APC links banditry in Zamfara to retired General

•Say, we’re paying to save our lives, govt has abandoned us

•350 residents already killed, we’re living in sorrow

•Bandits killed dozens, abducted scores in Kebbi for failing to pay levy

•Also demand access to wives, daughters of residents

By Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo & Nasiru Muhammad, Gusau

Locals cried when the letter reached them. The bandits have boldly claimed to be in charge of the rural communities in Zamfara state. From the content of a letter that was written by the bandits, inhabitants of nine communities would henceforth, pay tax to the non state actors or be attacked.

What a case of double tragedy to a people mourning the death of relations and other community members killed for no fault of theirs.

This is the sad situation in rural Zamfara, the geographical location where rampaging bandits appeared to reign supreme. 

Till date, some could not give account of when and how their loved ones got missing or maimed by blood sucking villains who in recent time, attacked communities in the state with ruthless abandon. Now, the bandit King pins who abduct and forcefully make rural women and girls part of their harem in filthy and demonic dens located in the forests, have now imposed levies on the communities.

According to a letter which one of the bandit King pins wrote to a community, it was either they complied and mobilize such money for the hoodlums or risk the destruction of their communities and the killing, maiming and abduction of the residents. The locals confirmed that the bandits’ letters demanding the tax had reached the affected communities through kidnap victims who recently regained freedom.

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Farming, the major occupation for the now disturbed peasants, is no longer attractive because bandits who live close to these farm settlements were reported to have made it so difficult and dangerous for the locals to access their farms. The result was that farm produce harvested worth millions of naira were left to decay, impacting negatively on the rural economy.

Pay tax or face destruction, bandits warn

Shortly after a group of bandits numbering about 500 led by Bello Turji Kachalla ransacked and killed nearly 200 people in the villages of Anka and Bukuyyum local government areas of Zamfara State respectively, the bandits also asked nine villages to pay N24m tax or face another dastardly attack. It was gathered that the communities would pay from N500,000 to N5m.

The communities where locals are having sleepless nights due to fear of being attacked, are Yargalma, Tungar Gebe, Wawan Iccen Ibrahim, Wawan Iccen Salihu, Galle, Nannarki, Ruwan Kura, Gangara and Gaude.

According to a resident,”the bandits had stayed in Gando forest and launched attacks on some communities in Bukkuyum and Anka Local Government Areas. They killed dozens and rustled over 2000 cows.

“When some captives were released and returned home, the bandits gave them letters to the communities demanding payment of tax. The letters were signed by one of the bandits commander, Dogon Sabi na Auwali Wanzam asking the nine villages to pay the tax. The letter which carried a phone number warned the villagers not to hesitate in paying the money. Some of the community leaders who received the letters from the bandits reported the matter to the authorities. However, there was no reaction from official quarters on the development”.

According to the letter, the village of “Yargalma will pay N5,000,000; Wawan Iccen Ibrahim N4,000,000; Wawan Iccen Salihu N1,000,000; Gaude N1,000,000; Gelle N1,000,000; Tungar Gebe N500,000; Gangara, N1, 500,000, while Nannarki and Ruwan Kura will pay the sum of N5,000,000 Naira respectively.”

Saturday Vanguard was told that the communities have started mobilizing to pay the bandits.

When contacted the village head of Zugu confirmed that he received the letters that were sent by the bandits and he was directed to distribute them to the villages mentioned in the letters.

“The letters were sent through some captives who regained freedom after paying colossal sum of money to the bandits as ransom,” he said.

A youth leader in Bukuyyum local government said that already they have started contributing the money because that was the only way to save their lives as government at all levels had failed in their responsibilities of protecting the lives and property of the citizens.

He lamented that, “the villagers have no other option than to pay the tax demanded by the bandits if we want our community to remain peaceful”.

Zaharadden Labbo from Ruwan Kura village said, “we were speechless when we received the bandits’ letter but we have no reason not to comply with the bandits’ directives. No village in Zamfara, Sokoto or Katsina can boldly refuse to cooperate with the bandits whenever this kind of request is sent. The villagers are now living in agony and sorrow after losing some of our loved ones to the bandits who killed nearly 350 people only two weeks ago”.

The Emir of Bukuyyum, Alhaji Muhammad Usman, said that the emirate was aware of the situation and had since informed the government and security agencies about the sad development.

The Royal Father described the situation as scary and alarming, calling on the communities to intensify their prayers saying government was doing its best to address the menace.

Meanwhile, the Zamfara State Police Command was yet to issue an official reaction on the development.

The state Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) who is also the Director General Media and public Enlightenment at the Government House, Gusau, Malam Yusuf Idris Gusau said the government was aware of the situation and would crush the bandits in no distant future.

Yusuf Idris explained that “the present administration in the state under Governor Bello Matawalle has been doing its best to ensure that the whole state was free from the menace of bandits and other terrorists making life unbearable to the communities at the rural level.

He said, “it’s on record that when Governor Matawalle assumed office, Zamfara recorded eight months without any attack which earned the governor a lot of recognition and awards as the best performing governor in terms of security. He rebuilt citizens confidence that brought back all the economic activities in the state. A lot of abductees were rescued or released unconditionally and reunited with their families while IDPs returned to their homes before the recent waves that hit the entire North West in the last two months”.

Bandits killed, abducted Kebbi residents for refusing to pay levy

In a related development, at least 46 villagers were killed within a week by the bandits who launched an attack against two Kebbi villages after the residents had refused to pay a protection levy of N25m imposed by the terrorists.

According to an exclusive report by an online publication, PREMIUM TIMES, on January 14, a band of heavily armed men stormed Dankade town in Danko Wasagu Local Government Area of Kebbi State, killing at least 17 residents and abducting many more in a punitive expedition for refusing to pay the levy. For nearly three years, residents of this town had lived under the authority of terrorists operating in Akao, a small village on the state’s border with Zamfara.

The survivors of the attack told PREMIUM TIMES that during the raid, the bandits shot randomly at defenceless citizens and set houses and farm stores on fire in an orgy of violence that lasted several hours.

Pay N25m Protection Levy or die

Quoting local sources, the report stated that the bandits had imposed a monthly protection levy on Dankade town, which the hapless residents had been paying through their village heads. The bandits raise millions of naira monthly from the illegal taxes. In December 2021, the bandits upped the levy, imposing N5 million each on K’lanko, K’Daba, Kurgiya, Ragaam and Dankade, five neighbouring villages in the troubled area. They tasked the village heads to ensure payments before the end of the year.

“Particularly what they want those villages to do is that after paying the N5 million each, they should give them access to their wives and daughters. And secondly, they want to take the villagers’ animals anytime they want. That’s the barbaric conditions they gave them,” Bamaiye Aniko, a human rights activist with deep understanding of the crisis in the area, told the publication. However, feeling pressed to the wall, the frustrated villagers revolted against the new decrees.

According to the accounts of the survivors of the attack, around 3 p.m. on Friday January 14, the bandits emerged from their forest base in Akao and crossed into Dankade through a dried bed of a river on the Kebbi-Zamfara boundary. Their mission was to punish the villagers for their rebellion. The villagers fled into the bush on sighting the gun-wielding men. But not everyone escaped. Fourteen were caught hiding in a room, whom the bandits promptly shot or slaughtered.

“Four persons found in another house were also killed, taking the total of lives lost in the broad daylight massacre to 17. The bandits also herded dozens of other villagers that they had spared into their vehicles and drove away with them. Some of the abducted people were killed and burnt. The families were not even allowed to recover the corpses,” Mr Aniko said.

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