Niger State was thrown into mourning last week in separate attacks,
gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, struck in two different local
government areas- Mokwa and Paiko, leaving 26 murdered.
Etogi village, Gbara Ward in Mokwa local government area of the state is
a settlement of about 1,500 people who are predominantly fishermen.
gathered that the crisis started about four years ago over a grazing
land. The land was said to have been leased to the herders by the
villagers but controversy arose over the ownership years later when the
community wanted to use it for dry season farming, a development that
did not go down well with the herdsmen who said they were not ready to
vacate the land.
Because of the crisis, the Sarkin (head) of the herdsmen in the
community, Tanko Yugudawas, was said to have been chased out of the
The mission was carried out but with a vow from some of the Sarkin’s
men to avenge his humiliation. The opportunity allegedly came,
penultimate Saturday, when a herder was said to have been stabbed by
one of the villagers over an argument and, in retaliation, the herdsmen
mobilized and killed several people.
Nobody expected it from the herdsmen who were said to be armed with
guns, daggers, knives among others and stormed the village as early at
5a.m on motorcycles and canoe and made straight to the community mosque
where the early morning prayer, led by the Imam of the village, Alhaji
Saidu Imam, was going on. Caught unawares, the suspected herdsmen
started slaughtering the worshippers in the mosque, starting with the
Chief Imam. Those who managed to escape from the mosque were said to
have been pursued, caught and killed. The sporadic shooting in the
mosque woke up women and children in the village and, as they also tried
to escape, some of them, who came face to face with the gunmen, were
murdered. For about two hours that the attack lasted, no help came due
to the lack of access road and communication to Katcha, the headquarters
of Katcha local government area.
While it was easy for the village adults to escape, the children fled in
different directions. Five of the children declared missing are
suspected to have plunged into river Niger while trying to escape. Many
of the adults also sustained varying degrees of wounds while fleeing the
troubled spot. House to house killing Knowing that many of the
villagers may have still been in their compounds, the gunmen were said
to have stormed the houses. An eye witness told our correspondent that
the house of the village Head, Bala Abdullahi Pog, was the first port of
call. But he had fled.
In most of houses visited, the gunmen were said to have been after cash
and ended up collecting millions of Naira from their victims and also
killed some in the process. The only woman killed, Zainab Suleiman, was
said to have been shot because of her uncooperative attitude after she
was asked to show the gunmen where the money of her husband was kept.
The husband was said to be away to the mosque when the wife was killed
at home for refusing to lead the gunmen to where their money was kept.
It could not be immediately ascertained wether the husband was among
those murdered in the mosque.
One prominent businessman in the village, Abdullahi Yanda, was said to
be among those murdered in his bedroom even after he had given about
N3m to the gunmen. Unlike the woman who was killed for preventing the
attackers from having access to the money kept in her home, another
woman was said to have been spared for “co-operating” with them and
leading them to where money in the house was hidden.
Even then, the husband was said to have been ordered to say his last
prayer and killed in the wife’s presence and the money taken away. The
deputy village head, Alhaji Ahmadu Tella, aged 75, was allegedly traced
to his bathroom and killed.
Man, seven children dead
One Soje Jibrin was said to have been killed along with his seven
children. The whereabouts of his wife were not known as of the time of
going to press An eyewitness told our correspondent that Soje was taken
in his residence and ordered to line up his children who were
slaughtered one after the other before the assailants descended on him.