There was an operation on April 23, 2020, by armed groups believed to be terrorists in Birane and Tungar Hilani communities; the next day the military stormed Gidan Jaja village and asked the villagers to leave immediately and started setting houses ablaze.
They also threatened to kill anyone who failed to leave the vicinity or resist them, said Jamilu Labaran of Gidan Jaja, who stressed that there was no security threat in the area before the attack.
“As you can see, we are in the middle of a thick forest. Sometimes the terrorists come here to buy things; they pay, sometimes they don’t,” Labaran said.
“The soldiers also burned down houses, including a government property, a building owned by the Ministry of Environment. We are also victims of the armed groups operating in the general area. This settlement does not look like a camp inhabited,” said one villager.
“When the military came, they didn’t tell us what our crime was; they didn’t find anything incriminating, they punished everyone,” another villager affected by the raid, told HumAngle.
“In the end, they told us that we hide bandits”
According to Labaran over 20 houses were burnt down to ashes with one person shot in the leg by soldiers and several villagers were assaulted.
A military source admitted they received wrong intelligence.
Villagers who lost their homes are now spread in Gurbin Bore, Gusau, Zurmi.
“The military came and told us to go back but no one is keen to return to a community that was ruined by terrorists and the Army.
“We have for long wanted to leave this area because of terrorist attacks but our parents insisted we stay. Now, it is our parents that don’t want to return,” a villager said.
Asked if the community has ever been in any relationship with armed groups, the villager denied.
However, in a petition to the military and state authorities by Jaja Development Association and signed by the President, Mustapha Yakubu, the Secretary, Bashir Abubakar, and two others, the villagers wrote:
“Following the incident that happened between the Nigerian Army and Fulani bandits around Birane community and other villages of Zurmi, the Nigerian Army in its efforts to salvage Gidan Jaja community, ended up raiding and torturing innocent and unarmed people, including women and children. This, however, resulted to the loss of houses, cars, and other valuables, including shops, as well as torture and injury on people.
Despite a series of violent attacks by Fulani bandits, which include kidnapping, sexual harassment, robbery and other inhumane acts, the community was served by another attack by the Nigerian Army.”
According to the petition by the association exclusively obtained by HumAngle, the community lost 16 houses, 15 shops all burnt to ashes, 13 house furniture, a Gulf car, one Mistubishi car, several food stocks, including bags of rice, millet, maize and guinea-corn.
Phones, school certificates, voter cards, money, were lost to the attack. However, one person shot on the leg, is still on admission at the Zurmi General Hospital, two motorcycles burnt with a Toyota Prado damaged by the soldiers.
The petitioners also listed 66 victims, including women and children, and demanded justice from the military.
Nazifi Rabiu and Abubakar Mahdi were amongst those beaten, while Nafiu Rabiu shot on the leg, the petitioners added.
Speaking to HumAngle, the Secretary Yakubu Abubakar said the people were currently displaced and in Zurmi, Dauran, Gurbin Bore and Gusau,.
“We have written and complained to local and state authorities but there is no reply yet,” he said.
Labarn added, “we have been threatened for complaining” on some occasions.