The governments of Katsina, Kaduna and Niger States have intensified efforts to free 109 abductees still in captivity, about three months after their abductions, investigation by THISDAY has shown.
THISDAY also gathered that prominent residents of Illela town in Sokoto State, including a local government chairman in the area, have resorted to sleeping at Ikonni town in Niger Republic every night to escape abduction by bandits.
In Katsina, THISDAY learnt that 27 persons kidnapped by bandits in farming communities of Faskari, Sabuwa, Safana and Bakori Local Government Areas of the state were still in kidnappers’ den.
On March 7, 2021, bandits, numbering about 10, and armed with AK-47 rifles, stormed Jargaba village in Bakori LGA where they killed a businessman, Alhaji Ibrahim Kwatahi, and abducted his two children and one other person.
Alhough, the state police command had arrested one Idi Tinau of Jargaba village and Bara’u Dauda of Gandun Karfi village in Malumfashi LGA in connection with the killing and recovered two AK-47 rifles but the three captives were yet to be released by their abductors.
Similarly, on March 9, bandits invaded Katsalle village in Sabuwa LGA where they reportedly kidnapped 50 women and children.
However, 39 of the victims regained freedom but 11 are still being held in the bandits’ enclave, it was learnt at the weekend.
Also, the hoodlums on March 16 launched another onslaught on Kunamawa and Tirkawa villages in Safana LGA, killing many residents and kidnapping seven others who are yet to be released.
On March 26, bandits who rode on motorcycles, attacked Kadisau village in Faskari LGA, and killed five women and kidnapped six others who were also yet to regain freedom as at press time.
However, the state Governor, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, in an interview with THISDAY recently, admitted that kidnapping for ransom has become a daily occurrence in the state, particularly in Faskari and Sabuwa LGAs.
He noted that few villages in the two local government areas were facing frequent invasions by the bandits, adding however, that their atrocities would not deter his government from restoring peace and normalcy in the affected areas.
He said: “Faskari in particular and to some extent Sabuwa local governments have been under persistent attacks by bandits but I don’t think the number of villages or communities affected are up to 20.”
In Niger State, no fewer than 130 victims were kidnapped by bandits from various communities in Niger State in the past four months and the whereabouts of at least 38 persons of the reported kidnap cases have remained unknown.
An official of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not officially permitted to speak on the issue, told THISDAY that the number of kidnapped victims during the said period “was higher if we add the Kagara school abduction and those of the NSTA.”
A total of 92 persons were kidnapped in the two incidents but were rescued by the government.
THISDAY investigations showed that the most of the kidnap victims in the state were abducted from Rafi, Shiroro, Lapai, Munya LGAs between December 2020 and March 2021.
Prominent among the abductees is the District Head of Yakila in Rafi Local Government Area, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulhamid who was taken into captivity from his palace along with three others last December.
Though the three others kidnapped along with the district head, among them a staff nurse, were released after unspecified amount of ransom was paid, the kidnappers have continued to hold on to Abdulhamid.
Investigation revealed that the subjects of the district head even contributed about N5 million, which they took to the bandits in the forest.
“The bandits collected the N5 million and the telephone set used to make contact with them and said we should never come there again.
“Since then we have not been able to make contact with the bandits or the district head,” a source, who is a top traditional title holder in the area, told THISDAY.
He added that the community had concluded that “our district head has been killed and we want to hold a funeral prayer for him so that we can appoint a new district head.”
It was also gathered that out of the 18 travellers in three commercial vehicles travelling between Tegina and Kagara who were kidnapped about a month ago, only one of them has regained freedom after paying N1.5 million as ransom.
THISDAY gathered that others were still being held because their family members could not raise the ransom.
Some of the kidnap cases which victims cannot be confirmed to have been released include the abduction of 26 people, mostly women, near Government Technical College Pandogari; the abduction of 15 persons also at Pandogari and Gurmana, the abduction of eight people at Kusherki and 40 others picked from Kurebe Babangida Sarai and Rafin Kanya.
THISDAY, however, learnt that the children of the Ward Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Akiratu, Mr. Sani Kaka Danladi, who were kidnapped from their Bugiko village were rescued three days after the incident.
A combined team of local security men and the police facilitated their rescue from the forest and also arrested two of the bandits.
A family source told THISDAY that no ransom was paid.
In Kaduna State, at least a total 125 were abducted from January to March 27, 2021 and 47 have remained in captivity.
The figure include the recently abducted 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna who are still in captivity as well as the eight members of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), who were reported to have been abducted along the Kaduna-Kachia road at the weekend.
The figure was collated from the daily security update by the Kaduna State Government and independent sources.
It is believed that the number of abducted victims could be much higher than 125 as many incidents were unreported.
Also, the daily security update, in some cases, did not give specific number of people abducted.
Many families were said to have been impoverished by the activities of bandits as they had to sell their belongings, including farm produce, to raise the ransom.
Some communities, especially, in the worst affected areas, like Birnin Gwari, Chikun, Kajuru, Giwa and Igabi LGAs of the state were said to have been sacked by the bandits.
Meanwhile, prominent residents of Illela town in Sokoto State, including a local government chairman in the area, have resorted to sleeping at Ikonni town in Niger Republic every night to escape abduction by bandits.
THISDAY gathered that most prominent personalities in the border town of Illela usually pass the night at Ikonni in Niger Republic.
They, however, carry out their normal businesses at Illela in the day.
A resident who gave his name as Abdullahi said the security condition at the border town of Illela remained precarious and called on the state and federal governments to intervene.
“In Illela here, we are living in palpable fear because the issue of kidnapping and abduction have become so rampant,” he stated.
Another resident who gave his name as Abubakar described the high level of insecurity in the area as shameful and wondered why the ‘giant of Africa’ was unable to protect its citizens.
“Let me tell you, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has failed in the area of security. Can you imagine our people are going to Niger Republic to take refuge; it means Niger Republic is safer than Nigeria,” he added.
Another resident, who simply identified himself as Ibrahim, told THISDAY that banditry has crippled their businesses and made life unbearable for them .
He noted that despite the presence of different security agents in the town, the bandits have operated unchallenged.
He called on the government to overhaul the security architecture in the area.
“Here, we have army, Customs, police, civil defence and immigration yet banditry is thriving daily,” he said.
When contacted, the Sokoto State Commissioner for Security and Career Affairs, Col. Garba Moyi (rtd), described the situation as pitiable and urged the residents to provide the government and security agents with intelligent information to help tackle the menace.
Moyi said the state government had done its best in combating insecurity in the state.
He called on the residents not to engage the bandits since they did not have weapons at their disposal, stressing that they should report any attack to government and security agents for prompt action.
The Sokoto State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Abubakar Sanusi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said the police had launched Operation Puff Adder 2, as part of efforts to check banditry.
He stated that the police would collaborate with other security agencies to curb the menace.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna and Francis Sardauna in Katsina