*They ‘re our best customers
*Bandits ‘re many in the bush, the more you kill, the more they recruit — Another suspect
By Ifeanyi Okolie
Operatives of the Force intelligence Response Team, IRT, have arrested three bread sellers, who specialized in supplying bread to bandits operating from Damari, Kidandan and Awala camps, through Galadimawa along Birnin Gwari and Giwa Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
Vanguard gathered that operatives of the IRT led by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, got information about activities of the bread sellers on June 8, while they were trailing a middle-aged man who specialized in giving information to kidnappers terrorizing Zaria and environs.
During interrogations, the suspects confessed to have been supplying bread to bandits at Galadimawa, Damari, Kidandan and Awala camps and led the operatives to the bread factory where 150 loaves of bread were recovered.
When Vanguard interviewed the suspects, 29-year-old Hassan Magaji, he said: “I am from Galadimawa village and I am married with two wives and three children. I started the bakery business in 2018.
“I was an Okada rider and was always losing my bike to bandits who sometimes ambushed us. Sometime ago, one of my relatives Mustafa Magaji came to our area and taught me how to bake bread and with the little money that I saved, I started the business.
“I started with about N21,000 and now I make 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 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 were not the cause of their problem, that we were poor villagers also struggling to survive.
“This was why they stopped attacking us and many of them started coming out to mingle with the villagers. I normally wandered close to that area of the forest where they were staying
” It was during one of such trips in 2019 that I met Mohammed who bought ten loaves of bread and took my phone number. I sold the bread for N200 each instead of the regular market price of N170.
“The following day he called me that the bread was so delicious and that I should bring 20 more loaves.
“On the day that I took 20 loaves of bread to him, I met three others who were with him and they told me that they would like to be buying in large quantity. I however told them that I didn’t have enough cash and we agreed that they would pay the entire money before baking the bread.
“They started with N20,000 worth of bread and gradually increased to N50,000 a day. After deducting the cost of ingredient, I make as much as N150,000 in a week.
“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 car. They don’t threaten me because we mind our business.
“They were aware that people were avoiding them, that was why they normally encouraged me by paying for the bread before it was baked. I do not know about their kidnap business; I just sell bread and go.
“It was my workers that were arrested by the police while on their way to deliver the bread and they brought the police to my factory.
“I observed that whenever they kidnapped many people, like during the kidnap of those university students, the quantity of bread that they bought increased. During that period I delivered up to N70,000 worth of bread everyday until recently when it dropped to N50,000 again.
“I have not benefitted much except that I married a new wife and I was able to save money to take care of two wives. To stop banditry, government should recruit more security men. We prefer police because they know the job.”
On his part, 21-year-old Auwal Abubakar from Galadimawa, said he was aware that the people buying his bread were bandits.
He said: “I am married with a daughter. I only attended Arabic school. I am a farmer and while waiting for the crops to grow, I normally looked 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 village. 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 do not know that it is a crime to sell commodities, I am only selling my commodities and nothing else. I am aware that they are kidnapping people up and down but since I do not participate in kidnapping, there is no need to worry.
“It was at the police station that they told me that I was encouraging the bandits by giving them food. The only way out of the problem is for government to give them what they want. They are so many in the bush and the more you kill them, the more they recruit.
“I did not join them because of my family. My relations have warned me that one day the army will bomb that place and I will die.”
The third suspect, 17-year old Ibrahim, who is also a primary school dropout said, “I am from Galadimawa, I dropped out of Galadimawa primary school.
“My parents are farmers and they made me to join them in the farm instead of sending me to school. I have been saving money to buy a motorcycle but it was 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 would sell the loaf of bread instead of eating it. Part of my job is to sell bread in the neighbouring communities everyday.
“Those bandits are our best customers. Instead of trekking around begging people to buy bread, we would 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”.