FOR the people and government of Niger State, these are not the best of times. The challenges occasioned by the spate of insecurity have worsened the state of things in the state. Following the various inanities in the state as a result of banditry and the economic burden of an enlarged population of internally displaced persons, the state government has cried out to the Federal Government to help stem the tide of insecurity as well as help reduce the burden of the over 2,000 displaced persons mostly women and children in different camps across the three local government areas of the state.
The appeal revealed that the three local governments include Shiroro, Rafi and Munya while the IDP camps were in Kuta, Gwada, Zumba, all in Shiroro Local Government Area, adding that there was another one in Kagara in Rafi Local Government Area of the state. It stressed that the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency, include Niger State among the four states in northern Nigeria like Zamfara, Yobe, Borno and Katsina which plans were underway to give their displaced persons resettlements by the chairman, National Refugees Commission, Alhaji Abubakar Lado.
Motorcycle-riding armed bandits operating through abandoned forest reserves are ransacking communities in Nigeria’s north-west.
The groups are the latest to join Nigeria’s lucrative kidnap for ransom industry, and are quite brazen in their operations.
In the last decade more than 8,000 people have been killed in the states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger and Zamfara, according to the International Crisis Group.
The attacks are rooted in decades-long competition over resources between ethnic Fulani herders and farming communities. Armed groups within Fulani communities are being accused of resorting to criminality.
The main Fulani cattle-breeders association, Miyetti Allah (Thank You God in fulfude), said they were the ones mostly affected by the activities of the bandits and that hundreds of their members have been kidnapped.
“Our cows have been rustled. The bandits are a bunch of criminals comprising all sorts of groups. We have lost 30% of cattle in Nigeria to different types of crises,” Miyetti Allah’s national secretary Baba Othman Ngelzarma reportedly said.
Nigeria’s north-west borders Niger and criminal gangs criss-cross between the two countries, evading security.
The borders are porous and the vast forest reserves in the border regions have been turned into operational bases for the bandits.
Kidnapping for ransom is widespread in Nigeria, with victims forced to pay between $20 and $200,000 for their freedom.
At its height in 2017 and 2018, the major road connecting the capital Abuja in central Nigeria to Kaduna in the north-west had 10 kidnappings per day with 20 different groups operating on the route.
A report published in May by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence said between 2011 and 2020, Nigerians paid at least $18.34 million (₦7 billion) as ransom to kidnappers.
“The sudden uptick in fatalities per attempt coincides with the increase in attacks by bandits on villages especially in Zamfara and Katsina states, a situation which has gradually extended to Kaduna and Niger states,” the report wrote.
“These bandits have also been involved in kidnapping besides attacking villagers and travellers, or doing both at the same time. As these kidnaps are less targeted at specific persons, the bandits are less deliberate in avoiding the deaths of their victims compared to earlier kidnap attempts which appeared to have specific targets in mind.”
In 2019 alone, data generated by the National Early Warning System (NEWS) showed that over 1,058 people died from armed banditry.
Between mid-2011 and June 2020, according to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker, 17,283 have been killed by armed militants in the country.
The Special Adviser to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello on Greenhouse Development in the state, Hajiya Hadiza Idris Kuta stated this at the weekend at the Critical Stakeholders’ meeting convened by the Hon. Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubeiru Dada at the Government House in Minna in conjunction with the governor, members of the National Assembly, Abuja and their state House of Assembly counterparts, youths and women organisations, Christian and Muslims leaders, among others in attendance.
Hajiya Hadiza, a daughter to the late Senator Idris Kuta, explained that Niger State was one of the states in the north central part of the country that was really battling with the issues of banditry attacks for over a year, pointing out that it started slowly and was gradually escalating. She stated that the IDPs had been in camps in the state for over 10 months now, just as she stressed that the number of internally displaced persons increased as the attacks on the communities increased.
According to her, “families have lost loved ones, their homes, farmlands, and all their belongings; even some have no clothes to wear, as they have had to flee with nothing. In fact, some of them have had their houses and food stalls burnt down by the bandits. For these reasons, they really need some form of reintegration plans. Please, we are begging the Federal Government and the Refugee Commission. But you know the state government does not control the security agencies. They are being controlled by the Federal Government.
“So when they bring the security personnel, they have had to cater to their needs and the burden of having to take care of the security personnel in the area of logistics and other things have been huge. We now have the issues of the displaced persons that we have to deal with who are now settled in different IDP camps. So, those IDPs camps have been populated with the people that have been displaced. And another burden that arose from there is feeding, the medical bills and all sorts.
“We have about 2,000 IDPs in the camps and we have about two or three camps in Shiroro local government area of the state alone. I think that we have two main IDPs camps in Shiroro local Government Area of the state, there was one in Dr. Idris Primary School in Kuta, while another one was in Gwada within the same local government as another one with a small population of IDPs was in Zumba also in Shiroro LGA. We need resettlements urgently for IDPs in the camps so that the children can go to school.”
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