30 March 2013

Nigeria: JTF House-to-House Search - 'It Was a Scary Experience'

In the early hours penultimate Tuesday, security agents from the Joint Task Force (JTF) conducted a house-to-house search in the Eastern Bye Pass area of Kano, throwing residents into panic. They spoke with AKILU ABDULLAHI about their experience and fears.

Garba Muhammad is an indigene of Sokoto state that has been living in Kano for two decades, only going home occasionally. All his six children are Kano-born and bred.

A resident of Hotoron Maradun, a community settlement along the now volatile Hotoro in Tarauni local government area of Kano state, he owns the house he lives in.

But penultimate Tuesday, Garba's peace was shattered when officers of the Joint Task Force, JTF cordoned off and extensively conducted a house-to-house search covering Hotoron Maradun, Farawa and Hotoron CTV settlements.

"Since the beginning of Boko Haram insurgency," Garba said, "there were horrifying experiences but never like the one we witnessed last Tuesday. Our area was sealed by soldiers who conducted a thorough search of all our houses."

On how the JTF forces gained access to his home, a bewildered Garba said, "You first of all heard thunderous knockings on your door and a harsh command for you to open your door. But they did not molest us. They just conducted a search and if nothing incriminating was found, they leave."

He agreed that his area, like all Kano suburbs is made up of settlers. He declared: "Maradun is a town in Sokoto state and this area is known as Hotoron Maradun which implies that most of the first settlers moved in from Maradun. As we settled down and prosper, of course we attract relatives and friends at home who frequently call on us.

At times like these the security agents are keen on monitoring influx of people into Kano, so places like here are potential targets. Moreover, there were series of attacks carried out in or from this area. But we don't harbor miscreants."

24-year old Jamiyu, a resident of Farawa lived in what is popularly called shago, a room built outside, but attached to a compound. His schedule includes attending a predawn prayer at a nearby mosque.

Narrating his encounter with the JTF men he disclosed: "I was on my way to the mosque when a torch was shined on me and I saw that it was a soldier. He called and asked me where I was going and I replied I was going to the mosque. He then moved on and consulted an officer sitting in a jeep and when he returned, ordered me to return back home, which I did.

Perpetual fear is what Yetunde, a shop owner in Farawa said they lived in in Hotoro, an area hitherto serene and peaceful.

"While we came here years back, the place was a relief from the hustle and bustle of inner city life. Nobody could even dream here that a time will come when soldiers will come this way, not to mention their breaking and searching peoples' houses," Yetunde lamented.

Asked whether the soldiers broke into houses, Yetunde remarked, "unless one refused to obey opening his door, and nearly all residents gave their cooperation. We've heard that only two houses were broken into for refusing to obey orders and we heard that they removed some people from those houses."

The third raided area popularly designated Hotoron VTV has remained a controversial settlement for long. Rumour had it that the imhabibants have been squatting on a land belonging to the NNPC. On its fringes also is Unguwa Uku, an area marked by security agents for its notoriety.

When the JTF forces bombarded the area, Malam Husainio was among some victims. He explained his ordeal of fear of the unknown.

"When will this uncertainty end?" he asked no one in particular. "I heard some loud knocks on my door early in the morning and I thought perhaps a neighbor was in distress. You can imagine my consternation when I opened and was confronted by heavily armed men who politely told me of their mission. I gave them access and after a thorough search they left. They did not tell anyone what they were looking for..

Though shocked, Hussaini refused to apportion blame on the invaders, explaining the drama as signs of the times. "I do not blame them (soldiers) because it was not like this before. It is circumstances that led them into this. When they were leaving after the search, one officer even apologized to us, saying what they were doing was for our own good," he said.

Hussaini said in times like these, the JTF men should not be blamed because, "we are approaching a period when our fellow Christians will be observing an important festival-the Easter and we know that some bad people would like to violently interrupt important religious events."

But did the raid yield any dividend?

According to the Kano state commissioner of police, Musa Daura, the operation was a huge success.

"The combined operation went smoothly. We have uncovered an improvised explosive device assembling factory at the GSM Village in Farn Centre, Kano where large quantity of assorted arms and ammunitions were also found. Currently four arrested suspects are under interrogation," the commissioner revealed.

He gave assurance to Kano people of a hitch-free Easter holiday as the command had taken adequate preparations to safeguard public life and property.

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