By Luka Binniyat
When they struck, the initial conclusion was that these were members of the Jamaatul Ahjlil Sunna lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, who had just some 48hours earlier agreed to a ceasefire. However, Sunday Vanguard investigations reveal that these are thieves that have taken over an entire emirate covering Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara States.
Last October when they stormed Dogon Dawa to free some of their comrades-in-arms, leaving 24 people dead, Sunday Vanguard did an extensive coverage of their activities and how state governments were responding. But last week, the heavily armed bandits who move in a group of between 50 and 100, stormed Birnin Gwari. Here is the chilling account of their raid and the seemingly helpless lamentation of an emir.
The swath of the Guinea Savanah North West of Kaduna State that thins into the Sahel in Zamfara and Katsina States – perhaps the size of Imo and Abia States combined – has silently, but bloodily slipped from government control into the firm grip of bandits.
The Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubairu Jibril II, whose emirate has been overrun by the brigands had affirmed this to the Governor of Kaduna State , Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, last Wednesday when he ran to Sir Ibrahim Kashim House on a save-our-soul mission.
Birnin Gwari is located about 150kms west of Kaduna town. The Emir, who may have had a premonition of the impending invasion of the headquarters of his emirate by the outlaws 24 hours after his visit, betrayed the helplessness and desperation of a king whose kingdom was under siege and on the brink of being captured, when he lamented to the state governor.
They are now in charge of my emirate – Emir
Here was what he told Governor Yero: “The entire Birnin Gwari Emirate has been overtaken by armed robbers. Only Birnin Gwari town is standing now.
“Unless the state government takes a drastic step towards arresting the situation, it will come to a point where the villagers will be forced to abandon the community
“You must rescue us from the clutches of these armed robbers.
“We are disturbed, because as I talk to you now, neither you (Yero), our governor, nor I is in charge of security in some of the villages in Birnin Gwari; these bandits are in charge. The armed bandits have taken over our land.
“They dictate what goes on in the villages under their territory. They move around with their weapons in broad daylight even in the market with nobody to challenge them. The only town they are yet to penetrate is Birnin Gwari town. So we hope the governor will come to our rescue.
“The emirate has been put under intense fear because the bandits now move from house to house at will and at anytime of the day to rob villagers, maim, kill and rape their female victims.
“So far, the bandits have stolen about 700 cattle belonging to the villagers and nothing has been done about it.
“Our people are worried; the government promised to secure the area from these bandits but we are still waiting for that intervention”, he said pleadingly.
It is a task for three states – Yero
In response to this lamentation song, Yero said: “This is a serious problem indeed. But it is a responsibility of the three states that share boundaries with Birnin Gwari.
“The three states are Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara. So it is the responsibility of the government of these three states to sit down and fashion out ways to tackle this problem of armed bandits.
“I want to assure the Emir that this administration would do everything humanly possible to assist the community. I urge you to enjoin your subjects to pray to God for a lasting solution”.
How they struck – resident
Unfortunately 24 hours later the brigands struck Birnin Gwari town where the Emir had thought was immune from the brigands.
An eye witness narrated the encounter thus:
“They arrived this town around 10am and went about enjoying themselves and we all know they were thieves”, said a source known to Sunday Vanguard who does not want his name mentioned. He works with one of the affected Banks.
“The bandits here fear no one and no one challenges them.
“When they arrived in four buses and several cars and motor cycles, some people started leaving the town.
“They went to drinking joints and had fun. Then around 1am, we heard the sound of gunfire.
“There was shootings and sounds of heavy explosions.
“It went on for over about two hours. I was praying that they don’t go from house to house.
“But the sounds were only around the Police station and the Banks’ area.
“When it was morning, we went out to the scene. I arrived when they were taking away the corpse of the last Policeman. They bombed the Police station and killed five Policemen. They opened the cells and released all the inmates.
“It was after they chased away the Police that they turned to the Banks. They used explosives to open the ATM machines at the two banks (names withheld).
“I don’t know if they got into the vaults of the banks, because the Police did not allow us inside. Only my manager was allowed into the bank.
“But they destroyed everything from furniture to the ceilings, computers and even our only operational van”, he said.
Confirming the incident, Kaduna State Police Spokesman, DSP Aminu Lawan, told Sunday Vanguard that, “in the early hours of today, some armed robbers attacked a Police Station in Birin Gwari and two Banks. They killed three policemen. I was informed that the arm robbers were between 50 and 100. When our men could not face them, they retreated. They burnt the Police station. They also killed one other person after robbing the banks. We have not made any arrest, but we are investigating”, he said.
According to Sunday Vanguard findings, revelations suggest that even the Nigeria Military appears afraid of confronting the bandits.
They are said to be staying in camps with their wives and children where they live in a normal communal setting.
“In some of the camps, their children even attend schools in some of the local villages. The village heads of some areas actually take orders from the bandits or get killed. It is a totally different world. Some of the areas in Birnin Gwari LGA under the grip of the thieves, according to Sunday Vanguard findings are: Kuyallo, Damari, Kazaga, Tsamari and their satellite villages.