After bandits backed by Boko Haram attacked communities in Zuru in neighbouring Niger State last month, the terrorist group is quietly extending its sphere of influence to the North-West state of Kebbi.
Hundreds of armed gunmen, believed to be a bandit-Boko Haram alliance, have reportedly laid siege to the Danko/Wasagu Local Government Area in Kebbi State’s Zuru Emirate.
The LGA, which is home to the Dakakari people, also known as the Zuru, has been suffering silently as a result of ongoing violence that has gone unnoticed by the relevant authorities.
According to resident accounts collected by SaharaReporters and backed up by records, the prosperous farming communities in the LGA lost 363 people between January 2020 and January 2021 due to a coalition of banditry and terrorism attacks.
201 people were abducted during the same time span, with a ransom of N70.6 million paid to the kidnappers.
According to some government papers, 3,915 cattle were rustled, as well as 2,355 sheep and 150 camels stolen from these farmers.
According to SaharaReporters, Daku/Wasagu LGA shares borders with some of Zamfara State’s ungoverned spaces to the north and the infamous Kamuku Game Reserves in between Kaduna and Niger states to the east.
“The majority of these forested and hilly areas are controlled by bandits. It is now believed that they have allied with Boko Haram. According to information we have, they are expanding their territories as many communities on the outskirts of the Local Government Area have fled their villages and the alliance of armed groups is taking over unchallenged,” a source revealed.
Some of the victims, who shared poignant stories, bemoaned the government’s silence and inaction since the gunmen began targeting their communities, especially last year.
Nuhu Bitrus, 44, a father of four children from Munhaye village in Wasagu Chiefdom, has become an internally displaced person in Dabai, a suburb of Zuru town in Kebbi State’s Zuru LGA.
“In their last assault on this group, they attacked our village on over 100 motorbikes,” he said. They simply went straight to shooting and killing. We lost 33 people, and they abducted about 20 women and children.
“We’ve had differences with the Fulani in the past, and we know what they’re capable of.” These, however, were Boko Haram. In our case, they just came to kill, not steal. Some people claimed to have seen some of the Fulani who had previously lived with us but had since left. However, these gunmen included people from Niger Republic and even Chad.
“We have managed to pack our belongings and drive for more than three hours to be received here since that time. Our village is big, with over 500 compounds, and we were prosperous farmers who could meet our needs and send our children to school. We are now unable to approach the village. Nobody is mentioning us. I’m glad you came.
“We want nothing from the government. All we want is a stable situation so we can return to our farming. That is all we are requesting.”
Wakala Audu, 50, was described as a wealthy farmer.
He is married to two women and the father of eleven children. He, too, is an IDP from D’Lombo village in Wasagu Chiefdom, along with his entire family.
“They arrived in large numbers, two or three on bikes, around 4 p.m. on April 1st, 2021. I’m sure there were more than 300 of them. They simply began shooting, killing, and stealing. That day, they killed 17 people, including our Mai anguwa (sub-village head), Mallam Maifada Matu. They stole my 23 cows as well as hundreds of cows belonging to my relatives and other village residents.
“We took refuge in the bush with our wives and children. The Governor (Bagudu Atiku) arrived two days later. I wasn’t present when he spoke. I was preoccupied with removing my relatives. Aside from that, we had unburied corpses of our people that were decaying,” he said.
According to him, the governor made a N50,000 donation to each family with orphaned children as a result of the abuse. He said that his village, which has about 300 households and broad fertile land, was now abandoned because residents fled, leaving behind valuables they couldn’t bring quickly.
“Nothing is being said about us. “I’m shocked you showed up,” he said.
Rhoda James (85), a great grandmother who had given birth to 11 children, is also seeking refuge at Dabai with 17 other young women widowed in the January 2021 Munhaye attacks. She said that she had lost both her son, James (42) and her grandson, Augustine (30).
“They murdered over 30 people and abducted 23 others. Mary, my younger sister, was abducted, along with her son, his wife, and two children. I am aware that a ransom of N2 million was paid after 41 days in the possession of the bandits.”
At the time of filing this article, all attempts to contact the affected LGA’s Chairman, Alhaji Sule Barshi, were unsuccessful.
Rhoda James, 85, a mother of ten, survived by chance. Augustine, her grandson, and his uncle, James, died. Mary, her niece, was abducted along with her two grandchildren and daughter-in-law and held captive for 100 days until a ransom of N2 million was paid.