The continued onslaught by bandits against farming communities in Niger State has displaced thousands of people who have relocated to other parts of the state particularly Minna, the state capital, as observed by Daily Trust Saturday.
The Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) crisis in Niger State has continued to worsen as more people troop daily to seek refuge from rampaging bandits.
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While the state government and concerned authorities appear to be overwhelmed, affected communities say they look up to the government to help provide security to enable them return home.
Soberly seated alone at the backyard of the house he was taking refuge with his family in Maitumbi area of Minna, the Village Head of Kuburi, Munya Local Government Area, Alhaji Attairu, told Daily Trust Saturday that the tears they had shed was enough to get government support to rescue them from the people he described as “heartless enemies” of the poor.
On a normal day, he would have been in his farm, especially as the rainy season approaches but Alhaji Attairu and hundreds of other peasant farmers in Munya, Shiroro, Rafi, Magama, Mariga and other local governments have become refugees in different towns and villages.
The frustration he said was the warning by bandits, asking them to stay clear of their farms this rainy season or get killed.
“We have shed enough tears; we don’t even know what to do again. The last time bandits attacked us, that was one week ago, they said none of us should dare go close to his farm this rainy season. They said even if we plant our yams or anything, it is waste of time because they would never allow us to maintain them let alone harvest. That was the last warning they gave us.
“They said we should forget about farming and there is no way we can go to our farms because those people are heartless. Even if they meet you on the road, they will just pick you. They catch and kill people as if they are fowls or chickens. Any attempt to run, they shoot you,” he said.
He said he was surviving with three of his wives and five children as well as his younger brother’s family on a bag of guinea corn he was able to take when the bandits invaded their village a week ago.
He said while some people were killed in Kurgbako, with many others kidnapped in the last attack on Guni and Kurgbako, which caused no fewer than 20 children and women to drown, the bandits called demanding N10m ransom for each of the persons they kidnapped. “Our lives have been shattered. Before, they used to bring vigilantes to protect us but now, there is none.”
Hundreds of IDPs have in the last two weeks trooped into many areas in Minna from communities like Maitumbi Gbeganu, Nkangbe, Maikunkele, Bosso and Unguwan-Kadara.
The Public Relations Officer of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Hussein Ibrahim, told our correspondent that the agency was aware of the IDPs trooping to Minna and other satellite towns.
He said “IDPs are scattered all over Minna and other satellite towns across Zone B and C”, while listing other areas and satellite towns that have witnessed the presence of new IDPs in the last few weeks to include Maitumbi, Maikunkele, Bosso, Kontagora, Kagara, Pandogari, Kaffin-Koro, Dikko, Mariga, Bangi, Rijau, Nasko, Ibeto, Tegina, Yauri, Gwada, Zumba, Kuta, Erena, Sarkin-Pawa, Wuse, Wushishsi, Gijuwa and Sahun-Rami in Munya, Shiroro, Wushishi, Kontagora, Mariga, Magama, Rafi Suleja and Rijau local government areas.
Daily Trust Saturday, however, gathered that some IDPs also live with their relations in Tunga, Gbeganu, Nkangbe and Unguwan-Kadara areas of Minna.
The PRO NSEMA said the return of IDPs to their homes would depend on the improvement of the security situation in their communities.
In the IDP Camps in Gwada, Zumba and Kuta, the victims decried lack of sufficient foods and lack of mosquito nets, exposing pregnant women and children to the dangers of malaria.
One of the pregnant women, Salamatu Shamsu, said “I sleep outside without a net. We don’t have a mosquito net and the room cannot contain all of us.”
Zaphaaniah Daniel, a JSS1 student of Government Secondary School, Kuta, Shiroro LGA, currently in Maitumbi area of Minna, with her parents as IDPs believes her right to education has been taken away as they had been sacked from their homes.
“I hope to continue with my education but there is a problem. We go to school in fear, as bandits could strike anytime, anywhere unnoticed and our parents have no money. Our father has just rented a single room for seven of us. He goes out every day to do one or two things for us to eat,” she said.
Seventy-year-old Dije Barde from Guni Village says “the life of our people has been destroyed. So many things are wrong. I slept in the bush too before I was taken to Minna the following day. We have been battling with bandits’ attack for two years and every day they keep on attacking us.”
On Tuesday, Andrew Danjuma Jagaba, the member representing Munya LGA in the Niger State House of Assembly, moved a motion under matters of urgent public importance, raising alarm over the heightened insecurity situation in Munya in the last few weeks.
Contributing to the debate, the Deputy Majority Leader, Binta Mamman, called on the government to investigate the allegation of helicopter using Niger State airspace, which communities have always said aid bandits to carry out their nefarious activities.
In an interview, the member said “the issue of insecurity, particularly in Munya LG, is worrisome because it has covers 11 wards. You will see a bandit holding three weapons with each containing 45 rifles and you are saying the vigilantes should go and face them with locally made gun that uses a plug which can only be fired once. How do they withstand them?”
The lawmaker called on the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, to pressurize the federal government to come to the aid of the affected communities.
“They can even declare a state of emergency on the affected local governments. Our security agencies know where they are. They should deploy technologies to locate the hideout of these bandits.”
Jagaba said if the security situation in some local governments is not contained, 2023 elections may not hold.”
According to Zaliya Isah from Kuburi village in Munya Local Government, “Our village was attacked last week. They attacked us around 10pm. They killed quite a number of people in Chibani and also kidnapped many from various communities.
She said they had come to stay in Minna due to over-population of government-designated Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in Gwada, Kuta and Zumba.
Eriza Isah, also from Kuburi, said “We have spent one week in Minna. We ran out around 10pm; we slept in the bush and moved down to Minna the following day. Even when we were running in the night in the bush, they were following us, they killed some people. Our major challenge is lack of food; some of us sleep some days without food. I have five children and they are all in Minna with me.”
Abdullahi Erena, one of the landlords in Maitumbi area said over one hundred IDPs from various villages trooped to stay with him in his three single-rooms.
Some of the IDPs live in uncompleted buildings in Maitumbi while others stay with their relations in Bosso, Nkangbe, Maikunkele Tunga, and other parts of the state capital.
Abdullahi Erena said “Somebody helped us by releasing his uncompleted six bedrooms to us. I beg the owner to help us for the sake of Allah because there are nursing mothers with little children. They didn’t come with anything from their villages, they just came empty handed.”
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that some women were engaging in illegal mining in Minna to enable them support their families. When our correspondent visited the various houses where IDPs were accommodated, most of them were said to have gone to the gold mining sites to get money to buy food.
According to Lami Ali, from Kurgbako village, “Gwada IDP camp is overpopulated. We are currently renting a room in Minna. The money was paid by my husband. He has gone back home because it will be difficult for us to leave farming. He has brought us here for safety and he has returned to prepare for farming. What our men do is to take risks and return home from time to time.”
Maitumbi where majority of the IDPs stay is one of the areas suffering scarcity of water. IDPs said they had to buy everything including firewood and food while they had enough at home but cannot return.
A landlady, Hannatu Ezra, said about 30 IDPs, women and children have been staying in her house for the past two weeks.
“They rented two rooms in which they all sleep, especially women and children. Men don’t stay in Minna with them; they return home but come here regularly. It is disheartening to see about 30 people sleeping in two small rooms, especially in this heat period. This can cause sickness.”
Another landlord, David Pada, said “Truly, they are suffering. More than 10 of them sleep in a room without a fan or even food sometimes, except people help them. And they cannot go back home to bring anything because they don’t know what will happen if they go.”