PHOTOS/VIDEO: Untold Story of IDPs after Bandits Killed over 200 People, Sacked 42 Communities, Occupy Deserted Houses in Kebbi State
…No Humanitarian Intervention for IDPs in Chonoko
WATCH VIDEO OF VICTIMS
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
In recent years, non-state actors including terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, and a host of other criminals have acquired dangerous weapons and have been operating with impunity, thereby wrecking havoc on various vulnerable communities, unchecked.
Many promising lives have been cut short, many dreams have been ruined and many humans have been displaced as a result of the advancement of banditry/kidnapping into a booming industry in the northwestern part of Nigeria.
What is more painful is the fact that most of these atrocities in the remote villages go unreported and consequently, the victims hardly get any succour from either government, individuals or international organisations. And the more these unfortunate incidents escape the searchlight of media and civil society, the more these same victims are vulnerable to more attacks.
Of all the states that have come under the reign of terror of these dare-devil bandits in recent years, Kebbi is arguably the most unfortunate as thousands have been displaced from their ancestral homes with slim hopes of ever returning. We came to the conclusion that Kebbi is the most unfortunate because its case is just as bad (if not worse) as the case of the surrounding states that command all the media and government attention, yet they continue to suffer and rot in silence.
This is why PRNigeria’s duo of YA’U MUKHTAR MADOBI and SALISU MUHAMMAD MANAJA recently embarked on a risky adventure to Chonoko Town in Danko/Wasagu Local Government Area (Zuru Emirates) of Kebbi State. In this special report therefore, the duo gives graphic details of how over 200 persons were killed, 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were sacked from about 42 villages are living in squalor within Chonoko town and how the bandits are still occupying and ruling those surrounding villages.
Encounter with Eyewitnesses
While narrating his ordeal to PRNigeria, a 70-year old Mai Unguwa Maizuwa who was sacked from Zagami village, stated that the bandits have been carrying out some serial attacks on their community for three years in a row, since 2019.
The bandits, he said, over time rustled all their cattle in the community and equally plundered their belongings, killed many people and recently sacked the entire village.
He said; “Presently in our town, they have been invading our community for three years in a row, they rustled all our herds of cattle. They did it two years ago as well as last year and this year when they came and found out that there were no more cattle to rustle again, they invaded our homes, killed two adults and burnt down our shelter. They also plundered not less than 19 new branded motorcycles in our town.”
When the bandits attacked his home, Maizuwa was fortunate to have escaped with his life by whiskers. However, his well-furnished house, foodstuff, money and other valuable items were destroyed completely.
“When they invaded my home, I was fortunate to escape. Of all the valuable items present in that home, I learnt that nothing was spared. They burnt down 70 bags of my guinea corn, soya beans, and other varieties of foodstuff,” he said.
Apart from that, Maizuwa told PRNigeria that other items including many bags of cement and some monies he saved for business, about N997,000, were lost during the invasion.
Maizuwa, who has 20 children, is currently living in agony in an overcrowded IDP camp in Chonoko town.
Another victim who lost his son to one of the incidents Kadebo village, Musa Sarkin Makada, explained to PRNigeria how life has been difficult for them since their community was ransacked.
It was learnt that since the attacks were carried out, his community was deserted and turned into a ghost town as women, children, the elderly and even the disabled who could not run were evacuated to Chonoko town for safety.
“On that fateful day, when they raided Dan-Kade, a town close to us, it is on that same day that those marauders invaded our community, but we were able to escape narrowly.
“No life was lost for that recent attack, but for the previous years’ attacks, a lot of people were wasted in our town, even my eldest heir was killed alongside many children.
“Everybody has deserted Dan Kade town, apart from Mango and other trees, nobody is left behind.”
Musa, in a sorrowful voice, pleaded with the government to do everything possible to ensure their relocation to their ancestral communities and with some adequate level of security.
“At Kadebo village, we don’t know how to do any profession apart from farming. Although we do visit some markets, honestly we are in a difficult situation.” Musa said.
Imam Kabiru, is an Islamic cleric who fled to Chonoko from Tungar Dangula, alongside his two wives and 22 children after surviving bandits’ attack.
PRNigeria learnt that when the bandits raided his village, they destroyed houses and food supplies, forcing the inhabitants to leave behind valuable items including money, clothes, household materials etc.
In his words: “I am a cleric, whenever I am invited for religious functions such as naming or wedding ceremony, I am always shy of attending, because I don’t have proper attire to wear and present myself. I often to delegate somebody to do that.”
Chonoko Town Counts Losses Due to Continuous Bandits’ Attacks
Though the ancient town of Chonoko which is considered a ‘safe haven’ for victims of banditry has never been infiltrated by the bandits, several villages around have come under serial attacks in recent years. An investigation by PRNigeria revealed that not less than 42 communities have been sacked and their valuable items plundered by these blood-sucking demons in recent months.
These communities are; Dan Kade, Warkata, Kurgiye, Ragam I,II &III, ‘yar Kuka, Shangel, Tungan Dangula, Kahalmo I&II, Kadebo, Ched-Kubu, Yababa, Gimi, Ganyale I,II&III, Silabi and Digoga.
The long list also include; Bankunatare, Bawada, Zagami, Turame, Gyado, Tungan Kwando, Ktare, Sebzama I,II&III, Dhilo and Duru.
Others are; Tudun Wada, Digwengwe, Gaya, Saaki, ‘Yar Buga, Dilanko, Zuttu and Irgaa.
According to documents sighted by PRNigeria crew, about 203 unarmed people have been massacred by bandits around these communities since the resurgence of the attacks in 2019 to date. A lot of children have been turned into orphans and many women have become widows as well.
“Ibrahim Dakomi left behind 19 children and elderly father who is my peer, while Danlami from Dokan Kwaya whom they killed alongside his two brothers and equally rustled his 200 cows,” a community leader who craved anonymity said this to PRNigeria.
It was also reliably gathered that the remaining houses that are not destroyed during the attacks are usually occupied by these bandits as their new homes.
Meanwhile, an estimated 1,515 cattle and 161 sheep have been rustled from the possession of people of that area. In addition, many houses, agricultural fields, food supplies, motorcycles etc have been equally lost.
Plight of IDPs
PRNigeria understands that over 10,000 IDPs that are taking refuge within Chonoko town are suffering from untold hardship, which calls for urgent and serious humanitarian assistance from the government and other stakeholders. Their predicament cuts across the following categories;
Bandit Attacks Threaten Agriculture and Food Security
As a result of bandits’ attacks, victims were left with no option but to flee their communities and equally abandon their vast hectares of land uncultivated. This seriously calls for great concern as the food supply will be greatly reduced thereby leading to the food crisis.
Chonoko settlers were famous for farming activities and hunting which represent their symbol and pride. Most of the IDPs revealed to PRNigeria that they don’t know how to do any business apart from farming.
“Honestly we don’t know how it is going to turn out or whether we will be able to continue engaging in farming activities as we are in a seriously difficult situation due to banditry.
“Some of our people who live and farm in Zamfara have now been displaced, thus we have to share with them the few available farms that remain here in Chonoko,” a community leader stated.
Some of the displaced farmers complained that even if they are opportune to return to their respective communities and continue their farming activities, they won’t be able to harvest one-tenth of what they previously used to do. This is connected to the fact that the cattle which facilitate their fieldworks are no more, as they have been rustled by the bandits.
“We, therefore, solicit the support of the government to help us with agricultural inputs as well as small machinery in the form of a loan so that we can be able to farm and pay in instalments because our land is very fertile and good for agriculture,” a community told PRNigeria crew.
Education on Hold as Schools Turn IDP Camps
Triggered by the influx of displaced persons from neighbouring villages, some schools in Chonoko have been turned to IDP camps in order to accommodate the ever-trooping victims. This has equally added to the number of out-of-school children in that part of Nigeria.
A community leader told PRNigeria that: “There was a time when we had to shut down our entire schools due to overcrowding in order to pave way for the victims to use the facilities like shelter, but still we manage to operate, so what can we do?
“Before, all our schools were taken over by the IDPs. Even now, there is only a single primary and secondary school that is operational here in Chonoko.”
Meanwhile, PRNigeria learnt that all the schools in the sacked villages remain closed as well as those sited in far locations due to fear of attack by bandits.
Water scarcity is also a big humanitarian challenge in the IDP camps. It was learnt that there were only two functional boreholes that serve as the sources of water to the entire community. People have to queue from dawn to sunset in order to fetch water for domestic purposes.
A community leader expressed his worry regarding this issue, revealing that most of the time they have to intervene among the IDPs who often engage in fracas with one another.
“As I am speaking to you, currently a female IDP is receiving treatment in the hospital and they have to amputate her finger as a result of injury she suffered at the borehole while fighting over water.”
Overcrowded Settlement, a Huge Health Risk
When PRNigeria crew visited the IDP settlement, it was discovered that they are living in an overcrowded environment with little space which can easily facilitate the spread of disease should an outbreak emerge.
Maikusa Kabiru, a female IDP sacked from Tungar Dangula said lack of bed space has been a constant problem since they arrived in Chonoko.
“There are 20 of us cohabiting in a single room and we sleep on the bare floor without even a mat. Our husbands sleep outside. We are experiencing a problem of maintaining health condition, our children suffer malaria and we cant get money to buy medicine for their treatment.”
A community leader also corroborated that malaria cases and other diseases are becoming prevalent in the settlement and without adequate medical supplies to suppress its effects.
Meanwhile, she stated that their neighbours do occasionally come to their aid to pay medical bills for their sick children, if not their case would have been worse.
Malam Kabiru also stated that he and other adults have to sacrifice the little rooms for their wives and children, while they pass the night under a tree.
Relief/Donor Agencies Shun Ravaged Communities
Since the beginning of these attacks, there is hardly any government agency or local or international organizations that have visited the community to offer any form of relief or succour to the people. Unlike what is obtainable in the northeast, no local or international donor agency has established its presence in this banditry-ravaged community of Chonoko where thousands of victims are taking refuge.
While expressing their pain to our crew, a 37-year-old housewife, Mailadi Bomboi, pleaded with the concerned authorities to supply them with relief materials such as “clothes, soaps, cooking pots, household items and foodstuff including guinea corn, maize, rice and beans.”
Humanitarian emergencies remain one of the biggest development challenges of the 21st century. In Nigeria, government agencies and non-governmental organisations are known to render support to Persons of Concern (PoC) including IDPs, migrants, refugees, victims of human trafficking, vulnerable women and children. These agencies include the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) among others. The agencies are yet to intervene on the plight of the IDPs, especially in Chonoko.
According to a community rights activist, Hassan Nagoda, “The only time NEMA came to our aid was when our community faced flooding last year. But they didn’t provide us with any relief materials regarding these banditry incidents”
Security Situation in Chonoko
One question begging for answers is why Chonoko, which is considered a ‘safe haven’ for over 10,000 IDPs, lack the requisite security architecture to provide protection to those vulnerable communities. When PRNigeria visited the town, no presence of any security forces was sighted. Nonetheless, some locals revealed to our reporters during a conversation that the troops were stationed in an uncompleted hospital at Unashi which serves as a military base, while others are deployed to Bena.
The locals however allege that the troops do not take on the bandits but rather wait for them to strike before trying to repel their attacks.
“The troops are always on the defensive; they don’t initiate an attack against the bandits even when they see them. Their fighting strategy is faulty and questionable,” said a resident of Chonoko who does not want his name in print.
Some IDPs revealed that bandits have now taken possession of their homes after sacking them and now they (bandits) are living comfortably without any challenge.
“Before we used to confront them, but we no longer do that as they overpowered us because we don’t have weapons to protect ourselves, and we don’t know from where they are getting those guns. The lack of weapons is a major weakness that let us down.
“We, therefore, beg the government to stop these miscreants who use to cross from Zamfara and carry out these carnages on us. We cant understand where they are stockpiling this wealth because nobody can tell you the exact number of cattle that were rustled from our community,” said a community leader.
A Concern of Community Leader
Also speaking in the same vein, a respected community leader who pleaded anonymity even though he was recorded told PRNigeria that up to now the bandit-terrorists have continued to operate with impunity in the area thereby sacking more villages, burning down houses and valuable items including food supplies while many schools remained closed.
“Apart from attacking and abductions of villagers, they destroy farms and cottages in the vulnerable communities
“The looming food crises would surely consume many lives, as thousands of farmers were forced to abandon their vast hectares of land and this drastically reduces agricultural activities which serve as the only source of livelihood to the locals. Schools too have been closed down in all the affected communities increasing the population of pupils and students that abandoned education.
“Moreover, upon all these atrocities by the criminal elements, there is no presence of security forces to counter the banditry while humanitarian agencies including Red Cross, Refugees Commission and NEMA have not provided any support or intervention to IDPs, especially with relief materials and medications for the sick and traumatized citizens.
“The displaced people have lost hope of ever returning to their ancestral homes. It is a terrible situation,” he concluded.
At Last, Humanitarian Relief in the Offing
In his reaction to our story, the spokesperson of NEMA, Manzo Ezekiel, confirmed to PRNigeria via telephone conversation that the agency had previously visited the Chonoko community for an on-the-spot assessment of their situation with a view of providing relief materials.
“As I am speaking to you now, arrangements are being made to dispatch and distribute relief materials to IDPs in Chonoko and Sakaba communities in Kebbi state. The items are mostly foodstuff as preferred by the victims which we were able to understand during our assessment.” Ezekiel said.
While commenting on the issue, the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Hajiya Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, lamented the ever-increasing number of IDP camps across the country. She, however, promised that the commission will jump into action to support the victims as soon as they receive details about the situation.
Similarly, when contacted, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) revealed to PRNigeria that at present, their area of coverage is the insurgents-ravaged northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and some north-central states mainly due to budget constraints. However, they promised to extend their coverage to include other regions in the future.
PRNigeria learnt that there is great concern among Chonoko indigenes that those bandits terrorizing their communities often cross over from the neighbouring Zamfara axis. Again, they also complained that rustled cattle from Chonoko territories and other plundered valuable items are equally smuggled to Zamfara.
The arrival of some form of humanitarian assistance in Chonoko and other parts of Kebbi state has to be treated as a matter of national emergency. The people have suffered enough. Enough is enough…
This report is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation
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Report By: PRNigeria.com