Residents of the villages attacked by suspected Fulani cattle rustlers in Zamfara State are currently living in fear and many are taking refuge in camps.
It will be recalled that some unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani cattle rustlers recently launched an attack on about 20 villages, sacking residents from their homes and forcing them to take refuge in neighbouring villages.
The affected communities include Koshiya, Kundamau, Fegin Kanawa, Wonaka, Tambalawa Magiro and Fura Kirge all under Mada Emirate of Gusau local government area of the state.
Speaking with Leadership, a victim said, “These gunmen have for the past three years been a major challenge to our rural area especially that they sadly attack and rape our wives and daughters before our eyes.
The frequency of the frightening attacks forced us to flee and take refuge in safer places until the authorities came to our rescue,” It was learnt that more than 20 people were killed by the gunmen while some women were allegedly raped, a situation that led to the deaths of some of the victims.
According to survivors, about 10 women, including married women and spinsters were raped by the hoodlums.
There were instances when some of the young girls were raped before the eyes of their parents.
“It is no longer safe for us to survive and live peacefully in our villages because of persistent attacks we face from the Fulani insurgents,” another victim said , regretting that the inaccessible condition of rural roads and the complete absence of a police post is further endangering the lives of residents of rural communities. He also blamed the government for its failure to deploy security personnel, especially the police, for security and protection of lives within the rural communities. He recalled that there was a time the insurgents besieged his community and the terrifying size of the dangerous rifles they were carrying terrified a pregnant woman which led to a miscarriage.
He further lamented that for the past seven months, most of the men in the affected communities have been consigned to the bushes, where they sleep at night, for fear of sudden attack by the Fulani gunmen. He said, in a village called Akuzo under Gusau local government, about 17 people were recently murdered in a brutal attack by the Fulani cattle rustlers, while in Fura Girke village, 21 persons were killed.
“I witnessed the burial of 16 of them,” he disclosed. In another village called Ingwai, Maidawa said two people, one Alhaji Wakil and Mallam Isya were killed last week by the Fulani gunmen and nothing had been done by either the security or the state government to forestall the attacks.
Two of the female victims, Malama Sadiya and Malama Hajara, both of Kundabau village who took refuge at Damba Primary School said that they strongly believe that the incident could not have happened without the collaboration of some miscreants living among them.
They explained that in many instances, the hoodlums would mention the real names of their victims before assaulting them sexually.
According to Hajara, hardly would the hoodlums attack a family without raping either a married woman or a young unmarried girl in the family.
In her narration, Malama Sadiya recalled that, “I heard when the wife of one of my neighbours was wailing in pains while she was being raped. The woman was pleading with the rogue to get off from her for a cash ransom but he refused to accept the offer.”
She also recalled the case of a rape victim (name withheld), a young lady who was about to get married and who resisted being raped by offering the attackers N20,000, “but sadly, they collected the money and went ahead and raped her.”
It was also gathered from the victims that as for the men, the robbers only target the wealthy members of the community and rob them, and any resistance by the victim always resulted in death.
A female victim, Malama Sa’adatu narrates that they had to flee their villages due to persistent threats by Fulani gunmen who often attack even in the day and rob the community of large number of cattle, cash and other belongings. Speaking amid sobs, she said, “we are not safe; not only our property are unsafe, but we are often sexually assaulted by the gunmen.”
Sa’adatu also lamented that for the last eight months, many husbands have not been able to sleep in their homes for fear of sudden attack by the Fulani gunmen “who often besiege a community in a house to house rampage, robbing us of our properties and subjecting some of us to indiscriminate raping.”
She said, she had witnessed an incident where the hoodlums inserted three torchlight batteries into an elderly woman’s genitals and left her in pains and in the process of removing the batteries at a hospital in Gusau, the state capital, the woman died.
Sa’adatu alleged that the insurgents had also destroyed several farm crops by bringing cattle to feed on the crops.
“We are now forced to flee our villages to save our lives from the hands of the gunmen,” she cried.
Though all efforts to get across to Major Hamma Sale, the commander ammunition depot, Gusau, did not yield results, sources confided in our correspondent that soldiers had been deployed to the area and many of the insurgents had been killed in a bid to rid the area of insurgency.
With this development, many of the fleeing victims have indicated willingness to return home, especially men, who desperately desire to know the condition of their farm crops.
They however await an assurance from the government and security forces that their lives would be safe when they return home.