Barely a month after collecting N11 million as a ransom for the release of 20 people they kidnapped in Gatawa, bandits on Wednesday returned to the town and abducted five people.
They are now demanding N500,000 as a ransom for the release of the victims, multiple sources in the town have said.
Gatawa, in Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto State, was until recently one of the communities in the state spared by the bandits.
But the town has now come into the focus of attacks by the outlaws.
In Wednesday’s attack, a resident who asked not to be named over security concerns told Premium Times that the bandits did not kill anyone but were ”only interested in raising funds”.
“They came in the early morning around 8 a.m. when most people were just coming out of their houses. They shot severally into the air before they started taking people, hostage. When they gathered a number of people, they decided to let all the women go but went away with five men. After they left, they sent a message that we should gather N500,000 as ransom,” the source said.
He said Gatawa is among the communities asked by the bandits last month to contribute N20 million as a ransom for those kidnapped from the communities. He said Gatawa town contributed N11 million at the time.
A university lecturer and journalist, Mansur Isa, confirmed the situation to this newspaper.
“The bandits have directed the people of Gatawa between today (Thursday) and Monday to bring the ransom. Every household has been taxed N2,500 but the money may not be enough so they are now reaching out to people from the town who reside elsewhere so they can realise the money on time,” Mr Isa said.
Residents said the bandits also directed another community in the area, Tarah, to pay N7 million as its own levy.
Usman Tarah, a resident of the town, said the bandits sent a message on Tuesday and people started gathering the cash.
“Bandits that we believe to be loyal to Bello Turji have asked us for seven million naira. The neglect of the worsening insecurity in some parts of Sokoto by governments is not only giving the bandits unhindered opportunity to kill and steal but guaranteeing easy recruits into banditry. What we are witnessing now is only the tip of an iceberg of a devastating sequel,” Mr Tarah said.
Mohammed Shehu, another indigene of Tarah, said they were surprised when they got the message from the bandits directing them to raise the ransom because none of their people was kidnapped.
“We don’t know why we were asked to pay seven million naira by the bandits and they too did not say anything as to why we are being taxed. But you know we can’t ask questions,” he said.
The police spokesperson in Sokoto, Sanusi Abubakar, did not pick calls to his phone or respond to SMS seeking his comment for this report.