About 50 armed bandits attacked Tsonfada Gabi, a village in the Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State on October 30, 2020, kidnapping three residents. A week after the attack, three suspects were arrested, but one of them now walks free.
Sources said they started raining mayhem in the village around 11:00 pm and operated for over four hours. “They shot heavily in the air,” a village elder told FIJ. “It was my worst day of existence. The lucky ones ran into the bush, except for the abductees.”
Initially, no one knew where the attackers were from. But a week later, the whole village was stunned to learn that Abubakar Yussufu, famously known as Ndadati, was the brain behind the invasion of his own village.
Ndadati had lived with his family for over 35 years in the village. However, he had a record of electoral violence, rape and similar crimes. This was not the first time Ndadati’s team would besiege villages in Niger South Senatorial District, particularly in the Lavun Local Government Area. FIJ learned they had ransacked and collected ransoms from districts like Rugan Chibo, Batati, Jipan and Koyegi.
The prime target of the October 30 attack was Kabiru, Ndadati’s brother. Perhaps, envious of his (Kabiru) affluence, Ndadti asked his team members to lay siege on his village, instructing that his brother was the prime target. As luck would work for him, he escaped.
One of Ndadati’s accomplices simply identified as Naira, a nomadic Fulani herder pasturing cattle in Tsofada Gabi, named another target. In all, they were able to kidnap three villagers, two males and a female.
“When I drove to the village that fateful night, I saw people flickering torchlights from the bush,” Kabiru told FIJ. “Not long afterwards, I saw my brother wandering around. That moment, I was convinced he was up to something.
“I returned to Bida that night,” he said. “Some hours after I got home, people from the village started calling, ‘Where are you? Are you safe?’”
Kabiru was curious. When he asked what was the problem, they told him bandits had sacked the villagers and an unconfirmed number of persons had been abducted. One of the callers told him the bandits matched into his compound first.
POCKETING N3 MILLION FROM POOR VILLAGERS
The bandits’ camp was not far from Tsonfada Gabi. They control Gbangban Forest along Batati-Bida road linking Lambata and Abuja. A few days after the attack, the bandits contacted families of their victims, asking for N1 million ransom for each.
The poor villagers, after selling valuable belongings, paid N3 million to the terrorists. The ransoms were taken to them in Gbangban Forest. The terrorists had instructed that relatives of their victims bring the ransom at dusk.
“Our eyes were tied all through,” one of the abductees relived their experience. “There was no difference between days and nights.”
They were fed yam and rice. They also excreted on the same spot, as they were chained.
A village head told FIJ the incident affected them as that was the first of its kind. “To avert similar occurrences in the future, we resigned to what we inherited from our forefathers,” he said. The whole village prayed fervently that the perpetrators be exposed and brought to justice.
Remarking God answered their prayers, he said one of the perpetrators was used to get others.
After the whole predicament, the villagers were suspecting Naira, the Fulani herder. “He started behaving suspiciously after the incident,” another village elder said. “He would be timid when herding his cattle. But we were not sure, so we couldn’t hold him.”
The villagers were only just recovering when Naira took his mobile phone to Tsonfada Gabi for sale. Unfortunately for him, one of the family members of the persons abducted was interested in buying the phone.
“The herder said he would sell the phone for N10,000,” the village elder continued. “While bargaining, a call came in and the person who wanted to buy the phone answered it.”
The caller, not knowing that the call was answered by another person, soon announced that Naira could come to Batati Market, Lavun Local Government Area, to have his share of the money. “The recipient’s countenance changed and he went ahead to compare the number that had just called with the one they had been using to negotiate with the bandits. It was the same.”
He quickly paid the herder, not wanting him to notice what he had discovered. When he checked further, the number appeared 60 times on the phone’s call log. The next day, delegates were sent to Bida Emirate to inform Yahaya Abubakar, the Etsu Nupe, about the incident.
The emirate swung into action, ordering its vigilante men to get the suspect arrested.
Naira was paraded by the vigilantes, and during interrogation, he confessed to the crime, saying he did not do it alone. He said they invaded the village on the invitation of an indigene of Tsonfada Gabi.
According to Naira, Ndadati told the team he needed some money and asked them to come and kidnap his brother. Naira also had a target who sold tea and bread.
After his confession, Ndadati and one other Fulani bandit were arrested on November 7, 2020, and they were all taken to the Niger State Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Minna, from where they were charged to court.
But 11 months later, Ndadati resurfaced in Bida. He would tell people around his village that he was released while two other persons were killed. Sources in Lukoro, Bida, Batati and Tsonfada Gabi told FIJ he now walks free.
A vigilante head in Bida confirms his presence in Bida. He said the criminal had threatened to kill him if he dared him. He also disclosed that kidnapping along Minna-Bida road has been rising since the release of Ndadati.
FIJ found that Ndadati now lives with Abu Kashe, a herbalist living along Lemu-Zungeru road, Bida.
Isah Mohammed (Wakilin Labaran Nupe), one of the chiefs in Bida Emirate, said the emirate was not aware that the criminal had returned. “No one would condone such criminality,” he told FIJ. “We will make our findings and if this is certain, he would be paraded again.”
Also, Mosses Chiroma, the Director of Public Prosecution in Niger State, said he was not aware of the case. “I would not know if they released him on bail in court, and the case did not come up in my office,” he said.
He advised that the suspect be rearrested and re-arraigned.
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