In April 2021, an insurgent named Mallam Sadiqu set up an empire in the local sprawl of Shiroro, Niger State. As a Boko Haram jihadist, he took control of political and social life in about 25 communities.
Sadiqu started his infiltration of the communities like a ‘gentle man of God’ before professing himself as a Boko Haram commander spreading Islamic extremism, which coincides with the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād’s school of thought.
He would later declare himself a “constituted authority” and threaten to ‘waste’ anyone who refused to swallow his decisions or tried to expose him to the government.
He set up a cabinet for his Islamic government and read publicly the rules and regulations, rewards and penalties for certain acts, emphasising his mission to fight the government and take over the state.
“He told them that he was not harmful to the general public because he was a Boko Haram [insurgent],” a source familiar with Sadiqu’s system of government told FIJ. “He said he was not fighting the masses but the government. He said everybody should settle down to live their normal lives. But they would have protocols.”
After declaring himself an authority, he recruited ruthless young people who had taken part in rural banditry and cattle theft, overpowering Dogo Gide, a feared bandit leader in Shiroro. He empowered his recruits with swords, powerbikes, AK47s and Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs).
He then ruled communities like Kaure, Kusasu, Pai, Chukuba, Kwaki, Kurebe, Iburo, Kushaka, Kushaku, Biko, Alaita, Dnasepa, Kokokki, Nakundna, Afapi, Kampani, Kudumidna, Sakko, Ajatayi, Lukupe, Badna, Alai Kwaki, Bududna and Maimalufa.
“If you have a female child of 12 years, you have to marry her out,” Sadiqu was quoted to have ordered residents of these communities.
How did a ‘gentle man of God’ turn out to be the most dreaded terrorist and rebel threatening the Government of Niger State?
FROM KAURE TO KUREBE
Stories of murders, abductions and human rights violations dominate the communities controlled by Sadiqu and his loyalists. On April 27, Abubakar Bello, the Niger State Governor, confirmed the hoisting of the Boko Haram flag in Kaure, Sadiqu’s headquarters in Shiroro.
The governor revealed how the terrorist took the women of some residents and gave them to his boys.
“I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State,” he said. “Here in Kaure, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags. Their wives have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members.
“I just heard that they have placed their flags at Kaure, meaning they have taken over the territory. This is what I have been engaging the Federal Government on. Unfortunately, it has now got to this level. If care is not taken, even Abuja is not safe.”
Following the governor’s public outcry, a contingent of soldiers stormed Kaure community to dislodge Sadiqu and his fighters.
“Unfortunately, it was just a military operation to dislodge the terrorists. A military base was not established in the community,” a source told FIJ. “So, after everything, the terrorists reconvened in Kurebe, a nearby village, and established another Boko Haram headquarters in Shiroro.”
STARTED AS A MISSIONARY, NOW AN INSURGENT
According to multiple accounts of locals in the communities, Sadiqu started by preaching to residents in the Lakma axis, especially in the Kaure area. He enjoined them to embrace Islamic jurisprudence and “fear Allah”.
“At a point, he was going around as a missionary and people were even getting to believe him,” said a youth leader in one of the communities. “It was later that he started using force. So, his boys started carrying guns.”
KNOWN BUT FACELESS
Almost everybody in the 25 communities controlled by Sadiqu knows him but “nobody dares obtain his picture or describe how he looks to an alien in the area”.
Residents who confided in FIJ said Sadiqu is considered a sacred human whose face or physical appearance must not be in the public domain. Moreover, taking or displaying pictures is forbidden in the terrorist’s territories.
“He has made himself the constituted authority so much that if you have a case to settle, you go to him instead of going to the court or the police,” one of the locals said. “Even if you’re coming to his vicinity, you cannot come with a phone or a camera because his boys will search you from checkpoint to checkpoint. Nobody has any image of Mallam Sadiqu at the moment.”
“Anyone seen taking pictures in his territory could be killed,” another local added. “It is seen as a dangerous offence here.”
TEARS OF A PEOPLE
Residents under Sadiqu’s control are grieving but they dare not shed tears. An attempt to report Sadiqu’s atrocities attracts severe punishment. Anyone who tries it could be stoned to death, according to multiple accounts of locals.
“You can imagine telling uneducated people how the government has abandoned them and how they (the terrorists) are there to fight the government for them. They are brainwashing the people and that is a danger,” a concerned Shiroro youth told FIJ.
“We only hope the government can take back these communities from this dangerous man.”
The Niger State Government is aware of the presence of Sadiqu and his men. But the governor said he is helpless.
Suleiman Chukuba, Chairman of Shiroro Local Government, confirmed the influx of Boko Haram elements, saying, “Only four wards have been affected.”
He said the residents know from their mode of preaching that they are Boko Haram elements.
“They told villagers that they had money to help them and that they had guns to give them to fight the government. And that is the same doctrine we know Boko Haram elements promote,” he said.
This investigation was published with development support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)
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