The security of lives and property in the eastern part of Sokoto State appears to have hit an all-time low as undesirable elements now enjoy free reign in killing, kidnapping, and maiming innocent members of the communities.
Consequently, fear of the unknown has gripped the affected communities, especially those in Isa, Sabon Birni, Rabah, Goronyo, and Illela local council areas of the state, whose natives have been forced to resign their fate in the hands of God.
This is because the people are completely at the mercy of bandits and other criminal elements now roaming the areas freely and daring anyone or group to challenge them.
The new wave of uncertainty now pervading Sokoto East has also resulted in many people not visiting or staying in their native communities, especially against the backdrop of the unwarranted arrests of innocent persons by armed men.
In the latest round of attack unleashed on the area, a flourishing young businessman was brutally shot and killed at close range for reasons not known.
It is a negative development that many of the community members view as premeditated assassination.
Perhaps the only known offence that residents can attribute to the deceased is that he funded the election of a top politician from the state who is currently serving in the National Assembly.
Beyond the slain businessman, many have been kidnapped, tortured and brutally wounded by the bandits in the course of trying to eke out a living either on their farms or on their business premises.
With the escalating level of criminality and violence, all – security agents, farmers, locals, and visitors – have become targets for the terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, and armed robbers, who are not even afraid of the security agents.
In some instances, many soldiers, policemen, and personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, have also been killed since the deadly gangs took over the five council areas of Sokoto State and have continued to attack anyone in sight. Many communities and hamlets across the eastern part of the state have been set ablaze, forcing residents to flee to urban centres where they feel more secure, thus leading to the emergence of more internally displaced persons centres in Sokoto, the state capital.
The residence of the former governor of the state, Attahiru Bafarawa, was once attacked in Bafarawa when bandits forced their way in with the hope of kidnapping the former governor. They killed a policeman in the process.
Following these repeated attacks by bandits, the Olusegun Obasanjo College of Science and Technology in Bafarawa, which was inaugurated by the former president in 2006, has remained under lock and key and deserted despite the heavy investment made by the state government.
The situation is so bad that in Bafarawa district of Sokoto State, bandits openly wield their weapons without any form of challenge by anyone, either in mufti or in uniform.
The upsurge of displaced persons in the capital has also resulted in the conversion of every available uncompleted structure and building into camps, especially for the underaged and children of school age, who have been forced to stop going to school on account of either the death of their parents or kidnapping of the same.
As a result of the relentless attacks, Sokoto has emerged as one of the worst-hit states in the Northern part of Nigeria in the last two years. Barely a month ago, armed men invaded the immigration checkpoint at Mamman Suka village along Sokoto/Illela Road, shot and killed two immigration officers, and wounded four others. They went away with the brutal murders without any confrontation by any security agents. A resident of Isa Town, Alhaji Yusuf Sada, told Arewa Voice that the town had become a recruitment base for bandits because of the presence of ‘countless informants’.
Sada said: “Isa has become a recruiting centre for bandits with a countless number of informants who give details and movements of people to bandits. I am over 60 years old, but the most unfortunate and annoying thing is that I have to sleep with my mother and her grandchildren in the same room for fear of informers who may likely give information that I am in town.
Imagine, I have to pass my own house and sleep in my mother’s room with the children when I have my own private apartment, just for the sake of fear of unforeseen marauders. I have since relocated to Sokoto, the state capital.”
Due to the fear of bandits and terrorists, who are constantly on the prowl, the 120-kilometre Marnona/Isa Highway has been deserted for over five years now, with citizens of the area taking the risk of crossing over to Zamfara or passing through Sabon Birni, a neighbouring local government, just to stay alive.
But help appears to be on the way for the besieged towns and villages as a retired military officer, Col. Garba Moyi Isa (retd), has begun to clear the bush and make the road more visible to security agents. Col. Isa, a one-time Sokoto commissioner in charge of security, recently sponsored a bush clearing and stone pitching of the abandoned road with a view to giving a clear vision for soldiers and other security operatives on daily patrol of the once busy road.
A top federal public officer from the area is said to have supported Isa’s gesture with N20 million and three vehicles, all in a bid to clear the road and make it more secure for people to use with confidence when travelling.