While most stories about terror kingpins in Northwest Nigeria depict them as young and vibrant men buoyed by their youthful exuberance, 78-year-old Shago Ladan —also known as Shago Tsoho— of Magami Tandu in Zamfara State’s Kaura Namoda Local Government Area (LGA), is one terrorist barely in the news.
Ladan, like most terrorists in the region, started as a cattle rustler and petty robber in his early adolescence. According to local sources who know about him, he was expelled from his village by the traditional authorities at age 17.
He relocated to the forest areas of Kango, a village on the outskirts of Zamfara, where he continued his criminal activities and would later move to the Kuturu forest. Currently residing in Jaja village, Ladan unleashes attacks on communities and hamlets around him.
According to experts familiar with terrorist operations in Northwest Nigeria, the 78-year-old terror kingpin is a remnant of the old generation of terrorists who began the criminal activities but were killed or lost their lives in the process.
Yusuf Anka, a security analyst, said older terrorists like Ladan coordinated attacks after holding meetings on how to begin the operation before cattle rustling was converted to full-fledged terrorism.
Terrorism in the Northwest, Anka said, was planned “with the kingpins who agreed on how to go with it. This is why you can see people in their 60s and 70s taking part in it.”
Anka pointed out that terror kingpins like Bello Turji only emerged after their elders were killed, noting that Buhari Daji, another terror leader was killed when he was in his 50s before being succeeded by Dogo Gide.
Ladan, owing to his old age, controls his gang and communicates with family members of any kidnap victim to negotiate the ransom payment from his hideouts. He does not participate in the attack but rather organizes it and controls its outcome.
HumAngle obtained audio of Shago Ladan negotiating for an additional ransom of N2.5 million after he kidnapped four persons on Jan. 21, 2022.
The terrorists released two of the people held captive after the payment of N2.5 million and demanded additional N2.5 for the remaining two to regain their freedom.
Police had apprehended two of his informants as part of a hunt for him.
But in response, Ladan issued a warning to the community, threatening to attack them for assisting the Police in apprehending his informants. On Jan. 29, he attacked them once again and kidnapped another four persons.
Many residents who were interviewed by HumAngle in Zamfara State said they have heard about him and his activities but have not seen him physically. Others said they have made some calls with him to negotiate ransom payment after their relatives were kidnapped.
Although cattle rustling and other forms of insecurity have existed in Northwest Nigeria for decades, they have only recently risen to a higher level of security concerns and propelled to full-fledged terrorism.
After much pressure, the Nigerian government recently declared the perpetrators terrorists, implying that the military will step up its efforts and deploy more forces in dealing with them. The government may also seek foreign assistance to eliminate the terrorists.
The terrorists, mostly Fulani herders, claim to be fighting against the government’s mistreatment of herders, though other ethnic groups have joined them in some criminal activities, and have been attacking residents rather than channeling their grievances towards the government.
The terrorists, according to researchers, are held together by ethnic chauvinism and group feelings but their mode of operation is criminal in nature, often motivated by profit maximization militancy to reclaim what they believe they have lost from the government.
Many terror lords command gangs that attack and pillage communities, kidnap people for ransom, and rape women and girls. Millions of dollars have been lost as a result of their heinous crimes, especially in the ransom payments.
Terrorist gangs are also loosely organized and frequently attack one another over trivial issues; however, unlike jihadis, they have no political ambition to institute or topple a government even though they levy taxes on some communities.
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