For allegedly refusing to attend a meeting where ransom to be paid by farmers was to be negotiated, bandits killed 25 persons in Kwaki and surrounding communities in Shiroro local government area of Niger state.
The ransom, it was gathered, was to be paid to enable farmers in the area harvest their farm produce.
Blueprint learnt that the bandits carried out the attack Monday afternoon, barely 24 hours after the meeting was held Sunday and attended by some other stakeholders in the communities.
It was also learnt that 30 others were seriously injured and yet to get medical attention, while those abducted were mostly women and children.
A member from the affected community, who spoke under anonymity, told Blueprint: “The bandits also went away with about 50 members of the communities, mostly women and children in the attack which lasted over three hours.
“The bandits, numbering about one hundred, invaded these villages in Kwaki in Kurebe/Kushaka Ward of Shiroro local government on Monday morning to unleash terror on the people for their refusal to attend a meeting which was held on Sunday, a day before the attack.”
It was further gathered that the bandits requested the payment of three million naira each from 25 communities in the area as the only condition to allow them harvest their farm produce and carry on with their normal farming activities.
Our source also said representatives of some 16 communities attended the Sunday meeting held at Buresindna village, and agreed to source for the money if that’s the only thing that would give them peace in the area after over six years of banditry.
Blueprint learnt that the bodies of those killed were littered at different locations in the surrounding bush of the communities as at Tuesday afternoon with nobody to bury them.
“The injured, about 30 of them, are also hiding in the bush nursing their injuries for fear of being killed while some women and children managed to escape to nearby villages,” it was further revealed.
Shiroro LG boss confirms attack
Confirming the attack, chairman of Shiroro local government area, Malam Suleiman Chukuba said he was not however aware of any meeting between the communities and the bandits.
He faulted the decision of the communities to enter into negotiation with the bandits, saying the payment of N3 million by each community would not put an end to the activities of these bandits in the area.
“The only solution which we suggested to the federal government is the establishment of a military base in Makatan junction, Lokope and Kaure communities where the bandits use as their entry route from Kaduna to Niger state.”
Chukuba described as unfortunate, the continued loss of lives to banditry, saying “the efforts of both the state and local governments seem not to be yielding any result. I’m therefore appealing to the federal government to come to our rescue.”
Lere, B/Gwari under attack
In a related development, bandits Monday night attacked Warsa Piti in Mariri, Lere local government area of Kaduna state, killing two people.
They also attacked Randagi village in Birnin Gwari local government area and killed one person.
This is just as a settlement of herders in Kurmin Bi, Zangon Kataf local government was attacked in an apparent reprisal to an earlier attack on Wawan Rafi in the same local government.
During the encounter, six cows were killed but the herders escaped, according to the Kaduna state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan.
He said: “The military under the auspices of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) has reported an attack by armed bandits at Warsa Piti, in Mariri District of Lere local government area. Quoting an eyewitness, the military stated that the attackers numbering about six, masked and dressed in black, invaded the community late on Monday night and began shooting sporadically.
“Troops on receiving a distress call mobilised to the location and engaged the assailants who then fled into the forest. However, two citizens had already been killed, identified as Sale Muhammad and Aguno Bawuro.
“Similarly, the Kaduna state government has received reports of an attack on Randagi village in Birnin Gwari local government area. One Dantani Maifaskari was killed and some others injured by bandits, who also looted shops in the area. The prompt response by the military in the air and on the ground helped immensely in knocking back the bandits.”
The commissioner further said: “In a separate incident, the military also reported that unidentified youths attacked a herders’ settlement in Kurmin Bi village of Zangon Kataf local government area.
“According to the report, the attack was an apparent reprisal to the earlier attack on Wawan Rafi in the same local government in which one person was killed and several injured by armed bandits. The herders in the settlement escaped but six cows were killed by the attackers, with four others injured. A house was also burnt down within the settlement.
“Governor Nasir el-Rufai expressed sadness at the reports, and prayed for the repose of the souls of those killed by the suspected robbers in Lere local government area, and the bandits in Birnin Gwari.
“He also appreciated the maturity and understanding being shown by Birnin Gwari community, and assured them that the government and security agencies will continue to work on the security situation in the Birnin Gwari general area.
“Commenting on the reprisal attack in Kurmin Bi, the Governor enjoined all residents to embrace recourse to the law, rather than launch perceived counter attacks. He tasked the security agencies to step up investigations and stabilize the area. Investigations into the incidents are in progress, as troops intensify patrols in the general areas.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has warned Nigerians in different parts of the country against threatening and ejecting law-abiding Fulani herders from their states “in order for Nigeria to continue enjoying the type of peace envisioned by our nationalists.”
In a statement made available to Blueprint in Abuja Tuesday, NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed expressed “deep worries over reports of ejections under threats and attacks on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the South,” calling on President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors and security agencies for urgent intervention.
The statement said: “Northern Elders Forum is deeply worried by reports of ejections under threats and attacks on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the South. The Forum has been receiving these reports since the night of Sunday, January 31, and had taken the responsible step of drawing the attention of authorities to the dangers, which these attacks represent for all Nigerians.
“We have also advised law-abiding Fulani communities to seek protection where it is available and have appealed to other Fulani to resist the temptation to take the law into their own hands.
“It is necessary to warn people who threaten law-abiding Fulani communities in all parts of Nigeria, but particularly in some parts of the South, to desist. The vast majority of Fulani are law-abiding and have rights to live lawfully wherever they can find means of subsistence. Like all Nigerians, who can be found in every part of the country, the rights of the Fulani will not be abridged by criminals hiding behind ethnic interests to exterminate them.
“Citizens and groups, who play the role of police and other law-enforcement agencies, are committing crimes and they must be stopped by leaders, who are sworn to protect the law and security of all Nigerians. The Forum reminds the nation that there are criminals in all ethnic groups and the nation will be treading dangerous grounds if it continues to tolerate the demonization of entire groups over particular types of crimes.
“The Forum calls on President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to take immediate and decisive steps to protect law-abiding members of Fulani communities from killers and criminals, who apparently believe that Fulani have no rights in Nigeria. It demands the immediate arrest and prosecution of persons who are attacking Fulani and setting the country on a very dangerous path.”
“The Forum repeats its earlier position: the Fulani will not be ejected from any Nigerian community only on the basis of being Fulani or herding cattle within the limits of laws and regulations.
“States, which seek to limit criminal activities, are perfectly entitled to do so, but they must follow due process and avoid exposing innocent citizens to danger at all cost. The Forum demands that the Nigeria Police must live up to its constitutional responsibility to detect crimes and arrest and prosecute criminals, whoever they are.
“No politician has the right to outsource the work of the police to local thugs and gangs. If communities in parts of the country insist that the lawful Fulani is unwelcome and has no right to their security, then the Forum will advise them to relocate to the North. Northern Governors should move urgently to prepare to receive Fulani communities being forcefully ejected.
“The Forum appeals again for all Nigerians to exercise restraint and not to play into hands of people who desire to achieve dubious political goals by pitching citizens against each other. Persons who inflame passions by circulating videos and other materials should also desist. The Forum hopes that Nigerians will see firm, fair and responsible leadership from all elected leaders without delay,” Baba-Ahmed added.
But the Oyo state Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) has warned against attaching ethnic or religious colouration to crime or criminalities across the state.
The state’s NSCDC Commandant, Alhaji Iskilu Akinsanya, handed down the warning in Ibadan Tuesday while speaking at the Command State Headquarter Agodi, Ibadan during the monthly recap of security activities across the state.
Akinsanya said rather than fuelling crisis, the time had come for stakeholders in Nigeria to join hands with the NSCDC and other security agencies to end the insecurity
He said: “Those fanning the ember of war violent in the state should desist from such act as anybody caught will be punished.”
The NSCDC helmsman cautioned against attaching ethnic or religious colouration to crime or criminality, and called on residents of the state to join hand with NSCDC and other security agencies to end menace of kidnapping, banditry, cultism, robbery, child-abuse and other vices.
He hinted that the command had also deployed 150 Personnel of Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) to the existing Agro Ranger on ground in the areas affected by crisis to ensure peace and uphold unity among residents of the area.
The NSCDC boss also said the command also created additional three (3) area commands to the existing 6 areas in the state to make it nine (9) in the state.
He listed the new areas to include Area G-Egbeda, Area H-Kishi, Area I-Saki, saying, “the Security of the state is not a governmental issue but collective responsibility of all indigenes and residents of Oyo state.”
Banditry shall come to pass -El-Rufai
But giving a message of hope, Governor el- Rufia said banditry would soon become a thing of the past in the country.
He also advised the new Service Chiefs to build on the foundation of their predecessors in the war against the menace.
The governor stated this in Minna Tuesday during an interview with journalists while on a private visit.
He said: “The problem of banditry and insurgence has been around for a while. The governor of Niger state and I have more than two and half years ago presented what we felt were the solutions to banditry activities in our states. My advice to the new service chiefs is to look at what has been recommended and what has been done by their predecessors. So what the new service chiefs need to do is to build on the foundation laid by their predecessors.”
He said the new service chiefs were coming with renewed vigour in the war against insurgents and bandits, expressing the hope that “things would even get better.”
“Although some people have criticized the out gone service chiefs, but those of us that worked closely with them know that they performed very well,” he said.
The governor expressed dismay over the activities of some locals acting as informants to bandits, adding that such people would be treated as criminals if caught.