Many Nigerians residing in Katsina State have fled to neighbouring Niger Republic to escape persistent attacks by kidnappers and bandits, Daily Trust on Sunday has learnt.
In addition to evacuating their family members, the Nigerians are also acquiring plots and building houses in Niger Republic’s towns of Maradi and Dan Issa.
This is even as some of them have obtained residence permit, allowing them to stay in the West African country.
Activities of kidnappers heightened recently in Katsina State, with many residents falling victims or being forced to pay large sums of money to secure the release of loved ones.
In December 2018, the state Governor, Aminu Masari, raised alarm that the state was under the siege of kidnappers.
Katsina’s neighbour, Zamfara State, has seen a spike in kidnapping and banditry over the years, with hundreds of lives lost in 2018 alone.
Most of the residents fleeing Katsina State are from Jibia Local Government Area, a community sitting on the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic.
A visit to Jibia and Magama, border towns, by our correspondent showed that most of those who moved to Niger spent the day running businesses in Katsina and only returned to Maradi or Dan Issa to pass the night. All their businesses and social life are based in Nigeria, but their new homes are in Niger.
Some of those interviewed attributed their reasons to the relative safety in the neighbouring country.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that more than 25 Nigerian millionaires have moved to Niger. Some live in rented houses while others have built their own houses. Some of the rich men received threats before deciding to relocate.
It was also gathered that individuals in Jibia frequently changed phone numbers as a result of constant harassment from suspected criminals threatening their lives.
Although people were scared to discuss insecurity issues in the towns “for fear of informants” exposing them, the few that agreed to talk to Daily Trust on Sunday on condition of anonymity said more people would relocate to Niger for safety if the security situation did not improve.
A wealthy individual who also sought anonymity said, “I can tell you about 25 of us are presently living in Niger Republic.
“I, for example, have been there since a botched attack on my resident. This is my fifth year in Niger; I’m there with my 11 children.
“I was renting a house for three million CFA for three years, and decided it will not be wise to continue that way, so I decided to buy my own house, which I’m presently residing in.
“Now I have gotten a resident permit, a national identity card, and all entitlements of my landed property, and my children attend school in Niger,” he said.
He showed Daily Trust on Sunday a scar on his head which he said was from a cutlass wound he got from an attack on his home in Jibia.
“Every day I come to Jibia and attend to friends and businesses at my friend’s stall. I can only return home when things normalise. Even yesterday, we coughed out N500,000 to secure the release of one of our sons. He had been in captivity for 30 days,” he said.
He added that they relocated to Niger out of necessity because “we only have one life to live.”
Most of the villagers of Fafara, Shinfida, Tsambe and Gurbi, all of Jibia Local Government Area, sleep in neighbouring Nigerien villages of Bimma and Gabi, even though the villages on the other side of the border are not better off in terms of development, but for their peace, Daily Trust on Sunday was told.
A resident of Fafara village in Jibia said bandits had constituted themselves into the law in the area.
“They determine what happens and when it happens,” he said.
“Over 30 men from our village pass the night in villages of border towns (in Niger Republic), they only appear in the morning to go to their farms and the (our) village,” he said.
Another resident who simply gave his name as Ya’u, said in Decmber, 2018, in Tsambe village, 11 people were kidnapped, adding that “at present, the village is trying to raise N2.5m to appease the bandits not to raid the village again.
“Our members are running away to towns in Jibia and Niger Republic,” he said
Daily Trust on Sunday was given the names of six wealthy individuals in Jibia who relocated to Maradi and Dan Issa in Niger Republic. (We are not mentioning the names here for their safety.)
The men fled Katsina after receiving threats to their lives.
“Some have moved with their families and rented accommodation and others have acquired their own houses,” a resident said.
“These men are either living at Zarya I, II or III or Ali Dan Tsoho areas of Maradi town. These areas are mostly inhabited and owned by Nigerians and other foreigners,” he added.
Those who cannot afford to live in the big towns in Maradi and Dan Issa are putting up in villages across the border. Other villages hosting Nigerians are Gabi, Yan Kingasau, Dubura and Bimma.
Confirming the relocation of Jibia residents to Niger Republic, the District Head of Jibia and Sarkin Arewa of Katsina, Alhaji Rabe Rabi’u, said the activities of bandits and kidnappers had paralysed economic activities in the area.
Alhaji Rabi’u said people were no longer free to operate for fear of the criminals, adding that “the once blossoming economy of the town is now under threat.”
However, he said all hope was not lost going by the effort of government towards addressing the situation.
He, therefore, advised residents to support and cooperate with the authorities towards finding lasting solutions to the problem.
When contacted, the spokesman of the Katsina State Police Command, SP Gambo Isah, allayed fears of the residents, saying the police and other security agencies had renewed and reinvigorated their operations to address the activities of the miscreants.
“We are collaborating with the army and civil defence and there is also another reinforcement of troops for the Sharan Daji operation. We are very much committed to addressing the issues of kidnapping and banditry.
“Very soon we are going to deal with all those criminal elements, there should be no panic on the part of the citizenry,” he assured.
Culled from Daily Trust