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How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger

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By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi

Hundreds of thousands of people have been sacked from their ancestral homes as a result of persistent banditry and kidnapping activities that have been ravaging Niger state and other parts of the country in recent years.

These displaced victims were forced to settle in neighbouring communities under abject poverty, dehumanizing conditions and untold hardship.

Communal efforts are however beginning to turn the page as the victims are now heaving a sigh of relief. It is against this backdrop that PRNigeria reporter, MUKHTAR YA’U MADOBI embarked on a voyage to the state and reports how public-spirited individuals, local leaders and state institutions are assisting displaced victims of banditry to resettle in Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area of the state.

From The Horses’ Mouths

A 46-year-old Ado Makeri, who relocated to Kagara three years ago after bandits ransacked his village, ‘Sufana’ is currently serving as a vigilante member and contributing his quota towards securing that very host community against the menace of violent non-state actors. He revealed to PRNigeria how the bandits massacred 10 members of his family with the last one being ambushed alongside the Nigerian Army.

Even though he is living in a rented house, Makeri told our reporter how the residents and the Local Government Officials have been assisting them in a lot of things including the settlement of their rent fee to some extent.

“I was once served with a quit notice, but the Local Government Chairman settled the bill.” Makeri added.

Similarly, Shuaib Makeri, who is a blacksmith, did not abandon his inherited family business when he set foot in Kagara after fleeing Sufana village.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 1
Shuaibu Makeri, a Blacksmith IDP in Kagara

When PRNigeria visited his cottage firm, he was busy making farm implements such as hoe, axe, rake, sickle, knife etc.

According to him, he earns his daily bread through that business as he is being patronised by community members without any form of discrimination.

We Cater for Ourselves Through Farming, Community Support – Female Farmer

Hafsat Magaji who was displaced from Karaya village some months ago also narrated her story to PRNigeria reporter when he visited her in a mud house where she lives.

“They {bandits} invaded our village early morning around 5 O’Clock. They suddenly appeared when we were sitting in our homes. We left with our children helter-skelter and reached this town with some of us not even wearing shoes, a veil or Hijab. She noted that they used to cater for themselves through farming activities which they engage in under terrifying conditions and with some level of support from the community.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 2
Hafsat Magaji who was displaced from Karaya village and now settling in Kagara

“…They [community] give us detergents, soaps etc. We survive basically from farm proceeds, feed our children and equally take care of other basic necessities.” Hafsat added.

Community Leaders are Helping Us – Victims

Kabiru Musa from Unugu village who is a farmer and herbalist helps sick people in the neighborhood in Kagara with traditional medicine. He revealed that one of his children was still with the bandits who were demanding ransom for his freedom while the other one was able to escape and return home. In a rented house, he stopped his children from going to school ever since they fled their ancestral community.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 3
Kabiru Musa from Unugu Village

Nevertheless, Musa told PRNigeria how the community including the traditional leaders were assisting him.

“The ward head has been very helpful with provision of food and other basic items. The Emir of Kagara has also even given me some clothes. The community members have been supportive,” Musa said.

A 70-year-old Mai Unguwa Dangana with walking sticks who was sacked from Tashan Dogo community by bandits disclosed how the Rafi LGA Chairman settled his family in a government building in Kagara town. He decried how terrorists kept chasing them away from their farms even though, farming is the only venture they are familiar with.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 4
Mai Unguwa Dangana

“As we go to the farms, the bandits keep chasing us away. Apart from abducting farmers they also collect ransom and levies. The farming activities are nothing to write home about,” Dangana added.

I Charge Phones, Sell Sachet Water, Soft Drinks in Kagara – IDP

When Abdullahi Sarki and his family were dislodged from Sambuga village, he was left with no other choice than to relocate and settle in their inherited house in Kagara.

Apart from engaging in small-scale farming, Sarki also has a small Kiosk made up of zinc sheets along the major road that passes through Kagara where he charges phones and sells sachet water as well as soft drinks.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 5
Abdullahi Sarki from Sambuga village, now an IDP in Kagara

“Community members patronise my business and my relationship with them is cordial, we live in peace and harmony,” he said.

Among other issues, Sarki revealed to PRNigeria how incessant attacks by blood-sucking bandit-terrorists compelled them to quit their community against their will.

“Whenever they invaded, we used to climb and hide on top of mountains until they finish their criminal activities and leave, but now it has reached a point beyond hiding on the mountain, so we fled.” Sarki said.

We were Given this Land to Build Our House – Female Victim

Aisha Shehu who was also sacked from Wayam village was met by our reporter in their newly built house which was acquired with the help of one philanthropist in Kagara. The 67-year-old Aisha was busy processing shea butter oil in company of her relatives when she was approached by our reporter.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 6
Aisha Shehu

“We migrated to Kagara after being dislodged by bandits three years ago. They invaded our homes and that is why we left. Malam Ado gave our husband this land and built this house, he helped us to settle when we arrived. Some of our colleagues are renting a house while others are given freely until they can afford to have their own.”

Why We Are Helping the Victims – Resident

Abdullahi Tauhid Shehi is a resident of Kagara who has over the years dedicated his energy and financial resources to helping the victims of banditry in the town. He told PRNigeria how he has been providing shelter and some basic necessities of life for some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are under his care.

Shehi also added how they were able to assist some of the victims to rediscover their skills and talents in doing businesses which actually facilitated their resettlement in the community while others have since returned to their communities.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 7
Tauhid Abdullahi Shehi

“Well, wherever you see a migrant, you should help him because you don’t know where you will also find yourself oneday. We considered them as our brothers and we found them in a situation that desperately needed help, that is why we embraced them, gave them shelter and asked them to settle with us until God intervenes in this situation.

“Initially, when they first arrived, you know when you flee, you will not be able to carry your business materials with you. So, we started helping them with what we can afford up to the time when they became used to the community,” he said.

Majority of the victims are now able to take care of themselves, as confirmed by Shehi.

Security Situation in Kagara Town

Reports indicated that Kagara itself has been invaded by bandits at least on six occasions. The most disastrous attack happened in February 2021, when the terrorists in a night raid, invaded the Government Science College (GSC) Kagara and abducted about 280 students while killing another one in the school premises.

PRNigeria however noted that there is decline in the rate of attacks by bandits within Kagara town in recent times, a development which is not unconnected to the presence of two military bases located at the then GSC Kagara and Ahmadu Attahiru Secondary School, Kagara.

The soldiers have been guarding the town against the activities of non-state actors.

However, bandit attacks are still taking place unchallenged in villages surrounding Kagara. Most of the abandoned houses in the sacked communities are now occupied by the bandits.It was noted that some of the communities have now learnt to live with the bandits by paying taxes in exchange for their safety and lives. They equally relinquish the ownership rights of their belongings including women to these marauders.

Give us Sophisticated Weapons and See Wonders – Vigilantes Tell Government

In an interaction with vigilantes in Kagara, the local security outfits decried how lack of sophisticated arms has been truncating their efforts in containing the menace of the bandits.

Ado Bawa, popularly known as Na-Jalli is a vigilante who transferred his security services to Kagara after bandits ransacked his community in Sambuga village.

Na-Jalli told PRNigeria how the bandits are outsmarting vigilantes with superior weapons which forced some of the security volunteers to quit.

How Kagara Community is Supporting Displaced Victims of Banditry to Live Normal Lives in Niger 8
Ado Bawa Na Jalli, an IDP Vigilante in Kagara

“With their sophisticated weapons, the bandits attack our villages, burn our valuable items, sleep in our homes and kill innocent people.”

He however emphasised that there is good collaboration between them and the conventional security forces which help a lot in reducing the activities of bandits.

“We work in synergy with Army, Police and Civil Defense. We have no problem with them and they are doing their best. We gather and share intelligence and we quickly notify them of any development we hear about and they act responsibly.” Na-Jalli said.

Also on his part, the Commandant General of Vigilantes in Kagara, Isah Auta, who is a retired police officer, confirmed to PRNigeria that it is only lack of weapons that always make them to be on the defensive side, instead of offensive.

He said: “With sophisticated weapons, we are ready to take the fight to the bandits.”

Government, Relief Agencies Should Look into Our Situation – Victims

Though the majority of these displaced persons from villages around Rafi LGA who swarmed Kagara were able to resettle, others are still in the process of achieving that. They therefore urged the government to find a lasting solution to the menace of banditry so they can return home and resume their normal lives.

A housewife, Hafsat Magaji, from Karaya village said: “We appeal to the government to solve these insecurity issues. They should also help us with food, shelter, clothe, soaps because the bandits have plundered our homes.”

On the other hand, the IDPs who are mostly farmers also seek government intervention in the provision of farm inputs such as fertilizer, chemicals, seeds and small farm machines that will assist them in land cultivation since their cattle have been rustled.

In the same vein, other victims told PRNigeria that they hardly receive any kind of support from response agencies, be it either National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) and the likes. They therefore appealed to these authorities to look into their plight and provide them with relief materials.

Tauhid Shehi, a resident of Kagara who has been housing some of these IDPs noted that; “They [victims] need relief materials including mosquito nets, wrappers, mattresses etc.”

Rafi LGA Official Reacts

In an interview with PRNigeria reporter, the Chief of Staff to Rafi Local Council Chairman, Mohammed Mohammed, who spoke on behalf of his principal, Alhaji Ismail Musa Modibbo, lamented how insecurity has overwhelmed the entire Rafi LGA and the neighbouring communities.

He also noted that there were more than 10,000 IDPs in various communities across Rafi LGA as a result of bandits’ activities.

“We can’t give specific statistics of IDPs because even if we say there are 10,000, we are just giving an understatement, they could be more.” Mohammed added.

When asked on how they take care of the displaced persons in the area, Mohammed stated that they provide support and relief materials for them with the help of able individuals, state government and response agencies.

He said: “Normally we get support from the State government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the federal government and some well-to-do individuals in the society. At the Local Government level, we always take care of their hospital bills for those shot or raped.”

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