He made to escape from death, but it would seem death was determined not to spare him on that fateful Sunday night. Hearing gunshots from a nearby house, 80-year old Da Dung Bot Gwom, the village head of Tapo in Heipang District of Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area did not want to leave anything to chance.
Fearing for the worst, he dashed out of his house as fast as his tiring legs could carry him, but he slumped in the process. As some would say, what he was running away from met him on the way. It was his lifeless body that was found behind his house the next day.
About 100 meters away from the village head’s house, armed men had invaded the household of 71-year old Da Rwang Davou,snuffing life out of him, his 47-year old son, Pam and his six-year old grandson, Martin. The gunmen came ready to wipe out the whole family, but fate intervened and spared the lives of Pam’s wife and their little son. Pam’s widow who had to be rushed to hospital after the attack to regain composure narrated what happened to Saturday Vanguard:
“It was around 11 pm on Sunday night, just a few minutes after my husband came back to the house. We heard movements and our dogs were barking seriously. So, we knew that strange people must be in the compound. Shortly afterwards, we heard noise as if they were trying to force the door to the compound open. Thinking they were armed robbers, my husband went for his machete and made to go out but I cautioned him and asked him to monitor the situation.
“Shortly afterwards, we heard gun shots from the next room, my father in-law’s room. We heard him scream and then went silent. My husband immediately went and positioned himself behind the door while I took our two sons into a corner and covered up with a mattress.
The attackers started shooting at our door and since the door was not too strong, they broke in. My husband dashed towards the person in from with his machete but they sprayed him with bullets and he fell down. Our six-year old son who saw what happened from where we were hiding could not hold himself and started shouting “daddy, daddy” and rushed towards him.
“The attackers did not consider his tender age, but fired shots at him and killed him too. I held on tightly to our little boy so that they will not discover our hideout. After some time, thinking they have gone, I went out into the compound to get help but they were still there.
When they saw me with the baby they came after us and started shooting, but I quickly ran into the cactus plants within the compound and hid there. They were still searching for me when they heard members of the vigilante group of the community approaching and quickly escaped.
When the vigilante men arrived, I shouted from when I was hiding and they came for me and my baby and eventually took us to hospital. It was much later that security men arrived in two Hilux vans.” While the identity of the attackers and their mission are yet to be unraveled, members of the community feel it may have to do with some letters they received from their erstwhile Fulani neighbours sometime in 2010 threatening reprisals over allegation that the commu nity was holding hostage some of their wives and children following the 2001 crisis which forced the (Fulani) to leave the area. A community leader, retired Rev. Yakubu Bot who showed Saturday Vanguard copies of the threat letters which were written in English and Hausa languages said they could not say for sure if the attack had to do with the threats.
According to him, “it is unfortunate that this has happened. We received letters addressed to this community in 2010 asking us to release those they claimed we were holding hostage or risk attack. We want to use this opportunity to tell the world that we never held anyone captive or as a hostage.
Yes, there was a crisis in the whole of Heipang District in 2001 and our community was affected because we lost four of our members. So the community decided that we could no longer live with the Fulani, so we asked them to leave. Agreed, they also lost some loved ones but we did not hold any of their people hostage as they claimed. Somehow, this attack is coming years after the threat and we do not know whether there is any link”.
Rev. Bot also confirmed that the octogenarian village head was not shot during the attack but slumped and died. “I think on hearing gun shots, he tried to run for his life but he slumped at the back yard and that was where we picked his corpse the next day”, he said. He disclosed that the late village head was diagnosed of tuberculosis and hypertension over 15 years ago which he has managed well and was just last week, diagnosed of diabetes adding, “we haven’t confirmed yet, but I think he died of hypertension.”
Like in other attacks, many of the villagers lamented the ease with which the gunmen came, launched their attack and escaped despite security presence in the area. This outcry has been on for some time now with some communities accusing members of the Special Task Force (STF) maintaining security in the state of either failing to act or of being involved in the attacks.
Although the allegation has been repeatedly dismissed by the STF, it has refused to die. Rev. Bot related the feeling of the Tapo community on this: “we don’t know what to say but the truth is that we don’t have any confidence in the security men again. There are mobile policemen in this village who have been here for about a year now. The house that was attacked is not far from their post yet they could not help the situation.”
The leader of the community vigilante group, Mr. Chomo Danjuma said his members tried to alert the mobile policemen of what was happening but did not see them until the STF vehicle from Barkin Ladi came. He lamented that Mr. Pam Davou who was a member of the group had left them for home barely 30 minutes before he was killed. He said they tried to reach him when they heard gunshots from around his house but he was not reachable.
Just like Tapo, there were similar killings in other parts of the state during the week putting residents on edge as to where would be the next target. Many of those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard urged government to take concrete steps to nip the violence and killing of innocent people in the bud. “When will this end”, is the chorus on many lips.