…Kaduna community where residents hate to see the coming of dusk
Sola Ojo, Kaduna
When it comes to bad news, Birnin Gwari, the headquarters of Birninn Gwari Local Government area of Kaduna State, Northwest Nigeria, is gradually becoming a household name – no thanks to armed bandits, broad day robbers and cattle rustlers.
The activities of these groups of criminals have grounded developmental activities of the forsaken community by successful administrations since the return of democracy in 1999. As a result, the people here, who are mainly farmers, now live in perpetual fear of the unknown.
As 71-year-old Tajudeen Tijani puts it, Birnin Gwari is an ancient city and one of the largest communities in Kaduna State with little or no government presence. “One is surprised today that, there is nothing in the area but crime. In Kaduna, we have three main areas; Zaria, Birnin Gwari and Kafanchan. But we are worried why the area has been relegated to the background without development as seen in the other two areas.
“Because of insecurity, businesses especially commercial banks are no longer operating here again. Don’t forget, this Birnin Gwari borders three states of Kaduna, Niger and Kano and we don’t know why government especially, Kaduna state government, has over the years, refused to develop the area. Before now, there was no other road for you to pass to or from the south to the north. We are just worried that, the oldest road now being deserted is really unfortunate. Government must do something about it”, said Tajudeen, a man who has lived in Kaduna for about 45 years.
Some 15 years ago, Birnin Gwari used to be an hour’s drive from Kaduna, the state capital. But today, it will take a good chauffeur minimum of two hours to wade through the dangerous road. This was due to bad condition of the single-lane road that connects Kaduna, Niger, Kwara and Oyo States. In fact, it would take about seven hours to arrive Oyo state. This, findings show, is responsible for the slow vehicular movement, which in turn encourages increase in crime on the deserted road.
Litany of deaths
On the Birnin Gwari road, several people including top security agents have either been killed, maimed or abducted with the latest being 11 soldiers who were attacked and killed by bandits while on special duty in the area.
The development has been giving the security agencies in the country a serious nightmare, no doubt. This obviously explains why the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, recently deployed special forces to flush out criminals operating along Kaduna-Abuja dual carriage express road.
Shortly after, security sources said, the criminals relocated to Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road, to unleash mayhem on road users irrespective of status.
When the big guns came calling
It was against this background that Interior Minister, Lt General Abdulrahman Danbazau (rtd) alongside Deputy Inspector General in charge of operations, Habila Joshak and Commissioner of Police in the State, Austin Iwar came calling to assess the security situation in the area on the basis that the Federal Government was very concerned about the situation in Kaduna State, particularly the Birnin Gwari axis.
But before the arrival of the Minister, locals hinted that, they have minimum peace during the day but once the night sets in, everybody will retire to their huts, sleep with one eye opened and pray for day to break.
And the Emir seeks help
Emir of Birnin Gwari, Malam Jibril Zubairu Mai-Gwari II while briefing the minister on happenings in his kingdom lamented that, bandits are killing his people unabated on daily basis.
The traditional ruler hinted that, there is no day armed bandits don’t kill one or more members of his community and abduct several others for ransom. As a result, he made a strong appeal to the Buhari-led Federal Government to intensify efforts to flush out the criminals in the emirate in the interest of the citizenry.
The traditional ruler believe the challenge could be addressed if the government is serious about it because the bandits move between Zamfara and Kaduna State.
According to him, “armed bandits terrorizing his domain hibernate in Zamfara and come to attack in Birnin Gwari; hibernate in Birninn Gwari and go to Zamfara to carry out attacks using the cover of thick forest that borders the two states.”
He said he had to cry out about their predicament because until the coming of the Minister, they felt they were not part of Nigeria. He however expressed optimism that, with the coming of the Minister, that the security situation would improve.
“People are being killed here on daily basis. Just day before yesterday, two people were killed and nine others, including a newly wedded bride were kidnapped. There is no day when they don’t kill one, two or three persons”, the Emir told the minister. He also asked the Minister to tell President Buhari to rehabilitate the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari-Jebba road, which has been in a deplorable state for a long period.
According to him, “the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road has been awarded for rehabilitation because big people like Senators and Governors pass through the road. Yes, we know they don’t pass here, but the road is very strategic to the economy of the country. Finished goods and raw materials are transported through here to and from Lagos”
Ray of hope
Responding, Danbazau assured of the readiness of the federal government to address the menace, which he said gave necessitated his visit to the area so he could have first hand information. “God willing, we are going to map out strategies to address the continuous killings of innocent persons, kidnapping and cattle rustling. I want to assure you that, the Federal Government remains committed to protecting lives and property of every Nigerian. We will not take banditry, we will deal with them accordingly”, he assured.
Earlier, CP Iwar told Saturday Sun that the Kaduna Police Command was doing a lot to bring the activities of criminals across the state to a halt. “You see, this problem has been there for a long time and it may not disappear in just one day. It’s like an open wound, it will get healed gradually and that is why we are coming up with strategies to ensure safety of lives and property of our people in the State because that is our statutory responsibility.
“We have deployed what we call PMF (Police Mobile Force) personnel along Birnin Gwari road. We also have joint operation with the military. We are also engaging community and their traditional leaders in meetings to see how we could collectively curb the menace because these criminals are not spirits. They are humans living together with other people, trading and even praying together within the communities.
“We are also working closely with the state government and lately, we are strategising to see where non-governmental organisations can come in since security is everybody’s business.
“The current leadership of Nigeria Police has zero tolerance for crime and that is why there has been training and retraining of our men to measure up with the sophisticated crime we have at hand today. We are also working on intelligence gathering. We need people to give us information about activities of these criminals so collectively, we can reduce crime rate to the barest minimum”, the police chief said.
Fresh killings and kidnap
Armed bandits on Thursday evening killed two police officers and abducted some members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the troubled Birninn Gwari town. The kidnap occurred at Dan Falo village, along Funtua road, about 60 kilometres from Birninn Gwari town.
The chairman of the NURTW, Birninn Gwari garage branch, was among those abducted. A community leader in the area, who identified himself as Hussaini, gave the name of the kidnapped NURTW chairman as Audu Kano.
Others abducted are Hamisu, Umar ba Matsala, Safiyanu dan Doka and Mika while one of the policemen killed was Dan Zuru, he said. About 21 people were kidnapped by the bandits.
“I know all the people abducted because they are from Birninn Gwari town. They are attached to the only motor park in Birninn Gwari . They were returning from Funtua town in Katsina State where they attended a wedding fatiha in the town. The gunmen abducted the union chairman and four other members of the union,” he said.
The policemen were attacked by the gunmen at a checkpoint along the highway in the area. The Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Austin Iwar, confirmed the incidents but did not provide further details.