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Regional News of Sunday, 11 December 2022


10 people killed as gunmen sack communities around Bauchi’s oil-producing areas

The photo used to illustrate the story The photo used to illustrate the story

Suspected terrorist groups wielding sophisticated weapons are terrorising residents of communities around the newly discovered oil field in the Alkaleri Local Government of Bauchi State.

Local authorities told PREMIUM TIMES that at least 10 people were killed, and residents are being kidnapped daily as others flee villages in the area in droves due to fear for their safety.

Sa’adu Jibrin, a councillor for Maimadi ward – one of the terrorised communities told our reporter that the gunmen are carrying out attacks in the area unchallenged.

“The kidnapping for ransom is now rampant. In less than 20 days about 30 people were kidnapped, and the least ransom paid was N2 million. They killed at least ten people within a few weeks.

“The area is now blessed with oil which will attract more people for investment, but that can only happen if the place is secure. The gunmen went to the oil drilling site and kidnapped a household leader whose residence is less than a kilometre from where President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the oil drilling. The kidnap happened after the president’s visit. Two people were kidnapped in the very location.

“At Mai -Arin Kudu community, they killed one person and kidnapped his wife. At Zadawa, they killed a youth leader, we just returned from Gombe, and they fired at him up to seven times, after killing him, they went away with his mother and elder sister. In Mai-Arin Aware community, they killed a father and went away with their son. In the Garfatu community, they killed a vigilante leader and kidnapped his daughter,” he said.

“Residents are fleeing daily for safety. The complaints we do receive from the locals are their concerns about how to address the situation. Many have attributed the upsurge in the attacks to the newly discovered oil in the areas but that might not be so,” Mr Jibrin said.

He said the Alkaleri Local Government shares a boundary with Yankari Game Reserve, perhaps Nigeria’s most popular game reserve. He said the gunmen have hideouts in the forest.

“The gunmen are strangers in the area, they are using local informants in our communities to carry out the kidnap activities, he added.

Over a thousand households fleeThe area has three districts which consist of Pali, Gwana, and Duguri each with district heads under the Alkaleri local government area.

The oil field is located in the Pali district. Residents of the area are fleeing to Alkaleri town, the local council headquarters, and others are fleeing to Misau local government area and neighbouring Gombe State.

At least over a thousand households have fled the districts for fear of being attacked by the gunmen said a traditional leader who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

He identified the affected communities in Pali district as Jada, Mai Arin-Kudu, Dani, Kufa, Bubu, Papa, Kuturun Kuka, Tudun Wadan Jada, Zadawa and Bambu.

He said other towns are Gachiri, Maimadi, Shugu, Garfatu, Mai Arin-Arewa, Dakai, Maso Kano, Kwanan Kuka, Yola, and Bakin Ruwa.

In the Gwana district, the traditional leader identified some of the affected communities as Mansur, Baladde, Magasa, Gurabayi, Diji

Bunga, Gwanan Dutse, Sabon gari, Garin, Bagobiri, Garin Bano, Jamari, Garin Juba.

He said others are Kwal Kwal, Sankali, Alkali Sule, Kargo, Digare, Gobirawa and Yalo.

Meanwhile, the traditional leader lamented that residents fleeing for safety are being exploited by the security agencies manning checkpoints.

He said residents fleeing to neighbouring Gombe State pass through at least ten security checkpoints, in Futuk town alone, he said there are three checkpoints and the least people are paying is N10,000 per vehicle.

It’s a terrible situation – LawmakerMeanwhile, the member representing the Alkaleri/Kirfi Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Musa Mohammed, described the situation as terrible.

He, however, said efforts are being made to address the situation.

Mr Muhammad said as a lawmaker, he has reported to the executive arm of the government for possible solutions.

“We have been discussing the issue at the House. The issue of insecurity in the areas is reoccurring for a long time. The criminals are retiring to my constituency, whenever the security forces dealt with them in Plateau communities, they return to the Gwana district as hideouts.

“The issue can be addressed when the security forces simultaneously confront the issues from all the adjoining communities from Plateau and Bauchi states.

“The issue has been on since before the inauguration of the drilling of oil in the area. Whenever we witness the escalation of attacks in our areas, that was due to pressure from the security forces in the Wase area of Plateau State.

“Security operations are supposed to be simultaneously carried out from Plateau and Bauchi states. We the authorities have to push it because the situation is terrible,” the lawmaker told PREMIUM TIMES.

The lawmaker called for improved security in the Bauchi axis to check the influx of gunmen from neighbouring states.

Police rescue kidnapped victimsThe police spokesperson in Bauchi, Muhammed Wakil, could not be reached for comments on the growing insecurity in the area. But on Thursday Mr Wakil, in a statement to reporters confirmed the rescue of kidnapped victims in the areas.

The police said on 7 December, suspected kidnappers stormed Gurtum village in Pali district in the Alkaleri local government area and abducted three persons from Gurtum village to an unknown destination during the midnight raid.

“Consequently, a team of Policemen and other local vigilantes led by the Divisional Police Officer, Maina-Maji Division, swiftly mobilised in a coordinated operation.

“On reaching the scene, the kidnappers opened fire on sighting the operatives. While returning fire, the kidnappers were subdued as a result of sustained gunfire from the operatives, which forced the kidnappers to scamper away with possible gunshots (wounds) and abandoned their victims.

“The operation was successful, as all the victims were rescued unhurt and reunited with their family members. The victims were identified as Hafsatu Sa’idu, 35, Adama Sule, 28, Maryam Sa’idu, 14, all of Gurtum Village Pali District Alkaleri LGA, Bauchi State,” the police statement said.

The oil locationThe Alkaleri council shares a border with Gombe, Taraba and Plateau states and the border areas are difficult terrains because of the rocky hills which makes it easy for criminals to hide and carry out attacks at will.

Last month, President Buhari flagged off the first crude oil drilling project in Alkaleri.

The NNPC had in October 2019 announced the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the Kolmani River II Well on the Upper Benue Trough, Gongola Basin, in the northeastern part of the country.

The commercial quantity discovery was the first in the region after several crude oil explorations in the Upper Benue Trough.

The oilfield will be developed by Sterling Global Oil, New Nigeria Development Commission (NNDC) and NNPC Ltd.

The discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities in the Gongola Basin, according to NNPC, will attract foreign investment, generate employment for people to earn income and increase government revenues.