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Telecoms shutdown worsening security situation, Katsina residents communities say

The residents of Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State have lamented continuing attacks by bandits despite the military operations and other measures taken by the state government.

This is coming even as government officials and security agents say the measures have been yielding the desired results.

Individuals and groups, especially from Faskari local government, have been complaining of “silent killings” in their villages.

Bandits have been operating in most of the North-west states for over a decade but the situation got worse in the past few years. Banditry is the code name in the region for organised crimes like kidnapping, cattle rustling, mass abduction, arson and even armed robbery.

Following the increase in the number of attacks, governors of North-west states imposed certain security measures.

In Katsina, Governor Aminu Masari closed two major roads – Jibia to Gurbin Baure and Kankara to Sheme – to traffic. Commercial vehicles were advised to take Funtua road but private vehicles can still ply the Kankara-Sheme road.

The governor also banned cattle markets in 14 towns. These are Jibia, Batsari, Safana, Danmusa, Kankara, Malumfashi, Charanci, Mai adua, Kafur, Faskari, Sabuwa, Baure, Dutsin Ma and Kaita.

He also banned the movement of cattle in trucks and of firewood from the bush. The governor also prohibited more than two people from riding on a motorcycle and more than three in a tricycle, and the sale of petroleum in jerry cans. A popular second-hand motorcycles market in Charanci was also suspended.

To cut fuel supply to the bandits who ride in convoys of motorcycles to attack communities, the governor said only two designated fuel stations can now sell fuel, and of not more than N5,000 to a person, in the local government areas most affected by the crisis.

Few weeks later, mobile telecommunications were cut in 13 local government areas considered to be vulnerable to attacks.

The Special Adviser to Mr. Masari on security matters, Ibrahim Katsina, told PREMIUM TIMES that the measures were taken to disrupt the bandits’ communication network.

In a statement sent to the office of the state governor, a community group, Daudawa Area Council Unity Development Association, said the measures have so far affected the ordinary people more than the bandits.

Commenting on the letter, Hassan Usman, the association’s chairman, said bandits now attack with impunity, knowing that residents have no means of informing security agents of impending attacks.

“We are witnessing the worst form of insecurity now because the bandits can organise teams to launch attack with impunity and because we have no means of communicating with the outside world, we can’t even seek more security personnel,” Mr Usman said.

Though he commended the security agents working in the area, Mr Usman said they also face the challenge of not being able to call for reinforcement.

“Their (security agents) attempts to repel attacks always fail because of the communication error which makes things difficult,” he said.

Locals told reporters that recent attacks on Daudawa and Yan Nasarawa (all in Faskari Local Government Area) forced many residents to flee from their communities in large numbers.

In Daudawa, they killed nine people and kidnapped several others. Shops and houses were looted and later burnt.

The following morning on October 4, bandits raided Yan Nasarawa and abducted several women. But locals like Auwal Hassan Nasarawa said the attack was more of foodstuffs scavenging.

“They came looking for food. Almost all the houses and shops they attacked, they took away any food item they saw.”

Lawal Ibrahim, also from Daudawa, asked the state government to relax the mobile network shutdown so that people can report any attack.

“When they attacked Daudawa on Sunday, they even said their next target was Unguwar Samanja, which is also not far from us here. We want the network to be opened so that security agents can be sent to the town and other vulnerable ones,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

Abu Dan Malam said when the decisions were taken by the state government, people welcomed it because “we thought they would do the needful.”

“What is the purpose of shutting down the network when you are not taking the fight to the bandits’ camps? They (security agents) still wait for them to come so that they could repel them. We need the state government to act accordingly,” Mr Malam pleaded.

In an interview, Mr Katsina, the Special Adviser to Mr Masari on security matters, said the state government did not impose the measures to strangulate its people.

He added that the impact was being studied and the next line of action would be decided by the findings of the state government.

“We are assessing the situation to know where we have made an impact and where we have shortcomings in order to know areas of improvement. All we want the general public to know is that we didn’t impose the decisions to make life difficult for them, rather to ensure the protection of life and properties. We need cooperation and understanding from the public.

“The decisions were taken because we must take all the necessary measures to address the insecurity,” Mr Katsina said.

The police spokesperson in the state, Gambo Isa, said security agents have
“recorded huge success” in the fight against insecurity following the shutdown of mobile networks in some areas.

He said the killings in Daudawa and Yasore communities were revenge attacks by the bandits.