Terrorists are consolidating their grip on communities in Kaduna with a “parallel” government and “permanent operational base” in the North-western state near Nigeria’s capital Abuja, Governor Nasir El-Rufai has told President Muhammadu Buhari, PREMIUM TIMES can exclusively report.
Mr El-Rufai warned the president of the terrorists’ consolidation in a late July memo, sighted by PREMIUM TIMES.
The terrorists belonging to Ansaru al-Musulmina fi Bilad al-Sudan, or Ansaru for short, are believed to have moved to Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State in 2012 when they broke away from Boko Haram.
According to intelligence reports and human sources consulted in further reporting for this story, the terrorists that formed Ansaru were responsible for some of the high-profile attacks claimed by Boko Haram before the split.
Such attacks included the UN building bombing of August 2011 and the kidnap of some foreigners. According to the sources, Ansaru pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, in 2020, and is responsible for many of the high-profile abductions as well as armed attacks on the police in Kaduna State.
But researchers and negotiators with an understanding of the working of the terrorists told PREMIUM TIMES that a collaboration of the terror groups, including the original Boko Haram – also called JAS -, ISWAP, Ansaru, and bandits, is evolving.
In 2021, 1,192 people lost their lives in Kaduna State due to banditry, terrorism, communal clashes, violent attacks, and reprisals. In the first six months of 2022, 645 people lost their lives in such circumstances across the state, the government said.
In Mr El-Rufai’s late July memo, he lay bare how the terrorists have infiltrated and dominated communities and formed “a parallel governing authority,” exercising control over social and economic activities and dispensation of justice in the area.
He said the terrorists have advanced in their plans to make Kaduna forest areas their “permanent operational base” for the North-west region, citing a “series of intelligence reports.”
“Observed movement patterns and intercepted communications of migrating terrorists have shown a clear interest in setting up a base, with the stretches of forest area between Kaduna and Niger states strongly considered,” he wrote.
Law banning 2023 political activities
As the political activities towards the 2023 general elections pick up steam, the terrorists, Mr El-Rufai told Mr Buhari, have promulgated a law to ban residents from participating.
“The insurgents enacted a law in the District, banning all forms of political activity or campaign ahead of the 2023 elections, especially in Madobiya and Kazage villages,” the governor wrote.
The Ansaru terrorists are known to have an extremist ideological posture against democracy and secular authorities.
In 2021, the census enumeration exercise could only hold in two of the 11 wards that form Birnin Gwari due to the threat of armed banditry and terrorism, officials in both the Kaduna State Government and the population commission told PREMIUM TIMES.
The ban on political activities, the governor said, followed a recent wedding ceremony involving the terrorists.
“According to actionable intelligence, members of the Jama’atu Ansarul Musulmina Fi’biladis Sudan (aka Ansaru) hibernating in Kuyello district of Birnin Gwari LGA recently conducted a nuptial ceremony during which they married two yet-to-be-identified female residents of Kuyello village,” Mr El-Rufai wrote.
“The ceremony was attended by various Ansaru members and witnessed by residents of the area. After the marital rites, insurgents in attendance reportedly conveyed the brides to the dreaded Kuduru forest, in the same District.”
In the area of adjudicating disputes, Mr El-Rufai said the terrorists “fined one Mu’azu Ibrahim, a resident of Kuyello community, the sum of One Million Naira for selling plots of land without the consent of the owners.”
In addition, with the government becoming removed from rural communities, leaving them at the mercy of violent criminals, terrorists, Mr El-Rufai suggested, are manning the ungoverned space and extracting revenues from the people.
“Multiple reports also exist of bandits and terrorists exacting protection levies and similar taxes from farmers and communities, in return for permission to cultivate their fields,” the governor said.
Terrorism researchers say that revenues from taxes and levies forced on ungoverned spaces – created by the failure or limited capacity of the government – are a major source of financing and sustenance for terrorists.
Like the Kaduna situation described by Mr El-Rufai, ISWAP terrorists based on the Lake Chad islands are also extracting huge revenues from the fishing activities and pastoralists operating in the area.
Mr El-Rufai, when contacted, said he would not comment on this story because his correspondence was supposed to be confidential communication to the president.
In 2016, he wrote a similar confidential letter to the president, warning that the Buhari administration was losing momentum just about a year after coming to power.
More stories based on Mr El-Rufai’s memo will follow.