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Madaka: Niger community in dilemma after raid by bandits

Residents of Madaka, an agrarian community in Rafi LGA of Niger State are still counting their losses days after bandits in their numbers invaded the…

Residents of Madaka, an agrarian community in Rafi LGA of Niger State are still counting their losses days after bandits in their numbers invaded the community market and killed many people including traders who came from other places to buy and sell.

The violent attack that occurred on Thursday, March 21, 2024, left at least 21 people dead and many others hospitalised while dozens of others. including women and children. were also kidnapped and still in captivity.

The residents said aside from those who died at the scene of the attack, including the village head, the death toll had risen to 50 following the discovery of corpses of those who fled with bullet wounds to the bush and succumbed to their injuries while many others are yet to be accounted for.

The Sarkin Hausawa Madaka, Alhaji Garba Mai-Haja, who sustained severe gunshot wounds, succumbed to his injuries in the early hours of Friday at the IBB Specialist Hospital in Minna, where he was receiving medical attention.

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Similarly, no fewer than 50 houses, stores, shops, motorcycles, cars and trucks, bags of assorted grains, tubers of yam, and the entire community market were reportedly burnt down during the attack.

According to residents, the attack occurred around 3pm, at a time when the market was bustling with activities.

The harrowing incident reportedly happened a week after the vigilante group, formed and funded by the community to protect them, was asked by authorities to stop operation over alleged illegal arrests.

Days after the attack, the villagers said they were afraid to go back for fear of the return of the attackers, adding that the stoppage of vigilantes from operating had left them vulnerable to recurring attacks.

Residents blamed the attack on the arrest of two of the vigilante commanders and withdrawal of vigilante groups a week before the attack.

Abdulmalik Ibrahim Madaka, Chairman, Madaka Development Forum, told our correspondent that the attack left more than 30 people dead in the first instance, confirming that the entire community market and goods, motorcycles and other properties worth millions of naira were burnt.

“Many houses were burnt to ashes; many men, women and children were kidnapped and up till now nobody knows how many people were kidnapped. As I am speaking with you, we have been told that 10 people out of those kidnapped have been killed.

“As I speak with you, we are completely vulnerable. We have all fled the community. The only people you will see in Madaka now are a few vigilantes and they are also hiding around the community because they are not many. My brother is currently receiving treatment at the Minna General Hospital for the injuries he sustained during attack.

“Some people died after losing a lot of blood due to lack of medical attention because they ran away with bullet wounds and collapsed in the bush and nobody saw them to give them a helping hand. Some people were taken to traditional healers because of cost of hospital treatment. But majority of the people that were shot have died.

“Even before now, there was no any identified IDP camp in Rafi LGA that Niger State had kept for us. The only IDP camp we know that our people usually flee to is the one in Kuta, the headquarters of Shiroro LGA. As I speak with you, the majority of Madaka people are sleeping in the bush, across the River at Gijiwa, Kukoki and other villages.

Asked if attackers had called to inform them of the number of people they kidnapped, Ibrahim said “The attackers may not call for negotiation because the operation looked like a retaliation. Some couple of weeks ago, our local vigilante corps were able to perform an operation in which they killed two bandits and collected 17 cows and that has created a lot of controversies leading to the arrest of our vigilante commanders, presently with the police.”

He said the withdrawal of the vigilante group from the community has exposed them to attacks, adding that many people would not return to Madaka anytime soon.

“Between 2020 and 2023, Madaka and its neighbouring villages were under the control of bandits and we were subjected to hardship because we couldn’t access our farms to cultivate crops and feed ourselves. So, when we discovered that much support wasn’t forthcoming from the government, youths in the community organised themselves and formed the community vigilante corps. And with the help of Allah, they started protecting the community and our people started returning home gradually; peace was restored successfully and all economic activities including farming returned to normal.

“The activities of our vigilante corps become a subject of emulation in all the affected communities within Rafi local government and some parts of Shiroro LGA that share boundaries with us. Our vigilante corps has never failed in any fight with bandits.”

Also speaking, the youth leader, Madaka, Saidu Bawale, aka Hasken Madaka, said the attack was a result of the arrest of the vigilante commanders.

“Our vigilantes were doing well before they were asked to stop operation. Our vigilantes laid down their arms in respect to the authorities because they didn’t want to be seen to be disrespectful to authority. So, all our vigilantes laid down their arms and we became vulnerable to attacks.

“Bandits invaded our market in broad daylight, around 3pm. They shot sporadically at people including women and children.

Salihu Abdullahi, whose 8-year-old daughter was shot, said the little girl was discovered in the bush screaming, adding that they could not quantify what they lost in the attack.

“We were at the neighbouring village where we went to mine gold when we saw people running. Some people started jumping into the river even those who didn’t know how to swim. So, I took my motorcycle to rush home and fled with my family. On my way, I was stopped and asked to go back, because they had taken over the community.

“They burnt down our clinic, shops containing millions of naira goods, motorcycles, trucks, foodstuffs and houses. They gathered our women and forced them to break their fast. One of them that attempted to resist was beaten mercilessly.

“My little daughter was among those they shot. She’s eight years old. In the first place, I counted 11 dead bodies. More bodies were later recovered. As of now, many people have not been accounted for.

“Over the years, these vigilantes have protected our communities. We have heavily relied on God and these vigilantes. They have been doing their best. If at all our vigilantes were on the ground, I bet you the attackers wouldn’t be able to cause us the damages they did.

“We contribute money to pay them and buy them food items to enable them to face the security job and they have been doing well. We didn’t know what happened, the commander was arrested and they were asked to stop operating,” he said.

However, the Chairman, Rafi LGA, Ayuba Usman Katako, told our correspondent at the IBB Specialist Hospital where some victims were being treated that the vigilantes were not stopped from operating but confirmed that some were invited for questioning over some allegations.

“In Madaka, many people were killed. Up till now, we can’t ascertain the number of casualties until when those who have fled return home then we will be able to ascertain the number of people that were kidnapped or still missing.

“Nobody asked them to drop their arms. There are about 100 vigilantes and taking one person to ask him some questions does not mean others should drop their arms. There was an issue and by the grace of God, it will be resolved. Government is on top of the situation and we will continue to do our best to enable our people to live in peace.”

The Niger State Commissioner for Homeland Security, Brig.-Gen. Bello Abdullahi Mohammed retired, said the state government would take over the coordination of security activities to ensure good results.

“When issues like this happen, the role the state government would play is coordinating security agencies because they are the ones at the forefront of activities. So, the state government as a responsible government is to coordinate activities and see that there is amicable resolution of most of these issues,” he said.

When contacted to confirm the arrest of the vigilante commanders and a directive stopping them from operating, the Niger State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, SP Wasiu Abiodun, promised to revert with details but did not as at the time of filing the report.

 

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