Niger Communities Deserted as Bandits Turn Kainji Park into Terrorist Haven


Niger Communities Deserted as Bandits Turn Kainji Park into Terrorist Haven


By Chika Otuchikere


Illegal mining activities by bandits in Niger State have crippled life in around 12 local government areas, forcing residents to flee for safety. FIRST CLASS GISTS reports that a humanitarian crisis is imminent unless the military acts swiftly to restore control.


The continuous attacks by bandits and terrorists have created a state of unease in Niger State. Unconfirmed reports suggest these groups have taken over more than 12 of the 25 local government areas, establishing control and mounting their flags. The affected areas include Borgu, Katangora, Gurara, Katcha, Lapai, Lavun, Mariga, Mokwa, Munya, Rafi, Shiroro, and Wushishi.


Social activities, including commerce and education, have been paralyzed. The leaders of these terrorist groups dictate local affairs, determining what activities proceed and which are halted.


Kainji National Park, located in New Bussa Borgu Local Government Area, exemplifies the severe presence of these bandits and terrorists. They have taken full control of the park, turning it into a base for their criminal activities. Surrounding communities have been abandoned, and park workers have fled.


FIRST CLASS GISTS learned that due to Bosso’s proximity to neighboring countries like Benin Republic, the park has become a haven for both local and foreign terrorists. They oversee illegal mining, logging, and kidnapping operations. Despite the federal government being aware of this situation since 2023, no significant efforts have been made to reclaim the park.


A recent report indicated that even the military, responsible for countering these terrorists, has withdrawn from some local governments, reportedly relocating for their own safety. This withdrawal has left farming communities vulnerable to attacks, kidnappings, and ransom demands. Farmers’ crops have been burned, and the bandits have demanded royalties for allowing agricultural activities to continue.


The educational sector has also suffered. Bandits have invaded schools, kidnapping students and demanding ransom for their release. In response, the state government shut down several schools in the affected areas, with plans to relocate them to the state capital still unrealized.


For instance, the Government Science College in Kagara, Kagara Local Government Area, has been shut down and transformed into a military camp. The Nigerian Army uses the premises to launch operations against the bandits hiding in the surrounding areas.


Residents of Allawa in Shiroro Local Government Area had to flee after soldiers dismantled their tents and left following deadly attacks. An ambush killed at least eight soldiers, and subsequent landmine incidents led to further casualties. These events forced hundreds of residents to seek safety in neighboring areas.


Yahuza Allawa, a resident, described the exodus: “We are moving to Erena, Gwada, Kuta, or Zumba. From Allawa to Erena, which is at least 42km, we are trekking. We cannot wait to be killed by these heartless bandits and Boko Haram terrorists. This is a serious issue, please help us report this issue.”


The withdrawal of military personnel has left communities more vulnerable to attacks, prompting urgent calls for intervention from the state government.


Last year, over 30 officers and men lost their lives in attacks by bandits and terrorists in Niger State. In August 2023, 20 soldiers were killed in an ambush on Zungeru-Tegina road while responding to distress calls.


Niger State’s Commissioner for Homeland Security, Bello Abdullahi, confirmed the military’s withdrawal, explaining it as part of a strategy to re-organize and strengthen their response to insecurity. “The whole thing is about administrative arrangements by the military to re-strategize to return in full strength,” he said.


An estimated 1,000 terrorists have taken over Kainji Park, using it as a base to terrorize surrounding communities. A resident of Gbenji in Borgu, who moved to Minna for safety, described how the terrorists and bandits have taken over the area, turning it into a ghost town. They engage in illegal mining and logging, and residents have been forced into internally displaced persons camps.


Musa, a resident of Dekara, recounted fleeing his community after an ISWAP attack in 2023. He and others now live in IDP camps, preferring the camp’s safety over their terrorist-controlled hometowns. “We fled in 2023 when the ISWAP invaded our community. In this camp alone, we have more than 700 people from various communities in Borgu, just like there are thousands more in other IDPs.”


Former Senator Shehu Sani, an alumnus of the Government Science College, Kagara, expressed optimism that terrorism in Niger State and across Nigeria would eventually be defeated. He noted that many top terrorists had been eliminated, and the situation was improving compared to the previous administration.


“The security challenges will not only be over in Niger but all over Nigeria because it’s better than the one you have during Buhari’s time. There is evidence that many of the top terrorists have been eliminated,” Sani stated.


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