Confession of a bandit: I bought N28.5m guntruck in Niger Republic for ‘operations

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A bandit arrested in Sokoto State has narrated how he facilitated the purchase of a guntruck from neighbouring Niger Republic for banditry activities in Nigeria.

The police recently raided no fewer than 13 bandit camps and several other criminal hideouts in three local government areas of Sokoto State and arrested 57 suspects. Thirty-seven of the suspects were identified as associates of the notorious bandit kingpin, Bello Turji with one of them disclosing to newsmen how he purchased a gun truck for N28.5m in Niger Republic.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations, Ahmed Zaki Gwandu, said during the week that the raids were carried out through the instrumentality of a team set up by the Inspector General of Police tagged ‘Operation Sahara’. DIG Gwandu, who addressed newsmen while parading the suspects at the headquarters of the Sokoto State police command in Sokoto, described the raids as part of larger efforts to stamp out banditry and other crimes across the country.

He said the 37 arrested bandits linked with Bello Turji, who is believed to be responsible for most of the major attacks in the eastern part of the state and neighbouring Zamfara State, including Musa Mohammed Kamarawa, 33, were apprehended at different locations and they had all confessed to their complicity in the crime of banditry. Purchase of guntruck Kamarawa, who was said to be a childhood friend of Bello Turji, shed more light on the activities of his gang. Responding to questions from newsmen, the 33-year-old revealed how he procured a gun truck at the cost of N28.5 million from a neighbouring country.

He said he was linked with the seller by another bandit leader. Kamarawa said: “I got the contact from Katchala Halilu who is a bandit leader in Zamfara and Sokoto states.

“After I collected the money from him, I got a car and travelled with my brother to Cotonou (Benin Republic). We couldn’t find the vehicle there and someone sent us the number of another person living in Libya.

“The person is also a car dealer. When I called him, he referred me back to Gaya in Niger Republic where I delivered the money and my brother went to deliver the vehicle to Halilu.

“My brother’s name is Aminu and we were together with one Bashar, myself, Yahya Dogo and Saddam.”

He added that he had been “in the business of banditry since 2018.”

Flanked by the outgoing Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 10 Command, Ali Janga and the state Commissioner of Police, Kamaldeen Okunlola, the DIG said the activities of ‘Operation Sahara’ had been yielding “tremendous successes” in the ongoing onslaught against banditry in the state. Gwandu stated that between January 20 and 29, 2022, bandit camps in, Illela, Gudugudu, Rabbah, Isa and Bungo communities in the state were identified and raided by the police. Other communities that were raised, according to the DIG, are Sangari, Dunawa Tsamaye, Tangaza, Heli, Goronyo, Mayel, Sakanau, Kuka and Zangon.

He said: “Suspects were arrested at different locations in connection with terrorism, kidnapping, cattle rustling, criminal conspiracy, culpable homicide, unlawful possession of firearms, while exhibits were recovered. “All the suspects were linked to the notorious gang leader, Bello Turji, and they all confessed to their complicity in the crime of banditry.

Gwandu listed the exhibits recovered from the suspects to include 32 AK-47 rifles, two rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), one rocket launcher, four locally made pistols, three pairs of army camouflage uniforms, 33 live cartridges, four empty shells of catrigrides, three AK-47 magazines and four operational vehicles.

Others are one Beretta pistol, 10 cartons of Pentazocine BP 30 injection, assorted charms, two bows and arrows, several cutlasses, two motorcycles, one solar panel charger, two Android phones, 16 techno phones, three MP3 solar radio, one solar charger controller, one LAR rifle, one G.3 rifle and 33 live cartridges.

He explained that in addition to the arms and charms recovered from the suspects, the police recovered three trucks, which was in possession of one Musa Kamarawa. Two of the trucks, he said, were recovered at Malunfashi in Katsina State and the remaining one at Ekpoma in Edo State.

He disclosed that no fewer than 150 cows believed to have been rustled were also recovered from the suspects. DIG Gwandu said about 23 criminal suspects disturbing the peace of the state were neutralised within the period under review.

Other suspects

Those arrested alongside Kamarawa include Abubakar Hashimu, Bammi Alhaji Kiruwa, Zayyanu Abdullahi, Mohammed Aliyu, Hardo Yunusa, Mohammed Dangi, Umar Saidu, Ibrahim Shehu, Samuel Chinedu, Usman Ibrahim, Andi Nnalowe and Fabrus Abbasi.

Others are Mohammed Adamu, Mohammadu Bello, Aminu Umar, Umar Dikko, Garba Jammare, Junaidu Mamman, Ibrahim Aliyu, Rabiu Dari, Abdullahi Aliyu, Shehu Abubakar Yusuf, Jabir Isiyaka, Abubakar Shakau, Maniru Saidu, Ibrahim Adamu and Shehu Adamu.

They also include Saidu Ibrahim, Hussaini Adamu, Alhassan Abubakar, Sule Usman, Isah Hussaini, Nvou Micheal, Abubakar Baba Manga and Halilu Idris.

Also paraded among the 57 suspects was one Samuel Chinedu who was believed to be one of the people supplying bandits with drugs and other substances. In an interview with newsmen, Chinedu disclosed that he was running a patent medicine shop before he was arrested by the police. He said one of Kamarawa’s ‘boys’ called Abubakar had walked into his shop one day to buy drugs.

The suspect said: “I have known Abubakar in the Salame area of Sokoto for some years now. He used to buy medicine from my shop. One day, after he bought medicine worth of N15,000, he told me he was working in a hospital in Illela and would need Pentazocine injection. I told him I did not have that in stock but I would try to get it for him.

“He demanded three packets which I got for him. He did not come with a prescription

“I didn’t see him again for a long time until January 27 when he called and requested for same Pentazocine injection and I told him that I did not sell such drug but he begged me to help him get it.

“Thereafter, I called someone, Mr Lucky, who told me that he had the drug but a pack was N18,500. I told him (Abubakar) the price and informed him that I would add N500 for my transport.

“I helped him get 10 boxes of the drug but I never knew his mission because he told me he was a medical doctor.

“I was later arrested by the police at Pinnacle Hotel in Sokoto where he had asked me to come for the money for the drug.”

Abubakar, who was also paraded by the police, claimed to be a health worker. He said Kamarawa had introduced him to Bello Turji for the treatment of a wound he had sustained during an operation.

He confessed to being the linkman between Chinedu, the patent medicine shop owner, and bandits for the delivery of drugs to their various camps. He said he was once convicted and remanded in imprison for a different offence before a lawyer perfected his bail conditions after he promised not to go back into the life of crime.

Bammi Alhaji Kiruwa, also an ex-convict, was also among the paraded suspects. He said he had been sent to prison on two previous occasions on accounts of armed robbery and kidnapping respectively. He said he was arrested for being in possession of AK-47 rifles and 35 rounds of live ammunition. He stated that he got the ammunition from another bandit called Nura Buhari who, he said, was operating inside Kaduna forests.

Kiruwa denied having ever killed anyone but said he participated in kidnapping and someimes cattle rustling. He said didn’t make money from cattle rustling but Buhari once gave him the sum of N150,000 from the proceeds of a cattle rustling operation.

Another one of the suspects identified as Aminu Umar said he was arrested for highway robbery in Gusau. Umar, who claimed to be a commercial driver, said he was from Gwandu in Kebbi State and specialised in conveying robbers to scenes of operation.

He said they normally operated on Gusau and Illela expressways. “The people I used to carry had AK-47 rifles and other small guns,” he noted.

He named those he worked with as Abubakar, Abdullahi, Shamsu and Dahiru, saying, “After our first operation, I was given N10,000 and the second operation earned me N11,000.”

He said he normally picked his partners up at a place known as Masalaci, from where he took them to the spots of operation and they would call him when they were through.

He said he normally picked them early in the morning before Subhi (first Muslim prayer for the day).

Another suspected gunrunner for Turji, Mohammed Aliyu, said he was caught with 55 ammunition and three AK47 rifles.

He said he had about 2,000 ammunition. Aliyu said one of the other suspects had put about 16 cows in his care with a promise to come for them in three days which he failed to do before he was arrested.

He, however, confessed that he charged a minimum of N5,000 per ammunition got from him for operations.

Reacting to the arrests, the commander of a vigilance group which supported the police in their operations in one of the affected local government areas, commended the steadfastness of the police in fighting crime in the area.

He said his group was ready to assist security agencies in dislodging bandits and other criminals from the area.

He, however, called on government at all levels to come to the aid of vigilance groups providing them with the logistics needed to fight crime.

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