It has proved difficult to establish exactly how many people were killed in recent bandit attacks in Shiroro Local Government of Niger State. The state's Emergency Management Agency [NSEMA] put casualty figures from the previous Sunday's bandit attacks on Kwaki, Ajatayi, Gwassa, Barden Dawaki and Gyammamiya communities at 47. Twelve people had earlier been reported killed but NSEMA's Head of Relief and Rehabilitation, Salihu Garba, said 47 corpses had been recovered.
Garba said, "As we speak, 47 bodies were recovered and buried. Nineteen were from Kwaki including that of Sarkin Pawa who was shot and later died." He said Kwaki might have recorded the highest number of casualties because it was the first community to be attacked. He said out of 2,000 people displaced, 500 were sheltered in a temporary camp put up by the agency at Erena while others were at Galadiman-Kogo, Zubba, Kodobi and other communities. Garba also said those injured were receiving treatment at hospitals at Erena and Kuta; while those with severe injuries were referred to secondary and tertiary hospitals.
Earlier report said the attackers invaded Ajatayi, Gwassa, and Barden Dawaki communities after laying siege on Gyammamiya and Alewa communities for four days. The bandits also rustled 525 cattle heads. In contrast, the former Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, David Umaru, said, "I am very sad about the continued invasion of our communities and the waste of innocent lives with impunity while security agencies appeared to be overwhelmed." He urged the deployment of more security personnel to the areas and appealed to the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] and its state counterpart to respond promptly. At the weekend however, the state's Permanent Secretary [Cabinet and Security] Aliyu Isah Ekan said only 12 people were killed. On his part, state police command spokesman Abubakar Dan-Ina confirmed the attacks but gave even lower figures of those killed and injured. He said police are trailing the perpetrators and will soon arrest them. Shiroro's police DPO had led his men to the area, Dan-Ina said.
It would be recalled that similar attacks occurred in other parts of Niger State in February this year when bandits struck communities around Kagara and Pandogari. They kidnapped some members of the communities. The bandits also carted away farm produce, motorcycles and money. As a result of these earlier attacks, NEMA's office in Niger State recently distributed relief items to victims in Kagara and Pandogari communities of Rafi Local Government Area. NEMA Head of Operations of NEMA in Minna, Mrs. Lydia Wagami, said while distributing the relief items that the food and non-food relief items were donated by the federal government to cushion the effects of the attacks.
Niger is one of the five states that share borders with Kamuku forest, which for long became the hub of armed bandits that terrorize parts of northwest and north-central regions. Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Kebbi states also share borders with the forest. At a point, governors of these five states met to find a common solution to the scourge. Their meeting, which was attended by heads of security agencies in the five states, brainstormed on how to halt banditry, cattle rustling and loss of property in the region. However, this regional synergy among the five states appears to have failed; a factor that possibly explains the bandits' continued rampage in this part of the country.
It would seem hard to believe that the military and other security agencies have been overwhelmed by bandits' activities because banditry, though cruel and perilous, isn't as challenging as insurgency, in terms of weaponry. With reasonable budgetary allocations in recent years, the lack of or overstretch of existing equipment shouldn't be part of the problems militating against the military. Insufficient personnel though could be a major challenge. We urge the military and other security agencies to review their intelligence and tactical operations not only to halt banditry and other violent crimes but to also function efficiently to meet rising security challenges in the country.