By Chioma Iruke
Jibia, a Local Government Area in Katsina State which is home to approximately 125,000 people, is a border town between Nigeria and Niger Republic.
Despite being the home state of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, Katsina State has been the home of bandit activities and frequent kidnappings. Most residents have now accepted it as part of living, unfortunately, as most stories from this region go under reported or not reported at all.
Heritage Times in this investigation, reveals the struggles of these residents, as well as the roles of security agencies in the saga.
Jibia being a border town, has the presence of major security agencies: Nigeria Custom Service, Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigerian Military and the Nigerian Police. Despite these security agencies, between May 2021 and June 2021, the town has recorded 52 reported kidnappings and about six civilian reported deaths, including that of a photo journalist.
According to findings, despite heavy security presence in this community, the activities of miscreants have not been curbed.
Heritage Times gathered from residents that these miscreants, known mostly as ‘Bush Fulani’ are wielding more influence than the government, as they cause terror and invoke havoc such as cattle rustling, kidnapping, robbery, rape etc.
The powers of these ‘Bush Fulani’ whom locals claim are from Niger republic, begin from dusk and end by dawn, without any hesitation from the Nigerian security.
By 6pm the ever busy Jibia community is a shadow of itself, with heavy silence engulfing the entire area. There is no visible means of transport due to fear of these miscreants.
Their ‘shift’ as it is often called, starts between 5 or 6 in the evening, after all security agencies retreat to their base/barracks, leaving residents to scout for themselves. Residents who spoke with Heritage Times, stated that the name given to these miscreants was because these breed of Fulanis live in the bush, and only come out in the evening when scouting for their next victim to pounce on; hence the name ‘Bush Fulani’.
Security agencies, it was learnt don’t bother opposing these Niger Fulanis, due to lack of equipment, and out of fear for their own lives, as they have mostly been on the losing side. According to reports, the security personnel work from 8am till 5pm, when they quickly retire.
A health worker from Port Health Services (PHS), resident in Jibia, told Heritage Times that the situation had rash effects on health services in the community, as even when help is being sought by an ‘escapee’ little or no help is rendered, due to fear of being tracked by these particular breed of Fulanis.
“Yes, the situation is really bad. There was a time a man was kidnapped. Surprisingly they lost him which was unusual. But I guess because of his state they might have had pity on him. Well, he escaped and got into a neighboring village. That is after trekking over an hour to get there. To cut the long story shor,t a bike man helped him move from that town to where he got safety. Unfortunately, the bike man was tracked and beaten to stupor, more like he was left for dead.”
According to our source, when kidnappings happen, the men are often beaten and tied up because they are seen as threats. While the women are taken unhurt (if lucky) and sometimes raped (if unlucky)
“They tie the men up so that they won’t fight. Women, they feel cannot fight,” the source added.
Another residence, Abubakar, who has been a victim of these ‘Bush Fulanis’ disclosed that his wife was kidnapped some months ago. According to him, a N20m ransom was demanded by the kidnappers in exchange for her freedom.
“My wife was on bike coming home in the evening. She was returning from a journey from a neighboring town when it happened. You know our major means of transport here is Okada (motorcycle).
“I’m a social worker and I don’t even have a steady job. Most of the jobs I do here is volunteering. When this happened, I began to cry because I don’t even know where to get the money from. I called my family immediately for help and they themselves were complaining about the money being asked for. So I went to the police. To my surprise they asked me to negotiate as there was nothing they could do.
“That was how we began negotiating and we arrived at N5m. Even the five million was taking forever to raise.”
Although, Abubakar’s wife has been released, he refused to disclose if the ransom was paid or if another compromise was reached. What he did disclose, was that his wife was moved to another part of the state over safety concerns.
Both residents affirmed that these ‘bush Fulanis’ work with the locals, as well as security agents who supply them with information and weapons respectively.
Heritage Times gathered that it might be difficult to actually differentiate between these ‘bush Fulanis’ and the Nigerian Fulanis who engage in cattle rearing, thus with the presence of the Niger counterpart, the profiling of the entire tribe is bound to continue.