Security challenges in Niger State is at its peak with no hindsight currently. Attacks by bandits is forcing relocation of locals. CAPITAL POST takes a look at issues and concerns in Niger State.
Watching residents of 25 communities of Munya Local Government Area in Niger State, arriving internally displaced camp in Gwada on Saturday, one cannot, but find it difficult to hold back tears as a result of bandits consistent rampage in last four days without any challenge from security agents.
The women and children in Munya, a Local Government with rich farming culture has been under consistent attack by bandits and forest gangsters believed to be members of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) whose governing of five Local Governments in Niger State were not in doubt.
Niger State in the North Central Nigeria has 76,363 km land mass being the largest in the entire 36 States of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It borders FCT among other States, thus, made it central to strategic food security for the Federal Capital Territory with fast growing population.
Sadly, the prevalent terrorists attack in Borno State in the North Eastern part of Nigeria which is caused by Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters is prevailing in Niger State. Attack on communities in Niger has been unabated with communities being devastated, women and girls raped, kidnapped for ransom and outright killing were the order of the day.
Farmers in the affected communities are forced to pay levies before they are allowed to access their farms and sometimes bandits asked them to part with their farm products as condition precedent for them to have peace.
These heinous crimes are further sustained by collaborators, informants and some religious irredentist who are sympathetic to bandits; who serve as mediators for their share each time ransom is paid on behalf of kidnapped victim. These elements who ‘play the devil’ may be in government or in the opposition and are in religious houses, but with surreptitious minds.
Niger has 25 Local Governments with five effectively controlled by bandits while their attempt to overrun other Local Government Areas may not be in doubt, given the helplessness of the State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello. The LGAs being governed by Boko Haram and ISWAP, according to the Secretary to Niger State government are: Shiroro, Munya, Borgu, Mariga and Mashegu Local Governments.
CAPITAL POST gathered that, governance in the affected LGAs has collapsed as elected Council Chairmen have relocated to Minna and Abuja who now find out security development back home through phone calls.
Speaking at a press conference last Wednesday, the Secretary to Niger State Government, Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Matane confirmed the Local Governments to have been under siege, but said governor Abubakar Sani Bello was committed to tackling security challenges.
He disclosed that the sum of N5 billion has been spent by the State government in the last two years by the Bello-led administration.
The upsurge in banditry attack, he argued, was due to onslaught being launched against bandits in Zamfara and Kaduna States which has forced their relocation to Niger State, disclosing further that the group operating in Borgu Local Government has resemblance of Boko Haram in the North Eastern part of Nigeria.
Apart from attacks, the most dangerous trend was the recruitment and indoctrination of the locals who Niger State government said were accepting their ideology and are now praying with them during their Jumat prayers.
“These resemblance of men of Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP), are now co-habiting with these communities. They join them in their Jumat prayers every week. They preach to them to withdraw their girls from schools for marriage. You can see that their ideology is that of ISWAP and that of Boko Haram in the North East.
“In some cases, if farmers failed to meet up with bandits demands, they would set set their farms on fire.
The SSG further explained that activities of bandits in the State has resulted to a total of 151,380 displaced persons in the last two years which spread across 10 Local Government Areas.
Also, reacting to the development, an International Non-governmental organisation, called Policy House has condemned in strong terms banditry attacks in Niger State.
In a statement which was signed by the Organisation’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Taiwo Akerele on Saturday pointed out that it frowned at withdrawal of female children from school on the order by bandits, which if the order is implemented, it would be a serious setback to the North Central Nigeria.
Part of the statement reads: “The attention of Policy House International’s (Incentive Based Program- IBP) has been drawn to the recent educational challenges and set back in Niger state, north central region of Nigeria.
“According to multiple media reports of Friday, November 26th 2021, Boko Haram has launched a serious campaign where parents are being forced to withdraw their kids from schools in some parts of the state.
“According to the report, the SSG to the Niger State Government lamented that farmers are now being forced to pay levies to enable them access their various farms as well.
“For us at the Incentive Based program, this is double tragedy for our intervention in the region, first, it is a minus for our campaign for reduction in the number of out of school children and the second it is a big blow for food security in the region which has suffered serious setbacks in recent times due to attacks on farmers and the increase in the number of schools that were shut down in the 1st and second quarter of 2021.
“We call on the Nigeria government to secure the areas where Boko Haram is collecting levies from farmers and restore civil governance and authority in those areas so identified and ensure that no parent is compelled to withdraw his or her wards from schools not only in Niger state but in all educationally disadvantaged and challenged regions in Nigeria.
“We are monitoring the situation in Niger state Nigeria and we are in touch with relevant stakeholders in the educational sector with a view to coordinating efforts in supporting the Nigerian government at all levels.”
Currently, a taskforce which consist of local vigilante group, military, Police and other security agents are in place to tackle security challenges, but have been overwhelmed, given the sophisticated weapons being wielded by bandits.
On Saturday, security operatives reportedly took to their heels amid bandits attack in Munya and told residents to desert for their lives, a development that led to fleeing of residents to Gwada IDPs camp.
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