West Africa: Our Lives in Niger Republic – Nigerians Fleeing Bandits

Many locals from some villages in Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto State that were attacked by bandits had to flee the country to neighbouring Niger Republic to escape further attacks. Hundreds were noted to have been displaced by last month’s bandit attacks on some villages of Sabon Birni, while several others took refuge at Gatawa Town of Sokoto and others decided to make a gateway from their homeland to Niger Republic.

After arriving Gidan Runji in Niger Republic in large numbers, the fleeing villagers dispersed into villages on the border of Nigeria and Niger Republic, where they are living with either relations or Good Samaritans. Our correspondent who was at Gidan Runji met one of the displaced persons; 67-year-old Usman Sarkin Gardi, who fled Nigeria to Niger Republic alongside his four wives and 23 children.

Sakin Gardi, who is from Garje Village in Sokoto, said they abandoned their homes after witnessing the burial of 16 victims of the attacks at a neighbouring village. He said, “The victims were buried in one shallow grave. I was among those who went to assist my neighbours to bury the dead. We were traumatised, we were frightened by what happened to people in other villages where the attacks took place and decided to leave as the bandits could attack us in our village.” Among the villages allegedly hit by the bandits are Dadin Kowa, Rora, Magira, Asha Ban Za, Katsallen Tanko, Katsallen Kafe, Koshin Ruwa, Garin Mallamai and Dama, all in Sabon Birni LGA.

Recounting his experience, Sarkin Gardi said, “When we realised that our people had gone to Gatawa Town in large numbers to seek refuge, we thought it was better to move to Niger Republic to avoid overcrowding the place. We trekked eight kilometres into Niger Republic to safety.

“When we got here, one Ashanti who volunteered to assist me settle down, provided us with accommodation in his house.” On fellow refuge seekers, Gardi said, “Majority of the displaced persons who arrived Gidan Runji are being hosted by their relations or good people in villages on the Niger/Nigeria border. They can only be seen together here when authorities want them to come for one reason or the other; like the last time when an NGO came and wanted to take our statistics,” and added that, “We are living here on charity.” He, however, said, “I have to take some trips often to get grains back home from my silos,” and added that, “I am quite grateful to my host, Ashanti, for taking good care of my family.”

Another displaced person, Ibrahim Usman, who fled to Gidan Runji from Gidan Buzu in Isa LGA of Sokoto, said he got there a month ago with his mother, two wives and four children.

Usman said, “We made several stopovers at villages along the way before reaching Gidan Runji. I am living at one Abara’s and taking some menial jobs like masonry or loading vehicles to survive.” He further said he did not see himself going back to his village, Gidan Buzu, in the near future. Ibrahim, who was in the company of two youths from Gidan Runji, looked relaxed and at home.

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