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HomeNiger State DiaryResidents of 30 Niger communities return home six years after bandits' attacks

Residents of 30 Niger communities return home six years after bandits’ attacks

Some of the returnees being addressed by the Deputy Governor.(Photos: ChannelsTV)

AS peace gradually returns to over 30 communities of Munya Local Government Area of Niger State, six years after they were sacked by armed bandits, locals are returning to pick up what is left of their homes.

The calm experience in these communities at the moment follows the sustained presence of joint security men in the general forest area.

Channels Television visited some of these communities located at the heart of Sarkin Pawa Forest which until recently was under the control of different bandit leaders.

To confirm that peace had indeed returned to the communities, the Channels Television team drove for over 65 kilometres from the Sarkin Pawa headquarters of Munya Local Government Area of Niger State to the Mangoro community through the notorious forest which is a popular haven for bandits operating along the Niger- Kaduna corridor.

And on both sides of the road, we captured abandoned telecommunication masts, and deserted communities, some of which the local vigilante told Channels Television, were used for over five years as bandits’ hideouts and shelter for their kidnapped victims anytime they struck around Kaduna and Niger states.

Notorious bandit kingpins like Bello Turji, Dogo Gede, and others had made the forest home before they were finally sacked.

For more than six years, socio-economic activities around adjoining small towns that were not attacked by bandits dropped affecting livelihood.

One of those affected is Esther Aboyi who runs a commodity business in the area. She told Channels Television that she had not been able to leave her community like she used to since the attacks.

“It is affecting us because sometimes we can’t go out for our businesses. This hasn’t made life easy for us,” she said.

“Sometimes whenever we want to go out, we would hear that the bandits have blocked the road, and we have to go back. Sometimes we would want to sleep, and we would hear that the bandits had arrived, and we would have to run away from our homes in search of a safer place to stay. That is how we have been managing our lives”.

One of the ravaged communities

In another account, one of the returnees, Sunday Moses told Channels Television that, “Our houses have been burnt down, and we want the government to rebuild them for us. We need water. We need schools, we need a hospital because we don’t have any here again”.

Channels Television also spoke with a mother of seven Na’imatu Lawal, who had just returned to the Mangoro village after several years of seeking refuge at an Internally Displaced Person’s camp in the state.

“We ran away from our village because of the frequent attacks on our community. But now that we have returned, our houses have been destroyed and we need government to help us with the rebuilding. My husband has joined the local vigilante, and we are thankful to the government for the recent peace in our community,” she said.

The impact of bandits’ activities in the area has also affected the transportation business.

Security officers

Security officers with the deputy governo

A transport union leader Haruna Yusuf described how the incident had affected the locals and the transportation business in the area.

“Yes, the thing affected us seriously, that people were coming from outside there were blocked from coming here. We used to go to Minna sometimes three times a day, but now, our vehicle will go just once. Before more than one hundred vehicles will go up to two to three times each in a day, But, now, just like between 30 to 50 vehicles go there once a day,” he said.

‘There is Progress’

While touring the communities, the deputy governor of Niger State Yakubu Garba, interacted with security personnel stationed at different locations around the forest areas, expressed joy and satisfaction over the gradual return of peace.

According to Garba, the war against insurgency was not over, adding that the state government was working round the clock to provide adequate security for the communities.

He said, “At this moment, I am fulfilled because I have traveled throughout the local government, and today, I am here in Mangoro. This formation here is a formation that came to being after we won the election. The governor directed that it should be formed so that we can curtail the inflow of bandits into these communities. This formation is strategic because it interconnects so many routes the bandits take advantage of to hit the Bikoro local government and others.

“Immediately the bandits cross from Kaduna, this is their major route to get to our people. But with wisdom, the governor directed that a formation should be erected here, and you can see a combination of specialised hunters, local vigilantes, local hunters, and even the military that has curtailed 60 per cent of the inflows of the bandits into our communities. And for the past ten months of this administration, we have never found an opportunity to visit this place.

“But today, I am here with my team on behalf of His Excellency to encourage our vigilantes and other security men on the ground so that we can boost their morale to be able to tackle these men of the underworld. As you can see some civilians are starting to return to this Mangoro because there is progress in combating insecurity here, and I think I am fulfilled,” he said.

While addressing what the government intends to do to make the returnees settle into normal lives, the deputy governor said, “At this moment, the issue of rebuilding or reconstruction does not even arise because we are still in the middle of a war. Until we achieve peace before you even start to think of how to reconstruct the structures. As it is now, our major task is to ensure that we have completely calmed the reoccurrence of insecurity in these communities. Again, our people don’t even need you to rebuild houses for them.

“All you need to guarantee them is security, and by the time you come back here in the next year, you will see how they would have turned this place around. And we are doing everything possible to secure the communities,” he said.

Garba assured the returnees of the government’s support in sustaining the presence of security personnel stationed in the forest and taking the fight to the bandits’ den.

Culled from Channels Television

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