Prior to the discovery of oil in Alkaleri Local Government Area of Bauchi State, terrorists locally known as bandits have been wreaking havoc in the area. But there was a significant surge since President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off oil drilling at Kolmani river field in the Upper Benue Trough between the northeastern states of Bauchi and Gombe.
In August, the terrorists killed a cattle breeder and abducted three others in Duguri District of the LGA.
A month before, about three villages in the local government area were raided. During the attack, one person was murdered and three others were kidnapped while another three sustained injuries.
Also in June, five communities were invaded and the terrorists killed four locals, leaving three others injured.
THE RECENT ATTACKS
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had in October 2019 announced the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in Kolmani river. Last month, President Buhari flagged off the first crude oil drilling project in Alkaleri.
The NNPC had in October 2019 announced the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the Kolmani River II Well on the Upper Benue Trough, Gongola Basin, in the northeastern part of the country.
According to local authorities who spoke to Premium Times, at least 10 people have been killed in the raid and residents are being abducted on a daily basis while survivors are fleeing the communities.
Sa’adu Jibrin, a councillor for Maimadi ward – one of the terrorized communities said the bandits are carrying out attacks in the area unchallenged. Buhari was in Kolmani on November 22. However, there had been attacks every single day since the president flagged off oil drilling at the site.
“The kidnapping for ransom is now rampant. In less than 20 days about 30 people were kidnapped, and the least ransom paid was N2 million. They killed at least 10 people within the period.
“The area is now blessed with oil which will attract more people for investment, but that can only happen if the place is secure. The gunmen went to the oil drilling site and kidnapped a household leader whose residence is less than a kilometre from where President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the oil drilling. The kidnap happened after the president’s visit. Two people were kidnapped in the very location.
“At Mai -Arin Kudu community, they killed one person and kidnapped his wife. At Zadawa, they killed a youth leader. We just returned from Gombe, and they fired at him up to seven times, after killing him, they went away with his mother and elder sister. In Mai-Arin Aware community, they killed a father and went away with their son. In the Garfatu community, they killed a vigilante leader and kidnapped his daughter,” Jibrin said.
“Residents are fleeing daily for safety. The complaints we do receive from the locals are their concerns about how to address the situation. Many have attributed the upsurge in the attacks to the newly discovered oil in the areas but that might not be so, Jibrin added.
He added that the Alkaleri Local Government shares a boundary with Yankari Game Reserve, perhaps Nigeria’s most popular game reserve, a national treasure where bandits lurk around its adjoining forests.
“The gunmen are strangers in the area, they are using local informants in our communities to carry out the kidnap activities,” Jibrin noted.
SCORES OF RESIDENTS FLEE, AS ATTACKS BECOME VIRAL
At least a hundred of residents have reportedly fled the affected areas to safe places including Misau Local Government Area of Bauchi as well as neighbouring communities in Gombe.
A traditional ruler who pleaded anonymity said the affected communities in Pali district are Jada, Mai Arin-Kudu, Dani, Kufa, Bubu, Papa, Kuturun Kuka, Tudun Wadan Jada, Zadawa and Bambu.
He said other towns are Gachiri, Maimadi, Shugu, Garfatu, Mai Arin-Arewa, Dakai, Maso Kano, Kwanan Kuka, Yola, and Bakin Ruwa.
In the Gwana district, the traditional leader identified some of the affected communities as Mansur, Baladde, Magasa, Gurabayi, Diji, Bunga, Gwanan Dutse, Sabon gari, Garin, Bagobiri, Garin Bano, Jamari, Garin Juba.
He said others are Kwal Kwal, Sankali, Alkali Sule, Kargo, Digare, Gobirawa and Yalo.
Musa Mohammed, the member representing the Alkaleri/Kirfi Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Musa Mohammed, said the situation is terrible.
However, he said efforts are being made to address the situation. Muhammad said as a lawmaker, he has reported to the executive arm of the government for possible solutions.
“We have been discussing the issue at the House. The issue of insecurity in the areas is reoccurring for a long time. The criminals are retiring to my constituency, whenever the security forces dealt with them in Plateau communities, they return to the Gwana district as hideouts.
“The issue can be addressed when the security forces simultaneously confront the issues from all the adjoining communities from Plateau and Bauchi states.
“The issue has been on since before the inauguration of the drilling of oil in the area. Whenever we witness the escalation of attacks in our areas, that was due to pressure from the security forces in the Wase area of Plateau State.
“Security operations are supposed to be simultaneously carried out from Plateau and Bauchi states. We the authorities have to push it because the situation is terrible,” the lawmaker told PREMIUM TIMES.
He called for improved security in the Bauchi axis to check the influx of gunmen from neighbouring states.
POLICE RESCUE KIDNAPPED VICTIMS
Ahmed Muhammad Wakil, spokesman for Bauchi Police Command in a statement, said suspected kidnappers stormed Gurtum village in Pali district and abducted three persons to an unknown destination during the midnight raid.
“Consequently, a team of Policemen and other local vigilantes led by the Divisional Police Officer, Maina-Maji Division, swiftly mobilised in a coordinated operation.
“On reaching the scene, the kidnappers opened fire on sighting the operatives. While returning fire, the kidnappers were subdued as a result of sustained gunfire from the operatives, which forced the kidnappers to scamper away with possible gunshots (wounds) and abandoned their victims.
“The operation was successful, as all the victims were rescued unhurt and reunited with their family members. The victims were identified as Hafsatu Sa’idu, 35, Adama Sule, 28, Maryam Sa’idu, 14, all of Gurtum Village Pali District Alkaleri LGA, Bauchi State,” he claimed.