There is palpable apprehension among residents of communities in Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Kogi states, which have come under constant attacks from bandits. Many residents in several local government areas of these states daily count their woes as a result of increasing banditry and kidnapping, which they say appear too difficult for security agencies to handle.
In Katsina, the dreaded Rugu Forest serves as hideout for bandits who frequently attack villages and communities and disappear into the forest.
Residents of frequently-attacked Kankara LGA, especially those in Dajin Yarcenta and Dajin Dinya, are reactivating their security through self-defence, especially through the reinforcement of local vigilante groups.
The bandits have also made life unbearable for residents of Matsiga, Tsadara, Dan Nakwabo, Gatakawa, Mabai, Biya, Jeka Malali, Dakamawa and Babkai. Hardly a day goes by without any reported killing, kidnapping or attempted attack. Bandits storm villages on motorcycles, shoot sporadically and attack residents, taking some of them away.
In the past two months, locals witnessed many attacks which resulted in loss of lives, and the abduction of many.
There was an attack on the residence of one Malam Adamu at Kofar Yamma. A popular resident of Matsiga, he is still in captivity alongside two girls, aged 10 and 20, respectively. During the attack, Adamu’s two children were shot. One died, while the other was wounded.
The family of Lawal Kasko had to pay a heavy ransom to secure the release of two of their children, 11-year-old Amina and nine-year-old Abdullahi after 23 days in captivity. Also kidnapped, but later released after ransom payment, are schoolteacher Hajiya Maryama Yusuf, and a businessman, Abdullahi Batse-Batse, all residents of Matsiga. Still in captivity are a renowned Islamic scholar, Ahmed Suleiman, and five others.
Last week, the bandits attacked the area but were repelled by a vigilante group. During the attack, several of the bandits were injured while some were arrested and handed over to security operatives.
Residents say they are skeptical of the activities of security personnel, who they accuse of freeing suspects after arrest, without punishment. As a result, the residents once converged at the palace of the District Head to protest. They also sought the permission and support of the government to enter the forest to confront the bandits head-on.
The chairman of the vigilante group in Matsiga and Kankara, Shuaibu Aliyu, said life had become unbearable. “This area has become a target. They come and attack us and kidnap our people. We had to resort to self-help, as security personnel are not enough, or sometimes they are reluctant to help,” he said.
His counterpart in Dan-Nakwaba, Hudu Alleri, said the self-defence effort had checked the crime wave, and that bandits fear the vigilante groups more than the police because confrontation with them is usually more intense. He noted that whenever arrests are made, and culprits are handed over to the police, they get released. “And this is disturbing,” he said, adding: “The bandits know that we don’t take nonsense, and our local guns are more destructive than AK-47 rifles, so they fear us more than they fear the police.”