Just a month after the army evicted bandits from Gando forest in the Bukkuyum local government area of Zamfara state, two communities said they paid 12 million naira to rescue 26 residents kidnapped by terrorists operating from the Forest.
The two communities are Gana and Nasarawa Burkullu.
Gando, a thick forest on the edge of Gwashi and nearby communities, is used as a hideout by bandits operating in Anka, Bukkuyum and some areas of Kebbi state.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how soldiers raided the forest, dislodging bandits and rescuing several stolen pets.
A native of Gwashi, Ayuba Mohammed, told PREMIUM TIMES that residents were jubilant at the successes recorded by the soldiers.
“Some cattle were recovered and brought to the town. Voices are heard everywhere, people were happy that the bandits were dispersed and their whispered cows recovered,” he said.
Ibrahim Zauma, General Director of New Media for Governor Bello Matawalle, also said on his official Facebook page that the soldiers had been successful in Bukkuyum.
“Alhamdu little Lah! Terrorist bandits in the Gwashi axis of Bukkuyum Local Government Area were met with fire and fury by the valiant Nigerian Army. Reports from the area say that the Gando jungle bandit enclave was evicted and several terrorists were killed,” he posted.
Communities celebrate army evicting bandits from Zamfara forest
Bandits have been attacking rural communities, kidnapping people for ransom and stealing cattle for many years in the northwestern part of Nigeria.
Banditry is the code name in the region for organized crimes such as kidnapping, cattle rustling, mass kidnapping, arson and even armed robbery.
What began as clashes between farmers and herders turned into cattle rustling before access to small arms encouraged criminals to start raiding villages. Factors such as mass poverty, illiteracy, and a porous border with the Republic of Niger have compounded security issues for both the government and the people.
The activities of the bandits have forced hundreds of people to leave the villages in search of safety in the cities.
‘We paid N12 million’
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES by phone on Friday afternoon, some residents of the two communities said they contributed N12 million to rescue 26 people from the bandits.
14 people were from the Gana community while 12 were from Nasarawa Burkullu. The Gana communities paid seven million naira, while Nasarawa Burkullu paid five million naira.
A traditional incumbent in the Zugu district chief’s office, who craved anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists, said paying ransoms and levies had become the “new normal” in the areas.
“Recently, they (bandits) imposed levies on nine of our villages. I think we discussed it with you. The issue of the Gana and Nasarawa Burkullu communities is true because some of our companions (traditional rulers) even contributed money to the villagers to rescue their relatives,” he said.
However, he said the military operation in January had reduced the frequency of attacks, but insisted “some people are still being held in the forest.”
A youth leader in Bukkuyum, Abubakar Gero, confirmed the development to PREMIUM TIMES but said he did not know how much was paid for residents to be released.
“Yes, some of our employees reported to us both in Gana and Nasarawa Burkullu. I also know that they were still negotiating with the bandits about three weeks ago, but I don’t know how much they paid for the release. You know, sometimes it is not advisable to be telling people about the process in which you have been involved because the bandits have informants within us, ”he said.
Sani Badamasi, a local merchant in Nasarawar Burkullu, said his niece and nephew, Ibrahim and Naja’atu Muhammadu, were among those kidnapped and later released after ransom was paid.
“When the bandits approached the people of our community after the kidnapping, our people decided to get together and pay the ransom quickly because most of the kidnapped were women, so we felt that we had to urgently rescue them. We did what we had to do since the government doesn’t care about us,” she said.
However, Badamasi, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES by phone, declined to say how much his family paid to secure the release of his two members.
He said that when the bandits took a stand on what to collect, the residents decided to “come together to collectively collect the money.”
In Ghana, Abdullahi Musa said that households pay taxes based on their status.
“Some neighbors contributed money even without having anyone with the kidnappers. As for me, none of our family members were kidnapped, but our family still gave N50,000 as our contribution.”
Musa sent the number of one of the abductees in Ghana, Auwalu Dan Hajia, but when he heard that he was a journalist, he said he would not speak. Efforts to reach other victims also failed.
Musa said that most of them were still in shock.
On how the bandits held the victims in the Gando forest despite the military operation in January, Badamasi said that the forest is extensive and that the soldiers did not cover it during the operation.
“Yes, they managed to rescue domestic animals but not human beings. No bandits were killed either and the forest was not covered during the operation. We were all happy at first because we thought our people would be saved, but walahi, weeks after the operation we took the money to the bandits and they are still in the forest,” he said.
When contacted, Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu promised to verify the story and reverse.