•Displaced Niger residents ask Military authorities 

•What’s our offence to deserve this neglect?

•Say it’s better to die at home than in the hands of bandits

By Wole Mosadomi

The frequent invasion of some local government areas of Niger state by bandits has become worrisome to the people of the state especially those directly affected. 

Many lives and property worth millions of naira have been lost, several communities  sacked and residents displaced from their ancestral homes. 

And more pathetic is the fact that their houses as well as their foodstuffs and seedlings meant for planting this year have been completely burnt down by the bandits. Even if they go back to their villages today, many of them have nowhere to lay their heads or start a new life. 

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The hope of the people who are predominantly farmers have been shattered with their seedlings burnt down as they have nothing with which to start the new farming season.

Most surprising is the fact that the Security Task Force members stationed at strategic communities have been withdrawn with no replacement till now. Members of the Task Force were withdrawn from their duty posts in Allawa area and in Munya local government area of the state after being attacked by the deadly bandits who have been ravaging some areas in the state for the past months.

On several occasions the Joint Task Force had the upper hand against these bandits until few weeks ago when five soldiers and a mobile police man were killed by the bandits in an early raid at their Camp in Allawa area. The security personnel were also withdrawn from their duty post in Zagzaga Community, in Munya local government.

The Security Post in Zagzaga Community had been in existence since 2012 maintaining peace in the area until bandits stormed the camp, burnt down the food store and one of the vehicles, went away with the other vehicle and kidnapped the RSM on duty only for his corpse to be found in the bush few days later.

Worried over these unfolding events especially the withdrawal of the Joint Task Force from their posts in the past few weeks and with the continued raiding of the communities by the bandits, the question the communities have been asking is what could have been their offence for the Niger state and the Federal government to have neglected them and left them in the hands of the bandits.

They therefore appealed to both the state and the Federal government to come to their aid by bringing back the security personnel to their duty posts to avoid further shedding of innocent blood.

As at today, most villages in Shiroro, Munya, Mariga and other communities have been sacked by the bandits and the people are now in various IDP Camps in Minna, the state capital. Statistics of people on arrival at the IBB Primary School indicated that 3,704 of them reported in the camp. But when our correspondent visited the camp last Wednesday, the number had drastically reduced to 904.

Neglect by government

According to an investigation carried out by our correspondent, besides the classrooms that were flung open for the displaced persons, there was no government presence there. Most of them slept on bare floor except for those who managed to bring in their mats. Water was also in short supply as there were only four storage tanks available to store water and with only two filled with water which was not enough for the high population.

Also, no adequate health facilities were provided as the only First Aid Box available could only serve a family of about six members. It was stocked with few packets of Panadol and other analgesic, with blood tonic tablets stocked in various nylons. One then wonders the fate of the people especially the pregnant women and the children in case of any emergency especially in the night.

The people were crowded with all the simple rules of Covid-19 absent as none of them was wearing nose mask. In fact, the mention of nose mask sounded strange to them as they were not aware of what it meant.

Most disappointing is the fact that all the roads leading to the Camp are very porous without any security put in place to watch the people in the Camp while there was only one rickety police pick-up van and two other grounded cars parked in front of the Chanchaga local government Secretariat. One wonders at what speed these vehicles could move in case of any emergency especially in the night.

The emergency camp which is just 50 meters from the Correctional Centre and the Bako Kontagora memorial Stadium and about 200 meters from the Central Police Station and directly opposite the Emir of Minna’s Palace calls for more security presence. Except for donations of food, water, detergents and others from public spirited organisations for the upkeep of the people, survival at the camp would have been terrible.

Some leave camp in frustration

Following the horrible condition which they were subjected to at the camp, many of them hurriedly left the camp and decided to take the risk of going back to their community. One of them simply identified as Adamu said there was no point remaining in the camp where there was nothing to encourage him to stay.

“As I am speaking with you, I don’t know the whereabout of my second and third wives and three of my children. There is nothing that will make me continue to stay here and nothing to suggest of any good thing to come from the government. And instead of wasting away here, it is better I go back to my village and start looking for other members of my family,” he remarked.

Speaking in the same vein, one Abubakar Saliu said with what he had experienced in the hands of the bandits, he was no longer fearful.

“I have had two bitter experiences in the hands of the bandits and I managed to survive. My expectation was that we would be adequately taken care of and would be protected here by the government since our arrival here few days ago but nothing is happening. It is better for me to go back to my village and continue to suffer and even be killed there honorably by the bandits than to run from death in my ancestral home and come and face the same death and end up dying dishonourably here, “ he declared.

As at Wednesday evening, the population at the IBB Camp had reduced to 904 from 3, 704 within two days.

Despite the seeming hardship and uncomfortable environment, three pregnant women however successfully put to bed with the nursing mothers and babies doing well. One of them it was learnt has relocated with her husband to another village to get more medical attention. The other woman, Linda Luka beaming with smiles with her baby boy named Sunday wrapped in his hand gave praises to God for sparing her life and the new baby.

The husband who is a farmer from Kuchi in Munya local government said his wife gave birth on the road as they were running out of their village after being pursued by the bandits. “So, I thank God that I am alive with my wife and the new child and the four other children that are also here”.

Dauda Aboki while narrating his own experience said what he and other villagers passed through in the hands of the bandits was better imagined.

According to him, “the last time the terrorists came, they didn’t come with their motorcycles so their first assignment was to raid the villages and seized our motorcycles. 

They used our own motorcycles to move from one house to the other and from shop to shop to steal, carting away our cash and other valuables at home and all our provisions in the shops.

 They left with some motorcycles that had fuel with the stolen goods and set the other motorcycles that had no fuel ablaze out of annoyance. We begin to wonder what is our offence that the government has neglected us and left us in the hands of bandits”, Dauda narrated. He said many of them didn’t have anything to fall back on in their villages again even if they eventually went back.

Most of those who chose to remain in the IDP Camp have however resolved not to go back home despite the fact that they were anxious to go and farm except adequate security was provided for their lives and property.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 19 persons suspected to be informants to armed bandits have been arrested by members of vigilante in both Shiroro and Munya local government areas of the state.

Two of the suspects were said to be brothers from the same parents while three were Fulani men. 14 others were rounded up at Fuka in Munya local government area. The suspects were said to have been handed over to the police.

The state Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello had during an emergency security meeting with security agencies, traditional rulers and other relevant stakeholders few weeks ago declared that one of the greatest challenges hindering the war against the armed bandits in the state was the role informants from within the villages were playing with the bandits and therefore called on the traditional rulers and others to be wary of these unscrupulous people, fish them out and hand them over to the security agents.

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