Hajiya Shafa’atu, a 30-year-old widow, has described how bandits attacked a car she was traveling in on Monday in Sabon Birni Local Government of Sokoto State, killing her four children, mother, and several relatives.
Shafa’atu claimed she and the other passengers were on their way to Kaduna State when they came under heavy fire from the bandits. She spoke to reporters at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital in Sokoto, where she was being treated for her injuries.
When the incident occurred on Sabon Birni-Isa Road, the young widow was traveling with her four children, mother, direct younger brother, niece, and nephew.
According to Shafa’atu, the vehicle was carrying about 33 elderly people as well as many children when it was attacked by bandits loyal to one Bello Turji, who has been terrorizing the eastern portion of Sokoto State for some time.
“They kept firing at our vehicle until it somersaulted three times and burst into flames. Only I and one other passenger miraculously came out of the bus; some other passengers later died of their gun wounds,” she stated.
She noted that eight of her family members, including her 10-month-old baby, were among the dead.
“I watched my mother, my maternal uncle, my nephew and my niece burn to ashes while the attackers observed delightedly,” she added.
She stated that she and her family were attempting to evacuate the area due to constant bandit attacks when the incident occurred.
Shafa’atu’s health was so terrible that she couldn’t talk to the reporters any longer.
Her uncle, who is caring for her in the hospital, informed reporters that he took part in the funeral of the attack victims.
“You need to see their remains which were brought in two ambulances. They were unrecognisable because they had been burnt to ashes.
“We performed the funeral rites and buried them according to the injunction of our religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, has condoled with the families of the victims, describing the incident as barbaric.
The governor said: “It is very disturbing that these kinds of things are happening here and across the nation. As those entrusted with the leadership of the people in this state, we are very worried and touched each time such incident happens.
“Nonetheless, we will not rest on our oars in doing the best we can to roll back this unfortunate problem.
“We have been doing our best to support the security operatives in the state. We have donated over 500 vehicles to all the security operatives in the state and trained about 1000 certified vigilante members.”
He added that 500 motorcycles had been supplied to vigilante groups to help them carry out their missions under the supervision of security forces.
Governor Tambuwal announced a personal payment of N250,000 to each of the victims’ families, as well as his government’s commitment to cover the costs of those admitted to the hospital.
In contrast to allegations attributed to a serving senator claiming the state government had prohibited vigilante groups, he clarified that his administration was set to strengthen the operations of certified vigilante groups.
“What we voided were selfstyled vigilante groups, while we will, from the beginning of December, start paying verified vigilante members a N20,000 monthly stipend to encourage them,” Tambuwal said.
He urged all and sundry to jettison politics in the move “towards resolving this crisis.”