Economic activities on the busy Magama Gumau-Saminaka road have been paralysed following the return of bandits who are killing, kidnapping and robbing residents of towns and villages, as well as commuters plying the road linking the North East states with Kaduna and other North West states.
Recall that Toro LGA of Bauchi State witnessed a series of bandits’ attacks and kidnappings some years ago in many towns and villages, but security operatives succeeded in tackling the menace.
But now the resurgence of banditry in Gamau and Saminaka axes of the state has been giving residents sleepless nights.
Many farmers have abandoned their farms for the fear of the criminals, and some traders have also been forced to either close early or change markets to start sourcing for new customers, while wealthy individuals no longer live in their villages and commercial drivers also commence operations late and close early to beat the traps of the criminals.
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The Magama Gumau-Saminaka road which formerly served as a relief to commuters plying the Kaduna and Kano roads due to the dilapidated nature of the road from Jos to Kaduna has become a death trap, particularly for residents of communities along the road.
It was gathered that the bandits who were displaced from the Burra Forest in Ningi LGA of Bauchi State have settled in the Lame/Burra Forest and the surrounding mountains in Toro LGA from where they launch attacks.
The situation prompted the member representing Toro Federal Constituency, Dabo Ismail Haruna, to write a letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, for urgent deployment of security to curb the incessant kidnapping and armed robbery in the area.
The letter reads in part: “I wish to draw the attention of the Inspector General of Police on the renewed offensive attacks in some parts of Toro LGA of Bauchi State in recent weeks. Communities such as Gumau, Bargan Fulani, Salarma and Zalau have become an epicentre of these unfortunate incidents.”
The lawmaker pleaded with the IGP to among others, “Establish a mobile security squadron in Gumau, being the flashpoint of the activities of these mindless criminals.”
The lawmaker equally wrote to Governor Bala Mohammed demanding his intervention in the deployment of more security personnel to safeguard the residents of the area.
The lawmaker also told newsmen at the weekend that the situation had caused a great concern in recent times, especially with the kidnapping of Alhaji Babangida (Dan Rimin Wunti) and Alhaji Saleh Jange in Gumau.
He said, “This sad development came a few days after similar incidents at Bargan Fulani, where a woman was slaughtered and a man killed in Fishere community.”
On his part, the Chairman of hunters in Toro LGA, Saleh Fari, popularly known as Sarkin Bindiga, said, “We don’t sleep at night due to the deteriorating security situation as the criminals are evolving different strategies to wreak havoc on residents.
“We are blessed with lots of rocky mountains and a very large land, so the bandits are taking advantage of these for keeping kidnapped victims.
“But volunteer security operatives like hunters and vigilantes are working round the clock to chase out the bandits.”
Fari noted that, “The only challenge hindering our operations is lack of logistics and equipment to flush out the criminals from their hideouts.”
He further explained that, “The bandits were displaced from the Ningi axis, because the Emir of Ningi, Alhaji Muhammadu Danyaya, stood firm with security agencies and took the fight against the bandits with all seriousness to ensure that they were chased out of his domain. The emir engaged the services of over 1,000 vigilantes and hunters, in collaboration with security forces, to get rid of the criminals from Burra Forest.”
He added that, “We are appealing to authorities concerned, especially the state government, to take our efforts seriously because we have the capacity if given the necessary logistics to chase out these bandits out of Toro LGA and the state in general. The hunters and vigilantes have in-depth knowledge of the entire terrain where these criminals have occupied in the mountains, but the only challenge is lack of weapons to confront them. Several times we heard that the government would support us but the issue ended up in the media.”
On his part, the Commander of the Vigilantes Association of Nigeria (VGN) in Magama/Gumau area, Nuhu Ahmad, told Daily Trust Saturday that the resurgence of banditry in Toro had paralysed economic activities and put the lives of farmers and others in difficult conditions.
Ahmad said, “The activities of the bandits have plunged the lives of residents into unimaginable fear. Apart from loss of lives and injuries, many people have been kidnapped and a good number of them paid ransom to secure their release.”
He further said, “To be frank, our members want to chase out these bandits from Toro, but our major challenge is lack of logistics and weapons to confront them.
“We are appealing to the government to support the vigilantes with pump-action guns. We are also appealing to well-to-do individuals and groups to assist us with these pump-action guns.
“The reason why I am making these appeals is because what is happening along the Magama-Gumau-Saminaka road is worrisome. The bandits launch attacks from 7pm to 9pm on the vulnerable residents. They sometimes enter Magama-Gumau and kidnap people.”
He further said, “Locals, especially miners and herders, revealed that they see the bandits around the mountains, and even four days ago near one of the mountains the bandits robbed foodstuff and rustled four sheep. Whenever we get information about the criminals we forward it to relevant security agents.”
The Assistant Patrol Commander of VGN in Magama-Gumau, Jamilu Mohammed, said, “Whenever it is 7pm, the road has become something else because not long the bandits will block the road in Salarma village, which is not more than 500 metres from Magama town.”
He added that, “We have already sacrificed our lives to protect our communities despite numerous challenges. We are not receiving salary or stipends from anyone, but what we need is logistic support, especially weapons, to fight the criminals. We also need the government to strengthen the joint military operations to take the war to the bandits’ hideouts; not just the roadside operations.”
A resident of Gumau, Abdulsalam Usman, attributed the prevalence of the bandits along the Magama-Gumau-Saminaka road to the activities of informants living in major towns who are working together with the criminals and giving them information and monitoring victims.
Usman explained that the informants were the major window that encouraged the criminals to launch attacks on communities.
He said, “If residents and government want to tackle the menace of these bandits, apart from the operations, they need to deal with the activities of the informants who are spread across major towns along the Magama-Gumau-Saminaka road.”
Meanwhile, many survivors and victims who have reunited with their families declined to comment out of fear.
One of the victims explained that the area was full of informants who might likely tell the bandits if they granted interviews with journalists.
But he told Daily trust Saturday that, “I spent three weeks in captivity under terrible conditions; sleeping on top of a mountain swarmed with insects, and hunger. My family had to sell the only farmland I inherited from my father to complete contributions from relatives and neighbours to raise the N2m ransom demanded by the bandits to release me and my younger brother.
“I can’t reveal to you the other horrible things they did to us because of fear of the unknown. The situation has forced our elder brother and his family to relocate to Bauchi. We pray for God’s intervention to bring an end to the activities of these bandits.”