Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
There is palpable fear in some communities in Igabi and Giwa local government areas of Kaduna State aftermath of a deadly attack by bandits a few days ago. The situation is so bad that the members of the affected communities, hunted by their tragic experiences and uninspiring arrangements to guarantee their safety, insisted on not returning to their communities.
On March 2, 2020, a gang of about 200 dare devil bandits invaded Marina, Kerewa, Zerewa and Hashima communities, killing more than 55 people in one exploit, leaving others- young, aged and even women- seriously injured.
At these communities a few days ago, Daily Sun observed an atmosphere emptied by fear. Not many people were around their homes as they had fled to nearby towns, like Zaria while the few people at home wore deserted looks that revealed their desolation.
In fact, Marina was almost empty, bereft of human beings, standing on shadows of ashes and destruction. All there were burnt huts, remnants of cold woods and sacks of charcoal left behind by the villagers just before they fled for their lives.
Many of the victims prayed against a repeat of such barbarian invasion and expressed deep concern over the inability of the nation’s security agencies to check these things before they happened. Mallam Bilyamin Kerewa, who is still recovering at a Kauranwali clinic in Zaria, recounted:
“It was around 10: 00 in the night. We were almost in bed, when we suddenly heard shots cracking the air from nearby villages. It was like a joke at first but on a second gaze outside, we noticed people in chaotic haste, running in different directions, running further away from our villages.
“Coming out of our houses, the race only became desperate. Many options sped pass in a jiffy. But like a few others, I decided to come out and defend our communities. Some of us came out with knives, cutlasses, machetes to face the danger encycling our communities.
“As we approached Marina village, before we knew it, the bandits had surrounded us. They started shooting at random. They killed many of us. In fact, I was shot twice in my abdomen. They thought I was dead before they moved on.
“My problem is that since we escaped, nobody has come to ask about us. Presently, Kerewa village is almost empty as there is no single soldier or policemen out there. That is why everybody is scared of coming back home.”
Malam Musa Nababa, a resident at Marina taking refuge at Amana Kasuwa, said: “I have decided not to go back to Marina until I am sure that the possibility of another bandit attack is no longer there.
“I saw them and the big guns they were carrying. They killed my wife and two children. What will I go there to do? I think our government did not care about us. So let me live in this area for now.
“The bandits are not interested in our goods, but in our lives only, I cannot understand their mission. If it is money they wanted, we would have given them, but they killed us and took away your property.”
At Iyatawa Nursing Convalescent Home in a neighbouring village, 80-year-old Malam Saidu Yusuf observed that the bandits promised to come back and wipe out the remaining members of the communities, who had escaped from their operations:
“They killed my brother, who is called Idi. He was a hunter. They shot at him but the bullets could not pierce through him. So they hit his head with the gun until he eventually died.
“Before then, they shot me at leg from a distance but my brother Idi blocked them and provided an escape route for me. That is how I survived.
“But I am still afraid. They are dangerous people; they can even reach me here. I am begging the state government to provide a security for remaining people of our communities.”
A housewife who lost her husband to the bandits attack, Ummulhair Murtala Kerewa, said: “The bandits are known because some of them called the names of my husband and others in the village. They said that they would kill the entire village and take all our properties.
“We lost everything including our children, who could not stay with us talk less of go to school. I remember very well that one of the bandits was saying, ‘we will kill all the children in the school and see how they could become big men.’ So we are in trouble. As such I am not going back to that village again.”
Another survivor, Malam Rabiu of Galadimawa village of Giwa Local Government explained:
“My village has been experiencing bandit attacks for more than two years now. My worry is that the new method of the attack is strange because, the bandits select villages and kill all, unlike in the past where bandits selected few persons and killed.
“They have informants everywhere and they get information on a daily basis. If you report them to the security, you will end up being killed because their informants are everywhere.
“I narrowly escaped from their trap. They stabbed me with a sword and warned me not to inform anybody about their operation. I decided to leave Galadimawa in my own best interest as my security could no longer be guaranteed.”
Commissioner for Education, Dr Shehu Mohammed Makarfi, said: “Government has approved the recruitment of security men to keep watch on these schools in these communities. We have held meetings with our headmasters and principals on security issues.
“The essence is to teach them how to gather intelligence on the security situation in their areas. Similar meetings and training were organised for village heads, district heads, community and associations among others with a view to ensure continuity in our school programs.
“There are many schools in the states that are presently under the watch of security personnel. Therefore, I will like to urge our rural communities not to panic as government is working hard to deal with the security situation.”