They streamed in like plots in a movie. After being merciless flogged, three captives on the Kaduna-bound train were freed after allegedly paying huge sums as ransom; then an intercepted military signal flooded social media about three soldiers, including an Army captain, simply identified as Rabiu, been attacked by bandits in Bwari, just a stone throw from the Federal Capital City.
The troops attacked are members of the elite guards brigade of the Nigerian Army that has overwatch on Abuja. Details are sketchy, but the troops were reported to have been attacked between Kubwa and Bwari.
Worse, news outlets began releasing reports of federally-owned public secondary schools been hurriedly shut down in Abuja for fear of attacks by bandits after an incident near the Federal Government College at Kwali, near Abuja.
To cap it all, a BBC report made the headlines after angry bandits’ leaders spoke about their escapades in north-west Nigeria, which one of them claimed is a tribal war between the Hausa and Fulani peoples
One leader spoke about how they were paid N60 million for the release of female students of a secondary school in Jangebe, Zamfara State, and they proceeded to restock their armoury from the ransom money.
To compound matters, one of the bandits boldly alleged the insecurity situation was a lucrative business that many, including government and its officials, were benefitting from.
From Kaduna, Daily Trust newspaper reported that three of the passengers one female, two males – of the Kaduna-bound train attacked in March regained their freedom, 24 hours after terrorists released a disturbing video showed victims being flogged.
Kaduna-based Publisher and a former negotiator for the release of others, Tukur Mamu, said, “Yes three victims have been released, a female and two male. But remember I’m not part of the negotiation that led to their freedom.”
Mamu had announced withdrawal from the negotiation, citing threat to his life. His efforts had yielded the release of 11 others a day after the sanctity of the Kuje Correctional Centre was rubbished for over three hours at night by marauding terrorists. Over 890 prisoners, including 63 terrorists, were set free. There are reports of more than half been recaptured.
In a new documentary by BBC Africa Eye, one Hassan Dantawaye, identified as one of the first bandit warlords to bring in AK-47 rifles to Zamfara State, said the alleged injustice against Fulani triggered retaliatory attacks against the Hausa in the state.
Dantawaye, a former beneficiary of an amnesty programme, said: “Everyone, the Fulani and the Hausa, have done something wrong. For the Fulani, retaliation is their major problem. While the Hausa don’t investigate who is guilty or innocent.
“We have policemen, soldiers, governors, chairmen, even councillors, no one is stopping this situation. It is only when we launch an attack, they will say we (Fulani people) are wrong because they don’t see what is done to us,” he said.
A few months after he spoke with the BBC, Dantawaye’s house was burnt down, an incident that made him pick up arms again.
He alleged that soldiers supporting the Hausa were responsible for the attack on his residence, adding that the conflict is a “tribal war”.
“This was done by soldiers, not vigilantes. How can [there be] peace with these transgressions? There is one thing with us whenever we are called for dialogue, we honour it but later our opinions are disregarded.
“In the whole world, nobody cares about our (Fulanis) concerns. What is done to us is not fair and must stop,” he said.
In the investigative report by a young Nigerian journalist and law student, Yusuf Anka, a self-confessed bandit kingpin Abu Sanni, revealed that last year’s kidnap of the over 260 schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara State was a revenge against the government for sending the military after them.
Sanni said his gang demanded N300 million from the government for the release of the schoolgirls but N60 million was paid.
“When the rainy season ended, they sent the military after us. We decided to show the government they should not interfere in our problems.
“We went to Jangebe and took the students. We wanted to get the government angry. We demanded N300 million but after negotiations, N60 million was paid for their release,” he said.
The N60 million ransom money was used to restock on their arms supply.
“We bought more rifles,” he said, in response to a question on what the ransom money was used for.
On the lucrative nature of the insecurity situation, Sani said,
“Because it has become a business. Everyone wants money. That is why things are deteriorating, from the top to the bottom. Everyone is benefitting. We also get money. Though for our money, blood is spilled, so it continues., he boldly stated
Another bandit leader, Ado Aleru, recently enmeshed in a controversy that led to the suspension of an emir in Zamfara State, was also featured.
Said the recently turbanned “Sarkin Fulani” of Yandoto emirate, “We only protest with guns. We know no journalists. We don’t know where to protest. Our protest is to take up arms and storm villages.”
He claimed he had never kidnapped anyone himself, adding rather chillingly, “My men do that. I only go and kill them.”
According to him, he has lost count of the number of people he has killed, especially members of the local vigilante group.
Aleru has been on the wanted list of the Katsina Police Command since 2019 for killings in a community there.
Across Zamfara State, Hausa farming communities have formed vigilante groups to defend their fields and families. But vigilantes often lack discipline, and self-defence militias can easily turn into armed gangs bent on reprisals.
The BBC’s film shows the appalling consequences of one such attack in the town of Tsafe. Following a series of bandit raids in January and February 2022, a mob of Hausa vigilantes and local youth rampaged through the town burning Fulani homes and businesses.
In the local hospital the BBC team found a teenage Fulani girl who had been slashed with machetes and badly burned. She told the BBC, “They set the room ablaze with all of us inside. They chased me, beating and slashing. I begged them to spare my life. I am not a bandit.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Education has directed the closure of all Federal Government Colleges in Abuja following security threats on the Unity Colleges located in the Federal Capital Territory.
A director of the Ministry, Ben Bem Goong, confirmed that the Ministry ordered evacuation of students from the schools.
This decision was as a result of rising insecurity and threat to the lives, security and wellbeing of the students therein.
Some of the FGCs have been asked to vacate on Wednesday, while others will close on Tuesday.
The Federal government college, Kwali requested parents on Sunday not to fail to pick their children on Monday, unfailingly, due to directives from the Federal Ministry of Education.