Residents of border communities in Katsina State, Nigeria, who are now living at the mercy of bandits and kidnappers, are left with no other option than to cross over to safer villages in the Niger Republic where they pass the night.
According to DailyTrust, the residents usually return home the following day to continue with their businesses.
A visit to the Hirji community, a settlement in the Niger Republic, just hundreds of metres away from Magama town in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State, Nigeria, revealed how people live in different security situations and live other social lives.
Hirji is a small settlement in the Niger Republic, just some metres away from Magama town on the Nigerian border. The security and social life of Hirji have a striking contrast from what obtains in villages on this side of the wall.
A visit to the community showed it was lively with trading and activities of some commercial sex workers and patrons and ‘hot drink’ customers.
Others were traders who sell roasted meat (suya), tea and small kiosks that sell assorted consumables.
One of the residents of Hirji, who identified himself as Yussouf, said, “This is how we live. It will remain lively like this until around 2 am when almost everybody retires to their bed. Many young men and women from Nigeria cross over to pass the night here, but mostly for jollification.”
A resident noted that it was a power generator that supplies power for customers to charge their appliances daily.
“It will be on from late evening until around 6 am. Anyone that hooks on to it will pay without any problem. You know whatever we do here is based on rules that everybody must follow strictly,” he said.
When asked about the security situation, Yussouf said the village was attacked by bandits sometime last year, and that was why the village was not as lively as it used to be before the attack.
“Before that attack in which the bandits abducted about six people, this place used to be lively all night long. When you come here, you meet drummers of all kinds, in different groups, playing while some are singing and dancing.
“There were rumours then that many bandits used to cross over here to drink beer and womanise until a time when some of them were arrested by the Nigerien security forces. As a result of that incident, the bandits attacked Hirji, thinking that those who reported them were from the area. And it was since then that most of those singing and dancing activities were stopped,” he said.
In Hirji, at about 10.30 pm, activities were at their peak.
Also residents of Zangon Tsauni, Tsamben Tsauni, Tsamben Radi, Karauki, Kukar Nabaushi and Gurbi villages mostly take shelter at night in Garin Kaura village, Republic of Niger.
Armaya’u Muhammad, a resident of the town, said, “Even last night, not less than 35 women and children slept in my house and the story is the same with many houses where you have at least five people crossing over from Nigerian villages to take shelter here.”
Although security has improved in the affected areas of Katsina State, some residents still feel insecure. That is why they resolve to cross over to nearby towns in the Niger Republic every day to pass nights and return to their places of business in Magama.
A resident of Magama confirmed that many people had migrated to either Faru or Dan Isa town in the Niger Republic.
“When you go to Faru village in Niger, you will be surprised by how much it has expanded within a very short time. In the past, there were few houses in the village, but now it has exponentially expanded and the majority of the inhabitants are our people who go there at night and return in the morning to conduct their businesses,” he said.
He added that some of them are prominent businessmen in Magama, who have built big houses only to abandon them and migrate to either Faru or Dan Isa town.
“Dan Isa is bigger and more developed, so some of the prominent businessmen here have their residence there," he added.
One of the people, who shuttle between the border towns daily, said it was at the peak of insecurity in the area that he migrated to Faru for his safety and he had since found a new home there.
“There was never a time when the bandits attacked where we are living and even those few areas where they attacked, the Nigerien security forces responded quickly to repel them. We sleep with our two eyes closed, unlike when we were sleeping here in constant fear of being attacked or kidnapped,” he said.