Activities of armed bandits and kidnappers have continued in Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states despite ongoing security operations to clear the criminals, residents in affected communities in the states have said.
Major security operations were launched recently by the Nigerian Army, Air Force and the police in parts of the affected states to check rising cases of kidnappings and armed banditry.
The security forces deployed after a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari, ordering an offensive to weed out criminals wreaking havoc in rural communities in Zamfara, Katsina and along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, as well as in Birnin Gwari part of Kaduna State.
Residents yesterday told Daily Trust on Sunday that their homes and the highways were still not free from of the criminals.
Members of rural communities Zamfara said they were still battling with the menace of armed banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling.
Even though the attacks have not been as frequent as they were some months back, villagers said threats of possible attacks had not reduced.
The residents however acknowledged the recent effort by security operatives to tame the tide of armed banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping plaguing them.
“Of course, movement of troops has increased these days, especially with the launching of this exercise Harbin Kunama. At times we see the military convoy going or coming back of the remote areas. In fact, there was a time they were spotted near Aljimma village, any one going to that axis has to be very cautious. It is heavily infested with armed criminals,” Ali Shafiu added.
In Anka Local Government, residents complained about how kidnappings on Dan Kurmi-Bagega-Anka road have become a daily affair.
“No one goes out of his house with the intention of travelling to a distance of at least five kilometres has the assurance of arriving or coming back safely. The criminals are lurking everywhere,” another resident, Garba Aliyu said.
“Dan Kurmi local market is holding every Thursday. The kidnappers, led by a notorious criminal in this axis, known as Damina are intercepting local traders going or coming back from the market to kidnap them”
He said: “traders going or coming back from Talata Mafara market every Tuesday are also being kidnapped. A week ago, six people were kidnapped in-between Duhuwa and Kawaye. Duhuwa community is just 7 kilometres from Kawaye. Dozens of people are still being held in various kidnappers’ dens.
“I’m not saying the security operatives are not doing anything about it. We use to see them patrolling the area but I don’t think the number deployed is enough to address the situation,” he added.
Despite the outrage that followed the surge in criminal activities, attacks have continued in parts of Kaduna State.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that bandits move about on their motorcycles during the day.
It was further learnt that they move in groups on their motorcycles from community to community to buy food items only to return in the night to kill and abduct people.
Since the pronouncement of a renewed security operation by President Buhari, two major attacks have occurred around the Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State.
Twenty persons were abducted in the Dan Gamji attack while one was killed.
A resident of Doka, said since the abduction, many have fled the village, leaving it virtually empty.
“Everyday people are leaving the villages, people are scared of staying because they don’t know what will happen next,” he said.
A resident of Birnin Gwari told our correspondent that there was no sign of air surveillance and that the bandits had been operating freely, moving about in groups even at day time.
“My house is very close to the strip where the military chopper is supposed to land, but I’ve not seen anything like that. We see the bandits moving even in the afternoon on their motorcycles, they’re not even hiding,” he said.
Also, residents of the affected states shared their experiences about the menace of the criminals during a BBC Hausa service phone-in programme, Ra’ayi Riga on Friday.
According to Dr. Suleimanu Shinkafi, a traditional title holder of Sarkin Shanun Shinkafi of Zamfara State, blamed the situation on the decision of the military authorities to allow troops to remain in cities instead of taking the war to the bandits’ camps in the forests and jungles of the area.
He said soldiers were deployed in numbers but many roads linking Shinkafi with other areas are now death traps. He cited the examples of Kaura-Shinkafi, Shinkafi-Kwari, Shinkafi-Sokoto and Shinkafi-Isa roads, saying that motorists had abandoned them for fear of their lives.
Dr Shinkafi said just two days after the deployment of troops in the area, bandits stormed the town and killed four infants in the presence of their mothers. According to him, about 20 people were abducted and about 15 were either killed or injured on the same day. The only hospital in Shinkafi, according to him, couldn’t handle the victims, making blood to flow everywhere.
He gave the names of some of those abducted to include Moyi Sidi, Abdullahi Bayero, Matar Yahuza Mai Waka and a five-month-old boy. The abductees were still with the bandits, he said.
While disclosing that villages deserted by their inhabitants were now being taking over by the bandits, Dr. Shinkafi called on military authorities to change their tactics and take the war to the bushes where the bandits stay.
For his part, Alhaji Idris Yandoton Daji said the bandits were “merciless”, as they demanded outrageous ransoms.
“They kidnapped my brother at about 1:10am alongside 26 youths from our area. They came in Hilux bus. They demanded N200 million but at the end we paid N5.5 million. They released only one person after taking the ransom. They refused to release 19 people and confessed that they have killed two and one has died. They insisted that N20 million must be paid. So, they are demanding for balance of N14.5 million and we don’t have such money. The 19 people are still with them,” he said.
Another resident of Zamfara State, Hannafi Sani Yandoto, observed that the reported successes of the military in the war against banditry were more visible in the media than they were on ground. He however, said they were taking solace in the fact that government had accepted that the challenge was real, as that could lead to more efforts in the future.
Three days ago, he recalled, the bandits attacked a village called Danmarke and “they still operate freely riding tens of motorcycles, covering tens of kilometers unhindered.”
Other residents, however, said troops were making inroads in the battle against the criminals. According Jafar Yahaya Maradun, many villages were being liberated from the grip of the bandits. “Even yesterday, Ketare and Dan Magoro were liberated by troops. However, more needs to be done,” Maradun said,
Similarly, Abdulmalik Sa’idu Tashar Bagu Gusau, said frequent attacks on Dangulbi and Dansadau roads have drastically reduced due to intervention of troops. He however, disclosed that the kidnappers abducted his brother on the Sokoto-Gusau road on Thursday and demanded N100 million.
The civilian warriors effective in Katsina
The decision of residents of Sabuwa and Dandume local government of Katsina State to confront the bandits terrorizing the areas is yielding positive results.
Comrade Luwabilu Sani Sabuwa, disclosed that the boldness of the people to take the war to the bandits was reducing their violent attacks in the area.
“Recently, they attacked Dungun Mu’azu and kidnapped three people. But honestly, the decision of civilians to join the war is really making impact,” he said.
According to Group Captain Sadiq Garba Shehu (rtd) the fact that Nigeria was now in war situation and the projection that Nigerian soldiers were not up to 200,000, while the police not up to 400,000, civilians need to join the fight, especially in volunteering information.
He said though going to the battle field was dangerous for civilians as they lack the requisite training and weapons, it was better than staying at home for the criminals to breach their humanity and kill them one after the other.
Captain Shehu said Nigeria needs to engage in massive recruitment of soldiers and police in order to address the current challenges. This, he said, was aside provision of adequate equipment and ensuring synergy among all security agencies in Nigeria.
On his part, Colonel Yakubu Yusuf Soja (rtd), Special Adviser to Kaduna State governor on security, said steps taken by government were yielding positive results. He said presently, Kaduna State commissioner of police had relocated to the Kaduna-Abuja highway to ensure the safety of the road for road users, as bandits being chased away from Zamfara and other areas were infiltrating the state.
“The Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road is also being handled by the Nigeria Air Force. Everything is being done to tackle the bandits in their hideouts. Soldiers are doing their best, but what is hindering their efforts is usually refusal of the people to volunteer information. Residents know the terrain and therefore need to volunteer information and stop being afraid. We also need divine intervention. Therefore Nigerians should continue to pray for God to bring these challenges to an end,” he said.
It’s unfair to say kidnapping, banditry not abating – DHQ
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) yesterday described as unfair comments or insinuations that security operations in the North-West have not reduced incidents of banditry and kidnapping.
When contacted by Daily Trust on Sunday, Defence spokesman Colonel Nwachukwu Onyema said it was in the public domain the achievements of security forces in the ongoing operation in the region.
He said several releases have been made by all relevant services and security agencies of their efforts in fighting kidnappers and destroying their enclaves in Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger states and along the Kaduna/Abuja expressway.
He noted that it is clear all security agencies have “Up their game” after the national outrage because of banditry and kidnapping in the region.
He called on residents of these areas who have information about kidnappers to approach security agencies with relevant information.
Also, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Frank Mba said the policemen on Operation Puff Adder had recorded success in reducing kidnapping and banditry in the North-West region.
He said even though there were still pockets of insecurity, security operatives had been on the offensive since the launch of Puff Adder.
He said many bandits were arrested and some killed in encounters with security agents, adding that huge cache of ammunition and weapons were recovered from the bandits.