By Usman Babaji
In mid-July, three children, Maryam, Abduljabbar, and Ja’afar returned home from school in Langai, one of the border communities between Bauchi and Plateau states. Maryam, the oldest sister asked after her father Isah Musa but their mother Ikilima assured her he would be back home soon.
What the four children, their mother, and other family members did not know at that time was that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to see Isah again.
Late Isah had stayed in Langai community of Mangu Local Government in Plateau state for several years. He escaped being killed during the 2001 Plateau crisis in Pankshin. As a holder of Nigerian Certificate of Education, he taught at his community primary school during the day before retiring to his barbershop in the evening – all to make a decent living.
However, last July, he was arrested by a local armed security outfit called Ba Beli who linked him to the kidnapping of three family members of the former Bauchi State governor, Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu.
After a week-long search for his whereabouts, his mutilated body was found at Lere Forest – known to locals as Sambisa – alongside two other corpses identified as those of Alhaji Goma and Babangida, also from Langai community.
‘Ba Beli’ is a Hausa word that can be loosely translated as ‘no bail’. This was coined to pass a simple message that they don’t grant bail to their suspects. Their members move freely in their hundreds, normally on motorcycles, and are armed with den guns, machetes, knives and cutlasses.
According to locals, the group has total disregard for any formal preliminary investigation, social justice and a fair hearing for suspects in their custody. Any reported case of cattle rustling, kidnapping, banditry, and armed robbery among others, whether true or false, is mostly met with instant judgement in form of high-degree torture, instant elimination and amputation.
The bodies of their victims are left to decay in bushes, abandoned wells and shallow pits—leaving their families in agony and endless longing for their return.
WikkiTimes gathered that the victims were severely tortured before being killed.
How discovery of the corpse triggered protest from community members
The discovery of the corpses triggered tension as family members and other sympathizers in protest barricaded the Bauchi–Plateau Road at Lere despite the presence of security officials at the scene.
The protest, which lasted for about five hours, later compelled Mallam Abdullahi Nura, the Plateau State Chairman of the Fulani socio-cultural group, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), to address the snivelling crowd.
Nura condemned the murder. “This is not acceptable, it’s inhuman and no responsible person can take this kind of injustice,” he said with a tearful face.
“Let them take them to court, and whatever the court decides, we will not resist it. If they are found guilty, we will assist to eliminate them. But based on various testimonies I obtained, these people are innocent,” he said.
According to Nura, concrete evidence showed that Ba Beli was responsible for the killings with the support of some traditional leaders.
“…we have concrete evidence that these Bauchi State-sponsored terrorists settled at Lere and were hosted by the district head,” Nura said.
The Commander of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) in charge of Gindiri who was also at the scene of the protest described the killings as an act of injustice, saying, “from my reasoning, I haven’t seen anything like justice here.”
“It is expected that they inform the military on the ground or the police before carrying out an arrest. And if anyone is arrested, he is supposed to be charged in court. And whatever the court decides would be final,” he said.
The protesters were later calmed and, in a tearful mood, all the corpses were buried in three different graves in the presence of security officials.
The pains of victims’ relatives
“How would these people indict Isah for this crime? No, not at all. Isah was not a thief. I can’t believe what happened,” Fatima Abubakar, the mother of the late Isah Musa, said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Pleading with the authorities not to let the group go unpunished, she said, “Even as a graduate, he opened a barbing saloon, and these people came and murdered him gruesomely. His body was amputated, they removed his heart, tongue and butchered him like a goat. I could not recognise him. Let them not go unpunished or my God will avenge, even if it is only for the sake of these orphaned kids.”
According to the mother, the children of late Isah now roam the streets because she couldn’t afford to sponsor their education.
Ikilima Isah, the wife of the late Isah recalled that her slain husband was arrested while returning from the hospital after visiting his sick younger brother, Kabiru Musa. She told WikkiTimes that Isah had shown exemplary character throughout their 12 years of marriage.
“If he finds something that does not belong to him, he will return it. In fact, he was so generous and a good husband that any responsible person would admire,” she recounted.
The grieving widow said the hope of the four orphaned children getting a bright future is now dashed away and the entire family is put into monumental trauma, yet, she said as a woman, she could do nothing to avenge her husband. “If something is not done, I have nothing to do,” she said.
Victims were tortured for asking why they were arrested
Isah was taken alongside his friend Isiaka, though he was not their suspect. But for inquiring why Isah was arrested, Isiaka didn’t escape torture. After severe beating, one of the group members munched his lips.
“I saw three people dragging him and I asked what the issue was. That was how they arrested me too and tortured us. See how one of them bites me with his teeth on my lips. See the scar. I still feel the pain all over my body.
“They chained us and flogged us severely at Lere Primary School. They took me to a place called Burgel and roped my hands with a rubber tube to kill me, but some of them objected to this, arguing that the place was too close to the road,” Isiaka recalled.
‘Robbery, extortion, ransom payment – Ba Beli’s norm’
According to Isiaka, the N7,600 in his pocket was collected by members of the Ba Beli group and another N60,000 was paid before he could eventually regain his freedom.
Salihu Abubakar, a survivor, and a brother to Alhaji Goma, one of the deceased said his slain brother and himself were also abducted by Ba Beli armed group.
He told WikkiTimes that after their arrest, they were taken to the primary school in Lere where they were tortured before being moved to another unknown place.
According to Mr Abubakar, Ba Beli members stole two motorcycles from a shop in his house and also made away with money and phones. “In fact, they destroyed everything. They took N375,000 from late Alhaji Goma’s house, a torchlight, knife, his stick and a cutlass,” the survivor recounted.
“We later discovered his decomposing corpse in an abandoned well,” he added, calling on authorities to help in recovering their seized property.
Sale Isa, a second brother to the late Alhaji Goma narrated how he suffered several degrees of abuse. He confirmed that they also raided his house and took away N140,000 – the money he got from two rams he sold at the market day before the incident.
Abuses by the Ba Beli are not limited to Langai alone. Several other neighbouring communities have one terrible story or the other to tell on the extra-judicial killings by the armed group.
For instance, Awwal Adamu of Mungi community was also killed by the armed group. Initially, they were after his brother who they suspected to be a criminal. He escaped, but Awwal had to pay the price – they killed him and dumped his remains in a nearby bush.
After a 4-day search, the family recovered his decomposing body from where it was dumped.
His father, Adamu Jumba recounted, “When they came, they shot him and broke his leg. They took him on his (Awwal) own bike and also another bike we use.”
Jumba said his son’s killers told them that they mistakenly shot him and they would take him to the hospital for treatment, forcing the mother to go back.
“The following day, we continued searching for him but we could not see him until after four days when his body started smelling. He said the deceased was one he’s always proud of,” he said.
“We can’t afford to sponsor their education,” the 53-year-old man said of Awwal’s four orphaned children.
Post-torture treatments, spending
For Alhaji Baban Liya Kauran Boto, 55, he was arrested because he had almost the same name as their suspect. He said they came with vehicles and motorcycles during the raid.
“We were taken to an unknown location from Lere Primary School where we were first kept. We were severely tortured. See the traces of the torture. They killed one of us at Burgel forest,” he said.
He revealed that he spent over N150,000 treating his hands that remained incapacitated after the torture.
“They poured pepper into my eyes. In fact, no one in their custody can survive death unless he is lucky. Look, these scars on my ribs are traces of their beating,” another victim, Dr Idi Boto recounted how he suffered at the hands of the group.
He alleged that the group was given a Hilux vehicle by the Bauchi State government.
They have no identity – Traditional head
The Yariman, traditional head of, Lere, Aliyu Ladan Bawa denied hosting the group and their stay in Lere Primary School under his domain. He held that the killings were not happening in his territory alone.
“We know the plan of the evildoers. They killed them and dumped their corpses in our land to kindle crises against us.
“No responsible leader would support killing people. I don’t know about the group whatsoever. We have not seen them and we don’t know their identity,” he said.
A security expert Timothy Avele, MD/CEO Agent-X Security Ltd, Lagos, said one of the negative effects of jungle justice is that innocent lives are lost most times.
Mr Avele added that jungle justice does not serve justice. “Those in authority should also make sure corruption or partiality does not prevent the cause of justice no matter who is involved. When citizens see and feel justice is being served, then jungle justice will end or at least be minimized to the barest minimum,” he told WikkiTimes.
Operating from ‘nowhere’
WikkiTimes’ month-long effort to reach the Ba Beli group to respond to and clarify the allegations against its members was futile as their location could not be traced.
However, a source told WikkiTimes that the group doesn’t have a specific address but calls out its members to converge only for operations and meetings.
“They hold meetings in remote areas, sometimes in the forest. They don’t have a specific point of meeting,” the source noted.
Authorities decline to comment
ASP Ahmed Mohammed Wakil, the spokesperson of Bauchi State Police Command declined to comment on the activities of the dread group.
He instead referred WikkiTimes to the state government and other security agencies.
But Yakubu Barau Ningi, the Bauchi State Commissioner for Information said he didn’t know about the group in the state.
He However advocated fair and thorough investigation for suspects to avoid killing or inflicting torture on innocent people.
The special adviser to the state governor on security, Gen. Markus Yake also did not comment on the dreaded group’s activities after he invited WikkiTimes to his office.
This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.