… who started attacks 10 years ago
By Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
It’s no longer news that some parts of Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State are now occupied by terrorists who exercise authority over the locals. Clashes between rival terrorists have forced the locals in the eastern parts of the emirate to migrate in droves.
This mass exodus and its attendant consequences have become worrisome. A community leader in the emirate, Alhaji Zubairu Idris Abdurauf, the Dan Masanin Birnin-Gwari, in this interview, speaks on the incessant attacks by terrorists in the emirate.
Abdurauf, a former Managing Director of the Kaduna State Media Corporation, reveals how bad the situation is. He also gives a historical background of the occupation by Ansaru terrorists.
Terrorists have occupied some parts of Birnin-Gwari Gwari Local Government Area where they exercise authority. Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State was reported to have written to the President about it. How do you see this development?
It is better late than never. What we have been saying, but some government functionaries appointed by Governor El-Rufai don’t like us for that. They are not happy that we speak about happenings in and around Birnin-Gwari. Some of them mistook what we are saying for politics.
I think as a community leader, as a journalist of over three decades, I can’t do anything that would undermine government.
Having said that, what Governor El-Rufai has done by writing the letter is what the people of Birnin-Gwari have been saying before now. Ansaru terrorists stormed the area on November 17, 2012.
That was the day they stormed Birnin-Gwari main town, the headquarters of the local government. They dislodged the Divisional Police Office, took away arms and also attacked two in Birnin-Gwari. What Governor El-Rufai has done by writing a memo to the President, highlighting the dangers the people of Birnin-Gwari face following the presence of Ansaru and other terrorist groups who have their enclaves in Birnin-Gwari, is a welcome development. But we thought it could have been done earlier than now because these terrorists have made Birnin-Gwari ungovernable. These people are in charge.
Despite this move, we have been saying as a community that this is what is happening in our area. But some government functionaries of El-Rufai politicised the issue. I cannot sit down and cook up stories of things that do not happen in my area.
According to his memo, the Ansaru terrorists have been in Birnin-Gwari. They are led by one Malam Abba. October 14, 2012, was the beginning of full-scale attacks by terrorists in Birnin-Gwari. They attacked Dogon Dawa which is close to Damari in Kazage Ward of Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area. 23 people were massacred inside a Masjid during the early morning prayers.
Shortly after that, on January 30, 2013, these terrorists in a commando style, stormed the Divisional Police Headquarters in Birnin-Gwari, dislodged all the police officers there and carried arms. They also went to two banks and stole money. Nobody knew the amount of money stolen.
These people have been unleashing mayhem unabated. At the beginning of this administration, precisely on May 29, 2015, while swearing-in ceremonies were going on in Kaduna and other states of the federation, these people stormed Layin Lasan community and Tabanni District and killed three people during Juma’at prayers and also went away with a lot of cattle. They also broke and looted many shops.
Does that mean this time isn’t the first time Ansaru invaded some parts of the emirate?
The activities of Ansaru in Birnin-Gwari, as I said, started right from 2012 through 2013. They are more prominent around Kazage Ward, which is the Damari area, Janruwa and some neighbouring communities of Kwasa-Kwasa and others. Precisely, the Kuduru Forest is where the Ansaru have their base.
If you remember sometime in 2018 a police helicopter and gunship raided the Ansaru headquarters at Kuduru Forest where they killed many people. That story was published by the media. But two days later, because of the pressure from human rights organisations and other people, they decided to withdraw the story. The police were able to destroy one of the biggest camps of the Ansaru.
That is why they, Ansaru, left the forest and decided to go into towns and villages to mix with the society, telling people they are there to propagate Islam, and also to give those locals protection against the bandits.
That was how they started in Damari, Old Kuyello and some places. Initially, the people thought these terrorists were evangelists who were there to propagate Islam, not knowing that they have an ulterior motive. The locals started to take their children to the terrorists to learn the religion of Islam. Thereafter, they started to acquire arms and many of them that were dislodged from the North-East came to the area.
It was said that Ansaru terrorists have constituted themselves into an authority in villages…
When political parties were to hold primaries, the Ansaru people gave orders, saying “ we are in charge. Nobody should partake in any activity. Nobody should do anything without our permission.” Because of what happened before, giving them protection against the bandits, and also sometimes during festivities they distributed food items with cash to all the people, pretending to be nice, the villages do not have any option but to take orders.
They also told them to revolt against any government machinery. So this is how Ansaru grew over the years.
In 2017, when Shehu Sani was representing Kaduna Central in the Senate, Hassan Adamu Shekarau was representing Birnin-Gwari Giwa Federal Constituency, they wrote a letter to all the security agencies.
They alerted them to the dangers of these bandits which metamorphosed into terrorism, and the presence of Ansaru. They also called for a holistic approach to see how these people would be neutralised.
But nothing happened. When things happen in Birnin-Gwari, some organisations in Birnin-Gwari like the Birnin-Gwari Emirate Progressives Union, BEPU, Birnin-Gwari Vanguard for Community and Good Governance and several other people often speak out.
They often say that the terrorists are not only attacking these communities, dislodging the communities, but also they’ve successfully launched attacks on security personnel.
The destruction of the two banks made economic activities minimal. The only bank left was Unity Bank but the branch was later closed. They decided to leave Birnin-Gwari, leaving the place with no financial institution. People cannot carry out transactions. They have to go to neighbouring Kagara in the Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State. The only bank in that Rafi was also stormed, the same way they did in Birnin-Gwari.
The attack on Damari was in the news recently, can you tell us more?
On the issue of communities that have been dislodged, in the eastern part of Birnin-Gwari, only the main towns remain. Many communities like Kwalakwangi, Dakar Ruwa, Maikyasuwa and others, most of them have been deserted and the terrorists have taken over those places.
This is the place that borders Kuyanbana Forest in Zamfara and parts of Dajin Rugu forest in Katsina State towards Dandume and others.
In Birnin-Gwari, particularly in Damari, Ansaru terrorists have been having a tug of war with the bandits.
Three weeks ago, they successfully attacked bandits who tried to enter Damari. After those clashes in which Ansaru got an upper hand and sent the bandits away, the Ansaru decided to withdraw from the town.
10 days after their withdrawal, the bandits came and encircled Damari and killed at least five people and also took away more than 150 people.
The people of Damari do not have any other option but to leave. There is an exodus of people to Dogon Dawa,Old Kazage and most of them are in Zaria. A few days ago; some people went back to Damari to look after their farms, not minding the security implications and what have you. Nobody has sent any security personnel to the area.
The withdrawal of Ansaru is only limited to Damari They are present in Old Kuyello, Unguwan Nacibi and Kwasa-Kwasa axis. This is where they even had marriage ceremonies with the locals.
During Eid el Fitr, the Sallah after Ramadan, these people distributed food items and money to the locals for them to celebrate Sallah. They came in the broad daylight dangerously riding their motorcycles and the locals were clapping. In Old Kuyello, the Imam that even spoke against them, Ansaru issued a death warrant on him and he had to leave Old Kuyello. It was shortly after he left that the marriage took place between them.
Nobody knows whether it is a willful marriage or whether the locals were being told to give their children to these people. Because when we look at what happened, part of the decree that Ansaru gave the people of Damari was that they shouldn’t go to any school. They said western education is forbidden. They were told not to partake in politics. They said all the women, all the girls that are 15,16 years old, should get married.
There are other places where these terrorists are. They include our borders with Chikun, a place called Udawa up to our borders with Niger State, Alawa and Shiroro area.
How do you think this crisis can be handled?
If the government will take a holistic approach to have a coordinated attack on the enclaves of these bandits, which are well known from Kebbi to Sokoto Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and parts of the FCT, there will be a respite.
I believe if the government can send 41,000 personnel to provide security during an election in a particular state, it would take less than a week for security personnel to overrun these terrorists.
It can happen with the much-needed resources and hardware equal to those the bandits have.