The father of a seven-month-old baby who was rescued 24 hours after his mother, Sa’adatu Habibu, was shot dead by bandits at Maganda junction, Pandogari-Allawa road, Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, Mallam Habibu, has narrated how his son was covered by bees before he was rescued by vigilantes the following day.
Daily Trust Saturday had reported how a seven-month-old baby was found sleeping 24 hours after his mother was killed by bandits alongside five others, including an SS2 student of Maryam Babangida Girls’ Science College, Minna, a day to Sallah on the Pandogari-Allawa road.
Habibu told our correspondent on telephone that the baby was covered with bees on the front seat of the Mitsubishi truck where his mother put him before she gave up and was found unhurt when the rescue team arrived at the scene.
He said his wife and other victims who died could have been rescued if there were security operatives around the area. He added that before his wife gave up the ghost she was able to remove the baby from her back and put him on the front seat of the truck.
Mallam Habibu, a father of 6, including the little Saleh, said the baby, who is the only child of his mother, was being breastfed by his mother’s elder sister.
“My wife was coming back from Kontagora, where she had gone to visit her father when bandits blocked the road, killed six people and injured many others. They were traveling in a Mitsubishi truck. The baby was on her back when they shot her, but luckily, the bullet didn’t hit him. Before she gave up, she was able to remove the baby from her back and kept him in the front seat of the truck. She didn’t die immediately, but nobody could go to the scene immediately to render assistance to them. No one was there to rescue them or take them to any hospital. The attack was around 5pm but the information couldn’t get to us until around 7pm. It was already night and even our local vigilantes couldn’t go there at that hour. We were helpless.
“When vigilantes went to evacuate the remains of those killed the following day, the baby was found covered with bees all over his body. But we did not see signs where he was hurt. He was brought home alive and we took him to doctors for medical checkup. He is currently with his mother’s elder sister who is breastfeeding him,” he narrated.
Habibu said he had another wife but the baby was given to his mother’s sister because she is also nursing a baby. He appealed to the Niger State Government and philanthropists to assist him with baby foods and medical support for a proper upkeep of the baby, saying, “Life has not been easy for us. We are going through a lot of hardship because of banditry. Our farming activities have stopped. We abandoned most of our farmlands because of incessant abductions by bandits.”
“Our authorities seem not to have any idea of what we go through every day, or they know but don’t believe what is happening to us. We are going through untold hardship on a daily basis. Our farming activities have stopped. As I speak with you, no one can move out of our towns, especially Allawa town, for 2km without having an encounter with bandits. Many people have nothing to do now unless your farm is close to the town. Coming to Allawa from any part of the state is a risk. We don’t go out without being escorted by the local vigilantes,” one of the residents of the community who didn’t want his name mentioned lamented.
He said that even accessing drugs was hard for them, adding, “There is a military camp in Allawa town, but the most dangerous location where people get killed on a daily basis is Maganda junction, within the Allawa forest. That was where the mother of the little Saleh was killed, a day to Sallah. While we have a military camp in Allawa, bandits are in the Allawa Games Reserve. The reserve is a large forest that extends to Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State. They have established and dominated the forest and live permanently there. On Monday, we secured the release of two people from Allawa forest after the payment of N100,000 each as ransom. We lose our people every day at Maganda junction. And from that junction bandits cross easily to Kagara, Tegina, and could even move to Mariga and Zungeru.”
We want Allawa forest cleared, residents beg FG
Residents told our correspondent that Allawa Games Reserve, which is supposed to be a source of revenue for the country, had become a serious threat to the immediate communities because it provides shelter for bandits who terrorise their communities, kill people, rape women and kidnap residents and travellers at will almost every day.
In 2020, youths in the area under the Lakpma Youth Assembly protested, calling on the federal government to clear the entire forest if the reserve could not be properly utilised to protect the lives and property of citizens in the area.
The president of the Youth Assembly, Jibrin Allawa, in one his statements noted, “The preservation of wildlife or games is for the benefit of the citizens, and when properly utilised, serves as a source of income, which contributes to the economic growth of a country. But in ours, the reverse is the case.
“The Allawa Games Reserve, a thick vegetated, rich, abandoned deadly forest that is conjoined with Kamuku Games Reserve, bordering Niger State and Kaduna, has become an epicenter of insurgency. It is very rich in solid minerals of many kinds but has been neglected by the state and federal governments with no visible presence of government without forest rangers, patrol routes and vans. As a result, the thick vegetated good topographic forest now serves as the operational base for men of the underworld, who at any time cause mayhem on the people of the immediate community, Allawa.
“The criminals move as far as 40km in their hundreds to attack communities, rape women, kidnap people for ransom, rustle animals and raze houses and return to the forest safely. Bandits have caused us psychological and emotional trauma as poor farmers.”
Daily Trust Saturday recalls that in December 17, 2020, the then Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, told journalists at Green Building, Abuja during a press briefing on national issues and relating to the environmental sector that former President Muhammadu Buhari approved the establishment of 10 additional national parks, including the Allawa Game Reserve and Allawa National Park, bringing the total number of national parks in the country to 17.
The Allawa Game Reserve, which was first in the list of the newly approved reserves, according to the minister, was to cover 310square kilometers of land in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
But residents said that more than two years after the approval, there was no government presence, while the thick forest had continued to protect bandits, who kill them on a daily basis.
The minister promised that “to give credence and legal backing to this worthy cause, an executive bill will soon be presented to the National Assembly for further necessary action.
“As you are very much aware, national security is crucial to protected areas. It is also regrettable that most state-owned forest reserves today have become dens of criminal activities. Therefore, in a bid to further add impetus to the current fight against insurgency, as well as other organised crimes, such as kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry, amongst others, the creation of these national parks will provide the much-needed apparatus to ward off criminal elements living or looking for hideouts in those areas.”
The minister also said, “To ensure maximum security and benefits of these national parks enunciated above, Mr President has also directed that the Federal Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as that of Interior, should work together to ensure the attainment of the targets.”