The Oasis Reporters
January 21, 2019
Transportation business booms every day at Sundown and sunrise as commuters make hurried exits and entries out of Katsina State, especially around Jibia border town, fifty Kilometers from Katsina, capital city of the North Western state in Nigeria. It is the state of origin for Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a State where everyone, from the state governor, Mr. Aminu Masari to the lowest masses wear mournful looks as nobody in the extremely hot state is happy that they cannot sleep at home. Their major problem for not sleeping at home is not rising temperatures. It is the fear of the unknown terrorists.
To survive under the jackboots of Kidnappers who roam around the countryside, grabbing the rich, the poor, children and the elderly for ransom, citizens flee their homes to sleep in the poorer but more secure neighboring Republic of Niger, where the official language is French, but every one speaks Hausa, common language amongst the two countries of Niger Republic and Nigeria.
What the affluent in Katsina state do nowadays is to buy land and build homes, ensure that they obtain Resident Permits which is easy because the people of Niger Republic share a common ancestry with much of the Hausa and Fulani speaking northern parts of Nigeria.
What is common is that as most people evacuate their families to their second homes in Niger Republic, the business class hurry down to Nigeria at the break of dawn to open shop in Katsina, which they must close at the onset of dusk to hurry across the border before the unrestrained prowl of Katsina and Zamfara Kidnappers.
The Katsina community is constantly ballooning every day as everyone finds money to build and settle in Niger Republic’s towns of Maradi and Dan Issa mostly, as nucleus.
Activities of kidnappers has experienced a spike 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 seems to be exporting it’s banditry, kidnapping to the contiguous neighbor, expanding the frontiers of lawlessness in Northern Nigeria.
Hundreds of lives were lost in the two states in 2018 alone. This adds to the herdsmen militia killings that is over running much of Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau states in North Central Nigeria. Currently, more than half of North Central Nigerian farmers are in Internally Displaced People’s camps, dotted all over the region, increasing the ugly spectre of starvation and malnutrition.
A report by Daily Trust newspaper says that 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, showed that most of those who moved to Niger spend 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.
What are the reasons for this sudden rash of relocation?
One, the relative safety in the neighbouring country of Niger Republic, even though it is poorer, materially, it has a disciplined security apparakit.
In Nigeria, many renegade soldiers have complained bitterly in the social media that they do not have enough ammunition and modern equipment to fight with, thereby making them sitting ducks for the lethal firepower of Insurgents and bandits all over crisis prone areas of northern Nigeria.
About 25 Nigerian millionaires who have moved to Niger say a couple of them have received threats.
It was also gathered that individuals in Jibia frequently changed phone numbers as a result of constant harassment from suspected criminals threatening their lives.
As it seems,more people would relocate to Niger for safety if the security situation fails to improve in Nigeria.
A wealthy individual said he has been in Niger Republic since a botched attack on his residence, “this is my fifth year in Niger Republic 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 residence permit, a national identity card, and all entitlements of my landed property, and my children attend school in Niger,” he said.
“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.”
Daily Trust says 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.
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.
“Most of them 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.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian police have assured that plans are afoot to reinvigorate security in the region, contrasting sharply with the alleged statement by the country’s Defense minister, Brig. Dan Alli that there were large expanses of difficult forests between Katsina state and Zamfara state as well as in other parts of the north where bandits melt into, thereby compounding security woes. Incidentally, the Defense minister is an indigene of Zamfara state just as the Commander In Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari is from Katsina state.
However, the sum of one billion dollars was requested for and approved from the Senate in 2018 solely to fight insecurity. The hope for a push back is still being prayed over.
Additional information from Daily Trust Newspaper.