The terror of the Yan Ba Beli group is eating deep into communities in Bauchi State, leaving in its trail death and destruction. We told him to buy Maggi for us after the meeting but he never returned. That was the last time we saw him alive,” these were the words of Khadija, the wife of Jafaru Abdullahi who was allegedly killed by a notorious group operating in some parts of Bauchi State, called “Yan Ba Beli.”
Khadija who spoke intermittently between sobs said that her husband who always came back home after Juma’at prayers stayed late the day he was abducted. “Even the children were surprised because they knew that he used to come back early. We were not told about what happened until very late.
“When we learnt about his abduction, we prayed for his safe return but he was brutally killed and dumped by his killers,” she recalled. According to her, the deceased left behind 10 children with two sick ones, a male and a female. “These people have killed the whole family. See our little children, they are still asking about their father,” she said. Abdullahi was said to have been abducted from the venue of a meeting alongside another person, Musa Mokawu. The group, operating for almost three years, has allegedly been killing and abducting people. Fulani have been victims of the group. According to the Secretary, Bauchi State chapter of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Sadiq Ahmed, who spoke after the funeral of two victims at Bayara, a community few kilometres from Bauchi metropolis, alleged their members are being killed by members of the notorious group in many parts of the state.
He said over 10 members of their association had been killed at various locations within the last two weeks. Ahmed disclosed that one of the victims, Jafaru Abdullahi, was the former chairman, Miyetti Allah in Bauchi Local Government Area and both him and Mokawu were residents of Yolan Bayara. The secretary informed that the two people were allegedly abducted by the group at the Palace of Yakubu Yola, the Village Head, after they were invited for a meeting, adding that their corpses were later recovered in the bush with gunshots and machete wounds. A MACBAN official who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity disclosed that over 100 Fulanis had been killed by the group in the last one year. He regretted that Fulani community leaders, their male members and associates are mostly targeted because of their opposition to the ways the group operates. “Sarkin Fulani Ardo Bargi was taken by the group from Alkaleri market to Dindima and killed. Ardo Bage was killed after he was abducted from his community in Ganjuwa. Ardo Gana’i was also killed at Rishi in Lame District, Toro Local Government Area. “There was another person killed at his wedding at Rauta community also in Toro Local Government. Ardo Ali was abducted at Durum Market and killed. The Ba Beli move in large numbers on their motorcycles with assorted weapons and that is why they are hardly challenged,” he explained. According to him, Ganjuwa is the most notorious area where the group operates around Soro, Miya and Yali, among others. The source added that despite several pleas and reports of the atrocities and killings being perpetrated by the group, no concrete action is being taken to bring their activities to an end. Members of the group were said to be riding in twos or threes on many motorcycles, invading communities, abducting and killing their victims and carting away their motorcycles, phones and other valuables. They also place hefty ransoms on other victims to be spared as many victims have parted with millions of Naira, cattle and other valuables to gain their freedom and have their lives spared.
People afraid to speak People are gripped by the fear of the notorious group, as according to sources, any person who speaks against them or leaks their mode of operation to the authorities will be killed. When our correspondent visited the house of the late Jafaru Zanka Abdullahi, the women nearly stopped the men from talking because of fear that the group may come after them. After much persuasion, members of the family later opened up. A brother to the victim, Abubakar Abdullahi, a commercial motorcyclist, said he left home early to attend a funeral of an old woman when he was informed of his brother’s abduction. “When I was told about his abduction, we made frantic efforts to know his whereabouts but to no avail. We reported the matter to Yelwa Police Division. We were later called very late on Saturday and informed that their corpses were found at Bagali,” he narrated. The deceased’s elder brother, Usman Abdullahi, who came from Kaduna said he was devastated by his brother’s death and that it was incomprehensible what his brother might have done to be killed.
Also, the eldest son of the deceased, Ahmad Abdullahi, who was also away in Kaduna rearing the family’s cattle, said he last spoke to his father the previous day when he was informed about the death of the woman. A recent incident at Diwa in Burra District in Ningi Emirate, involving the group, caught the attention of many people in Bauchi State who were hitherto unaware of their operations. What happened prompted a visit by Emir of Ningi, Mr Yunusa Danyaya, to commiserate with the people over an invasion. The Ba Beli members allegedly invaded on a market day, leading to a confrontation with members of the community. Members of the community repelled the attack while about 10 people were injured with several weapons seized from the attackers. The Emir, while addressing the people of Diwa, cautioned them against taking laws into their own hands and reporting any security threat to the appropriate authorities. He warned that, although they have the right to defend themselves, they must not carry out jungle justice. While speaking, the Area Commander, Ningi Police Command, Mr Murtala Idris, urged the communities to always report any suspicious movements with criminal tendencies in their areas, adding that the police will always be there to protect their lives and property. Cycle of blames Speaking on the activities of the Ba Beli gang, the Bauchi State Commandant of Vigilante Association, Dalladi Gamji, said the group had been operating for over three years and they have written several times to the government, traditional institutions and other security agencies about their activities and the need to intervene. According to him, members of the group allegedly came to Bauchi from Zamfara and Katsina states and were joined by some local elements in the state.
He added that the group is known by different names, saying that they are called Yan Bula in Katsina and parts of Kaduna State, Yan Sa Kai in Zamfara and Yan Ba Beli in Bauchi. “They all operate in the same way and they have transformed into killing squads in all the states. I went to Katsina and Zamfara states and investigated their ways of operation and they are all similar to what they are doing in Bauchi,” Gamji stressed. According to him, the concern is that the group is towing the same path of Zamfara and Katsina states by taking the issue lightly and it might get out of hand. “The authorities are being so naive and reluctant to address the situation squarely by paying lip service to a serious security threat. They are carrying out targeted killings sometimes to settle personal scores,” he said. Speaking on the matter by telephone, the Special Adviser to Bauchi State Governor on Security Matters, Mr Ladan Yusuf, said the government is doing enough to tackle not only the Ba Beli menace but other security issues but declined to elaborate. “We had series of meetings on the issue and there are many recommendations made on the best ways to tackle the matter. You can speak to the Commissioner of Police. He is in the best position to give you the details. If I tell you anything now, I maybe off the track,” he said. Although the police and other security agencies have been arresting members of the group for prosecution, the arrest were mostly made after the attacks or killings. Many people are wondering how members of the group are being allowed to move freely on over 100 or 200 motorcycles carrying two or three people with weapons. Speaking earlier on the matter, the Bauchi State Police Command’s Spokesperson, Mr Kamal Abubakar, admitted that many members of the group have been arrested and taken to court and that the police are doing all they can to curb the menace of Yan Ba Beli and other criminal elements in the state. As the operations of the notorious Ba Beli group continue, many people feared it may grow into a menace that will make Bauchi another crisis area, looking at its vast forests. Many believe that the time to act is now before the matter becomes part of a growing trend like in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and other states, where the bandits strike communities at will, leaving death and grief in their trails.