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HomeBreakingCivilian Guard in Gonin Gora Remembered as Hero While Officials Stay Mum

Civilian Guard in Gonin Gora Remembered as Hero While Officials Stay Mum

Army Yet to Explain Why It Failed to Pursue Kidnappers

By Ehis Agbon

(Gonin Gora) Normalcy in sprawling Gonin Gora has raised its head since the nightmare of Wednesday night. The lady selling snacks and sodas is back at her stand near the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway but only until late afternoon, when she packs up in a hurry. The evening military patrols around the perimeter of the city of 120,000 are a new sign, effectively creating a curfew from 10:00 p.m. to dawn. But the city’s mind is roiled with disquiet since the invasion of the body-snatchers.

Kidnap -for ransom gangs had hit this city of 120,000 before, as recently Feb. 9 when a hard-working wife of a civilian guard and her two children were snatched in the night and carried to a terrorist lair in Birnin Gwari forest, local sources told TruthNigeria. But on the evening of Feb. 28 at 11:00 p.m. as a power outage kept the town in total darkness, a traumatizing nightmare began. Teams of terrorists – as many as 70 –moving with military tempo and packing walkie talkies, sledgehammers and assault rifles created a panic that went on for five hours, survivors have told TruthNigeria investigators.

Unlike during previous night-time raids, scores of local residents collected their secret pipe guns and rushed into the black night to meet the killers who were known for no mercy, according to a Civil Defence employee who spoke to TruthNigeria on background.

Thomas (“Toma”) Iliya, a tall athletic man in his late 40s, was among the first to run toward the danger, and the first to fall.

A volunteer with Kaduna Vigilante Services (KADVIS), a Kaduna State Government civilian guard group, Toma was a native of Damba in Niger state, where he served as a community watch volunteer with the Nigerian army as a forest tracker. After village-burning terrorists displaced his family, including wife and two children from Damba in 2022, Toma made a new start in Gonin Gora.

Iliya Dogo, Thomas’ father, told truth Nigeria that the entire family was devastated. Ladi Toma, Toma’s wife, was still in shock over the death of her husband and breadwinner as she spoke to TruthNigeria. As the reality of the death of the bread winner is gradually dawning on her, she wondered aloud how the family will fend for itself and train 8-year-old Luis, and 15-month old Wisdom.

“Toma’s death was a big loss not only to our family but to the entire Gonin Gora, Kaduna state and Nigeria,” Thomas’ father said to TruthNigeria. He was killed while pursuing the terrorist attackers as they retreated into the scrub forest on the western edge of Gonin Gora at approximately 3:30 a.m. The unit of soldiers that arrived in Gonin Gora after the lights came back on has yet to explain to media why soldiers did not join Toma and other civilian guards into the stand of trees where 17 hostages were being held. The hostages are believed to have been force-marched for two days to a fortified bandit refuge near Shiroro in Niger State, as reported by TruthNigeria.

“Toma was a disciplined, brave and courageous officer who was always ready to go out his way to defend and protect the weak and innocent persons around him,” said Bawa Masanja (‘Bulldozer’), the commander of the unit of guards in which Toma served.

According to the commander, the terrorists were seeking Toma in his neighborhood where they were calling out his name as they went house to house, according to a prearranged list. “Why were they seeking Toma?” Bawa asked.

Bawa, who is recuperating from a gunshot wound to his foot sustained in an earlier attack on Feb. 10 February said that he was saddened that he was not available on the day of the attack to protect his unit members. A Gonin Gora residents forum leader, who doesn’t want his name mentioned, said the community has yet to receive any government official to document what happened. He said that they are outraged by the lack of empathy on the part of the government. “If not for the bravery displayed by our Community Guards and Youths we would have been overrun by the attackers,” the leader said.

Government Silence Outrages Residents

Outrage has erupted after the killing of Toma and another civilian guard and the abduction of 17 residents of Gonin Gora, in the early hours of Feb. 29.

Reactions follow the perceived lack of empathy expressed by government officials and security agents since the late-night February 28 Terrorist attack, that saw 17 men, women and small children marched into the forest. Local residents were shocked that at an impromptu protest and blockage of the Expressway, 15 community members were arrested. Two of the protestors were beaten by soldiers and are still in custody, TruthNigeria has learned.

Seven days after the attack, no government official and no Security agent has visited the community to hear from residents of Gonin Gora apart from the visit by Mr. Samuel Aruwan, Commissioner of Security and Home Affairs of Kaduna State. Aruwan appeared with an entourage of 6 State vehicles, including four trucks with armed soldiers, on the morning of Feb. 29 to clear a small blockade of used tires and curb stones set up by residents on the Kaduna-Abuja express to protest government’s bring security during the attack for three hours.

The Hon. Ekene Adams, Gonin Gora’s elected representative in the Nigerian Congress, told TruthNigeria by phone that he will visit Gonin Gora only after he obtains a security clearance from Commissioner Aruwan and other security agents, yet he is tentatively planning a meeting with residents on Saturday (March 9) at 9:00 a.m. All local officials approached by TruthNigeria for comments on the attacked have refused to grant interviews.

Yet, a visibly angry resident, Pasto Solomon Agogo of Marvel Of Grace Church blamed the government and the security agents for always coming too late even when their forward operation base was less that a mile from Gonin Gora.

“The government should supply our youths with guns and train them on how to use it. They can bring it to them every evening at 5pm and collect them back the next morning at 7am. So that we can protect ourselves and families,” the pastor said to TruthNigeria.

Ehis Agbon is a producer of the Procyon Podcast and a conflict specialist in Kaduna City for Truth Nigeria.

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