By Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
THE epicentre of terrorism in Kaduna State, Birnin Gwari, is beginning to witness mass exodus following intensified attempts by warring factions to seize control of the territory. It will be recalled that after the Ansaru terrorists, a faction of Boko Haram, annexed the area and instituted a kind of local authority, the locals had some relief going by report that the heavily armed breakaway group provided security to the people and prevented local bandits from attacking Damari and neighnoring villages.
For some time, there seemed to have been close ties between the breakaway Ansaru members and the original inhabitants who were allowed to work on their farms and even had their disputes settled by the Ansaru terrorists.
The group had successfully indoctrinated and recruited followers in the eastern part of Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area from such communities like Old Kuyello, Kazage, Kutemeshe, Kwasa-Kwasa, Gobirawa and Farin Ruwa. As a sign of their success in the affected areas, villagers could be seen with Ansaru uniforms going to the mosques, preaching and sharing pamphlets containing their ideology to congregations.
Many villagers who had since lost hope in the ability of government to protect them against bandits began to develop interest in joining the Ansaru so that they could live freely and do their businesses without fear in their communities.
The Ansaru members continued to preach and administer Sharia justice system to the locals but while requiring them to acquire arms to defend themselves against enemies as well as fight government in order to establish what they referred to as a ‘pure Islamic state’.
However, on Monday July 25, 2022 around 6:00pm, a large number motorcycles-mounted bandits, wielding sophisticated weapons, invaded Damari, killing three persons, namely: Hashimu Dan-Daura, Nazifi Adamu and Alhaji Dangude. It was reported that the bandits operated in the area unchallenged for about an hour.
Not done with their mission, the militants returned the following day, July 26, 2022 around 6:00pm and freely looted available shops in the town, and on their way back to the forests, kidnapped 13 persons at Hayin-Gada in the same Damari community. The attacks came after Ansaru members who were considered to be defending the locals left the area for about four days.
This happened barely two weeks after the Ansaru members had confronted bandits when they attacked the town on July 13, 2022 and burned a private hospital, two vehicles and one shop. Many were reportedly killed in the confrontation.
The infighting between the two rival factions of terrorists has sent shockwaves to the inhabitants of Birnin-Gwari, who have been at the receiving end of their atrocities since the area fell into their hands with little or no definite action from the security agencies to expel them out of the area. It is has become the most dreaded part of Kaduna State with daily killings, kidnap of innocent persons passing through the area and other inhuman activities.
As a result, the Birnin-Gwari Emirate Progressives Union, BEPU, has expressed concern over the seeming inability of government to put an end to the destruction of lives and property in the area by bandits and terrorists. The apparent neglect and inaction by government, have left the natives with no choice than to relocate from the theatre of war and seek for safer locations to pitch their tents in order to save their lives.
“Today, the people of Damari are fleeing en masse following incessant attacks by terrorists that besiege the farming community on “vengeance mission” over Ansaru who have since relocated from the area, a native of Birnin-Gwari, Malam Ishaq Kasai said.
“In the past few days because of the precarious situation and the high level of insecurity in the area, women and children were seen trekking for safety. About 20 vehicles were seen moving out with escapees due to the activities of bandits, killing and abducting people in Damari and neighbouring villages.
“On Thursday 28th July, 2022, the bandits passed through the same Damari town shooting sporadically; and came back to the town in the early hours of Friday, a market day, snatched motorcycles, seized money from traders, rustled cattle and kidnapped many locals.
“This is coming after Ansaru members who were considered “protecting” the community against armed bandits have relocated to other areas,” Ishaq said. “It is against the recent daily recurrent attacks by armed bandits vis-a-vis reliable information available to the locals on bandits planning serious attacks against the community that they are deserting the town en masse for safety.
“Presently, there is no presence of security agents in the town. It is against this disturbing situation that we are calling on the authorities to, as a matter of urgency, mobilize security personnel to the community in order to arrest the situation,” Ishaq Usman Kasai said.
It will be recalled that between January and July 2022, many communities in Birnin Gwari Local Government have come under attacks by bandits. A number of cases was reported by the media, but the villagers said there are many more unreported ones.
The bandits pick villages at random, as there appears to be no pointer as to what informs their choice. Both thickly and sparsely populated communities have been attacked, some were looted, while for some, nothing was taken. Some have had their houses burnt, while some were spared.
The casualty rate in all these has been alarming, as within this year alone, no less than 200 locals have been killed, shot or stabbed to death. The Emir of Birnin Gwari, Malam Zubairu Jibril Mai Gwari II also believes the number of attacks and casualty rate are higher than the ones the public is aware of, saying that over 30 communities in his emirate have come under attack in the past one year, while many of his subjects were killed.
In June 2022, a Divisional Police Officer who was newly posted to Birnin Gwari was kidnapped on his way to report at his duty post. Till date, nothing was heard about him.
Concerned individuals and groups now fear the growth of the interaction and movement of terrorists into the porous and vulnerable area. They fear that it has ramifications for the growth of Al-Qaeda in West Africa because it could lead to Al-Qaeda uniting its Sahelian and Nigerian jihad theatres.
Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area, they suspect, is being considered by internationally connected terrorists as their new operational base after being technically dislodged from the North-East.