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Masked Bandit

20.12.2021 Featured FLASHBACK: The Killing ‘That Triggered Bello Turji’s Attacks in Sokoto’

Published 20th Dec, 2021

By Ibrahim Adeyemi

Bello Turji, a kingpin bandit terrorising Nigeria’s northwest, on Saturday, wrote President Muhammadu Buhari and other state actors in Zamfara State, calling for a reconciliation meeting and possible ceasefire strategies.

In a three-page open letter scripted in the Hausa Language, Turji expressed concerns over the marginalisation and maltreatment of the Fulani ethnic group in the country. He said his terror group is fighting in defence of the Fulanis and emphasised that they are not subverting President Buhari’s government.

Like a storm in a teacup, Turji’s letter stirred controversies, with experts warning that the terrorist’s call for peace might be another strategy to launch a full-blown war in the region.

THE YAN SAKAI’S EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS

Emphatically, Turji claimed that the repeated unleashing of carnage in Sokoto East was a result of the killing of his Fulani kinsmen in an open market. Although several analysts found this claim inexcusable, they linked his words to the extrajudicial killings of 11 Fulanis in a market in the state.

READ ALSO: EXCLUSIVE: How Nigerian Soldiers Killed Dozens of Bandits in Sokoto and Took Their Bodies Away

In September, members of an outlawed local vigilante gang, known as Yan Sakai, stormed Mamande village in the Gwadabawa Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, killing 11 Fulanis after accusing them of involving in armed banditry.

Malam Aliyu, one of the victims and Islamic cleric, was leading a daily prayer in one of the mosques in Salame, a town in Gwadabawa, when he was struck by the outlawed group. 

“His only sin was that he belonged in the Fulani tribe,” said Abdullahi Riskuwa, the late cleric’s brother.

Experts warned that the trend of killing “innocent Fulanis in the state” could lead to full-blown conflict. They compared the situation with the communal rivalry between the nomadic Fulani herders and Hausa farmers in 2011, which led to the re-emergence of banditry in Zamfara.

AN EYE FOR AN EYE

Avenging the deaths of their kinsmen, about a hundred bandits loyal to Turji, in September, invaded the Gonroyo Market in Sokoto, killing over 60 innocent citizens genuinely going about their daily businesses and injuring many more.

Security agents contacted during the Turji-led raid could not be reached due to the outage of network services in the state. Victims of the attack were buried in a mass grave dug by concerned citizens of the town. But, as events unfolded, that would not be the end of the cocktail of carnage.

Turji would subsequently relocate to Sokoto following the military offensive against him in Zamfara. His relocation meant more troubles and tears for the residents of the state, especially in Sabon Birni. He would impose multimillion naira taxes on the people and failure to comply would mean war.

HUMANS ROASTED LIKE BARBEQUES

READ ALSO: DSS Silences Northern Youths Protesting Insecurity, Bad Governance

On December 8, a lorry heading south was waylaid by Turji’s boys along the Garin Bawa area of Sabon Birni.  Passengers in the lorry were set ablaze alive and “roasted like barbeques”.

FIJ gathered that the terrorists were avenging the deaths of the cohorts lost to a military offensive. The massacre of over 20 passengers spurred anger of northern youths, who criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for attending a book lunch in Lagos while innocent souls were being slaughtered in Sokoto.

The bloody event pushed youths to the streets, under the aegis of Concerned Northern Nigerian Groups, demanding an immediate end to the continuous loss of lives of innocent citizens to terrorism and banditry.

AN END TO THE WAR?

However, experts have warned the public not to be swayed by the Fulani marginalisation and maltreatment claims made by the terror kingpin. 

Murtala Rufai, the author of ‘I Am a Bandit’ and lecturer at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, said Turji’s decision to burn commuters in a bus in the Sabon Birni area was highly criticised by some of his fellow bandits.

“You know the backlash it generated,” he said, according to a report by Premium Times. “They were not happy with him (Turji) because he just did what was off the book for them.

“A meeting was convened on the 13th of December by the bandit kingpins and Turji was told point-blank that he was wrong. Even some of his top commanders were not in support of his actions.”

Renowned for his wide knowledge of banditry and access to bandit leaders in the northwest, Rufai also said that the terrorist’s letter was a soft landing, noting that Turji wanted to appease his friends and commanders over his action.

In his letter, the terror kingpin listed “dissolution of unofficial vigilante groups in the northwest, a meeting with traditional rulers and religious leaders, a stop to the ‘marginalisation’ of Fulanis, honest discussions between bandits, traditional rulers and politicians, and the participation of first-class emirs in a security meeting” as conditions to an end to banditry.

President Buhari and Bello Mutawalle, the ZamfaraState Governor, were yet to respond to Turji’s letter at press time.

Published 20th Dec, 2021

By Ibrahim Adeyemi

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