Amid the rampaging banditry activities which forced them to flee their homes, thousands of residents of Zuru Emirate in Kebbi State who are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are now experiencing biting hunger.
Findings showed that the people of the area are facing humanitarian crisis while more camps for IDPs continue to spring up.
However, this has not stopped attacks by bandits on villages and communities in Kebbi.
After many weeks of hunger and starvation in undignified conditions, some of the IDPs, now in their thousands, say they have to return home as they are faced with choosing between dying of hunger and being killed by bandits.
The bandits have also carried out attacks in the Sakaba Local Government Area of the state, which borders Niger State, where bandits, believed to be in collaboration with Boko Haram, have reportedly acquired a large territory.
The IDPs were observed on Monday, with their belongings by the roadside, waiting for vehicles.
Some were seen trekking back, with their loads on their heads.
“I will rather return with my family and die like a man than allow starvation to kill us here like unwanted animals,” said 45-year-old Abubakar Galadima, an IDP at the dilapidated government building beside Sakaba LGA Secretariat at Diri Daji, in Zuru Emirate.
Galadima, who hails from Dankolo village, has been there for three weeks with his three wives and 24 children.
“The first and only time they brought raw food here was some two weeks ago and it caused a lot of fight here,” said the lean and weary looking man.
“Since then we have literally been starving with all these children crying for food all the time.”
Galadima’s village was attacked at least three times in the past one month. Though no one was killed, all the cattle in his community were rustled.
“As you can see, we have already packed our load and we are just waiting for a truck to come and take us back home,” he said.
Scores of women and their children were seen with their goods arranged and ready to leave.
The situation was the same in all the IDPs’ camps visited.
Heavily pregnant Jamimah Benjamin, 34, gave birth two weeks ago under trauma at the United Missionary African Church, Diri Daji.
She had managed to escape from her Talata village in Sakaba ward and walked for five hours through thorny shrubs and bushes with her two little kids to the tarred road in Jan Birni, the next settlement with a good road linking other towns.
It was from there that they were helped to complete the 17km journey to Diri Daji by a kind motorist.
“I gave birth at the gate of the church when I arrived here that day. That was two weeks ago. We named the child Joshua. But my people and I are ready to return home now. We are dying of starvation here,” she said.
“This is not the first time we are returning. Two days after I gave birth here, we could not bear the condition. So, we returned,” she said.
The men of Talata community quickly gathered their wives and children and guided them to a thicket in the swamp by the bank of a river that flows through the village.
Jamimah, her two-day-old infant, and two other children that are five and seven years old were also among.
“The place was infested by snakes. One crawled over to my sister’s back, but did not bite her. The grass was itchy and it was very uncomfortable. The children were crying but we muffled their mouths. The shooting started from 9am in the morning and lasted until 4pm in the afternoon,” she said.
After that experience, their men again ensured they returned to Diri Daji. But now, they are set to leave for Talata village.
“They are always welcome here,” said Rev Dauda Sule, who oversees a church.
“At the peak of the violence, they were about a thousand IDPs here. But most of them have returned home or have found better places to go. Yes there is a problem with food. The church cannot do much, and the elected representatives are not doing anything to assist.
“The other time that the Chairman of Sakaba LGA (Lawal Dan Hausa) came here, he only brought sachets of ‘pure’ water. That’s all,” he added.
It is estimated that there may be about 10,000 IDPs from the displaced community scattered across many parts of the LGA that are considered safe for now.
The IDPs come from the following communities in Sakaba LGA in Zuru Emirate: Tunga Kadai, Bazama, Mai Komo, Kaiwa kasa, Yakila and Robin.
Others are: Kukumo, Makeri, Lani, Tikawa, Madi, Katuntu, Unguwan Zama and Kudanhu.
Findings show that between April 13 and 29, the bandits killed the following persons at Sakaba town: Tanko Audu, 40; Auta Gurgu, 70; the daughter of Tashi Kataba, who had her son on her back and Bala Mai Saska, 75.
Villagers said an estimated 1,000 cows and 500 sheep were rustled by the bandits during the same period.
All attempts to speak with Chairman of Sakaba LGA, Lawal Dan Hausa, were not successful as he could not be reached on his phone line.