforts are not yielding the needed results.

In the recent attack at Erena and its environs in Shiroro Local Government Area, armed bandits killed two people and rustled about 2,000 cattle. The incident, which occurred early Sunday morning, also left many people injured.

Numbering over 100, the bandits were said to have gone to the communities with dangerous weapons, shooting sporadically and forcing many villagers to run to the bush for safety.

According to information made available to Daily Trust Saturday, the bandits now target security agents, as well as members of vigilante groups. In a renewed attack, they killed some vigilante members, including their head.

This led to a protest by members of the vigilante group in Mariga Local Government Area. During the protest, they threatened to suspend their operations.

The group said the protest became necessary because of what they described as lukewarm and nonchalant attitude of government to their plight. They were angry that six of their members, including a commander, Danasabe Mariga, and many others, were killed in an exchange of gunfire with bandits in Rafi Local Government Area some days ago.

Speaking during the protest at the deceased commander’s resident, the vice chairman of the group, Tanko Maiyaki, lamented that their members were using local weapons and dane guns, which most times get hooked during battles with bandits, thereby exposing them to danger.

He said that unless government equipped them with modern and sophisticated weapons that would match those of the bandits, they would no longer expose themselves to danger, such as the one that led to the loss of their members.

One of the sons of the late commander, who was also part of the encounter with bandits, Sunusi Aliyu, wondered why government is not showing concern about the welfare of vigilante members and their families despite the fact that they sacrifice their lives to save their people. He called on the state government, as well as Mariga and Rafi local government areas to take over the education of the deceased’s children.

The district head of Mariga, Alhaji Ilyasu Ibrahim, described the death of vigilante members as painful, stressing that they contributed immensely in protecting the lives and property of people of Mariga and some neighbouring local governments. He prayed that Allah would forgive them their sins.

In their separate responses, a former chairperson, Caretaker Committee of Mariga Local Government, Hajiya Riskat Giwa, and chairman, Yam Sellers Association, Alhaji Isa Auwal, appealed to government at all levels to equip vigilante groups with the needed tools to enable them function effectively. They also said their families should be offered some level of assistance.

It was gathered that following an attack on Madaka community, the chairman of Rafi Local Government invited Danasabe, a 62-year-old chairman of Hunters/Vigilante Group in Rafi, Mariga and Bangi local government areas to come to the rescue of the people. In response to the invitation, along with 15 other vigilante members, he left Mariga town and headed to Kagara, where they were to meet security agencies for the operation.

According to a member of his group, Captain Elisha Bahago, Danasabe was invited because of his vast knowledge of communities and possible hideouts of criminals during his early hunting days. As a result of this, security agencies engaged him and his men in combating terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in villages, mostly the hinterlands in Kontagora, all the way to Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State.

Bahago explained that, “While they were waiting for other security agencies to arrive, the villagers kept mounting pressure on them as the attack increased; hence Danasabe and other vigilante members proceeded to Madaka to salvage the situation.

“They remained in Madaka from April 19 to 20, 2020, fighting the bandits until they ran out of supplies and ammunition. He, therefore, ordered vigilante members to run away while he waited for reinforcement from security agencies.

“Unfortunately, he lost his life, along with 11 other members of the vigilante group. They all fought gallantly to protect the lives and property of the people in the community.’’

Bahago also disclosed that after the death of Danasabe, the bandits threatened to attack his community.

“True to their threat, the bandits raided the community. They broke shops and carted away people’s goods and rustled some cattle. Our men went there to rescue the people. Nobody was killed, but the bandits said they would come back to kidnap the women because they were mostly their target,’’ he said.

Responding to attacks in over 13 communities, where at least 9 persons were killed, properties destroyed and many people kidnapped, the senator representing Niger East, Mohammed Sani Musa, called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, set up a permanent military base in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi local government areas. He said this would help to tackle banditry.

The lawmaker said the Federal Government could not afford to turn deaf ears and close her eyes against the wanton killing of people in his constituency. He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to order the military to immediately establish a base each in the three local government areas.

“The on-and-off operations by security agencies in the affected communities cannot solve the problem. The bandits know when troops are around and when they are not. As soon as they know the troops are withdrawn, that’s when they strike. So, the solution is to establish a permanent base for the military in the areas. Their presence, no doubt, will scare off the hoodlums and consequently stem the tide of criminality,’’ Senator Musa said.

At least 3,000 persons, mostly women and children, are currently camped in primary schools in Bosso and Kuta.

Senator Musa called on both national and state emergency management agencies to provide adequate support to the displaced persons, in terms of food, health care and other basic amenities. He also reiterated his commitment to promoting legislations that would impact on the lives of his constituents and Niger State as a whole.

Also, concerned Shiroro youths in Niger East have condemned what they described as insensitivity on the part of government in finding a lasting solution to the attacks going on in some communities in Niger State.

Addressing journalists in Minna recently, the co-convener of the group, Ibrahim Bello, berated people in government for neglecting the deplorable security situation in the area.

“May we state emphatically that in the next two weeks, if something tangible is not urgently and holistically done by government to address these insecurity challenges, as concern Shiroro youths we shall be left with no option than to mobilise our people to henceforth abdicate from civic responsibilities.

“It will be immaterial, inconsequential and of no effect whatsoever to continue paying civil allegiance to a government that cannot guarantee our safety and security.

“President Buhari released a statement about lives lost in Kastina; we are challenging him or any of his media aides to say they have issued press statements regarding attacks in Shiroro Local Government Area in Niger State.

“The president and his leadership tendencies seemed to be skewed towards a particular region of the country. Our people are law-abiding and accommodating. It is worrisome that criminal elements are exploiting our disposition to hunt and hurt our defenceless citizens,’’ he stated.

Confirming the attacks, the Police Public Relations Officer, Niger State command, ASP Wasiu Abiodun, said seven members of the vigilante group were killed while the two who were injured were rushed to hospital for treatment.

Efforts to get the reaction of the Niger State Government on the attacks was unsuccessful as the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mary Noel Berje did not respond to our correspondent’s calls at the time of filing this report.

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