After months of unsuccessful operations by the combined efforts of the military, police and other security agents against armed banditry in Niger State, the state government has taken a radical turn with the engagement of a native spiritualist and local hunters to help fight the menace.
In a first operation carried out by the local hunters led by a 70-year-old female spiritualist in Zuguruma, Mashegun Local Government Area of the state, no fewer than 40 bandits were been killed in a mysterious encounter which the villagers said lasted just 30 minutes.
A commander of the bandits and three others, who were said to have gone to town to buy recharge cards and other basic needs for the group, were arrested and handed over to the state’s police command, and are currently helping the police for further investigations.
The female spiritualist, before leading the operation, was said to have requested for certain weird demands, including a dog which was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on all the hunters and their weapons before embarking on the operation, along with two virgin boys who will lead the way into the bandits’ lair.
The priestess was said to have stripped herself naked in a tent as she prepared the sacrifice before leading the hunters into the bush for the hunt.
According to one of the villagers simply called Mallam Alhassan, who narrated in Hausa how the operation went, he said on approaching the bandits’ location, the priestess instructed that the hunters shoot into the air to provoke the bandits and bring them out of their hideout.
This strategy, according to him, paid off as the bandits, on hearing the sound of the gunshots, began to shoot towards the direction of the hunters but could not see any human being.
“They (bandits) continued shooting without a particular target until their bullets finished before the hunters now descended on them and killed 40 of them,” the witness said.
While the operation was ongoing, the leader of the bandits whom they (bandits) addressed as ‘Commander’, hid himself on top of a tree, and as one of the bandits ran towards him calling his attention to the invasion by the hunters, the woman ordered the hunters to immediately go after him and he was brought down from the tree with a simple wave of hand.
No single casualty was recorded on the side of the hunters, but an antelope that was trying to escape from the gunfire was killed by the hunters, who have volunteered to help the government eliminate all forms of armed banditry from the state within a month.
All the weapons of the bandits, including machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers, amongst other items, were captured and handed over to the police.
The near-magical breakthrough in the fight against the bandits comes barely a week after the state government declared statewide prayer sessions in mosques and churches.
Two days after the prayers were observed by both Christians and Muslims, the bandits struck in Kagara in Rafi local government areas, killing a woman and her daughter and kidnapping scores of villagers.
Reacting to the new strategies against the bandits, the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, says local militia, community vigilantes and hunters must collaborate with security agencies, in a renewed strategy to engage and completely chase away kidnappers, cattle rustlers and armed bandits in the country.
The Governor spoke in Zuru, Kebbi State, on Saturday where he was special guest of honour at the Civic Reception organised by the Zuru Patriotic Forum in honour of Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), and Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.
Governor Bello, who expressed joy over the success recorded by the priestess and hunters, pointed out that a radical approach towards the bandits “had become necessary in order not to allow irresponsible miscreants continue to unleash terror on our people and subject our communities to their whims and caprices”.
He disclosed that the governors of the most affected states of Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger are in talks to perfect the new strategy in order to address the situation that has hindered development and deprived the people of their means of livelihood.
“We must not allow them to send us out of our respective homes. We have to defend our territories and it has started in Niger and we have started recording success in that direction”, he stated.