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Niger IDPs abandoned on the streets after surviving bandits’ attack

Niger IDPs abandoned on the streets after surviving bandits’ attack
April 08
11:16 2021

One week after bandits attacked Allawa, a community in Shiroro LGA of Niger, residents have been stranded in Pandogari, a town in Rafi LGA, with little intervention from the state government.

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“They attacked us at night, disrupted our sleep with terrifying gunshots, we ran for our lives,” Khadija Yusuf recounted amid sobs.

“Some of us ran to the hill, some hid in the bush, some of us ran in confusion to death, children cried helplessly and many were carted away by the brutal bandits. The pregnant women among us, old and young women ran nonstop.

“How we reached Pandogari is still shocking to all of us.”

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The bandits wreaked havoc on Allawa from Wednesday to Saturday, forcing hundreds of people from the community to take refuge in the streets of Pandogari — a town with no internally displaced persons (IDP) camp.

Khadija, 42, and her six children have been living at the mercy of helpers as they fled their community without taking any valuables with them. Khadija said she struggles to feed her children and that it’s hard to afford sachet water.

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“We have been left to suffer here, we can’t even afford to buy a sachet of water, tell them to help us,” she said.

Khadija said she suspects they were attacked because of the refusal of the community to succumb to the bandit’s request of paying ransom for protection.

ALLAWA RESIDENTS ON THE STREETS OF PANDOGARI

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Umar Abdullahi, a teacher, has lived in Allawa for more than 30 years. He said all the schools in the community have been shut down as a result of the attacks.

“The kind of gunshot I heard that day, I have not heard before, it was like in the movie,” he said.

Ibrahim Mohammed(not real name) is a tea and bread seller in Allawa. He told TheCable that the community is currently “empty” after the attacks.

He said the residents who hid in the bush and hills had to join the rest of the escapees in Pandogari when the attack persisted till the next day.

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“Most of us did not leave the town immediately, a considerable number of residents started to leave when the army commandant from Minna arrived the town, took away the corpses of the six murdered soldiers, and ordered the rest into the vehicle,” he said.

“We thought the commandant had come to support and encourage the soldiers, we were shocked when he took them away, leaving the community with no security.”

Following the withdrawal of the troops, the residents were forced to flee to communities like Gwada, Kuta, Minna, and Pandogari where they considered to be safe.

Commenting on the withdrawal of the security agents, Abubakar Sani-Bello, governor of Niger, had said they only retreated to restrategise.

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‘BANDITRY IN ALLAWA SINCE 2015’

Banditry in Allawa community reportedly started in 2015, around the same time other areas — Bassa, Lakpa, and Erena — came under frequent attacks.

“Since then, bandits have continued to invade our town, killing, kidnapping, and destroying houses and farmlands,” Mohammed said.

He said out of the 15 wards in Shiroro, “eight are now at the mercy of the bandits”.

Niger state has recorded displacement in many of its 25 LGAs, following attacks by bandits. In the northern states where banditry is rampant, the mode of attack is similar. The bandits often invade villages while on motorcycles, vandalising properties, personal valuables, setting farmlands, houses, and shops ablaze, all while shooting sporadically in the air.

Mohammed said that recently, bandits attack only communities that have not “settled them” with the demanded ransom of “up to N3million”.

“Allawa people could not raise the demanded ransom, even though we wanted to, our district head disallowed it,” he said.

COMMUNITY LEADERS TAKE ACTION

Jibrin Allawa, president of Lakpa youth assembly, said it is disheartening that no government official has intervened since the attacks started.

He said Allawa and Bassa communities are currently vulnerable, adding that should their plight be left unattended, they would “mobilise” displaced their kinsmen to occupy and take shelter in government’s facilities in Minna, Niger state capital.

“Until our plights are addressed, we would boycott all civil responsibilities of the state,” Jibrin said.

While calling on the government to provide relief materials to the stranded and displaced persons on the streets of Pandogari, he said the establishment and reinforcement of joint security task force in Kushaka, Manta, Kurebe, Galkogo, and Kwaki villages in the Lakpa axis will make it easy for the villagers to return home.

WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SAYS

Noel-Berje

Mary Noel-Berje, chief press secretary to Niger governor, told TheCable that the government is focused on securing the village, and not the provision of an IDP camp.

“What they need more is security and it is better they are secured than provide a camp that these people (bandits) can still run to, that will attract much more attention,” she said.

Noel-Berje said she had spoken with Ibrahim Inga, director-general, Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), who said the agency is working on “modalities” to help the displaced persons.

Berje added that NSEMA is working to ensure they are taken off the streets.

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