ELDERS from rural communities in Katsina state have complained that men in their villages now work as slaves on farms “owned” by bandits, while the gangsters have developed a penchant for constantly raping married women and teenage girls.
In a BBC Hausa Service report transcribed by Tribune Online, the elders described the series of invasions and atrocities committed by the bandits as mind-boggling. The elderly under the auspices of the Movement to Secure Katsina Citizens called on all “patriotic citizens” to contribute to the effort to address the security problems in the state.
Speaking on behalf of the others in the BBC Hausa Service interview, one of the elders, Dr Bashir Kurfi, noted that apart from the senseless killing of innocent people and cattle theft, the rape of women and teenage girls by the bandits was now widespread in the communities.
Kurfi said: “It’s not rumours; very often we come across rape victims, women who have been raped and even mutilated by these bandits.
“More worryingly, these bandits will knock on villagers’ doors and ask the men to bring out their wives and daughters. These unfortunate men have no choice but to obey or they will face the music.
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“The woman or daughter goes with the bandits for a week or two and returns to their homes after being sexually assaulted or raped. This is the disaster that has happened to most of our communities.
“I remember one day when we took nine women to the hospital after they were raped by 40 bandits. The hospital we took them to advised us to take some of the women to VVF centers for proper care.”
He expressed his dismay at the way the bandits hurt the people “as if we had no government.”
He said: “We all know that these bandits move with motorcycles. Where do they get the bikes from? They move around with AK-47 rifles. How did they get it? Where do they get the medicines they use? What’s really happening? Why is the government aloof? These are pertinent questions waiting for answers.”
The elders also condemned the position of some state governments that sign peace agreements with bandits to no avail.
Kurfi said: “How do you sign such peace agreements without making concrete agreements for the victims?
“It is not enough to enter into a dialogue with these bandits. Several negotiations have taken place between the state governments and the bandits, but so far no state government can honestly tell you that insecurity has ended in its domain.”
He said community elders were dissatisfied with the continued closure of schools in the state and lamented that rural residents were becoming increasingly vulnerable to attacks.
“The bandits attack, kidnap and take the villagers to work as slaves on farms while raping women and girls.
“Usually a bandit queen will storm a village with his men and take the men as slaves to work on their farms,” Kurfi complained.