Fuel station in Madagali Community

17.09.2023 Featured SPECIAL REPORT: Madagali LGA Residents ‘Pay’ Army With Labour, Money for Peace

Published 17th Sep, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu

Michael Ijandir lives in Shuwa, a border community in Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State that has Cameroon to the east of it.

His eyes have seen nearly three decades of peace, insecurity, displacement and hunger that have come to define the evolution of his community and people.

When the Boko Haram sect began penetrating Adamawa from Borno State with attacks on Mubi, a neighbouring community, in January 2012, and Gulak in the same Madagali LGA in 2016, locals like Ijandir had to give up the life they used to know.

In 2015, the military launched ‘Operation Lafiya Dole’, an offensive coined from the Hausa language and translates to ‘Peace by all means’, with the intention of defeating the terrorists and restoring peace to the attacked communities, but eight years after, residents of Madagali say the military is taking advantage of their plight and extorting them.

In August 2023, FIJ visited Madagali to speak with residents and farmers in the area to find out how they were faring since their community became heavily militarised.

We met Michael playing a game of checkers with a shopowner. Business was slow in this area due to the rise in cost of living and emmigration that left most parts of the streets deserted.

Michael had no job of his own, and while he spent most of his days on the streets, he usually retired home to survive on whatever his mother cooked. Michael told FIJ that he was frustrated with the state of things and he wanted better for him and his people.

“This Madagali is not part of Nigeria in my opinion,” he told this reporter. “There is no LGA out of the 774 LGAs that face challenges like this LGA. In Michika, a neighbouring LGA, they find things very easy. They buy fuel at between N600 and N650, but we buy ours from N950 to N1,000.

“People are not allowed to sell black market fuel and it is only one person in Shuwa who is allowed to sell fuel on the black market while one or two sell in other parts of Madagali.”

Michael explained that if anyone wanted to buy fuel in Michika and sold to other residents in Madagali, they would be “taken, beaten and bundled away by the soldiers.”

He said that the soldiers did not even need to catch one with petrol: “Let them even hear that you want to buy and sell, they will come for you. If you buy as little as a cup of fuel from Michika, they would confiscate it unless you pay tax for it to the soldiers.”

Michael went on to tell FIJ that the soldiers in the area defended their actions by claiming people who bought fuel, fertilisers, drugs and food items in large quantities to move through LGAs may be aiding terrorists to get the items they otherwise would not have access to.

The move then was to curb access to aid and limit residents from getting what they could get within their own LGAs.


fuel sold in plastic kegs
Plastic fuel kegs on the road in Shuwa. A man vetted by the military sells fuel for N900 per litre here to residents. Photo Credit: Daniel Ojukwu/FIJ

Michael told FIJ that the soldiers usually escorted black marketers to neighbouring communties to get fuel at N750 per litre then return with them to sell at N900 per litre and then get a percentage.

“The people you see there,” Michael said as he gestured towards black marketers. “They are just, ‘I bring you to manage my business’. That’s just what they are doing there. But, in the real sense, it’s for the soldiers.”

“We live in abject poverty. Look around, you’ll see that people are suffering.”

Michael speaks to FIJ about soldiers’ activities in Madagali

Charles Kogifalan used to sell building items in the late 2000s until insurgency forced him to leave the community to Yola, the state capital.

When he came back in 2015, the insurgents had taken over his wares. He lost everything he had. So, he took to printing.

On the afternoon we walked into his shop, there was no power and he did not have fuel to power his generator set. There were also no customers in need of his services.

He told us he was happy the soldiers came in to fight the insurgents, but he said they were also oppressing the people.

READ ALSO: Shilla Boys Unmasked: Inside Adamawa’s Den of Young Terrorists Snatching Phones and Lives

“They are the ones selling everything. Virtually, they are the ones selling everything,” Kogifalan told FIJ. “They sell fertiliser, seasoning cubes… You have to buy from the soldiers. They are the ones doing the business now.

“They have their own retailers. That is those that will go and buy from the markets and then bring it to the nearest points so that we will have access to it. They are getting income from it. They’ve taken away all the businesses from the indigenes.

“Sometimes, even if you are trekking, they will ask you and others to come and load sand inside their sack and arrange all sorts of things. So, these kinds of things make people leave the community.”

FIJ approached a black marketer in Shuwa for comments on the matter but he declined and chose to not speak to the press.

In 2021, residents of Madagali LGA complained of how the soldiers were seizing and reselling fertilisers to residents. Days later, the army denied the reports. They said they were seizing fertilisers to prevent terrorists from gaining access to them as it was a crucial component for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs).


Highway from Madagali to Cameroon
Highway from Madagali to Cameroon. Photo Credit: Daniel Ojukwu/FIJ

Donald Apagu, Justin Joseph and Lazarus Jafiya are farmers who reside in Madagali. They used to own farms in the community until the insurgency robbed them of their possessions.

All three now travel to Cameroon during the rainy season to farm and return during the dry season.

When this reporter met Apagu, he told FIJ of how the soldiers had warned farmers against growing crops with tall stalks because they could serve as cover for terrorists.

Unable to survive on stunted crops alone, he and other farmers like him decided to travel to travel to Cameroon to do their farming only to return to Madagali with their produce.

“Some of us reside in Cameroon fully and there is an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp there now,” Donald told FIJ.

The displacement levels are high, and the people feel they are disconnected from the city’s capital. For context, Shuwa to Yola is a 246-kilometre distance but Shuwa to Chibok in Borno State is a distance of just 112 kilometres. Bama in Borno also stands at 177 kilometres away from Shuwa and Minawao in Cameroon is 103 kilometres away.

Lazarus also frequents Cameroon but, while he is yet to relocate, he has lost a number of friends to migration. He also lamented abandoned filling stations and the rise in cost of living.

a fuel station in Madagali
A fuel station in Madagali. Photo Credit: Daniel Ojukwu/FIJ

He said it was worrying that the community was falling to ruins even as the governor hailed from the same LGA. Ahmadu Fintiri, Adamawa State Governor, is an indigene of the LGA and his people hoped their calls for his attention would receive swift response, but many continue to leave.

Charles Apagu, Donald’s nephew, left Madagali for Lagos on August 5 after failing to find opportunities in the area. He did not want to join his family’s tradition of farming, so he left. He recently graduated from the University of Yola.

“They have all been farming from childhood,” Apagu told FIJ of his relatives.

“They inherited it from the ones before them, and many of them did not go to school.

“The reason they went to farm in Cameroon is because of the harassments from soldiers.

“A friend of mine was forced to mould sand and build at a checkpoint for no reason. That goes on regularly there.”


When FIJ approached Adrawus Gadzama, the 85-year-old chairman of the Madagali LGA, he was in Yola. He told this reporter that he had received a number of complaints from residents on several occasions.

“The price of fuel is too high,” Adrawus told FIJ.

“People buy fuel for N900 or N1,000 a litre and then they spend on transportation which is also high. It needs to come down.”

Adrawus refused to comment on the accusations against the army.

FIJ spoke with an insider who works with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd (NNPCL). He said it was ridiculous for fuel prices to be that high in one area.

“That price is too much for any part of the country. In Adamawa, we are trying to keep the price of fuel around N600 per litre. So, if it is selling for N900 it is above normal and nobody should be doing that.”


FIJ took its findings and the concerns of residents to Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, Nigerian Army Public Relations director. Onyema asked that FIJ send him a text message after a phone call.

Nwachukwu responded saying the accusations against the army were untrue and the soldiers there regulate the black market as part of a counter-terrorism measure.

He said, “The allegation is unfounded and is an attempt to discredit and undermine the determination of troops to ensure that terrorists in the Mandara hills and Sambisa are denied necessary logistics to sustain their nefarious activities.

“There are three designated locations which were approved to retail fuel where locals freely patronise. The regulation became necessary as some people were compromised and were providing the insurgents with fuel and other logistics to continue to sustain their dastardly acts.

“Hence only those that have been vetted are permitted to retail fuel. This action by the troops is aimed at logistically strangulating the insurgents.”

This report was completed with the support of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development and the Open Society Foundations.

Published 17th Sep, 2023

By Daniel Ojukwu


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