- Gunmen spared women, children
With a series of dramatic incidents, 2019 started on a high note for kidnappers, in spite of increased efforts of security operatives. Why is there a spike in the disturbing trend? Daily Trust Saturday takes a look.
An atmosphere of despondency pervaded the IDP camp in Gandi town, in Rabal LGA of Sokoto State, where many villagers are seeking shelter following last Sunday’s attack on three villages where bandits killed 26 persons and set ablaze houses at Dutsi, Warwanna, and kursa communities. It came six months after a similar one at Tabanni and neighbouring villages in the same local government area.
Secretary of Gandi District Head, Tukur Mohammed, told Daily Trust Saturday said heavily armed men arrived Warwanna village, their first point of call, at about 4:40 pm on 24 motorcycles, each carrying three persons. “They met the village head, who is a vigilante, and attacked him. He resisted and, he killed two bandits before they killed him. They didn’t kill women and children, even the little girl who was among those killed, was with her father who was shot,” Mohammed disclosed.
One of the villagers from Warwanna added that the bandits shot sporadically, and set houses and food storages ablaze. “Anyone who rushed out of their residences was shot in cold blood and they killed 11 people before moving out to Kursa and Dutsi villages,” he said. Nine persons were reportedly killed at Kursa village.
Lawali Likita, 40, from Dutsi village, where deaths were also recorded, said the bandits arrived their village from the eastern part of the area. “As soon as they got to our village, they started shooting sporadically, and setting fire to our silos and houses. The whole village was torched, and we all ran to safety, and that was when they killed some of our people.”
Halima Isa Dutsi also recalled: “The bandits stormed our village after they finished with Warwanna, they killed three of my neighbours. They came to us while we were running and directed us back to the village, herded us like sheep, but did not kill anyone among us.’’ She said her sons, who are young men, escaped because they were cutting firewood in the bush.
Lawali and some others from Dutsi village recalled that it was not up to three weeks back that the bandits placed a N1.2 million ‘tax’ on the villagers, which they collectively paid. “Only for the bandits to return last Sunday, telling us ‘it is not money we need, we just want to kill you.’
The attack has left in its wake traumatized displaced persons numbering over 1,000, among whom are aged women, children, widows, all of whom who had to trek several hours to the camp at Gandi town, where displaced persons of July 2018 Tabanni attack where still taking refuge.
It was heartrending as survivors recounted their harrowing experiences. Two of those who were shot by the bandits, and survived, told Daily Trust Saturday how they escaped with gunshot wounds. Lawal, 14, from Dutsi village, was lying on the hospital bed nursing his leg and shoulder. “I was rearing cattle when the bandits caught up with me alongside two other teenagers. The two others hid behind the cattle, while I ran for cover. The bandits noticed the two hiding, and killed them,” he said. They saw him running and continued to fire at hi. “One of the bullets tore through my shoulder, while another hit my leg.” He fell down and was thought to have died until the bandits left and he was discovered and taken to the hospital.
Haladu Amadu, 40, from Kursa, who is also on admission at the hospital, said the bandits fired severally at him. “I came across them outside the village and started running back, and they shot at me. I managed to hide in a local grain silo, so they could not find me. But one of the gunshots had hit my hand as you can see, but Alhamdulillah I survived.”
Hafsi Ibrahim Gobirawa broke into tears as she narrated: “My husband was ill when the bandits came, the commotion forced him out of his sick bed only for him to struggle outside the house. I advised him not to go, but he insisted. They shot him in the abdomen and he died.” Still in tears, she added: “Neighbours brought his corpse to me. I assisted them to drag him into my room where I did the traditional rubbing of his face.”
Hafsi, a young lady of about 20, sighed tearfully: “I’m left alone with these four children.”
Similarly, Suwaiba, who also lost her husband in the attack, was too traumatised to say much: “They met my husband at the bush where they shot him and left him dead.” She is also a mother of four children, who looked on with vacant expressions as their mother was speaking.
Over 90-year-old Aishatu Dutsi sat quietly on some bundles of firewood at the camp, deep in thought. She drearily responded to the request to recount her experience: “I saw them, some were masked. They ignored me, and continued hunting down and killing our sons while setting homes and silos on fire.” The distraught woman continued: “All of the dressed in black, they arrived our village in a convoy of motorcycles and started shooting all over the place, we got frightened and ran out of our houses into the bush, many of us women and children. Only they didn’t kill women and children.”
Another nonagenarian, Malam Ali, also narrated how he came face-to-face with the bandits, who asked him if he was ready to die. “I answered that if my time is up, so be it, so they left me and moved on.”
The Gandi IDP camp’s Assistant Coordinator, Ibrahim Ahmed Gandi, said 1,097 internally displaced persons who fled their villages are now taking shelter at a primary school in Gandi town. He said the IDPs are from Dutsi, Tursa and Warwanna as well as from other neighbouring those from Illulu, Gidan Kare, and Rumbun Tsamiya, and are apprehensive of also being attacked. “We received the first batch of 814 people, mostly women and children from Illulu, Warwanna, Gidankare and Kursa. Another group of 150 came later from Dutsi while the 133 from Tsamiya came along, and at the last count we have 1097 IDPs here with us.”
Gandi added: “They arrived at a time when the state IDP Task Force Committee exco were not on the ground to receive them for proper documentation and rehabilitation. He however said the Zakkat and Endowment Commission mobilized some funds which was used to buy food items for feeding. The Zakkat Commission provided 900 loaves of bread on the first day of their arrival and later donated the sum of N100,000 which was used to procure firewood for cooking and other necessary things for feeding them.”
Gandi disclosed that Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who witnessed the funeral prayers of the slain villagers, promised to ensure provision of food, clothing and shelter for them.
The camp coordinator stated that the chairman of Zakkat Commission, Malam Lawal Maidoki, who was not around, had promised to take up the case with the state governor immediately he returns, to ensure their proper upkeep. He disclosed the donation of N2.7m and 52 bags of rice by Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko to the families of victims.
News of the attack was first make public at the venue of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign in Goronyo town, when a party official announced: “I have been directed to inform you that there is a fresh attack in Rabbah town where armed bandits have reported killed scores of people. His Excellency, the governor, is on his way to Goronyo now. He is coming not to campaign again but just condole with you and then he will be proceeding to Rabbah town to see things for himself.”
Tambuwal attended the funeral prayer of 26 people killed by the bandits, and delivered a condolence message at the palace of the District Head of Gandi, Alhaji Maccido Yari. He lamented that Sokoto had been facing attacks from Bandits spilling over from neighbouring Zamfara State in the last three and half years, but assured that the state government and security agencies were not relenting in their efforts to tackle the menace.
State Commissioner of Police, Murtala Mani, said they had deployed more men to the area while a strong team of army, police and Civil Defence Corps were currently patrolling the areas. He noted the surreptitious nature of such attacks, adding that the bandits attack remote areas that are difficult for quick response. The commissioner however asserted that as soon as operation ‘Python Dance III’ fully commences, all would be tackled in Sokoto, Kebbi, and Zamfara.