Despite the dread of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, banditry in parts of Niger State has not ceased, with killings, rapings and rustling of cattle still occurring on an almost daily basis.
The presence of land and air security operatives in these communities to check their activities appear not to have yielded much results as no fewer than seven people have been killed in the last two days of attacks on communities in Rafi local government area of the state.
Our correspondent gathered from a source close to the communities that two people were killed on Sunday evening, while five others were slain in broad daylight on Monday.
The first incident, according to reports from the area, involved about 50 motorcycle riding bandits storming into Gidigori and adjoining villages, shooting sporadically and, in the process, killing two villagers before making away with valuables and cattle.
In the second incident, it was reported that men of the local vigilante, said to be the only reliable security presence in the area, angered by the first attack and killings, decided to assemble themselves for a reprisal against the bandits.
The vigilantes, who were ill-equipped, decided to lay an ambush for the bandits, but an informant was said to have leaked the plan to the invaders who attacked them from behind, killing five of them on the spot.
After killing the vigilantes, the bandits had a field day in the community as they looted shops and rustled more than a hundred cattle.
This latest attack comes barely one week after three people were killed and six others abducted by bandits in manta and Jiko communities in Shiroro local government area.
Over 1,000 villagers, mostly women and children, were displaced from their home in that attack and are currently taking refuge in primary schools in Minna, the state capital.
“We are now living in fear because there is no one to come to our rescue, we cannot sleep in the night, in the day time we are also being attacked,” one of the villagers told our correspondent on phone.
He said the security personnel mobilised to the target areas are only stationed at the local government headquarters in Kagara, while the bandits operate freely in the villages – unleashing terror on defenceless villagers.
He appealed to the government to come to their aid by giving specific instructions to the security operatives in what to do to stop this “killings and stealing”.
When contacted, the Director-General of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Inga, said the government has deployed additional security operatives to the areas, saying that the security agents are on top of the situation.
Inga commiserated with those who lost loved ones, assuring them that relief materials will be sent to those displaced without delay.
The Chairman of the Rafi local government area, Alhaji Ismaila Musa Modibo, who also confirmed the reports, said a report has been made to the appropriate authorities about the worsening security crisis in the local government area.
The chairman said the council is overwhelmed by the unceasing attacks by bandits on communities in the local government, stressing that “the people can no longer sleep with eyes closed any longer.
“Apart from the loss of innocent lives almost on a daily basis, the people have lost everything to the bandits. I can tell you that the situation is better imagined than experienced, the entire local government is under siege despite the presence of security personnel.”
Alhaji Modibo warned that the time for the state government to act is now because the situation is getting out of hand, adding that “if the situation is not quickly arrested, there will be looming hunger since they can no longer go to farm freely.”