Bandit attacks in Niger State have reached an alarming stage and are gradually gaining entrance into the state capital, Minna.
The attacks in the state it would be recalled, started from a ward of Alawa in Shiroro Local Government Area of the state eight years ago; where several people were killed, maimed and rendered homeless.
Eight years down the line, the attacks have spread to 12 LGAs of the state and the most hit and affected is Shiroro; with daily attacks on villages in the council.
Sources from some of the attacked communities revealed that there was a new trend to kidnapping and attacks in the state and that the main syndicate responsible for the attacks and kidnapping now hired people to kidnap for them, who they paid tokens to and in turn demand huge sums from the victims’ families.
A source revealed that, “If your relations are kidnapped and still with those the main syndicate hired, you will be lucky to pay lower amounts of between N200, 000 and N500, 000.
“But once they deliver you to the main kidnappers, it becomes difficult because they charge from N2m and above.
That is the situation we have found ourselves in.”
The Village Head of Madaka in Rafi LGA of the state, Zakari Ya’u Idris, who was abducted twice, was later killed one week after he was abducted.
The Chief of Staff to the Council Chairman of Rafi LGA, Mohammed Mohammed, confirmed the murder of Idris during a telephone conversation, saying the bandits earlier contacted the family of the deceased to pay a ransom of N800,000.
Mohammed explained that five persons kidnapped alongside the village head were released after they paid ransoms, and that they revealed that the village head was tortured and later killed by the bandits.
They further disclosed that the remains of Idris was buried in the bush by the bandits.
The family of the village head said no ransom was paid and that they were still finding means of getting the money when those freed came back and broke the news to them.
Those killed during the invasion of Madaka on the Sunday included a leader of the vigilante group in Madaka, Alhassan Isyaku, his son, Abdulhamid Isyaku and one other person.
Scores of other persons were also said to have been injured during the attack and many houses burnt down.
Another District Head; that of Gunna, who was abducted in Yakila in the same local government area is yet to regain freedom.
According to Mohammed, the gunmen were yet to get in touch with the relations of the district head.
At least, 50 persons have been killed since the renewed banditry attacks on communities in Niger State.
In Rafi LGA alone, over 10 persons have been killed in the last one week, with about 33 abducted.
Thousands of residents have fled their homes, with many taking shelter in temporary camps provided by the state government.
The latest is the attack that sent shivers down the spine of residents of Minna, the state capital, and its environs as the armed bandits invaded Maitumbi, a suburb of the town, and kidnapped two persons and injured two others, and few hours after the attack, the kidnappers demanded N5m ransom from the families of the victims.
The residents of Tsaka area of Maitumbi where the attack occurred have relocated to a nearby primary school where they are currently taking refuge.
According to information, the bandits came into the community through the Pyata hills in their numbers using torchlights and were spotted by some youths.
According to a source close from the community, the youths, on sighting the bandits, raised alarm which led to the vigilantes in the area to mobilise and confront the bandits, and that on sighting men of the vigilante group, the bandits shot at them and injured two youths and kidnapped two.
It was further gathered that the cell phone of one of the men kidnapped was used to contact their relations to demand the N5m ransom.
The Chairman of Minna, Alhaji Abubakar Sulaiman Gomma, confirmed the incident, saying the situation had been brought under control even though that the people had all relocated from the community for fear of further attacks.
This incident came barely 48 hours after gunmen numbering about 50 invaded Kuchi community in Munya LGA of the state and abducted 17 people in a midnight operation.
Among those kidnapped were the father and mother of a former Chairman of the local government, Mallam Yahuza Mohammed; a medical doctor and two nursing mothers with their babies.
Meanwhile, seven farmers were killed and many others injured by bandits in Mashegu LGA at a farm in Babban Rami while trying to convey their farm produce home.
Wife of one of the victims who spoke to our correspondent said the killing of her husband by the bandits had left her with many children to cater for at this critical moment and therefore called on government at all levels and spiritual individuals to come to her aid.
Investigation by our correspondent in Minna has revealed that agricultural produce that were harvested in Mashegu LGA this farming season are lying in the farms due to the inability of the farmers to convey them home as a result of insecurity.
Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Niger State Government (SSG), Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, in a telephone interview, condemned in strong terms the attacks on innocent farmers by armed bandits; stressing that the state government was on top of the matter.
Matane maintained that the state government was re-strategising its security architecture towards defeating all forms of security challenges in the state.
The attacks have led to the relocation of a lot of people, including council chairmen, from their villages to Minna, the state capital.
In his reaction, the Senator representing Niger East, Sani Musa, said the recent onslaught by the bandits was nothing but a declaration of war against harmless people.
Sen. Musa said, “The horrible events in the last one week in Niger State, and particularly in Niger East, has raised tension and uncertainties in my mind and the minds of our people more than ever before.
“A number of people have been killed and over 30 persons have been abducted since the latest attacks, and not less than 5,000 persons have become refugees from the over 15 communities in Niger East alone.”
He further said, “What happened in the last one week could be described as hell on earth for the people of Niger East who can no longer sleep both in the day and in the night for fear of the unknown.
“They have been rendered helpless even as they continue to starve due to the destruction of their property and inability to engage in what they know how to do best – farming.”
While condemning in strong terms the deteriorating security situation in the state and other parts of the North, Sen. Musa said a lasting solution must be proffered immediately, stressing that, “Those who are tasked with the responsibility of protecting the lives of the people must rise to the occasion.”
It was also learnt that the army has established a “super camp” in Kotonkoro in Mariga LGA to tackle kidnapping, cattle rustling and banditry in the area.
Brig Gen Gideon Ajetonmobi, the Commander of 31 Artillery Brigade, Minna, disclosed this while conducting the SSG, Alhaji Ahmed Matane, round the super camp.
The brigade commander said the establishment of the camp was to create a military presence in the locality aimed at addressing the insecurity bedevilling the area and some parts of the state.
Gen. Ajetonmobi said the establishment of the military camp became necessary as the state shared common boundaries with Zamfara and Kebbi.
According to him, the camp will bring about the much-desired solution to the migration of bandits, kidnappers and rustlers from the neighbouring states to Niger.
Ajetonmobi told the SSG that the camp which was situated on a 700 by 700-metre land, with about 200 soldiers, was battle-ready to confront criminal elements.
Addressing the officers and men of the super camp, Matane commended the army for establishing the camp and stressed that the military presence in the area would put an end to banditry, kidnapping and rustling.
He assured the soldiers of government’s readiness to provide additional facilities, saying the Gov. Abubakar Bello-led administration would continue to collaborate with the military and paramilitary organisations to totally tackle and stamp out the disturbing activities of bandits, kidnappers and rustlers in the state.
In his remarks, the District Head of Kotonkoro, Alhaji Isa Usman, expressed optimism that establishing the super camp in Kotonkoro would address the migration, carnage and other security challenges perpetrated by bandits and kidnappers in the area.
Alhaji Usman said, “We will continue to mobilise residents on the need to volunteer information about suspected miscreants in our mid for security intervention.”
Meanwhile, the people of the state have continued to appeal to the Federal Government to come to their aid as the situation was beyond the state government.