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How youths in Plateau community tackle banditry, kidnapping

On December 12, 2021, the residents of Pinau community in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State, were thrown into confusion and sorrow when gunmen…

On December 12, 2021, the residents of Pinau community in Wase Local Government Area of Plateau State, were thrown into confusion and sorrow when gunmen in their numbers stormed the popular Pinau Market and killed scores of innocent villagers including women and children. Many were reportedly missing during the incident.

Wase LGA which is located in the southern part of the state shares a border with villages of Taraba State from where armed men were suspected to be trooping in.

Our correspondent reports that the gunmen launched the attack at about 4:pm when the market was bubbling with business activities. Market men and women had to abandon their goods, homes and flee for their lives during the attacks.

Prior to Pinau attack, there were reports of incessant attacks and kidnappings for ransom in other villages of Wase, particularly those villages under Wase District which share boundaries with other villages of Karim Lamido LGA in Taraba State.

Many people within November, December and January were abducted and some were even killed in captivity. Millions of naira were said to have been paid as ransom.

Daily Trust had, on December 8, reported how residents of some Wase villages expressed worry over the influx of bandits into the area. The bandits would block roads in broad daylight and kidnap passengers to the nearby bushes and ask for ransom. In some cases they kidnapped people in their residences.

The residents had also alleged that there were informants within communities working with the bandits and had been the obstacle to the efforts of security agents to tackle the problem.

The incessant attacks and kidnapping caused fear and uncertainty in the minds of the villagers. Motorists and businessmen and businesswomen who fled the routes around the affected communities had to restrict their movement to avoid any unforeseen circumstances.

Similarly, many residents of the affected villages relocated to other communities for fear of the unknown.

However, things have dramatically changed following the decision of the youths in the area to tackle the situation headlong.

They teamed up with security agencies deployed to the area to secure the territory and the people.

Those who spoke to Daily Trust said they deployed different strategies to bring to an end the constant harassments.

They said they worked with soldiers and other security agents round the clock to fight the criminals by identifying their hideouts and dislodging them.

Shapi’i Sambo, a  youth leader, told Daily Trust that the youths said the rising activities of the bandits were what triggered them to rise to the occasion.

He said such strategies include the mounting of roadblocks on roads to check moving vehicles and motorcycles particularly in villages under  Wase District, which are the most affected by such criminality.

He said the youths were being supported by soldiers deployed to the area, adding that there had been strong synergy among the military officers, vigilantes and other volunteer groups.

Sambo said the youths who have sacrificed their lives to ensure peace in their domains were distributed in strategic areas to monitor suspicious movement.

“If a vehicle wants to pass, it must be thoroughly checked and the occupants of the vehicle must explain where they are coming from and where they are heading for. If we are doubting you, you must identify yourself beyond a reasonable doubt.

“In addition to that, some of the youths are stationed in some of our villages that border Taraba State. This is done to stop the influx of criminals from the state into Wase. This has been very helpful.

“We know it is a very difficult task but we don’t have any other option than this. Whether we fight them or not, if they decide to unleash mayhem, they would do that. They don’t choose who to hurt or kill. It is better to face the battle than to wait and be killed like animals,” the youth leader added.

Abdullahi Hassan, a resident in the area, also said: “At the moment, the criminals withdrew due to the concentration of the youth and soldiers in villages under Wase District. So the youths have contributed a lot in fighting them. There is free movement in the area. But we cannot completely say they have gone forever and that is why the youths don’t want to take it for granted for now. They are always on their feet.’’

Markets, shops reopened

Life has to return to normal in many of the villages in the area. Many of those who relocated to neighbouring villages have returned while full business has resumed at the main market.

Musa Ahmad Ubale, a resident of Pinau, told Daily Trust that everything is calm now  as people are going about their normal activities without any fear.

He said: “For now, everything is fine. Youths and security personnel deployed to the area are working round the clock to ensure that the culprits don’t get a chance to perpetuate their evil act. Soldiers who are giving so much support to the youth have been doing great. We are happy with their deployment because without them, the task would have been very difficult.”

Ahmad Rufa’i,  another resident, who operates a pharmacist shop,  said people have returned to some of the communities  and business activities had begun to pick up.

“Honestly,  we are beginning to develop confidence in the security of our communities especially in Pinau. Businesses are picking up. We are enjoying the market now because people have come back to their shops. Although it is not as before, we believe it is a gradual process. We believe that things will be alright soon.

“The popular Pinau Market is now in full operation. Every Sunday is the market day. People patronise the market from different places. People come from far places to transact business and go back.

Nuhu Idris, who is the Iyan Yamma and one of the king makers in the community, said peace had relatively returned to the area and people were going about their normal activities.

He said: “Alhamdulilla, we thank Allah that peace has returned to our community. Government has tried so much by bringing soldiers to the area. If not for the soldiers, things would have been worse. The presence of soldiers in this community is indeed very significant. If possible, we are still calling on relevant authorities to send additional troops that would be stationed at the boundary between Wase in Plateau and Karim Lamido in Taraba to prevent gunmen from coming into our communities. We suspect that the criminals use the area to attack us. We also thank our youths for their effort to stabilise the situation.

When contacted, the spokesperson of  Operation Safe Haven; maintaining peace in the state, Major Ishaku Takwa, told our correspondent that since the last attack in the area, the commander of the operations had deployed security to intensify patrol of the area.

He said: “The commander will not relent in his effort to ensure peace in the area and any other area experiencing such problems. What the operation wants is cooperation from the locals. They should be watchful and report any suspicious movement. Once they see a new face, they should report the person to the appropriate authority. That will go a long way in preventing further occurrence of the problem.”

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