Wracked by terror attacks by armed criminals, people in the village slept fitfully after witnessing how four members of their small community were butchered.
It was one of many attacks on communities in Sokoto State in recent times. Gatawa village was attacked on the night of Saturday, May 30, 2020, around 10:30 p.m.
“Tonight, (bandits) attacked Gatawa, a village 25km away from Sabon Birni. They killed three, kidnapped two and injured many who are now receiving treatments at the General Hospital,” said Lawal Kakale, a former Chairman of Sabon Birni Local Government.
The attack came after nearly 80 people were massacred in Sabon Birni in the space of a week.
According to the people in the local government area, no village has been spared from the series of deadly attacks, killings, rape, kidnapping and cattle rustling.
“On Saturday, May 23, 2019, 18 people were killed in five villages along Sokoto Road, 12km from Sabon Birni. The villages are Garin Bature, Garin Faji, Gajit, Lanjegu and Markawa”, added Kakale who was among those who removed the corpses.
Sabon Birni is one of 23 local government areas in Sokoto State recently under heavy and sporadic attacks of armed groups, often referred to as bandits.
It is near Nigeria’s border with the Niger Republic and is “sandwiched” between Goronyo and Isa local government areas.
Cattle rustling and other forms of rural banditry are threatening the existence of the local government area with many people abandoning their houses and moving to bigger towns in the state and others migrating to Niger Republic.
People are kidnapped, elderly and young ones maimed or killed and women raped and molested; while houses are destroyed, community members told HumAngle.
According to a report released by the concerned citizens of the local government, the terrorists move around in convoys of 20 to 50 motorcycles, with each rider carrying at least two passengers.
“On arrival, they search houses at random or some targeted houses for either valuables or livestock. If they can’t find any they either beat, maim, kill people and if resisted, they engage in gunfights,” Bashir Adamu Gobir said.
Open Letter to President Buhari
In an open letter, Gobir Development Association called President Muhammad Buhari to intervene and save the people from incessant attacks by the criminals.
The letter, dated May 21, 2020, appealed for “Urgent Deployment of Soldiers to Tackle Bandits in Sabon Birni and Isa Local Governments”.
“We, the over traumatised and fear-stricken people of Sabon Birni and Isa Local Governments in Sokoto East Senatorial District, with a heavy heart, humbly wish to seek your intervention in resolving the intractable banditry situation in our area that has made living a nightmare and peace elusive for over three years now.
“Since about 2017, when intermittent bandit attacks on our villages bordering Niger Republic began to manifest, we have never known peace, we have in fact learned to live with the banditry situation and always sleeping with one eye open. Until very recently, the escalation of the attacks on our people have reached an intolerable level, virtually all villages have been attacked at one time or another, especially since the run-up to 2019 General Elections.
“What started off like a child’s play has degenerated into a big monster threatening our very existence as a people, as now, hardly a day passes without a village or two being attacked by bandits believed to be of Fulani stock; whereby our people are being slaughtered like chickens, our able-bodied youth beaten up, maimed or both, our women being abducted or raped.
“Your Excellency, Sir, to summarise the situation, from about January 2019 to date, more than fifty (50) communities have been attacked, more than seven thousand heads of cattle (7,000), 13,000 sheep and goats, 1,800 houses, sixteen (16) markets have been lost to the bandits. In addition, an estimated 250 persons have either been kidnapped or missing or both with more than fifty killed.
“Your Excellency, the bandits are still serially attacking our villagers as we write. Kurawa and Garin Faji were attacked only last night, the Kurawa people came out en masse and repelled the attackers, but the other village was mercilessly ransacked and one person abducted.
“Sometimes the attacks were in broad daylight or overnight operations. House to house checks was made lasting several hours where raw cash, livestock and motorcycles eventually carted away. They were heavily armed and come in convoys of an average of fifty motorcycles with each carrying at least two of them. They also graze their livestock on our farmlands at gunpoint.
“Your Excellency, to compound our plight, distress calls to the military and police stationed in both Local governments were not responded to in good time despite good mobility at their disposal. When they eventually came, it was usually long after the miscreants had left, they were also reluctant to follow the trail of the criminals or effect arrests. Of the few arrests made, usually by the vigilantes, none to the best of our knowledge has ever been brought to book. We believe that the security forces are deliberately aiding and abetting the bandits for reasons best known to them.
“Sir, we have been following similar issues in Katsina State and the recent directive you have issued for flushing of the bandits out of the state. We strongly felt abandoned by not being included as our areas are contiguous and the bandits could easily relocate to our area in the event of military action, thus, exacerbating the already precarious peace situation in the area.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, spoke recently on the escalating insecurity in the country, particularly in Sokoto State when he received the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on a courtesy visit to his palace.
Abubakar urged security operatives to be hard on the criminals as their attacks had moved from bad to worse, saying: “People can no longer go about their normal businesses in Nigeria. Insecurity has gotten to the point that you will be in your house and somebody will just come and pick you up.”
“You just can’t imagine how people could be this callous to take away lives without even taking anything from them. The first and foremost job of any leader is to protect the lives and properties of his people.
“I think there is something behind it. In the last couple of years, banditry has gone from bad to worse in Nigeria. We have to find out what has gone wrong. What are these bandits after? What do they stand to gain?
“We are ready to support the armed forces to achieve the desired success. Follow bandits to anywhere they are and kill them. We must protect our people at all cost,” Abubakar said.
The air force chief promised that the Nigerian Air Force would commence an operation that would cover some states of the Northwest currently under attack by armed criminals.
“We are going to commence a lot of military flight activities here. We are appealing to the people of Sokoto State to give us all the needed assistance so that the activities of these criminals will be brought to an end as soon as possible,” the officer said.
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