africa

Helpless Zamfara villagers block Sokoto-Gusau road over incessant bandits’ attacks


Motorists and travellers plying the Sokoto-Gusau Expressway along Tashar Abu had a hectic time on Friday following the blockade of the road by the residents of Bingi community and its neighbouring villages.

The communities have been in the throes of bloody bandits’ attacks, causing the people intense fear and nights of sleeplessness.

In January, bandits attacked Bingi and Nahuche. After the attack, 15 people were killed and 11 others kidnapped. The event occurred while the state governor, Bello Matawalle, traditional rulers, security agents and religious leaders were holding a meeting at the Government House.

The governor while speaking about the incident said then, “As I am speaking to you right now, I received text messages that 13 people were killed in Bingi and 11 others were kidnapped in Nahuche, both in the Bungudu Local Government Area. I also received another message just now that, some people are staging a demonstration between Anka and Jangebe.’’

Matawalle also expressed surprise at how the bandits always attacked and killed people whenever he travelled out of the state. He said, “I wonder what is happening, but I am not surprised because I know that some politicians are always happy to hear that some people are killed in Zamfara. Let me send a strong warning to them, that from today, I will take drastic action against those politicians who are sabotaging our security efforts.”

Unable to endure the gory episodes any longer, many of the villagers, comprising women, men and youths including children, left their communities early on Friday, trekked to the expressway and barricaded it. They envisaged that the action would draw attention to their plight and nudge the government to find a lasting solution to the seemingly intractable security challenges in the state. Bingi is in the Bungudu Local Government Area of Zamfara State and part of the village extends to Maru council area.

Their choice of the road was strategic: Sokoto-Gusau road is the busiest in Zamfara State. It links Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi states to Abuja and southern part of the country. It also links Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states to Kaduna and Kano states.

One of the protesters identified only as Mallam Musa, told Sunday PUNCH that they decided to obstruct vehicular movement on the expressway because of the worsening situation in their village. Musa added that they were optimistic that the state government would be fully aware of the extent of their plight after their action.

He said, “We blocked the road early on Friday to demonstrate to the world the devastating security situation we are in. We lost hope with the government’s effort in securing us when soldiers stationed in Bingi for months were asked to move out of the community.”

Musa said when they realised that despite the efforts of soldiers and other security agencies their safety was not guaranteed, they decided to move out of their community and occupy the Sokoto-Gusau road.

He disclosed that women and children trekked to the road barefooted to show the world that they were in a hopeless situation. Musa added that three pregnant women were delivered of babies during the protest.

He said, “Three women were delivered of babies while trekking from Bingi and part of Karakkai villages to Tashar Abu before getting to the expressway.’’

Another resident, Suleiman Sani, noted that he trekked alongside with other villagers, women with babies strapped to their backs and children following in tow. Sani stated further that the action was the last resort for them as bandits continued to terrorise their villages.

He added, “We were forced to embark on a demonstration because the attacks on our villages are increasing and the people are helpless. We live in fear.’’

Sani said the bandits who turned out in a large number stormed the villages with deadly weapons and killed a police mobile officer, a soldier and some other civilians.

He noted, “While funeral prayer for those killed was ongoing on Thursday, the bandits attempted to again invade our communities and that was when we became afraid and fled the village to protest on the popular expressway.”

He further stated that bandits also attempted to invade the neighbouring Karakkai village, adding that the residents of the village resisted them, leading to a bloody encounter which left two dead.

On the day of the protest, the villagers placed tree branches barricades at strategic points on the road and many of them held canes to deter anyone from crossing them. They were also unperturbed by the security agents who later came to the scene.

Many motorists and passengers groaned over the blockade which lasted for several hours. Passengers disembarked from the vehicles with the hope of stretching their legs for minutes. But they ended up doing so for long, boring hours as the protest which started on Friday morning wore into the evening.

One of those caught in the protest, Muazu Bello, who transports newspapers from Gusau to Sokoto daily, told one of our correspondents that he first noticed a column of vehicles from the NNPC Depot on the outskirts of Gusau.

Bello said, “I first noticed a long queue of vehicles, starting from the NNPC Depot, on the outskirt of Gusau. Upon inquiry, I was told that the road was blocked by villagers protesting incessant attacks by bandits, due to the withdrawal of soldiers from a roadblock shielding them from bandits’ attack. It was an endless wait because the protesters refused to listen to all entreaties to open the road. The few security agents around were civil and could not engage or contain the protesters.

“I got close to where the road was blocked around 10:45am with the day’s newspapers meant for Sokoto. But I couldn’t go beyond the blockade because the atmosphere was tense.

“The protesters were very adamant. They even blocked me from crossing over on foot, to hand over the newspapers to vehicles making a detour to Sokoto. After waiting for seven hours with no vehicle allowed to cross the barricades, I returned to Gusau Motor Park.’’

Commenting on the development, the Special Adviser to Governor Bello Matawalle on Public Enlightenment Media and Communication, Zailani Bappa, said the security agents were doing their best in the fight against banditry.

Bappa said though it was not possible to send the security agents to all the towns and villages in the state due to their inadequate number, he added that they used to mobilise them to the troubled areas whenever they were alerted to any affected community.

He added, “As you are aware, we have an inadequate number of security agents in the state and they cannot cover all the towns and villages in the state. But they are always ready to go to any place whenever they are alerted to any insecurity problem.’’

Bappa appealed to the people of the state to always cooperate with the security agents in the fight against banditry by furnishing them with useful information that could lead to success in the fight against banditry.

“People should understand that the fight against banditry is a collective responsibility and should stop blaming the state government alone if there is any security breach,” he stated.

Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more