In what seems like the spread of bloodletting in parts of the country, suspected gunmen riding on motorcycles on Tuesday and Wednesday night killed an estimated 103 people in separate attacks on two villages in Faskari and Sabuwa Local Government Areas of Katsina State.
The multiple attacks on the communities occurred a few hours ahead of President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s visit to the state.
But this has drawn the ire of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which criticised the president for continuing with his state visit.
It was gathered that the armed men, said to be cattle rustlers, invaded Koran Mota village, where they killed seven people including the Maiunguwa (ward head), Mallam Maiunguwa Bawa, Mallam Nuhu Haruna and Magaji Musa of Marabar Kindo. They were all buried on Wednesday.
The fleeing armed men also reportedly shot dead a middle-aged man in the neighbouring village of Unguwar Rimi, in Sabuwa before disappearing into the bush.
Eyewitnesses told THISDAY that the gang of bandits numbering about 90, were said to be riding 30 motorcycles when they raided Kurar Mota and Marabar Kindo villages in Faskari and Sabuwa respectively. According to eyewitness accounts, the armed men shot sporadically into the air to scare away the residents.
However, the Chief Imam of Maigora village in Faskari confirmed that the bandits came in different attire, stating that some were dressed in army uniforms, while others wore Fulani clothing.
It was further confirmed that the bandits had repeatedly raided Maigora, Sabon layin Galadima, Unguwar Rimi and Marabar Kindo and neighbouring villages killing dozens of people while several others who fled were still missing at press time.
Efforts by the police to intervene during the attacks, suffered a setback when the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Faskari, identified as Mr. A. A. Gwarzo, who led his men to apprehend the assailants, was stabbed and injured in the leg at Munhaye village.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the Katsina State Police Command, Aminu Sadiq, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), however denied the casualty figure, stating, â€œIt is only five people that were killed.â€
Attacks by bandits have become a recurring menace in the Rugu forest which borders Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and Katsina States for over a year, resulting in the destruction of human lives, livestock and other property.
As a result, surviving residents of the communities have been forced to flee their homes for Dandume Local Government Area for fear of further attacks.
Reacting to the attacks on the villages, the state chapter of APC chided the president for continuing with the state visit despite the onslaught and killings in the communities.
Addressing the press yesterday, the interim Chairman of APC in Katsina State, Dangiwa Ahmed, called for the immediate suspension of the state visit and urged the federal government to urgently find a lasting solution to this carnage.
He said it was disheartening that government had concentrated security personnel in the state capital, Katsina, ahead of the presidentâ€™s visit â€œwhile people are being killed with houses burnt leading to the displacement of countless othersâ€.
The APC admonished Jonathan to urgently visit the area and sympathise with the victims and â€œprovide moral and humanitarian supportâ€.
Meanwhile, the president yesterday ordered the Armed Forces to comb the Rugu forest and rid it of militants who have been launching deadly attacks on surrounding states.
The president, who spoke at a dinner reception organised for him by the Katsina State Government, said the forest borders the four states of Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna and neighbouring Niger Republic.
He regretted that the forest meant for economic purposes had turned to hideout for insurgents who are launching attacks on the states.
The president also mandated the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to immediately swing into action and deliver relief materials to the affected communities.
Earlier in the day, the president commissioned the new Katsina State Government House built at the cost of N8 billion.
At the commissioning, the president pledged the federal governmentâ€™s support to the state in its development drive and lauded the governor, Ibrahim Shema, for what he described as his selfless service in completing the massive project a year before the end his administration.
Earlier, Shema noted that politics should be about service to humanity and not for selfish reasons.
He enjoined Jonathan to continue with the positive programmes at the centre and avoid distraction occasioned by the challenges facing the nation.
â€œMr. President, you have offered yourself to the service of this country and you are doing the best in human capacity development.
â€œIn human endeavour, there must be some challenges, so yours is not peculiar and Nigeria is facing its own challenges like the other nations of the world.
â€œThere is no part of the world today that can claim that it is 100 per cent at peace and harmony, but deliberate and sincere work from leaders must be put in place to address development issues,â€ Shema said.
According to him, the N8 billion used in constructing the new Government House was sourced from the savings of the state.
He said the proceeds from the interest were also used in constructing the N400 million Katsina government lodge in Abuja.
Besides the projects, Shema said his administration had constructed 200 secondary schools, 38 new primary schools, adding that education at the primary and secondary school levels in the state was free.