Over 50 Bebeji Phone Marketers Abducted Along Sokoto-Zamfara Highway

Gunmen on Saturday abducted more than 50 wedding guests mostly from Bebeji Plaza travelling along the Sokoto-Gusau Road.

Some of the wedding guests who managed to escape told PREMIUM TIMES that the bandits, as the gunmen are called locally, shot into the first vehicle they were travelling in around 6 p.m.

They said many of those abducted were returning to Gusau (capital of Zamfara State) after attending a wedding in Tambuwal, Sokoto State.

The bandits, who operate mainly in the northwestern states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Kaduna, and Niger state in the north-central, have killed thousands while displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

In the past year, the bandits have blocked roads including highways. Important federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

Lawal Ja’o, one of those who escaped, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview, that they were attacked just before reaching Dogon Awo in Tureta Local Government Area.

“We started hearing the sounds of gunshots before the first vehicle was hit,” he said.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the two vehicles conveying the wedding guests were a Toyota coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and a Gusau Local Government Secretariat staff vehicle. Two other private vehicles were also involved.

Mr Ja’o said he does not know how many people were abducted from the two vehicles but those taken in the two buses were more than 45.

He said when the bandits started shooting, he and some of his friends ran into the bush on the other side of the road.

“We kept hearing the voices and screams of our colleagues and friends but there was nothing we could do. After we heard the arrival of security men, we came out of the bush and identified ourselves.”

A student of Shehu Shagari University of Education, Sokoto, Jabiru Shehu, who was going to Talata Mafara from Sokoto, said their vehicle escaped “miraculously”

“We met four empty vehicles with some belongings including a phone and some travelling bags. We were there when some policemen from Tureta arrived at the scene.

“From what I heard, they were more than 50 people with the bandits because we were there also when some of the travellers who ran into the bush returned to the main road,” Mr Shehu said.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered from other sources that some of the abducted passengers sell phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Plaza Communication Market (GSM village) in Gusau

“As of now, we are looking for over 45 of our people because some of them have communicated to us this morning (Sunday) that they ran into the bush,” Sharhabilu Moba, a member of the Bebeji Plaza committee told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone.

Bashir Muhammad, whose two brothers escaped the attack, said they and three others have returned home.

“All my brothers and their friends have returned but one of them was shot in the leg. He is at the hospital receiving treatment. We thank God as we keep waiting for the whereabouts of the others,” he said.

Calls and SMS sent to the police spokesperson in Sokoto State, Sanusi Abubakar, since Saturday night were not returned.