Considering the spate of attacks witnessed in Katsina State in the past week, it appears the last has not been heard of bandit attacks in the state.
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s shoot at sight order against non-state actors found carrying AK47 or the war on unrepentant bandits declared by the Masari led government, the challenge of banditry has persisted.
Just last Tuesday, the spokesman of the Katsina State Police Command disclosed how the DPO of Kankara Police Division and his team engaged bandits in a gun duel leading to the killing of three bandits, recovery of 200 rustled cows as well as 1 AK-49 and 2 AK-47 rifles
Last Sunday also, about 15 passengers travelling along the Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State were reportedly kidnapped by heavily armed bandits numbering over 20.
Again, only last week, at Danmusa Local Government Area of Katsina State, armed bandits reportedly killed Alhaji Yaro Lawal, a former Director of Education and Social Service, after he resisted a kidnap attempt by the notorious motorcycle riding hoodlums.
The notorious bandits have from time to time forced rural dwellers to cough out huge sums of money for ransom to secure freedom for themselves or their loved ones held captive.
Having suffered countless assaults at the hands of the bandits, rural dwellers are no longer willing to tolerate the attacks, exploitation and oppression that they have been subjected to.
Indigenes have now become more aware of strategies employed by the daredevil criminals and have resorted to some form of self-defence.
One of the strategies employed by bandits aside from kidnapping, village raids, cattle rustling and armed robbery to assault and siphon money from targeted victims is the spirit phone call.
Funny as it sounds, bandits now pretend to be spirits-jinn (al-jannu) to threaten victims.
January this year, the Katsina State Police command foiled attempts by Kabir Bishir and Sadiq Ashir to falsely obtain money from victims while pretending to be spirits.
It was reported that the “bandits turned spirits” employed threat to coerce their victims to do their bidding or risk having their family members killed.
One victim of bandits pretending to be spirits was reported to have been called by the fake spirit and instructed to drop money somewhere or risk her family being killed.
The victim out of fear cooperated with the supposed spirit and took the money they requested to the location given to her.
Afterwards, the alleged spirits demanded that she send more money into a bank account.
When it looked like the supposed spirit would not stop threatening and siphoning money from her she notified the police and this eventually led to the arrest of the bandits pretending to be spirits.
Phone Call Strategy
Another similar strategy used to extort money from targets is through phone call.
Some victims in rural areas have reported how bandits call their phone lines, demanding a ransom to avert being kidnapped.
Our sources said they are aware of such reported development and how the victims cooperated by following the instructions of the bandits and taking the requested amount to the specified location through mediators.
Unfortunately, this phone call strategy often boomerangs as another faction of bandits, different from the ones demanding ransom may be interested in the same victim earlier extorted by a different gang, our source said.
Our source narrated how a prominent Dayi businessman, from Malumfashi LGA, Alhaji Mani was killed in March this year after he reportedly sent N5 million ransom to the dare-devil bandits.
“Not too long ago, the deceased released the sum of N5 million as a ransom for his life to the bandits when they came calling and stayed back in his Dayi village instead of running away like other prominent people from the community. But they are saying now that it is another set of bandits different from the ones that received the N5 million ransom that came hunting on the ill-fated day Alhaji Mani was killed,” the source said.
Another victim from the same community received a phone call from the bandits to send a ransom else they would come for his head. He managed to send N1 million to them through their mediators and ran away temporarily from the village, an anonymous source also revealed.
The communities have become wary of responding to this phone call strategy by the bandits as there are no guarantees that other gangs of bandits would not come attacking after payment to another group has been made.
Motorcycle Riding Armed Bandits
This is the strategy used mostly to unleash terror on rural communities by the dare-devil bandits. They storm communities in large numbers riding motorcycle armed with AK47 rifles.
The over 300 Kankara boarding school students kidnapped were reported to have been whisked away by the notorious motorcycle-riding armed bandits.
Lately, attempts by motorcycle-riding armed bandits to attack and unleash terror on rural dwellers in communities in Katsina State suffered several setbacks.
Rural dwellers are now very aware of this strategy and have foiled several attempts by bandits using this style.
Just last week, in what sounded like a movie, about 30 motorcycle riding armed bandits were reportedly ambushed and killed by villagers in collaboration with vigilantes in Kankara LGA.
“Resident of the village received the information that bandits were planning to attack them that night, so they ambushed them and God helped them to repel the attack and they killed at least 30 of the bandits,” a report said.
But to the consternation of the villagers, the corpses of the killed bandits were whisked away by other bandits before the break of dawn.
In a related development, still in the past week, motorcycle riding armed bandits were waylaid and chased out of Jibia town when they attempted to kidnap one of their prominent sons at his residence.
Three of the bandits who lagged behind during the chase were caught by angry villagers who eventually burned them alive a report said.
Unfortunately, another foiled attempt of the daredevil motorcycle-riding armed bandits was reported to have led to the death of a former Director of Education and Social Service, Alhaji Yaro Lawal.
While resisting an attempt by the notorious bandits to whisk him away into the thick forest from where they operate, the heartless bandits shot and killed him, a report said.
“The worst side of the bandits’ operation is that they don’t hesitate to snuff life out of their victims if they resist attempts to be kidnapped. At the slightest provocation, without pity, they waste their victims and disappear into thin air.” A source who did not want to be mentioned said.
Car-riding armed bandits
Having discovered lately that using motorcycles is no longer as effective as it used to be in the early days, bandits have resorted to hiring the service of cars to avoid being easily detected.
They arrive quietly in a car; position the car in a particular area for an easy escape, then go on foot to the residence of their target to cease him.
This was the scenario that played out in Matazu LGA of Katsina State when six armed bandits stormed the town in a gulf car to kidnap one customs officer from his residence early last month.
To avoid any form of suspicion, the armed bandits came quietly en route Mazoji village in a Gulf car. They parked their vehicle some distance away from Matazu town police checkpoint and used a footpath to gain access to the house of the customs officer.
The kidnap attempt resulted in a fight, which saw the custom officer knock down one of the kidnappers carrying Ak47 with his bare hands before fleeing for his dear life.
The customs officer it was gathered was able to contact his neighbours who in turn placed a distress call to other neighbours and Matazu vigilante. The Matazu vigilante also notified other vigilantes from neighbouring villages of the development.
Eventually, four of the bandits while trying to escape from the scene of the incident in the Gulf car they came in, were ambushed by the vigilante group.
However, in an attempt to resist arrest, the bandits were shot and killed by the vigilante group, the source revealed.
The rural dwellers in Katsina have been able to score some good points against daredevil bandits by foiling attacks on their settlements through networking and teaming up with village heads and vigilantes as well as Nigerian Security Agencies.
They promptly circulate information about any suspicious activities in their locality and confront the notorious bandits when opportunities present.