Garam crisis: victims recount ordeals

Some three weeks ago, a clash erupted at Garam community between the natives and the Hausa settlers. Some victims of the clash, who were mostly children, recounted their ordeals, AWAAL GATA writes

Due to its proximity to Bwari, a stranger would think Garam is part of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), but it is not. It is sited in Tafa Local Government Area of  Niger state. However, perhaps aided by the fact that the government of Niger state has demarcated some plots of land on which it is planning to build some low cost housing estates, the community is currently witnessing a mad rush of FCT residents. Some of them have acquired their own lands and have built their own houses, some are renting in the houses built by the natives of the community.

Despite the fact that Garam is relatively backward in terms of infrastructure like roads, healthcare centres, potable water and even electricity, “it is a very peaceful community”, a resident, Matilda Shekolo, once told our correspondent.

But the peace which the community has been perennially enjoying got shattered some three weeks ago when a clash between the indigenes of the community  and the Hausa settlers broke out.

Although when our correspondent visited the community at the weekend, despite the presence of armed military men, normalcy had almost fully returned yet many of the residents, especially the settlers, said the clash was an experience they will never forget.

A source told our correspondent that over 10 lives were lost in the clash, “but the security agencies have been hiding the number because if they reveal it, it could cause reprisals.”

During the clash, many residents fled the community and when normalcy returned, the highest casualty, aside the people that died, were children.
A resident, Malam Muhammadu Nasiru, told our correspondent that  “children were the main victims of Garam clash. Parents of some of them were killed, and some fled the community leaving their kids behind.”
15-year-old Aliyu Musa told our correspondent how hoodlums attacked him when he was coming back from Islamic School on the day of the crisis.

He said: “When I was coming back from Islamiyya with my friends, the people attacked us. Most of us ran away but I was pursued.  When I fell down they beat me, and somebody hit me on the head with a big stick.”

According to him, He sustained a cut on his head, and a woman called  Hajiya Aisha Tanko took him to a clinic in Bwari and also took care of the bill.
“She has been helping the children since the clash happened,” he said.

Like Musa, who escaped with some cuts, Habib Santali was also lucky to have fled the community with some beatings by the aggrieved natives who were reportedly protesting the death of their colleague alleged to have been stabbed by a Hausa trader.

Santali, 14, said all the children ran away before the natives got to them. “We later saw them burning down our islamiyya. I was lucky I didn’t die, but I have a machete cut on my shoulder,” Santali added.

Speaking to our correspondent, Mallam Abubakar Garba, Islamic teacher, confirmed that  five children were injured from among his students, but none was killed.

He said he never expected the natives to attack his Islamic school, considering his relationship with them.
“We were in the school around 4 p.m on Monday when the natives came, armed with sticks and other weapons, they were about 100, surrounded the school and attacked the children,” he said. Two of the children sustained injuries in their heads; another on his back and one other in his chest,” he narrated.
He added that the attackers also set the school ablaze.
“Thank God all of them are alive, because Hajiya took some of them to the hospital for treatment,” he said.
Garba said he did not know the reason for the attack, though he was aware of a reported clash in the village between the Gbagyi and the Hausa people.
He described the experience as one he would not want to witness again. He said he has planned returning the children to Kano to their respective parents
Garba, however, believes the government should do more in curbing such incidences, saying government should not only focus on establishing schools but also complementing such schools with Islamic schools or Qur’anic courses.

He has since left with the children to Kano, vowing not to return to Garam even if peace returns to the community.
However, the Emir of Suleja, Alhaji Awwal Ibrahim, has urged the residents to be law-abiding and report “any unbecoming acts to the relevant authority.”
However, In a phone interview with Blueprint yesterday, Mohammed Ilyasu, the Emir’s secretary said “Garam crisis broke out out of misunderstanding between the natives and some Hausa settlers, but all has been settled.”

He said: “We are not expecting any clash again, because the people were all settled and they agreed to stay with one another peacefully.
“People have to know that peace and security enhance development, so we should try to live in peace and harmony with one another always.”