REPORTER’S DIARY: Inside Kagara, the Niger Community turned ‘Mecca’ for Victims of Banditry
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi
After PRNigeria‘s last April expedition to Chonoko village in Zuru axis, Kebbi State, where my humble self and a colleague undertook an adventure to that bandits-infested territory and reported on the plights of more than 10,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in that area, my Editor saw the need for me to undertake another trip to another community. This time around it was Kagara Community in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.
This aspect of Developmental Journalism by PRNigeria investigate the plight of IDP in the host community and the expected roles of the government at all level.
However, when I set foot in Kagara town, I found it necessary to expand the scope of my assignment beyond the initial objectives to include investigation on how banditry has affected agriculture, education, healthcare and marketing in that community.
On the wee hours of Saturday, July 02, 2022 I left Abuja for Suleja, specifically Kwamba garage but couldn’t find a vehicle that was going to Kagara directly. So, I had to settle for a one that is traveling to Kontagora so that I can alight at Tegina and get another car that will finally convey me to Kagara.
Our car zoomed off by 10.20am where we passed through Minna, Zungeru and finally reached Tegina around 2.10pm. After some dilly-dallying, I boarded another vehicle which took less than 30 mins to land us in Kagara.
After alighting at my supposed location, I felt very nervous, because apart from the Chonoko episode, I once again found myself in another bandits-troubled area . So, I quickly brought out my phone and reached one of my fixers (contact/local persons in Kagara) whom we had been communicating with since I left Abuja.
They were supposed to be my eyes in Kagara, take me round the town and help me locate the faces of my report and also grant interviews which they ultimately did beyond expectations.
After a couple of minutes, Baba Jibo, one of the fixers, arrived on his motorcycle at the exact location which I described to him. We exchanged pleasantries and drove off to a quiet location where I prayed and rested for a while.
Baba Jibo is a critical stakeholder and very resourceful to the security personnel in Kagara, especially in areas of intelligence gatherings and information sharing about the movement of bandits within and around Kagara villages. Within the few days I spent with him, I noticed how he often received and also made calls on issues related to security.
Because of the time factor, I started my assignment on that very evening where I was first directed to a family house whose members were dislodged from their ancestral community in Sufana Village three years ago by bandits.
Ado Makeri, who now serves as vigilante in Kagara narrated to me how l bandits killed 10 members of his family with the last one being ambushed alongside the Nigerian Army, while fighting to curb their menace. He explained how he is taking care of his family through the little farming he does and how the residents are helping them as well, especially in settling the bill for the rented house they live in.
I also sighted his elder brother, Shuaib Makeri, a blacksmith, who makes different varieties of farm implements. He alluded how the residents are patronizing his business and the kind of cordial relationship they share with them.
Next, it was Kabiru Musa, a farmer and a herbalist who migrated to Kagara from Unugu Village due to persistent bandits’ attacks. He described how he was helped to resettle in Kagara with assistance from his ward head whom he said usually comes to his aid whenever necessary. He said that the Emir of Kagara also assisted him with clothes.
Sadly, one of his sons is still languishing in the bandits’ den where they are demanding ransom in exchange for his freedom.
I also had the opportunity of interviewing Hafsat Magaji, an IDP who is also a farmer. She told me how they used to get their means of livelihoods from the little farming they does amids threat from the bandit-terrorists who doesn’t allow them spend much time on the farm. Nonetheless, she also attested the residents’ efforts in aiding their resettlement in Kagara.
Similarly, the Mai Unguwa of Dangana, another IDP whom I met in an.abode, a government building given to him by the Chairman of Rafi LGA. He commended the host community for providing food items and relief materials to the IDPs.
I was then taken round to the outskirts of the town through a major road which the bandits used to follow whenever they invaded Kagara town. A local told me that terrorists had invaded the town on several occasions. I also got to look at very deep trenches from a little far away which are very vital in preventing bandits from trespassing into Kagara. Beyond that trench, it is a NO GO area. In addition, I was also accompanied to a spot where bandits used to collect ransom in exchange for their abductees.
The next day, being Sunday I woke up early and continue with my interviewing procedure for the IDPs and residents within the community.
Along this process, I had an encounter with Tauhid Abdullahi Shehi, a Kagara-born philanthropist who has been sheltering many IDPs in his home for more than two years and helping them to horn their business skills for livelihood.
Some other IDPs I encountered are also involved in different kinds of businesses such as selling cold drinks and sachet water, phone charging, vulcanizing, car wash etc.
Furthermore, I expanded my investigation to General Hospital Kagara, although some part of the facility has been renovated, but the larger part of the structure is in a ruined and dilapidated condition.
Over the years, incessant bandits’ attacks have forced the hospital management into offering a skeletal service to the community. According to a health worker I interviewed who craved anonymity, it was learnt that the hospital is operating only between 08.00am – 01.00pm except for emergency cases where the patient stay may be extended to 04.00pm.
I also spoke with Idris Bawa, a farmer, who narrated the ordeal they face with regard to conducting agricultural activities around the area. He lamented on how several communities resorted to paying levies to bandits in order to allow them work on their farms. It is unfortunate that, another money has to be paid before for harvesting and transportation of the yields to the home, otherwise the bandits will set it ablaze and equally abduct the farmers.
With regards to education, the level of damage done to the sector by bandits, just like agriculture, is beyond repair within the foreseeable future. During my encounter with the Head of Section, Planning Research and Statistics of Rafi Local Government Education Authority, Mohammed Saadu Gunna, he told me that 78 out of 127 public primary schools in Rafi LGA have completely shutdown due to fear of attacks by bandit-terrorists. Also, only 8 out of 15 secondary schools are operating in Kagara.
Only schools located along the road are functioning, while those in the villages remain closed.
Gunna decried how in some instances, these bandits after chasing residents out of their villages resort to setting the schools ablaze. He stated that there are five of those schools that were burnt down by bandits while others were razed down by wildfire as a result of abandonment for a long time.
I also discussed with Baba Jibo on the business/economic activities in the town where he revealed to me that prior to the present security challenges, about 30 trailers of grains used to be exported from Kagara market to neighboring countries including Niger every Tuesday. However, the narrative has since changed as only 3-4 trailers can be loaded because the quantity of agricultural supplies have greatly reduced as people were not allowed to work on their farms.
Meanwhile, the only bank that is operational in Kagara has since been ransacked by the bandit-terrorists, thus halting its continued service.
On the final day of my expedition, Monday, July 04, 2022, I was supposed to conduct an interview with the Chairman of Rafi LGA, but due to his unavoidable absence, he assigned his Chief of Staff, Mohammed Mohammed, who responded to my questions on his behalf.
Mohammed lamented the rampaging activities of terrorists at Rafi communities for the past few years. He however, challenged the federal government to do the needful in surmounting the security challenges since it is the one who commands the Military, Civil Defense, Department of State Service and other security institutions. Nevertheless, he mentioned that the difficult terrains of that area may limit the success of military operations as they are not familiar with it, while the bandits have since mastered the topography of the territories.
He emphasized how they used to help the IDPs with the support from the state government and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). At local government level, he stated that they used to settle the bill for those injured or raped by the banidts.
Like several other communities across the North Central and North East, villages in Kagara, have since resorted to paying levies to bandits in exchange for their lives, while at the same time relinquishing their valuables including women to these marauders.
There is need for government to act fast and come to the aid of victims of banditry in Niger State, generally.
I cannot overemphasize the need for emergency response agencies to do more in assisting these victims with relief materials, capital and other logistics to improve their businesses, while at the same time appreciating the efforts of the residents by helping them in any way possible so as to sustain their efforts.
The victims of banditry dwelling in Kagara must count themselves lucky. Because in the generous, hospitable, friendly and welcoming Kagara residents, they have found love, compassion and hope. And I saw it in many beautiful ways during my eventful trip to Kagara, a community that is becoming a haven for all internal refugees and displaced persons in Niger State.
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Report By: PRNigeria.com