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Death Toll Of Scavengers Killed In Northeast Nigeria Rises To 23

Authorities in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state have ordered an investigation into the gruesome killing of about 67 displaced persons scavenging for metals in two separate attacks.

The death toll of displaced persons killed on Tuesday, June 7, while scavenging for metal scraps in the Dikwa area of Borno state in northeast Nigeria has increased to 23, according to the Police. 

The Police disclosed the new figures on Saturday, June 11, a day after the Borno State Government, on Friday, June 10, held an emergency security meeting to address the rising attacks and killing of displaced persons scavenging for metals in unsafe locations.

The men, mostly Internally Displaced Persons, had gone out to scavenge for scrap metals from abandoned or destroyed vehicles by the military or insurgents when they were attacked, according to local sources who had reported the initial figures as 12.  

A government official said 11 more corpses of beheaded scrap metal scavengers were later discovered and buried in Dikwa, “which increased the earlier casualty figure from 12 to 23 deaths.”

HumAngle had earlier reported that the victims were buried on Wednesday by relatives after an Islamic funeral attended by locals, including the Shehu of Dikwa, the traditional leader of the community. 

During the meeting on Friday, Babagana Zulum, the State’s governor, urged the security forces to wade into the emerging crisis and protect the displaced persons’ lives. 

The Governor also directed the security officials to investigate the sources of the metal scrap to clarify rumours that scraps were obtained from vandalised government properties abandoned in ungoverned locations that were deserted due to insecurity. 

Abdu Umar, the State Commissioner of Police, who heads the security committee, said the last two attacks on metal scavengers had claimed many lives. 

“We had two attacks concerning these scrapped metal scavengers, popularly known as Yan-Ajakuta, where about 45 people were killed in Kala-Balge in May this year, and 23 persons, just recently, in Dikwa town,” Umar said. 

He also stated that the “Government cannot sit and watch its people dying or putting their lives in harm’s way all in the name of being scrap metal dealers or scavengers.”

According to the Police Commissioner, the committee was also going to meet with the major scrap metal dealers to ensure the industry is regulated and works within the ambit of the laws. 

“We have had situations where government buildings and vehicles were vandalised and sold off as scraps by some unscrupulous elements. So it is our task to investigate and ensure that the government is not being shortchanged, and at the end of the day, we would make recommendations to the government on the way forward for the business.” Umar added. 

A team of security personnel inspecting a heap of confiscated scrapped metal dump in Maiduguri. Photo Credit: Abdulkareem Haruna/HumAngle

HumAngle had earlier reported that IDPs in remote locations have been risking it all to venture into the bushes to scavenge for metals in deserted places or where vehicles were destroyed during attacks by insurgents, which they collect and sell to scrap metal dealers. 

Many of these scavengers have been attacked and killed by the terror group operating in the area. 

Usman Umar, Chairman of the Metal Scrap dealers union in Maiduguri, the state capital, also at the meeting, said the displaced persons killed in Kala Balge and Dikwa in central Borno were not members of his group. 

He, however, did not deny that displaced persons are the primary sources of the metal scraps being sold to his members.   

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Abdulkareem Haruna

Abdulkareem Haruna is a Nigerian journalist currently employed as the Editor for Lake Chad at HumAngle. For over a decade, he has demonstrated a passionate commitment to reporting on the Boko Haram conflict and the crisis in the Lake Chad region of northeastern Nigeria. He is a graduate of English Language and holds a Diploma in Mass Communications. Prior to his current role, he served as an assistant editor at both Premium Times and Leadership Newspaper.

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