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Northwest Nigeria Community On Death Row, While Police Watch On

Authorities in Zamfara State are hesitant in admitting that attacks are happening in the area.

Since Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, when Bukkuyum Local Government (LGA) in Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria, recorded its first terror attack, it has been recurrent attacks in communities that make up the area. 

And they might continue to suffer, at least, until security agents proactively respond to their security emergencies. 

While the two-day terror raid on Bukkuyum and Anka LGAs continued, help did not come from any security agencies as lives and properties were destroyed. 

The terror onslaught sparked both national and international condemnation as residents live in constant fear of unending attacks.

Buhari Kairu, a 37-year-old resident of the Kairu community, told HumAngle in a previous report that not a day goes by without terrorists invading their villages and farms.

According to Kairu, the terrorists come, kill, kidnap or rustle their livestock. Other residents have complained bitterly of their sufferings and the seeming laxity of government and security agents helping them.

Failed Police promises, ailing communities

On May 12, HumAngle reported that Dogo Gudale, a terror leader operating in Bukkuyum, summoned residents of the area, imposing a N5 million levy on each community and threatening to attack them if they did not oblige his request. 

This was after a Friday mosque in Fasa-Gora village was recently reopened, three years after Gudale locked it.

When informed about the imposition of levies and the terrorists’ hold and repeated attacks on communities in the area, Muhammed Shehu, spokesperson of the Zamfara State Police, told HumAngle that the Force was not aware of the development.

Shehu said the police would have taken measures about all other terror attacks if the communities affected had made distress calls to the Force rather than “just informing the media.”

He had said that “the Nigeria Army in collaboration with the tactical unit of the Police is in top gear to end insecurity in the state and also to repel any impending attack on the innocent residents in the state.”

On Sunday, May 15, 2022, eight days after HumAngle reached out to the Zamfara Police, terrorists whom locals believe to be from Dogo Gudale’s camp conducted another attack. The attack lasted three days (from Sunday, May 15, to Wednesday, May 18) on the state’s Nasarawa-Burkullu and Kairu villages of Bukuyum and Maru LGAs.

However, soldiers of the Nigerian Army responded and, in collaboration with the locals, chased the terrorists.

On May 21, they returned and sacked thousands of residents of the Kairu community of Bukkuyum LGA after failing to meet the three-day request to pay the N30 million “farming permit” for the farming year imposed on them by Dogo Gudale.

“We are making every effort to confirm from our sources the clear picture of this issue affecting Kairu people,” Shehu said when HumAngle reached out to him with news of the terror attack.

On May 24, terrorists estimated by locals to be about 150, killed seven persons. They injured three after attacking the Tungar-Wakaso, Dargaje, Farnanawa, Tsilligidi, Tudun-Gandu, and Nannarki villages of Bukuyum and Gummi LGAs. Police in Zamfara promised the victims that the terrorists would be brought to book. 

“The State Command has already mobilised reinforcements and deployed a tactical unit to address the situation. Any perpetrator arrested would be brought to book,” the state’s police spokesperson said. 

Two weeks later, on June 7, terrorists attacked three villages in Bukkuyum, killing three and abducting as many as 23 people. 

Again, as would be expected, the spokesperson of the Zamfara Police told HumAngle that “the Command is presently contacting its sources in Bukkuyum LGA for quick response to the latest security breaches in the areas”.

It is unclear if the police indeed reached out to its sources because barely 24 hours after the attack, terrorists launched a daring three-day attack on Kodi village in the same Bukkuyum.

Locals said the terrorists displaced about 600 residents after killing several others.

During the attack, terrorists had unfettered access as they burnt down not less than 23 houses, huts and silos. According to the victims, the attack was the worst of the 13 attacks witnessed in the axis. 

“We have already mobilised our tactical unit for reinforcement, and it is presently deployed to the affected areas for proactive measures against any impending attack by the terrorists,” said Shehu, police spokesperson in Zamfara, when our reporter contacted him on the issue.

“We are presently studying the situation for more fruitful proactive measures,” he concluded.

When HumAngle contacted him on June 21 about the attacks, he insisted that the residents were not alerting security agents about the operations of terrorists in their communities, emphasising that the locals were not being truthful with claims of contacting security agents during attacks. 

“Police are working tirelessly in Zamfara. Police are present in most of the nooks and crannies of Zamfara State, and we have been recording achievements. We have been repelling a lot of attacks, we have been neutralising many bandits, and we have been on constant patrol. We have been responding proactively to many distress calls, so I don’t think it is correct for a community to say that the Police have not been doing anything,” Shehu said.

Contrary to the statement made by the Police, Alhaji Umar Hakimi, head of Garka Hakimi settlement in Kodi village, likened his people to used diapers left to rot. “The Nigerian government and those close to us in the government have abandoned us like used diapers,” he said to a HumAngle reporter, referring to what he termed a lack of government presence in his community.

Malam Kabiru, Chief Imam of the village who made a similar statement, lamented the utter lack of government presence in his town despite being often attacked by terrorists. He said they had complained severally to security agents.

But Zilani Baffa, spokesperson of the Zamfara State Government, had the same reaction as the Police spokesperson when HumAngle sought his response about the constant terror attacks on communities in Bukkuyum LGA of the state. “Who has been uploading that information because the source is critical. As a journalist, you have to have reliable sources before publishing stories,” Baffa said, referring to HumAngle’s reports about terror attacks in Bukkuyum communities.

It could have been worse

Baffa told HumAngle that the situation in Bukkuyum and surrounding LGAs could have been direr “if it weren’t for the effort that the government is putting in place.”

“We now have a ministry of security affairs, and under the ministry of security affairs, there is a task force that has been established,” he said.

“A retired police officer heads it, and we made sure that we appointed a deputy inspector general of police retired as our commissioner of security to give us professional guidance and direction to what we are doing.” 

Baffa said though the state government does not control the police and sister agencies, Bello Mattawale, governor of Zamfara State, has assisted the security agencies in some ways, like the purchase and distribution of 200 vans and other gadgets for surveillance and patrol, allowances and fuels for the vans.

“He (the governor) asked the federal government to increase the presence of the military and our police, especially the Army and the Air Force. So the federal government agreed to increase more soldiers and more police. At least we have had about 800 policemen posted recently due to that. And then, the military also agreed to increase more troops. Then the Air Force also agreed to establish a mini drone airport where surveillance and quick response can be delivered,” the government spokesperson said.

Proximity to police does not guarantee security

These reinforcements notwithstanding, locals in Bukkuyum may, for some time, continue to be enslaved by terror kingpin Dogo Gudale. Reason: their locality is still not enjoying the presence of security operatives. This should not have been the case, at least not with the GIS evidence HumAngle has obtained.

GIS Illustration: Mansir Muhammed/HumAngle/Google Earth Pro.

HumAngle has found at least four police stations less than 80 km from Bukkuyum LGA. Based on a geographic assessment of locations, the security forces should be able to get to the victims in the villages within 50 minutes or less. 

This is twice as long as it would take the terrorist to travel from and to the ungoverned spaces in the southernmost part of the local government area near the Kuyanbana and Kamuku forests. 

What this means is that Dogo Gudale or any other terrorists operating in the area should not have the liberty of imprisoning villagers, making them work on his farm or even laying siege on them for as much as 24 hours.

HumAngle cannot ascertain the functionality of the four police stations. Their existence, however, is evident.

The spokesperson of the Zamfara State government, on the other hand, emphasised over and over that the state was not entirely capable of protecting citizens in vulnerable areas. 

“We have a lot of constraints. The police are overstretched. We don’t have enough police and military to handle the security situations in the state,” Baffa said when this reporter enquired if there was a possibility of constant Police presence in a place such as Bukkuyum, where the ability to cultivate one’s farm has become an almost unattainable luxury.

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Chigozie Victor

Chigozie Victor is a journalist and a creative writer. Her work focuses on SGBV, policy and security infrastructure. The graduate of English and Literature from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka is passionate about helping audiences understand salient issues through clear reporting and multimedia journalism. She tweets at @nwaanyi_manaria

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