For many villagers in Isa Local Government Area of Sokoto State, it was horrific and traumatic dwelling in localities beset by frequent ruthless attacks by bandits.
The men of the underworld were noted to have perpetuated their nefarious activities across the local government area. The Isa-Sokoto road was very much dreaded, forcing many commuters to use the much longer but safer route Sokoto- Goronyo- Sabon Birnin road. “Our people could not go to farms or market to transact business for fear of being attack by the bandits. Life in the area was at a standstill, people where living in fear, especially at night,” recalled Sarkin Kudun Karamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Usman, village head of Kamarawa, one of the villages in Isa. He confirmed that a greater percentage of the villagers had to relocate to Shinkafi in Zamfara State and other neighbouring villages for their safety. “Kamarawa was almost deserted by its inhabitants,” he stated. “It was hell living with the bandits as they didn’t spare anyone and they came to us at will. I was also a victim of their criminal activities when they came to my house one night and took away my cattle and donkey. One of the cows refused to be dragged away so they inflicted injury on its mouth with a sharp object, dumped it and went away,” here collected.
It was therefore to the overwhelming relief of the locals when bandits laid down their arms. When in January this year, retired Col. Garba Moyi disclosed that 27 bandits had pledged to renounce their criminal activities in Isa Local Government Area of Sokoto State, many were sceptical. However, few weeks later, the police commissioner in Sokoto, Mohammed Abdulkadir, confirmed that the repentant bandits had surrendered 40 arms which included AK-47 rifles, pump action guns and pistols, among others. In a bid to assist the repentant bandits to be productive and re-integrate fast into the society, the state government set up amnesty committee for the council.
The local government chairman revealed that under the amnesty programme, 67 penitent bandits had surrendered their arms in the locality. According to the chairman, the initial 55 of them who surrendered their arms had been rewarded with cash, plots of land and farmlands, totalling N30.5million. Those who surrendered sophisticated weapons, such as AK 47, SMG rifles and G3 rifles, among others, were given N500,000 while those who submitted locally fabricated arms received between N100,000 and N200,000. Each of them was also given an assistance of between N 100,000 to N 200,000, to restart life.
The council boss said that the amnesty programme had enhanced peace and security in the area. “The repentant bandits were hitherto involved in kidnapping, cattle rustling and armed robberies, among other crimes. They are now assisting the various security personnel with surveillance and intelligence gathering.”He was full of appreciation to Governor Aminu Tambuwal for initiating the amnesty programme and effectively funding it.One of leaders of those who gave up their arms, 64-year-old Ibrahim, alias Hanazuwa, told Daily Trust on Sunday that he was into banditry to avenge the killings and stealing of cattle by vigilante groups and locals in the southern, north central and eastern parts of Nigeria.“Those people killed all our people, stole their cattle as well as made their children orphans and their wives widows.
The situation compelled us to also take weapons and do to others what they have done to our people,” he revealed. He added: “This banditry is a spill-over of what you hear is happening is some parts of Nigeria. We had to take arms which we bought with what we got from the sale of our cows. We can afford both locally-made and sophisticated arms which we use to harass people and take away their cattle.”What made them penitent and lay down their arms? For Ibrahim: “I was moved by the sermon we received from clerics and counselling from experts, which made me to embrace the state government’s amnesty programme with all my heart.” “I now want to end my life well as a good Muslim to meet Allah in a decent manner and get His forgiveness.”Ibrahim expressed resolve to support the amnesty programme to achieve success. He, however, advised government to honour all pledges made to the second batch of those who have repented and surrendered their arms.Another ex-bandit who gave up his arm, Muhammad Tukur, 40, only re-echoed Ibrahim’s call on government to ensure other repentant bandits are given what had been promised them.This, he said, would go a long way in giving confidence in the amnesty programme.
Sarkin Kudun Karamawa, Alhaji Aliyu Usman, spoke on some events that led to the surrendering of arms by some of the former bandits. He recalled: “At the peak of the bandits’ activities, the late Sarkin Gabas of Gebe was consulted for his advice on how to curb the menace of banditry in the area. He invited the then Isa Local Government sole administrator who visited the area and promised to do something but was slow in action. “Because the situation was getting out of hand, I volunteered and went to Sokoto to the member representing this area at the State House of Assembly, Hon Habibu Halilu Modachi and to Chairman Sokoto State APC Alhaji Usman Dan Madamin Isa who is the son of the soil. ”Usman noted that it was during that time that the father of one of the leaders of the armed bandits in Kagara village, Yano, came to him and declaredthe son’s intention to surrender his weapons and take to the right path.“Yano came to my house one night and declared the same message he sent to me through his father. He requested that my son should accompany him to a destination and together they went to a place in the forest where they met a group of bandits holding a meeting. The area is close to Bangi town in Niger Republic.They discussed issues concerning their intention to surrender.
After the encounter, two of the armed bandits came to me here at Karamawa and declared their intention to quit armed banditry,” he narrated. The Sarkin Kudun Karamawa said after their visit, he went to Wakili of Gebe village who insisted that they inform the council chairman about the development. “The chairman was informed and a date was set aside for their formal declaration to surrender their weapons in public,” he revealed.
The village head harped on the need for people not stigmatize the repentant bandits and urged communities to ensure peaceful coexistence. He commended the state and local governments for their roles in the matter in tackling the menace of banditry. Some of the commercial drivers who ply the Sokoto-Isa road daily were gleeful over the restoration of normalcy in the area.Muhammadu Bako, 50, a commercial driver, said it was almost an every hour affair for the bandits to launch their attacks. “They attacked innocent people driving to or fromIsa in the morning, afternoon or night. Even when your vehicle develops a problem, you have to manage it and continue going till you reach a safeplace before you park and examine it.
That was the situation,” he stated.He recalled: “We enjoyed a temporary peace threeyears ago when a concerned business man in thearea donated three bulletproof vehicles which patrolled the area. The bulletproof vehicles scared away the bandits. It led to the killing of one of their leaders sometime back. After the vehicles developed problems the bandits resumed their activities because the security wasrelaxed. Now that the bandits have decided to surrender their arms, there is no much problem on the roads even as villagers and communities along the road are contributing to maintaining thepeace. ”Sani Attahiru, 55, who spent 15 years plying the road from Isa to Sokoto, said he was a victim of the bandits’ assaults.“They attacked my vehicle on two different occasions while I was conveying some passengers, and twice gave me a sound beating. Now I can travel to Sokoto peacefully and at any time of the day. I can pick a load to Sokoto even at 12 midnight,” he stated cheerfully.
Attahiru applauded the efforts of the local government Chairman and the state government towards ensuring security in the area.The driver called for sustained efforts at ensuringpeace and order on the road and in the communities.