Chioma Okezie-Okeh

In saner climes, criminals like him and his gang, afraid that a crack team of the best-trained security operatives might be sent after them, would have thought twice before attacking, killing and injuring the President’s kinsmen.

Not so the young daredevil simply known as Sani Sani Sulen Bayi alias Shaho. He is 26. But at that age, he has succeeded in killing and maiming many natives of Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari so much that the mere mention of his name conjures up nothing but fear and dread.

Exploits of Sani the Terror

In fact, he and members of his gang, and other gangs not led by him operated with so much ease, so much audacity and so much viciousness that the fear of him and his gang became the beginning of wisdom in that part of Nigeria. Many natives and residents who spoke to Saturday Sun said they became so much afraid of his invicibility, that the mere mention of the name, Sani, was enough to send down fears down the spine of many a man and woman in that state, even if it later turned out that the Sani being talked about is not his. His name carried with it such dread.

This is because not only did he rustle cows and killed their owners and maimed some, he and his gang also abduced women and married them off. The fear of him was so much that the bandit sent many of the male folks packing from the villages where they operated without any fear of security operatives, to other parts of Northern Nigeria where there appeared to be relative peace and security.

The attack was so much that the villagers believing that they cannot get needed help from security operatives, were prompted to set up their own vigilance groups and engage them in a sort of community policing. Call Sani the Terror of Katsina and nobody will fault you.

The people of Batsari Local Government Area in Katsina, believe that he is one of the most wanted members of the bandit who should be held responsible for recent deaths in the area. In one of such attacks which took place in July, bandit believed to be led by him invaded the Yargami village in Batsari and killed about 15 villagers.

According to news report, dozens of them armed with AK-47 rifles arrived the community on motorcycles and began shooting at anything that moved, without the slightest hint of provocation. It was in the process that they killed 15 persons and injured several others. Sources say that it took the timely intervention of security personnel in the area to repel the attack, following which they fled back to the Rugu forest from whence they came, without many fatalities surprisingly being recorded among their ranks.

The most recent was that of Tsauwa and Gandu villages where last month, October, about nine villagers were murdered in cold blood. It reportedly took the intervention of security operatives to drive them into the forest. Since then, the state Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba who had earlier sworn to deal decisively with them over their marauding activities, had made several breakthroughs. The icing on the cake, it would now appear, is the hunting down and arrest of Sani, believed to be the kingpin, the leader of them all.

According to the state police spokesman, Gambo Isah, a Superintendent of Police, his arrest followed a tip-off received by operatives about his being sighted around the entrance to Rugu forest where he and members of his gangs were camped.

On November 4, 2020 at about 5pm, the Batsari Divisional Police Officer (DPO) led operatives of Puff Adder and Sharan Daji to the dreadest forest said to be on the same pedestal with Sambisa and arrested them after a fierce gun battle.

In the course of investigation, the suspect was said to have confessed to belonging to the camps of notorious leaders of bandit like Audu Maisaje and Lawo Mai Shoda both of Bakin Daji, Sabon Garin Dunburawa, living on the fringes of Rugu forest. Furthermore, he confessed to have participated in many attacks and cattle rustling at Ruma, Gwamro and Katoge villages of Batsari among others.

According to sources, Sani who is a native of Manawa village, Batsari area of Katsina state, told the police that all they were after was to steal cows and kidnap those who can afford to pay ransom. Said a police source: “He claimed that they are stranded in the forest and the only way to feed was through engaging in armed robbery and kidnapping. He told police during interrogation that he is just their errand boy but the community is in a better position to tell you how dangerous he is. He said they are only after the cows and since their owners might defend themselves, they kill anyone who stands in their way. For them the cow is more important than human lives. Security men, he said, blocked everywhere and the only way they can survive is by stealing cows.

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“Police got a hint that he was trying to cross into another town. The CP who has sworn to drive them away mobilized policemen from the division, Puff Adder and vigilante group to track him down. It was a successful one and the entire community was so excited when they learnt of his arrest.”

His arrest a huge relief, say Katsina natives

Shehu Mohammed one of the elders of the community who spoke to Saturday Sun on phone confirmed their excitement. He called the arrest of Sani a big relief. “We have suffered a lot in the hands of these bandit and Sani is one of them as he is known by all,” he said. “He left the community and relocated to the bush and since he knows the area very well it became easy for them to come and in out of the village. I am a cattle rearer and four years ago, I could boast of not less than 400 cows but today I do not have up to twenty. These bandits stole majority of them. The police, military and vigilantes are doing their best keep us safe.”

He begged President Buhari to help them by approving special allowance for the vigilante groups who he claims are also working round the clock. “In the past no one believed that the police could help us as we assumed that the bandit are more powerful than they. But the CP has kept to his words and we say thank you.”

On the dreaded forest, another elder who introduced himself as Alhaji Mustapha said that like Mohammed he too ran away to Kano and only relocated to Batsari about six months ago. He said: “In 2018, they attacked our village, slaughtered our men and children, and kidnapped the young women whom they converted into their wives. I was lucky that I travelled to Katsina town when they struck. I lost about 200 cows; they killed four of my children and one wife. The others managed to escape. When I returned, I took what was left and traveled to Kano. I stayed with my elder brother until recently when I confirmed that they were no longer visiting our area regularly.

“I lost all but I am happy to be home and to start all over again. The truth that needs to be told is that Rugu forest is a no-go area. Any security man that attempts to enter that forest on foot is on a suicide mission. The villagers that are still there are those who do not have an alternative. It is as dangerous as living in the Sambisa forest. Although the area has been peaceful for sometime, we are still scared that the bandit might come back again. All they are after is our cow and women.”

Another resident, an Islamic cleric known as Umar commended the efforts of the security men deployed to the zone to maintain peace and order. “They have done wonders,” he said. “I lost most of my family members in 2018 when they were attacking us repeatedly. Our mosque was burnt down and they almost took over Batsari before the military came after them. That young man that police arrested is one of them and a strong informant. I am happy that he was arrested and we pray that they will keep driving them away.”

Other stories of arrest

Also arrested along with Sani on October 31, 2020 is Abubakar Aliyu, 20. He was found in possession of sixty-three pieces of one hundred American dollars suspected to be counterfeit. In the course of investigation, he mentioned one Aliyu who is still at large as the source of the said counterfeit currency.

Others arrested with Sani include: one Idi Sabi’u Dila from Mununu village, Faskari area but now residing at Munhaye Forest, Tsafe area of Zamfara State. He was said to be a notorious member of the bandit that attacked Diskuru village, Dandume area early last week. He was arrested at Sheme on his way into Faskari.

He confessed that he belongs to the camp of a notorious bandit of one Melaya Gandu of Munhaye Forest, Tsafe and was part of the gang that attacked Kadisau village, on July 9, 2020 and slaughtered many villagers.

In police custody is another bandit identified as Abubakar Usman who was found with 62 stolen sheep. He was picked up with the help of the local vigilante group inside Bajinawa village in Dutsinma while conveying the rustled sheep, which he later admitted were all stolen. He claimed that he was moving them to the forest as instructed by their commander.

Also arrested in the raid were twenty suspected drug peddlers and social miscreants popularly known as Kauraye, one Saifullahi Charanchi; one man found with N250, 000 and Diazepam tablets, one Babanle alias Dangashi of Marina Quarters, Katsina, found with four hundred thousand tablets of Exol-5.