Terrorists in Nigeria Target Traditional Leaders to Capture Territory

By Masara Kim
Masara Kim
Masara Kim
January 26, 2022Updated: February 1, 2022

Lawmakers in Nigeria’s north-central Plateau state have said that terrorists are planning to expand their territories by targeting traditional leaders known as “monarchs.”

Terrorists fleeing airstrikes by the U.S.-supported Nigerian military in the northwest region are attempting to impose a government of their own through the kidnapping and assassination of local town leaders, lawmakers told The Epoch Times.

The terrorist gangs, until recently labeled as bandits, aren’t believed to be formal allies of the Islamic State of West Africa or of the Al Qaeda-linked group known as Ansaru.

However, security analysts believe that the gangs and other terrorist groups sometimes collaborate in crime schemes.

Taking Over Towns

Elements of the Boko Haram insurgency migrated some of its units to northwestern states two years ago, according to David Otto Endeley, an international crime specialist at the Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies.

In Sokoto state, located in Nigeria’s far northwest, terrorists started taking over towns and villages in 2021 and now have seized more than 200.

“Traditionally in warfare, when your leader is killed, it’s like you’ve been put under subjugation and under a new rule,” Simon Mwadkwon, a member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, told The Epoch Times. “That is what these [terrorists] are doing, and that is what I envisage will happen eventually if they are allowed to continue.”

At least eight monarchs were attacked from Dec. 15, 2021, to Jan. 16, according to Nigerian media outlets.

Two monarchs were reportedly killed and six were taken hostage until ransoms were paid. The attacks came on the heels of an advisory by the Department of State Services (DSS)—Nigeria’s secret police—on Dec. 15, 2021, advising that “Very Important Persons” were prone to attacks during festivities.

In the latest incident on Jan. 16, an armed gang seized Da Gyang Ballak, the monarch of Vwang, a southern district on the outskirts of Jos, Nigeria, the capital of Plateau state.

Ballak was kidnapped at about 8 p.m. on a bright moonlit evening in Kuru, Nigeria, close to the heavily guarded home of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), according to reports.

Residence Sprayed With Bullets

Witnesses told The Epoch Times that the gang was armed with assault rifles and had trapped the monarch’s vehicle before they whisked him away.

The monarch has declined to speak to media outlets since his release hours later, after a 3 million Nigerian naira ($7,297) ransom was paid, according to Gyang Kim, a tribal leader in Kuru.

Three weeks before his kidnapping, dozens of motorcycle-riding terrorists had seized a higher-ranking monarch, Charles Mato Dakat, in nearby Mangu County. They demanded a ransom of 500 million naira ($1.2 million).

Local residents told The Epoch Times that the terrorists stormed the monarch’s home in Gindiri town at midnight on Dec. 26 2021 and sprayed his residence with bullets. Locals who were terrified by the gunfire contacted soldiers at a military checkpoint less than two miles away, but the troops arrived after the terrorists had vanished with the monarch.

Mato was released by his captors on Dec. 31, 2021, but he hasn’t responded to inquiries from The Epoch Times since then.

The kidnappers appear to be linked to a jailbreak in Jos on Nov. 28, 2021.

Jailbreak Frees 262

The military raided an encampment in Plateau state on Jan. 20 and killed three suspected kidnappers, Maj. Ishaku Takwa, a spokesman for Operation Safe Haven, said on Jan 21. Takwa said the three were members of the gang that attacked the prison.

“The terrorists are believed to have masterminded the recent kidnap incidences [in Plateau state],” Takwa said.

As reported in December 2021 by The Epoch Times, a six-man gang overpowered armed guards at the Medium Security Custodial Center in Jos, releasing 262 inmates.

Officials told journalists that militants from the Fulani tribe had carried out the attack.

The Fulani are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Militants from the tribe in Nigeria have been blamed for the murder of scores of Nigerian Christians since 2009.

The militants in Plateau state were formally labeled as terrorists by the Nigerian government in November 2021. Notwithstanding that label, Nigerian air-force strikes against terrorists have been reported in northwestern states such as Zamfara, but not in Plateau.

Plateau state leaders have told The Epoch Times that the bandit-terrorists murder unarmed citizens with impunity and on a grand scale.

10 Monarchs Killed

As of September 2020, the terrorists had killed 10 monarchs in Plateau state in recent years, according to local officials and media reports.

The paramount ruler of the Ron-Kulere tribe in Bokkos County, Lazarus Agai, 75, was murdered in July 2016. Agai was killed—along with his son and daughter-in-law, as well as his driver and police attaché—along a road where his close ally and district head of Manguna, Monday Adake, was killed two months earlier.

The “serial targeted killing” of monarchs is aimed at total territorial takeover, according to Sen. Istifanus Gyang on Sep 25, 2020, at the funeral of a slain monarch Bulus Chuwang.

Chuwang, the monarch of Foron district in the east of Barkin Ladi County, was killed by armed men suspected to be Fulani militants.

‘Terror Siege’

The motivation of the kidnappings is to fundraise for terror attacks, according to Gyang, who represents Plateau north at the Nigerian senate.

“It is established through the intelligence networks that there is a link between kidnapping as a major source of financing terrorism in Nigeria,” he told The Epoch Times.

As in the northwest, town leaders are more attractive to the hostage seekers due to their influence on communities, according to Mwadkwon.

“They know that once the head is taken, the people of the community will gather money to rescue their leader,” Mwadkwon, who fears submission by communities after such kidnappings, told The Epoch Times. “If they are not stopped, soon they could demand more than just money for ransom—like we’ve witnessed in the northwest.”

A monarch in the state’s Bokkos County, Jonathan Sunday Akuns, who has faced personal threats from terrorists, said his people are at risk of experiencing a “terror siege.”

“It is so sad, but clearly aimed at seeking to weaken the institution that represents an embodiment of the heritage of the autochthonous peoples in order to foist a terror siege on communities,” Akuns wrote in a text message to The Epoch Times, accusing the government of failing to protect minorities.

Not all kidnappings in Plateau state are by Fulani terrorists, according to retired Brig. Gen. Maren Magit. However, bandit-terrorists fleeing the northwest could have sneaked in to spike the number of cases, Magit told The Epoch Times in a text message.

“The recent increase in kidnappings could be attributed to the need for money to participate in [festivities] and the federal government’s declaration of banditry as terrorism.”

Government Complicity

The failure of the government to crush the terrorists after publicly designating them as a threat to the state has emboldened the gangs to upscale attacks on civilians, according to Gyang.

“The federal government has designated and formerly gazetted [put into law] the designation of all bandits and gun-carrying killer men as terrorists,” he said. “The implication is for them to be dealt with decisively, frontally, and to ensure that they don’t get any opportunity to undertake their wicked enterprise.

“I am at a loss that the needed response, which should have been very massive under this new position of the federal government, has been in waiting.”

Malcolm Omirhobo, a human rights attorney, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani Muslim, of delaying actions against the terrorists out of religious bias.

“Insecurity in Nigeria has grown into an uncontrollable hydra-headed monster because of the incompetence, cluelessness, unpatriotism, nepotism, clannishness, bigotry, deceit, and dishonesty of the President Buhari-led government,” Omirhobo told The Epoch Times.

Related Topics