Bello Turji: Why I became a Bandit

North West Nigeria’s most wanted bandit Bello Turji, has spoken about how he abandoned herdsman-ship for bloody criminal activities.


He spoke in a Trust TV documentary, tagged ‘Nigeria’s Banditry: The Inside Story.’ The documentary was meant to provide fresher understanding of the problem and solutions.


Turji, who hails from Fakai village of Shinkafi Local Government in Zamfara State said it was unbelievable to people who knew him that he would stray into banditry.


Turji said his first experience of slaughtering a human being was on a market day at Shinkafi.


“I hadn’t taken up arms by then. I was herding cattle. Then, if my father wanted to sell any of his cows, I would take it to the market for him.


“After I sold it I would come to the emir’s compound before returning home in the evening.

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“The Emir of Shinkafi knows me. He knew me from many years ago. If he is told that Turji would become a bandit he would not believe it because he knew we Fulani could not become rustlers.


“But it was what they were doing to us that became unbearable.”


Turji’s claim was in reference to the activities of community self-help volunteer force called Yan Sakai, whose ruthlessness, he said, made him and some other Fulani youths to become bandits.

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Bello Turji: Why I became a Bandit
Bello Turji: Why I became a Bandit

Speaking on restrictions placed in September last year to suppress the activities of the bandits, Turji said, “It is not right to deny Fulani entry into Shinkafi; it’s a local government for all citizens. If you deny Fulani entry, where are they supposed to go?


“If you buy just a measure of maize, they confiscate it; or if you buy a loaf of bread they will say you are buying it for Turji. Is it only Turji who eats out of all the people here?


“Let me ask you; isn’t this a gun? Is it those who failed to prevent the circulation of arms in Nigeria that will prevent us from buying petrol, which even a little kid knows where it can be obtained?”


The bandits’ leader recounted an attack on his family, saying, “Over 1,000 cattle were taken away from us. On that day, six of our little siblings were killed.


“Our parents went through all the courts, but they couldn’t get back their cattle. They also connived with Yan Sakai and slaughtered my uncle. Where then does a commoner seek redress?”


He also accused Yan Sakai volunteers of connivance with security agents to harass and extort the Fulani.

“They arrest innocent people and lock them up, and if you ask, they say it is because of corn stalks. You will be fined N500,000, and you must pay, for fear of incarceration.


“I will swear with the Qur’an that the Emir of Shinkafi knows about this. My father was involved in a court case for seven years over corn stalks. Just for corn stalks!”


Turji denounced connections between bandits liking him with Boko Haram elements, saying they have no political agenda.


“We are not interested in establishing any religious organisation. We are not aspiring to have a territory of our own, and we don’t have any political aspiration. We took up arms to protect the lives of our people that are being killed, it is not just because we are merciless or we are unconscious of Allah who created us.”

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