For over five months, locals in Walali village, Gidan Madi of Tangaza LGA of Sokoto state have abandoned their homes and sought refuge in uncompleted buildings, schools, and local government secretariat out of fear of persistent bandits attacks in the area.
The residents of the area have to desert their ancestral homes in the night to avoid the ambush of the kidnappers locally known as bandits.
They move to the local government headquarters daily, which they said has become normal.
WikkiTimes findings showed that besides Walali, an arable area, locals in other villages such as Alela, Dakala, Tsamiya and Tsafsiya leave in the night to Gidan Madi to sleep in open spaces at the local government secretariat. “Whether you finish food or not, you must leave at sunset,” 11-year-old boy heading to Gidan Madi said.
The locals explained that their ordeal started five months ago when the bandits kidnapped four children were and collected a ransom of N2 million before they released them.
Dahe Haladu, one of the locals told WikkiTimes that “We left in large numbers to Gidan Madi every day to take shelter. With this cold weather. Only a few men risk staying back in the town to guard their cows,” he said.
“We have become refugees in our own ancestral homes. They (bandits) used to come in the night, and once you are whiskey away, they will be demanding millions of naira as ransom”.
Haladu noted that despite the military responding to attacks, uncertainty about their safety led them to flee daily, unsure of what might befall them and whether they would come to their aid.
A young newly wed groom, Habu expressed that he and his wife must depart for Gidan Madi daily out of fear that the bandits might target them as they usually target newly married couples.
“I have to leave because they often arrive at night and could take my wife. We spent the night in this unfinished building, which, although open, feels safer than our village.”
“They used to take our cows. They came to our village on more than two occasions, kidnapped one person, and stole many cattle. We had to pay a ransom before he was released. That’s why we decided to leave the village at night and return every morning. We thought it was better than risking being killed or kidnapped.”
Cigarettes, Recharge Cards Used as Ransom
Residents of Walali told WikkiTimes that they had to gather two million naira, bundles of cigarettes, and numerous recharge cards to secure the release of a ten-year-old boy earlier kidnapped in the area.
An 11-year-old boy from Walali, who escaped being kidnapped, recounted that on one occasion, “armed men on motorcycles invaded the town during the rainy season, firing shots randomly,” causing everyone to flee for safety.
The young boy explained that the bandits contacted their father and demanded two million naira, along with cigarettes and recharge cards, as ransom for his brother’s release. He witnessed his father and some relatives collecting money in sacks after selling some of their cows to hand over to the bandits.
“I saw my father packing money, cigarettes, and recharge cards to give to the people who took my brother.
WikkiTimes learnt that the daily migration of locals to Gidan Madi has become a routine for them, with many bringing their cows and other animals, which they guard every night.
Police Blame Bandits’ Informants
Rufa’i Ahmed, the spokesman of the Sokoto State Police Command told WikkiTimes that the command have posted their officers to strategic places.
However, Rufa’i lamented that their efforts bandits’ informants who usually reside with the people, feed the bandits with information regarding the activities of security which is sabotaging.
“You know if there are such kind of complaints, the State Commissioner of Police used to send additional forces from state headquarters here in Sokoto to contain the situation, sometimes they will even spend days there. This is a multifaceted trend, you will block this side and another angle will open. We swiftly respond to any distress calls in conjunction with other sister security agencies and the vigilantes”.
“We are fighting informants now. Anytime when there is movement of troops from one place to another, they do inform them. They reside with the people and feed the bandits with such information”, said Rufa’i.