Magaji Aminu sat in the middle of a small gathering. He is the head of Barawa, a village in Batagarawa Local Government Area of Katsina State. A few hours earlier, residents of the community had concluded the grim ritual of burying four persons killed the previous night in the village by marauding bandits.
“I am short of words,” he said, his eyes looking down, away from this reporter. “I had never seen anything like this. They killed four of our people. Compared to other villages, I would say we are lucky but the trauma will remain with us forever. The gunshots, gunshots and cries of women and children that I heard yesterday will remain fresh in my memory.”
Mr Aminu did not lose any member of his household. But he is the leader of the village, so immediately the bandits left, everyone trooped to his house to mourn.
“Even those who ran into the bush returned and came here because this is everyone’s house. They trust me, they rely on me but what can I do?” his teary voice cracked as he lamented.
Barawa came under bandits’ attack on Sunday night, which went on for more than three hours, according to the residents.
Though under Batagarawa LGA, the village is on the road leading to Batsari local government, the hotbed of bandits’ activities in Katsina State. It is a 10 kilometres drive from the state capital, Katsina and a few kilometres from the Katsina office of AIT/ Raypower, the Federal Radio Corporation and Companion FM.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps Training School in the state is also on the same road, situated six kilometres to the village.
The village head, Magaji Aminu, surrounded by mourners. Pic: Mohammed Babangida
How it happened
The people of the community told this reporter that the bandits were over 100 and did not come on motorcycles.
They arrived at the village around 9:45 p.m.
Curiously, the residents told PREMIUM TIMES that they foresaw the attack but had not thought it would be soon.
Abdulkadir Barawa, who escaped into the bush when the bandits arrived, said they were even informed of the impending attack.
“When I heard the gunshots, I was sitting outside my house with some people. I ran inside and told my family members to run. I ran out and went into the bush. Look at my shoes, it was this morning I saw them outside my house. I heard the gunshots and one of the people who died was shot in my presence. In fact, he was running behind me when the bullet hit him,” Mr Barawa said.
That was the first time the bandits visited the village. A vigilante member, who asked for his name to be hidden, said he was surprised because they had never attacked the community.
“Immediately I heard the gunshots, I knew they had penetrated deep into the village. My initial reaction was to confront them, but I was alone. I ran home and hid my gun under the bed and was running out when they reached me,” he said.
He said his life was spared because he denied being a vigilante after one of the attackers had identified him.
“The bandit who held me by the shirt shouted, ‘Sergeant, this guy is a vigilante member. I know him’. When the one they called sergeant came, he asked if I am a vigilante member and I said no.”
According to him, the bandits asked him the same question several times before they believed that he was not a member of the vigilante.
“But they said I should give them money to bail myself. I took them to my house and gave them all I had and some foodstuff in the house after which they asked me to run for my life.”
‘I thought it was the end’
Rabiu Mamman and his friend, name withheld, were coming back into the village on their motorcycles that night when the bandits sprayed bullets on them.
“I thought it was the end,” Mr Mamman, who is on admission at the Federal Medical Center, Katsina told PREMIUM TIMES. “I was riding the motorcycle when we started hearing gunshots from every angle. It was too late because I only woke up to see myself here.”
While Mr Mamman, 27, was nursing his wounds, his friend was at the theatre room when this reporter visited the hospital.
‘This is our town, we are going nowhere’
Halilu Musa, 65, broke down in tears when PREMIUM TIMES asked him for comment.
“What do you want me to say? We have been telling the government that we need to be protected but they would not listen to us. It is after the attack that they would come and be begging us to take it as a trial of faith,” he said.
He said despite the pressure from the bandits, he would not leave the place. “This is our town,” he said defiantly.
When this reporter visited the house of one of those killed, the family members refused to talk.
Ibrahim Barawa, who said he was the elder brother of the victim, said they had alerted the police before the attack.
“We were informed by members of a neighbouring community (name hidden) and we reached out to some policemen but it was too late for us to even start leaving our houses. If they (police) wanted to come, they would have done that before the bandits left. They spent more than three hours shooting.”
We are providing succour – Katsina government
Commenting on the attack, Sani Danlami, the state’s Commissioner of Sports and Social Development, said the state government was supporting victims of attacks.
“Not only in Barawa, residents of Gwarjo in Matazu local government and those from Batsari Local Government Area are also part of those benefiting from the relief materials. We have provided N50,000 to each of those wounded in all the communities.
“Today (Monday 22) I went to the village and handed them the relief materials and the money. Security agents would be supported to avert attacks while we’ll continue to provide succour to them.”