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Published On: Wed, Sep 19th, 2018

Birnin Gwari, another killing field

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Birnin Gwari is a local government area in Kaduna State. Its headquarter bears the same name. It is located northwest of Kaduna, the state capital. A huge distance and an unexplored forest separate the two towns.The road connecting the two runs over a sparsely populated terrain.

This geographical disadvantage of the local government area makes it an ideal den of robbers, rustlers and other criminals. The villages around the headquarter report attacks almost on a daily basis. It has been like this for years. The difficult terrain and the area’s remoteness from the rest of the state make it easy for the killers to strike and escape without being caught.

That was exactly what happened in the hot afternoon of Sunday, May 6. Two villages -Doka and Mando – were attacked almost simultaneously. Mr. Austin Iwar, the Commissioner of Police in Kadunna, told journalists that 45 persons were killed in the two attacks. Villagers confirmed the number, saying the attacks occurred aftet 2 pm. They said people they called “bandits”, in their numbers, arrived on motorcycles, shooting randomly and setting houses ablaze. According to eyewitnesses, 40 bodies were brought to the emir’s palace in Birnin Gwari town while the others that could not be identified because they were burned beyond recognition were given a mass burial in Doka.

On what was being done to secure the area, CP Iwar said, “as we speak thestate police command has already deployed 150 policemen to provide security in the area. We shall also deploy another 200 officers in the coming week. We’re doing evverything possible to secure the area”. On his own part, governor Nasir el-Rufai anounced that,following Sunday’s attacks that a former council chairman described as “the worst ever”, the federal government had accepted that a battalion of soldiers should be stationed “permanently” in Birnin Gwari.

Good decisions by the police and the military auhorities. However, why were these not taken earlier than now? Both security services, we understand, lost men and officers in previous attacks. If they were waiting for the assailants to stop the killings on their own, they have been proved wrong. Killers always return to the scenes of the last killings once they knew they would not be caught. This is exactly what is happening in Birnin Gwari.

We understand there are local vigilantes in the area, helping to fight off the bandits. But their dane guns cannot match the superior fire power of the attackers armed with AK 47 rifles. We urge greater liaison between them and regular security operatives whose small numbers mean they cannot deploy and hold the ground for a long period of time. Besides numbers, the security agencies are handicapped by a lack of functional communication gadgets and inadequate fire power. This is why even when they receive an early warning of an imminent attack they do not arrive the scene until after the attackers had finished the act and fled.

The ring of Nigeria’s killing fields is expanding too fast. We must stop this.

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