It was a sad day for the people of Malali village along River Niger in Borgu local government area of Niger State on Friday evening as several traders, mostly women of the 150 passengers on board a boat carrying died when it capsized.
State officials said 42 corpses had been recovered from the scene of the accident, raising fears that 100 others might be missing.
There is mourning also in Kaduna State where gunmen killed 15 villagers in Zangang community of Kaura local government area.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the boat carrying the women and Kainji Park guards from Tunga-na-ilo to Malali market hit a log under the water.
It was learnt that the base of the boat split into two, damaging its two engines and thereby making the boat lose balance and capsize.
It was learnt that only five people were rescued alive by fishermen. The corpses of most of the victims were yet to be retrieved at the time of filing this report.
Findings revealed that though the villagers alerted the authorities of the New Bussa local government area, which is about 32 kilometres away from the Malali district market, which holds every Friday, the victims were already dead when the divers mobilised by the council arrived at the scene.
The public relations officer of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), Malam Ibrahim Hussaini, confirmed the incident, but stated: "The details are sketchy at the moment. The boat believed to be carrying over 150 passengers, mostly traders, capsized midway into its journey resulting in the drowning of the passengers."
He confirmed that 42 corpses had been retrieved from the river, adding that "efforts are being made to rescue possible survivors along the bank of the river or the corpses of those who got drowned".
According to him, "Search and rescue is going on. I will make the details of the incident public at a later date, but the agency has dispatched its officers to assist the villagers in the rescue efforts."
Another account of the incident from Kebbi State said about 80 people died in River Niger when a boat carrying 150 passengers capsized at Ngaski local government area of the state.
A journalist, Hamza Galadima Zuru, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the overloaded boat was carrying 180 passengers from Unguwar Dan-ilo in Ngaski local government area to Titin Madalala in Niger State.
Hamza said that local divers were able to rescue 30 adults and two children while 80 bodies of the victims were recovered.
In a reaction to the incident yesterday, Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu commiserated with the families of the victims of the disaster.
Aliyu, in a statement signed by his chief press secretary Danladi Ndayebo, said it was disheartening for such a tragedy to befall the state at a time when the government was grappling with the challenges of improving the lot of the people.
He urged those involved in water transportation to be more careful, especially during the rainy season when water level is usually high.
Aliyu said the state's Emergency Management Agency had deployed its officials to the scene of the mishap to ascertain the extent of losses incurred with a view to compensating the families of the victims.
The gunmen who invaded the Kaduna community in the early hours of yesterday injured several people and burnt down the victims' houses.
A resident of the area, Mr Enoch Adong, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that many villagers were missing. According to him, the gunmen launched the attack in two phases: through the hill side, and the eastern part of the community.
He further said, "They surrounded the community and started shooting. They placed the village under siege and used both knives and guns to kill the residents."
Adong said the shooting lasted between 6am and 8am, adding that some of the injured had been taken to the hospital.
The residents gave the names of the 15 people killed as Christopher Bakwap, Benjamen Ganda, Ladi Madugu, Adam Yakubu, Julius Barnabas, Garba Kushuwah, Martha Musa, Michael Aboi, Gaje Lufuwai, Kefas Yusfu, Dauda Yusu, Joshua Bikau, Andrew Bikai, Sheying Immanuel and Gideon Adamu.
Another villager, Isuwa Jiga, who escaped from the scene, said a majority of the victims were youths who were on their way to the farm.
He said that over 1,000 victims of the attacks had fled their homes and were taking refuge in neighbouring villages.
The council chairman, Mr Kumai Badu, who confirmed the attacks, described them as barbaric. He said the attackers killed 15 people and injured several others.
The spokesman of the state police command, DSP Aminu Lawan, who confirmed the incident, put the casualty level at 11.
"It is true that Zankang was attacked this morning (yesterday). The number of those killed is 11. Our men are already there. You know that place is hilly and bushy. But they are combing the hills, and we are expecting them to come out with some result," he said.
Meanwhile, over 2,000 people from Nimbia communities along Kaduna and Plateau states' border in Jema'a local government area have fled their homes following the shooting and burning of houses by gunmen.
"They came to the village and burnt down about 10 houses and took off," a resident told our correspondent.
The council chairman, Mr Dan Amos, appealed to the people to return to their homes, stressing that the state government was committed to rebuilding the damaged homes.