The first week of the year 2022 is one with mixed fortunes for Nigerians in the Northwest region of the country. While many celebrated some successes recorded by the Nigerian troops over terrorists in the troubled region, and the recent declaration of bandits as terrorists by the government, the week was also laced with the tragic news of attacks by the terrorists.
Barely 24 hours after Nigerians celebrated their entrance into the New Year, troops of the Nigerian Army gave what many saw as cheery news with the killing of some notorious terror leaders in Zamfara State. Alhaji Auta, a wanted terror kingpin, was reportedly killed during military raids on Zamfara’s forest areas and communities on New Year’s Day.
Media reports revealed that Auta was killed during air bombardment of his enclave in the Birnin Magaji Local Government Area (LGA) of the state on the night of Friday, Dec. 31.
This would be followed by the release of a number of abducted persons on January 3, by Bello Turji, a terror group leader. Turji, who has been seeking amnesty from the government, reportedly released 52 kidnap victims as part of his efforts to appease the Zamfara State government towards granting him amnesty.
The terror leader had in an open letter to the Zamfara State government and Shinkafi Emirate, listed conditions for lasting peace in the area. Government is yet to make any pronouncement on the letter.
On Tuesday, Jan. 4, the Police announced they had rescued 97 persons from captivity in Shinkafi and Tsafe forest areas of the state. The rescue was said to be the outcome of pressure mounted on terrorists due to the ongoing military operation around Turji’s camp.
Local sources say the military operations by the Nigerian Air Force were unsettling many terror camps in Zamfara and many may be considering quiting or surrendering to the government.
In Kaduna, another troubled Northwest State, there was cheery news when terrorists released two more abducted students of Bethel Baptist High School.
The latest release brought the number of students released to 120 after six months of abduction—one more person left in captivity. A total of 121 students were abducted on Monday, July 5, 2021, in an early-morning attack by terrorists on the school.
Yet, a week of killings
On the night of Monday, Jan. 3, at least seven family members were killed in an attack in Sabon Birni community in Igabi LGA of the state by terrorists.
Also, some terrorists on Tuesday, Jan. 5, reportedly attacked and killed one person in the residence of a police officer attached to the Inspector General of Police’s Special Intelligence Response Team, ASP Aliyu Umar, in Zaria, Kaduna State.
But there was a more brutal attack in Zamfara where hundreds of residents from five communities in Anka and Bukkuyum LGAs of the state were reportedly killed by terrorists on Jan. 6. Residents said they had found nearly 200 dead bodies, including Gambo Abare, the leader of Vigilante groups, after the attacks. Abare was said to have been burnt to death by the marauding terrorists.
On Friday, Jan. 7, Yusuf Anka, a conflict reporter with knowledge of the region, wrote on Twitter that a resident in Anka said they have so far retrieved 147 bodies of vigilante members killed from that community alone.
Also, on the same day, one person was confirmed dead and six others injured in a clash between farmers and cattle herders in Kirikasamma LGA of Jigawa State.
Again, on the same day, two persons were reportedly killed while three others were abducted by terrorists in Malumfashi Local Government Area of Katsina.
Amidst all of these, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, insisted that his administration has done well to tackle insecurity in the country.
Speaking during an interview with Channels Television on Wednesday, Jan. 5, he said, “If you ask anybody from the Northeast, there were several local governments that were in the hands of Boko Haram or ISWAP. None of these local governments now are in their control.”
Meanwhile, a report published by HumAngle earlier this week revealed that over 10,000 people were killed in Nigeria in 2021.
Nigeria’s Northwest comprises seven states – Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, and Kebbi. The region has a sizable landmass of 216,065 square kilometres and a population estimated at approximately 35.8 million people.
Northwest also constitutes 25.75 per cent of the total population of Nigeria (National Population Commission, 2006 census).
The pronouncement of bandits as terrorists by the government came a year after HumAngle’s editorial stressed the need for a change in nomenclature, given the notoriety of the groups’ activities.
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