Falgore Forest: Where Kano’s deadly bandits dwelled

By: Yusha’u A. Ibrahim

Falgore Forest lies within three local government areas of Doguwa, Tudun Wada and Sumaila in Kano. It also borders Bauchi State’s Lame Burra Game Reserve and Kaduna State. The thick forest has become a haven to armed bandits in recent times. According to the District Head of Doguwa local government area of Kano State, Alhaji Aliyu Harazimi, the bandits migrated from Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states, as well as Niger and Chad republic to the forest.

Harazimi said residents of villages around the forest had informed him about the arrival of the bandits. “They came to Falgore with many animals, sometimes moving freely with guns. Most of them are youths, moving without family, indicating that they are not real herdsmen who normally move around with wives and kids.”

Alhaji Harazimi added that a few months after they settled in the forest, they started threatening people in villages around the forest, stealing their animals and even raping their wives and daughters. “Having realized their Modus Operandi, I reported to the police, the emir’s palace and the local government authority. Later, the case was reported to then-governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso and in response, 13 checkpoints were set-up around Falgore.

“But few months later, all the checkpoints were removed and the forest left without a single security operative, for almost three months. Within that period, residents were subjected to attacks. Many lost their lives, cattle, and other belongings. They remained in that pathetic situation until when the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi ll, reported the case to the incumbent governor Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje at the executive council meeting about four months ago,” Harazimi said.

The mode of operation of the bandits is terrifying – and highly organized. No-one dares stand up to them whenever they storm a village, as whoever does confront them will definitely face nothing but bullets, a resident of Damau village, Auwal Iro Dogo Nabayye, told Daily Trust. He explained that from January this year to date, nobody is certain of going to bed and waking up without hearing of a case of cattle-rustling or armed robbery in one community around the forest or the other. “Most locals of the villages around Falgore Forest sleep with one eye open, so to speak, courtesy of the deadly bandits who have been terrorizing people for many years.

Nabayye continued: “The armed bandits usually storm villages on motorbikes at night, when residents have retired to bed, with 2 to 3 people on a motorbike. While one rides, the others hold up their guns to attack in case of any eventuality. As soon as they arrive any village, they start shooting to scare the occupants.” He added that they always come in large number, so residents dare not confront them, or resist their demands. He noted that whenever they invade a village, residents simply flee into the bush for safety.

Nabayye told Daily Trust that the bandits hardly attack a village and go without killing someone, taking away animals and or raping women. “The way and manner these people are operating, has been our nightmare for many years,” he said.

Again, Alhaji Bage Chiroma Damau corroborated Nabayye’s assertion, saying until recently when a combined team of police and soldiers with the help of local hunters, began to descend on the bandits, they had been having a field day in the forest.

Damau said some gangs of rustlers have visited their settlement three times in less than three months. He said during the first visit, they killed his child, “Slaughtered him like a ram and carted away some items”. Then on the second visit, they stole two motorbikes and carted away 150 cows and on the third, they carted away 441 cows and 80 sheep, which he said police have recovered later.

For Ibrahim Sama’ila of Murmushi village, also in Duguwa local government, the activities of the bandits has remained a major challenge. Although he has never had an encounter with them, he said the attackers had severally invaded his village while he was in Shagamu for business, robbing and raping at gunpoint. “The speed at which the bandits move with stolen cows will shock you! If, for instance, they steal cows in this village around 2:00 am, I can tell you in the next five hours, you won’t catch them at the nearest village. They always move fast and they don’t pass through villages, rather through thick forest so no-one can sight them, not to talk of trailing them,” he told Daily Trust.

Daily Trust learned that during an operation, the bandits divide themselves into groups depending on the size of the village they set to attack. While some invade from different angles, other groups follow to rob. They are always heavily armed with guns and other dangerous, crude weapons.

Alhaji Harazimi explained that after series of meetings with traditional rulers and other stakeholders in three local government areas that bordered the forest, the state commissioner of police, Alhaji Muhammad Musa Katsina deployed more men to some strategic places like Burum-Burum in Tudun Wada local government, Karasa in Doguwa and Gomo and Massu in Sumaila local government areas. He said in addition to that, the military and police have sought for – and secured – clearance from the federal government to conduct aerial surveillance of the forest and courtesy of that, they have identified various hideouts of the bandits within thick Falgore Forest.

The District Head said now that the rainy season is over, coupled with the offensive waged against the bandits by security personnel, they have started leaving the forest. “Just last week, 228 cows and 16 sheep abandoned by the bandits were recovered around Murmushi and Karasa villages in my territory Doguwa. Another 300 cows were recovered at Burum-Burum village in Tudun Wada local government. And around Falgore Forest, 32 cows were recovered. “Our hope is that the judiciary will act appropriately when suspects are brought to court. The traditional rulers and police have done their own part and the ball is now in the court of the judiciary. If the bandits are left unpunished, I am sure they will kill more people, precisely those they perceive to be informants,” he concluded.

Recounting an encounter with a gang of armed bandits inside the forest, a soldier, who preferred anonymity, told Daily Trust that about two weeks ago, a Good Samaritan tipped-off his team about unusual movement of a group of persons in the forest and after they trailed the gang, it was discovered that they were bandits. “We therefore strategized ourselves and confronted them and they engaged us in a gun-battle. A soldier was shot in the neck, seriously injured, but he survived. This is one of several encounters we have had with the deadly bandits,” he said.

Inspector Maye, also known as ‘Zaki’ (‘lion’ in Hausa) is among the members of the police Special Anti-Rustling Squad in the forest. He told Daily Trust that his team had several encounters with rustlers and armed robbers in Falgore and Gomo forests, respectively.

“Security personnel are doing their best fighting against robbery and rustling in the forests. But you know the forests are very thick, so operatives have to be careful while discharging their duties. The point here is that the bandits know the place more than us, but with the help of God and the encouragement we are receiving from our Commissioner, we are recording success. We’re determined to make the forest free from activities of bandits,” Maye concluded.

Daily Trust observed that Inspector Maye is a popular police officer in the area, largely due to his bravery. Iliyasu Auwalu Sabon-Garin Makwasa said: “From the little I heard about Maye, he spares nobody when it comes to the fight against rustling and robbery. Whenever you tip him off with useful information, he will pursue it to the end.”

The Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, ASP Magaji Musa Majia, said since the commencement of the special raid of Falgore Forest to date, over 2,000 cows and a number of other animals have been recovered from the bandits. He added that three bandits, including a Senegalese national, were killed during a gun duel with police, while hundreds of others were arrested. A number of weapons, including AK-47s and locally-made guns and ammunition were also recovered from the bandits. “Presently, the command had deployed adequate number of policemen to the two infamous forests, and now we’ll continue to provide security around the forest,” he said.

SOURCE: WEEKLY TRUST

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