By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
Police operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Kaduna have discovered a bread bakery in the Galadimawa area of the state where thousands of loaves of bread are baked and supplied to the various camps of bandits scattered in several forests in the area.
The operatives also apprehended the brains behind the criminal enterprise.
The suspects, identified as Hassan Magaji, Abubakar Ibrahim, Auwal Abubakar and Ibrahim Kabiru were picked up on June 8 at about 5pm while heading to Damari Forest to deliver loaves of bread to suspected bandits.
Saturday Sun learnt that the operative acted on a tip-off that the suspects were supplying food and information to bandits at Galadimawa, Damari, Kidandan and Awala camps all along Birnin Gwari and Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna.
The suspects led the detectives to the factory where 150 loaves of bread were recovered.
The owner of the factory, Hassan Magaji in an interview told Saturday Sun that he started supplying bread to the bandits when he discovered that it was the fastest way to sell his products at an inflated price.
Hear him: “I am 29 years old and a native of Galadimawa village in Kaduna State. I am married to two wives and blessed with three children. Initially I was a commercial motorcyclist but was not progressing in life because of the activities of criminals. They normally ambush and snatch the motorcycle from me.
“Luckily my relative, Mustafa Magaji who owns several bread factories, visited in 2018 and taught me how to bake cake. I used the N21, 000 that I was able to save to start the business and now I make at least N400, 000 a month. The boom in my business began when I started supplying bread to bandits.
“I was born and brought up here in Galadimawa and I know most of our young men who decided to enter the forest and become bandits. The community has a good relationship with them, because they do not attack us. Initially when they started, they were raiding our villages but some of our community heads made them to understand that we are not the cause of their problem. We are poor villagers also struggling to survive.
“This was why they stopped attacking us and most of them started coming out to mix with the villagers.
“Initially, I used to go around their camp area to sell bread in small quantities. Luckily, it was during one of such movement in 2019 that I met Mohammed from Galadimawa and he bought ten loaves of bread and took my phone number. I sold the bread N200 each instead of the regular market price which was N170. The next day, he called me that the bread was so sweet that I should bring 20 pieces.
“The day I took 20 pieces and I met with three others who were with him that day. They told me that they would like to be buying in a larger quantity and I told them that I did not have enough cash. We agreed that they would pay the entire money before I would bake. They started with N20, 000 worth of bread and gradually increased it to N50, 000 a day. After removing the cost of ingredient, I make as much as N150, 000 in a week,” he narrated.
Even though the risk of getting caught was high, Magaji said he agreed to meet them at a location, with the faith that no one took note of his activities.
“We have a meeting point close to their hideout as I am not allowed to enter inside the bush. It is not even accessible with a car, so I had to stop there and share it among the persons that contributed the money. I am always careful to observe if anyone was following me because we have been warned in the community to stop relating with them openly.
“They don’t threaten me because we mind our business. They are aware that people are avoiding them; that is why they normally encourage me by paying for the bread before it is baked. I do not know about their kidnap business; I just sell bread and go.
“I also observed that whenever they kidnap plenty people like during the kidnap of those university children, the quantity of bread that they bought increased. That period, I delivered up to N70, 000 worth of bread everyday till recently when it dropped to N50,000 again.
“It was my workers that were arrested by the police while on their way to deliver the bread and they brought them to my factory,” he said.
For government to get rid of bandits, Magaji suggested that government should bring more security personnel to the area.
“Government should recruit more security men, especially the vigilante group. The locals are the ones who can easily move inside the forests and catch anyone. They should give them plenty AK47 rifles.
“I regret my action, although I felt that there was nothing wrong since their victims need to eat and stay alive. I have not benefitted much, except that I married a new wife. I always loved her, so I was able to save money to take care of two wives.”
The second suspect, Abubakar claimed that he never knew that selling things to bandits is a crime. “I am a 21-year-old man from Zaria, Kaduna and I’m married with a daughter. I only attended Arabic school twice in a week. I am a farmer and while we are waiting for the crops to grow, I normally look for other sources of making money for my family.
“I started working for Magaji about three months ago. I am paid N500 and a loaf of bread every day. My job is to join and bake the bread and also sell them in the various communities.
Most of our bread is sold to bandits. I know that they are bandits; everyone knows them. I am not afraid that they will kidnap me because we mind our business. They don’t cover their faces and we know their villages. The only thing is that they now live in the forest. They do not have families; it’s only some of their commanders that are married with children.
“I swear that I do not know that it is a crime to sell things to bandits. I am only selling my goods and nothing else. I am aware that they are kidnapping people up and down, but since I did not participate, I never saw any reason to be worried. It was at the police station that they told me that I am encouraging them by giving them food,” he stated.
On why he did not join the bandits, Abubakar claimed that he was scared of disappointing his family. “I have a lot of childhood friends that are now in the bush. I refused to join them because of my family. I respect my parents a lot and they told me that one day the army will come and bomb their camps.
Another suspect, 17-year-old Ibrahim from Kuregu village in Wasasa Zaria said that the bandits were their most reliable customers. “I dropped out of Galadimawa Primary School and joined my parents to farm. They could afford to send me to secondary school but my father said that it was waste of money.
“I made little money from farming and I have been saving money to buy a motorcycle but it’s never enough. Luckily, I got a job at Magaji local bakery about a year ago. I am paid N500 and a loaf of bread. Sometimes I will sell the bread instead of eating it. Part of my job is to sell the bread in neighbouring communities every day. Those bandits are our best customers. Instead of trekking around begging people to buy bread, we will just deliver everything to them and go home.
“I am not a bandit because if I try it, my father will hunt me down and hand me over to the police. He has warned me that those bandits used to kill innocent people, which is wrong. I know a lot of them who have since relocated into the forest. They only come out when they have money to look for girls and visit their families.”