Tuesday, May 22, 2019, was a very sad day for the people of Yar Gamji village of Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State. That was the day the village witnessed massive killings of farmers by bandits. No fewer than 15 farmers were massacred by bandits on their farms. There was torrential rainfall in the area on Monday night, a day before, and so serious farmers were busy on their farms the following Tuesday, only to see more than 50 motorcycles riders with guns, mostly AK 47 and AK 49, who began shooting sporadically at them. They were heard saying: “We said there would be no more farming activities in this area.”
They began shooting the farmers killing more than 15 of them on their farmlands. One of the farmers who survived the attack in an interview with Saturday Telegraph, Zubairu Adamu, said: “They had been attempting to attack Yar Gamji several times but did not succeed, but unknown to our people, the bandits had planned that this year in the northwestern part of Katsina they would not allow farming activities to take place. It rained the previous night so our people set out for the farm early in the morning but the bandits on seeing people in their farms, began shooting indiscriminately on anybody they saw.
If not for the quick response of the soldiers, I am telling you, more than 150 people would have been killed. “What they did to our people was to drag them near a stream in the area with their motorcycle and those with guns among the bandits would then shoot them. These bandits are there in the forest and strike at will; as I am talking to you now in this village we have nobody on the governments’ payroll, so we depend on farming to survive. If government want to helps us, let it help us with provide security so that we can engage in our farming.
The constant attacks by these bandits on our people have made us bankrupt; so we don’t have money to buy fertilizer, government can also help us with that. During the last attack on us, we chased them away and since then they have been sending emissaries to us that they would eliminate every living soul in our village.”
Adamu noted that some bad government officials (security) and some traditional rulers were involved in the activities of the bandits. He said: “Several times during security meetings between government officials and traditional rulers the bandits would know there is security meeting going on to the surprise of everyone; how do they know? If there are no bad eggs that inform them, how would they know? How would they know what was discussed at the security meeting?” Magaji Darini Abubakar Haruna, the village head of Yar Gamji village in Batsari in an interview with Saturday Telegraph said he received the report that bandits had attacked his subjects at the farm that day. He said the bandits started shooting his subjects in the farm and that those that those who had antidote to the guns as a result of traditional protection they had, the bandits would use swords to beat them till they died. Magaji Darini said:
“They had attacked the village about three time in the past and in one instance they took away their animals like cows, sheep and goats. The second time, they took away women, burnt two vehicles. This is the third time they came. Right now as I am talking to you one of the corpses, of one deaf man they killed, is still with them.
They said if my people are brave enough, they should come to the bush for the corpse.” Magaji Darini Abubakar Haruna said this is the handwork of Boko Haram and the bandits, because they normally chant Boko Haram slogan of “Allahu Akbar,” take away women. All the villages surrounding the Rugu forest in Batsari, Jibia, Safana, Danmusa, Kankara, Faskari, Dandume and Sabuwa that share boundary with Zamfara and Dagwarwa village in Safana Local Government, bandits have taken over. In the night they will be calling prayers and anybody that dares come out to pray they kill him.
So, some of our subjects have run away to places like Kano and Kaduna. While calling on the Federal and Katsina state government to come to their rescue. Magaji Darini said they have evidence that there are Boko Haram people in the forest. He said they got to know this through some of their people kidnapped and released after paying ransom. He said one of the kidnappers made calls to some of their members in Maiduguri, telling them to relocate to Rugu forest around Katsina and Zamfara states, that there is good prospect here. He said in the last two years, they were alerted by people cutting trees for firewood in the forest that Boko Haram people had chased them out of the forest. Magaji said initially, when the Boko Haram people came to the forest, they were attacking even the bandits, it was later they ganged up with the bandits and started killing villagers, carting away their animals, burning their houses and taking away their women to the forest.
He therefore appealed to president Buhari to come to their rescue so that their people can farm otherwise there would be famine this year in the area, as the bandits have said they will not allow anybody to farm. Magaji said most of the village heads in the area had abandoned their houses and some now live in Batsari while others live in Katsina after their houses were demolished.
He pleaded with the state and the federal governments to help rebuild the houses of the village heads for them to return to their villages and live with their subjects. All efforts by this correspondent to talk to some women who came to the village to remove their belongings proved abortive. Another survivor, Abubakar Garba, said his younger sister, her husband and child were killed and that in his household they killed six people. He said: “I was only lucky to escape; when I sighted them following my neighbour in the farm I took to my heels but they followed me only to go back when they got close to my village. I was just lucky; God had saved me, but my younger brother they killed is still with them; we couldn’t get the corpse for burial.”
The people continue to protest what they call persistent killings of residents in the area by bandits. They complain of nonresponse from the security operatives serving in the area as several calls made to intimate them of the attack by the bandits went unheeded as there was no quick response. They therefore called on the government to as a matter of urgency provide enough security in the area as the bandits have vowed not to allow any farmer to farm this year.
The remains of 18 persons killed by armed bandits in Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State were last week buried amidst eulogies. Aggrieved youths in the area had on Tuesday night ferried the corpses of the victims from Batsari to Katsina, the state capital, where they displayed them before the Emir of Katisna, Dr. Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, and Governor Aminu Bello Masari. Performing the funeral rites, the Chief Imam of Katsina Central Mosque, Mustapha Ahmed, prayed for the repose of the souls of the deceased and sued for peace. Addressing journalists shortly after the funeral rites, the District Head of Batsari, Alhaji Mannir Ruma, said bandits had earlier threatened that there would be no farming activities in the area in this year’s rainy season.
The paramount ruler said the bandits had been harassing farmers in the area with sophisticated weapons, adding that the victims were cultivating their farms when the bandits ambushed them. He called on security agencies and the state government to rekindle their efforts to curtail what he described as an act of God to enable farmers to return to the farm.
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