By Suleiman Umaru
When Senator Shehu Sani, governor of Niger state, described the Bandits Group, operating in Zamfara, Sokototo, Katsina, home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, Kebbi, and Kaduna as a state within a state within a state, nobody took him serious.
He may have seen what the Bandits in some of the Communities under siege that he had described them as a state within a state. Take for instance ” imposing and demanding of Levies from the Communities under siege in Niger state. Security Operatives may not have been encouraged to take him serious to avoid exposing them as no doing their job in the state . he had said that the Bandits are killing kidnapping people and has now now started demanding Levies from the Communities under its control in the state.
The Bandits were said to have taken over effective control of Iburo,Gandu,Dasa, Pyegbere, Dnasapa,Jhazhayidna, Goffan A and B,Chukuba and Galapy and several other Communities in Shiroro Local Government Area in the Ibrahim Babangida, a retired Army General and former military President home state demanding N5million monthly from each of the Communities to avoid being attacked.
The Niger state governor who is not happy that despite the Federal government declaration of the Bandits Group as a Terrorists Organisation in order to give the military powers to stem their activities, intensifid their operation in the state: killing and an abducting people. The governor may have followed the footsteps of Matawalle Bello, governor of ZAamfara state and Babagana Zulum, a Professor and governor of Bonor state, to cry out to President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General for help.
He had said that between January 1, 2022 and Janauary 17, 2022, that there had been more than 50 terrorists attacks of over 100 Communities in the state. Giving an insider information, he disclosed that 200 people were abducted, including three Asian country of China Nationals working at a Hydroelectric Dam project in the state.
According to the governor, no fewer than 165 civilians and 30 Local Vigilantes were killed by the Bandits. Although, he could not give the exact number of security agencies personnel, particular, the Army and Policemen that were also killed, during the attacks on the affected Communities by the Bandits but he confirmed that ‘some of the security Operatives were killed”.
Many believe that what may have forced the Niger state governor to cry out to the Katsina state born Nigerian President for help was ostensibly to seek his support to give orders for deployment of more military personnel to the state to stop the payment of levies to the terrorists in exchange for their protection against attacks on their settlements in the state.
Bello, the Niger state governor, who could not hide his feelings had said that ”the levies are not even enough to stop the frequent attacks on the settlements” and that is why is why the terrorists who have infiltrated the state from Kaduna and Kebbi states, have not stopped attacking the Communities.
The Value News learnt that the state government had repeatedly told the residents of the Settlements under siege to stop paying the levies to the Terrorists, but that was how far it could go because the state do not have the security operatives on ground to implement its directives compared to the armed terrorists who are everywhere in the affected Communities.
Notwithstanding, the government inability to stop the Communities from paying the levies to the Terrorists, which are basically used to buy weapons, the north central state governor has given his words to do everything within his powers’’to discourage the people from paying the ransoms to the bandits as it will not stop them from carrying out their attacks on them with the weapons which they had used their money to buy’’.
The governor has suggested ‘’the massive recruitment of security personnel and deployment to the state to bring the situation under control’’ but his major worries are that ” there are too many informants of the Bandits Group within the Communities about the security Operatives movement because of their pecuniary gains”.
Despite running to the Nigerian President for help to contain the activities of the Terrorists in Niger state, Governornor Bello,may have to prepare for more attacks in Communities in the state as Maatawalle, his Counterpart, in Zamfara, described as home of the Bandits, had said that the continued attacks of the bandits in the state, will not end soon, because of ‘’the activities of some individuals who are behind it’’.
He may have attracted the presence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinu, a former gover of Lagos state and now a Presidential Candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, for the 2023, general elections , whohas embarked on touring round the country as part of his consultations but donated N50 million to victims of the Bandits attack in the Communities in the state during the month of January alone. He had earlier donated N5omillion to Zamfara, when he visited the state, making a total donatopn of N20million to the two states in one months, fueling speculations making the rounds that he would use his money to buy over the Presidency in the party Convention next February.
T Note that the Zamfara state governor who was also at the Presidential Villa recently, He had repeatedly said that some people are using the Bandits Group, which Ayuba Elkana, the state Commissioner of Police had revealed that 80%, have relocated to Sokoto state and other north west states to continue their operation while 20% Tare still operating in the state. The governor had said those sponsoring the Bandits Group are doing so ‘’to show Nigerians that both the states and Federal governments are not serious about the issue of solving the security challenges in the country’’.
This may have informed why Bello, the Niger state governor has urged Kebbi and Kaduna states, sharing boundary whose Communities are under the siege of the Bandits Terrorist Group, ‘’to Collaborate with his Administration to ensure sustainability in the fight against the Criminal elements in their domains’’.
He is optimistic that if Senator Abubakar Atiku, governor of Kebbi state and Nasir El-Rufai, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, during the Olusegun Obasanjo, Administration and now governor of Kaduna state, would agree to join forces with him to tackle the Bandits Group, ”the current level of intervention by the Federal government and temporary respite would come to the residents of the affected Communities in the next two weeks’’.
While Governor Bello of Niger state is working round the clock to stop the Killings and payment of the Levies being demanded by the Bandits Group in the state to give the resident of the Communities a breather, the Bandits turned Terrorists, were said to have written to nine Communities within Bukkuyum Local Government Area in Zamfara state , Aasking them to pay Levies to them, as currently being done by residents in some Communities in the Shiroro LGA, in Niger state or face deadly attacks.
The Terrorists’ Letter were said to have been sent to Wawan IcceSalihu, Wawan Icce Ibrahim, Gangara, Gande, Tungar Gebe, Galle, Nan Narki Ruwan Kura and Yar Galma Communities. The state Police Command had said that the Zamfara state Communities Bandits Group Levy was not new , stressing that it has been there since last DEcember but it had deployed enough security personnel to the Communalities to protect live and property.
Going by the content of the Letetter, Wawan Icce IBRAHIM Community was asked to pay a N4 million monthly levy, Wawan Icce Salihu, N2m, Gaude and Galle N1 m,each, and Gangara , Community was asked to pay a monthly levy of N1.5 mill Tungar Gebe,Nan Narki and Ruwan Kura , Communities, N500,000.00, each. The last but the least Community, Yaar Galma, Community, may have been levied more than the other Bukkuyum , LGA, Communities by the Bandits Group as it was asked to be paying N5 million to its coffers monthly.
There are indications that some of the Communities have started paying the levy to secure their safety while others are yet to pay to the Bandits Group , which may have informed the renewed attack in Communities in the Bukkuyum LGA, where over 50 people were said to have been killed.
There is no gain saying the fact that El-Rufai, and Aminu Tambuwal, governors of Kaduna and Sokoto states respectively, may have been the only ones , that have not visited the retired Army General to brief him about the Killings and kidnapping in their states.
El-Rufai, was said to have piled up pressure on the Presidency by writing series of Letters urging the President to declare the Bandits Group as a Terrorist Organisation to give the military powers to attack and kill them without sanctions from the International Community. This may have informed why the military have continued to neutralise the Bandits in Zamfara and Kaduna states in the recent time, the same way they are been killing in the north east states of Borno and Yobe.
In a related development, the military Operation Safe Haven in Kaduna, that is determined to end the incessant Banditary activities in Southern Zaria, have graduated 98 youths trained on surveillance and information gathering on Wednesday, January 18, 2022, and ready to deploy them for operations to the various communities. The youths were said to have been ddrawn from all the communities and ethnic groups in Southern Kaduna from Kanfanchan, Kauru Kaura, to Ja’a LGA of the southern part of Kaduna state.
As a prelude to ensuring that that the Safe Haven Trainees, do their job as expected, Ibrahim Ali, a Major General and the Commander has urged the youths” to distance themselves from sentiment and discharge their duty without fear or favour”.
Ali, the Army Major General, was said to have told the 98 trained youths that the essence of the training is ‘’to ensure that the Southern Zaria Communities are protected the enemies of the peace: the Bandits Group”. He was said to have also warned the youths not ‘’to allow themselves to be used as political thugs by the politicians in order to achieve their selfish goals”.
Colonel Timothy Opurum, Commander Sector 7, Operation Safe Haven, may have gladden the heart of the people of Kaduna state, when he said the training of” the Southern Zaria youths have become necessary considering the importance of ‘’peace to development in the north west state”. He noted that the team of the Joint Civilian Task Force would comprise of youths selected from seven major ethnic groups in Kafanchan, Kauru, Kaura, and Ja’ma LGA. He had said that that the 98 trained youths would be deployed to various communities alongside security agencies personnel in the state, to fish out the bad eggs who connive with the Bandits Group to perpetrate evil in the Communities.
Buhari may havetaken advantage of the relate peace in the state to pay a two-day visit on Thursday, January 19, 20222, to prove a point that Kaduna is safe. He had arrived the state from Banjul Capital of Gambia, where he had attended the inauguration of President Adama Barrow’s second term in office, He had commissioned some projects executed by the El-Rufai Administration in Kaduna, Zaria and Kanfanchan on Thursday and Friday, January 20, 2022. Kafanchan, has remained a flash point Area in the state over the years, that Operation Safe Haven roops, are now determined to clip the wings of the Criminal elements with the training of f98 youths for surveillance and information gathering to assist the military to do their job.