The Katsina State government may have imposed a ban on all forms of farming around the dreaded Rugu forest as bandits and kidnappers continue to harass residents in at least nine of the 34 local government areas.
The latest act of kidnapping occurred on Tuesday in Batsari local government as gunmen abducted the village head of Labo, Alhaji Maigari Bature, while working on his farm.
Eyewitness accounts said that the abductors arrived at the farm on several motorcycles, shooting sporadically apparently to scare other farmers, and isolated the villages before zooming off with him into the nearby Rugu forest.
The Katsina State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), SP Gambo Isah, who confirmed the report urged farmers to comply with government’s directive on the prohibition of farming in areas surrounding the Rugu forest.
“The police are on top of the matter to ensure that the village head is rescued from the kidnappers,” Isah said, noting that, “men of Operation Puff Adder responded to the distress call from the villagers but since it was inside his farmland, far away, near the Rugu forest, before they could reach there, the hoodlums had already fled into Rugu forest.
“We are following a lead that may assist us in his rescue and members of the communities are reminded to put the security of their lives first before embarking on any activity and also reminding them of the state government’s directives on the suspension of farming activities around the Rugu forest.
“If it becomes necessary that they must go to the farm, they should go in groups and also inform the security agencies for security back up.”
Bandits and kidnappers have virtually overrun Batsari, Jibia, Safana, Dan-Musa, Faskari, Sabuwa, Dandume, Kankara and parts of Kafur local government areas, all of which share border with the Rugu forest and parts of Zamfara and Kaduna states.
Apart from the inauguration ritual of Governor Aminu Bello Masari on May 29, for a second term in office, government had cancelled all other activities earlier scheduled to mark the occasion as well as those of the June 12 Democracy Day.
According to Masari, “as we are all aware, the state has of recent witnessed disturbing resurgence of incidences of armed banditry and kidnapping for ransom, more prevalent especially in the frontline local government areas bordering the Rugu forest, despite the government’s continued unflinching logistics support to the security agencies in the state.”
The Katsina State police command recently deployed members of a special squad, “Operation Puff Adder,” to various parts of the state, to check the activities of bandits and kidnappers.
The membership of the squad are drawn from the Police Mobile Force (PMF), Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), IGP Special Tactical Squad (STS), Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD), Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT).