Nigerians in different parts of the country seem to be caught up in violent activities which if not carefully managed may undermine the 2019 general elections
By Olu Ojewale
Nigerian security personnel have been kept very busy in the past few weeks. As usual, the Fulani herdsmen have been up in arms in their expansionist programme, displacing people from their land in order to graze their animals; in Kaduna and Plateau states religious intolerance dominate conflicts, while the violent protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, aka Shi’tte, found them clashing with the Nigerian Police Force.
The violence that has been trying to define the polity got close home on Tuesday, October 30, as security was beefed up across the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja. The development was caused by the separate protests by members of the IMN and members of the organised labour.
As the IMN members were protesting the continued detention of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, their leader, members of the organised labour were protesting the delay by the government to announce new national minimum wage.
Security was beefed up at the different gates leading into the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Federal Secretariat, the Court of Appeal Complex, the National Arcade and the National Assembly Complex all located in the Three Arms Zone in the FCT.
Armed policemen, soldiers and officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps were noticed around those federal structures. In addition, armoured vehicles belonging to the military and the police were also deployed. All these were to keep members of the IMN away.
Members of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, on their part were sighted at the gate leading to the Supreme Court Complex and the Presidential Villa. Some of them were seen wielding flags of the NLC and TUC while others were carried placards with different inscriptions asking government to take a timely decision on the new minimum wage.
Despite the heavy security presence, some of the workers were seen dancing to the loud music blasting from a loudspeaker placed on a truck. Nevertheless, the workers’ protest was largely peaceful as it was carried out under the watch of security agents.
The security beef up must have been informed by members of the IMN protest match, which turned ugly as they confronted the security agencies who were on hand to maintain law and order. At least three people were killed when supporters of the group clashed with security forces during a protest march in Abuja, on Monday, October 29, the Nigerian Army said.
The military said troops and police “repelled the attack” by members of the Shiitee, who also “fired weapons”, threw stones and Molotov cocktails. “Unfortunately during the encounter, three members of the sect were killed while four soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries,” the army said in a statement on Monday night. This occurred at a checkpoint as security services stopped the protesters going into the Abuja city.
Abuja had similarly on Saturday, 27, witnessed the killing of three IMN members during protests in the city. The army claimed the protesters attacked a military convoy and tried to steal weapons and ammunition.
But the AFP photographs of the aftermath showed several bodies of civilians on the ground near the police but it was not clear whether they were dead or injured.
Ibrahim Musa, the IMN spokesman, said they had received four bodies but indicated the death toll could be higher as “scores” of people were injured and troops took away others. “We’re trying to verify the number,” he told AFP.
That notwithstanding, the violent protests continued on Tuesday, October 30, leading to the arrest of about 400 members of the IMN group. Two policemen and an unspecified number of protesters were reported injured, while a police van was burnt by the protesters.
During the operation, the police arrested 400 protesters and seized 31 petrol bombs, daggers and a flag with an Arabic inscription.
Bala Ciroma, commissioner of police, the FCT command, who confirmed the arrest, said: “It is also unfortunate to inform you that members of this group during a violent protest, today, 30th October, 2018 without any provocation, went on the rampage and burnt down a Police Rapid Response Squad, RRS, patrol vehicle deployed at Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent.”
Ciroma said two of the protesters were caught with petrol bombs. On Tuesday, October 30, he disclosed that one Mustapha Abdullahi, 20, of Ungwan Gwari, Suleja, was caught with 18 bottles of petrol bombs carefully concealed in a travelling bag.
On the same day, Ciroma said that the police operatives on stop and search at Dakwa FCT-Niger Boundary arrested one Abdullahi Umar, 22, of Gadan Karte, Illela LGA of Sokoto State, with a bag containing 13 well packaged bottles of petrol bomb.
“During interrogation, the suspect confessed that he arrived Suleja from Sokoto State on Sunday to join other members of their sect for the protest,” the police boss said.
While the security agencies in Abuja, must have been heaving a sigh of relieve after bringing the Shiite protests under control, the protesters were also counting their losses. A media report claimed that on Wednesday, October 31, in Mraraba Nasarawa State, the IMN members started burying some of the 49 members of its group killed during the crackdown by the security agencies since Saturday, October 27.
Incidentally, the military authority claimed that only six members of the group were killed. But apart from the Shiites claim, the Amnesty International in its report also claimed that at least 45 members of the group were killed by the Nigerian security agencies.
The human rights group said that its investigation showed that “the horrific use of excessive force by Nigerian soldiers and police led to the killing of at least 45 supporters” of the IMN in two days.
The AI disclosed that its researchers visited five different locations in Abuja and Nasarawa State, where wounded IMN supporters were receiving treatment, including two locations where bodies were deposited.
“We have seen a shocking and unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police against IMN members,” Osai Ojigho, the director of the AI Nigeria, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Video footage and eyewitness testimonies consistently show that the Nigerian military dispersed peaceful gatherings by firing live ammunition without warning, in clear violation of Nigerian and international law.
“Those injured were shot in different parts of the body – head, neck, back, chest, shoulder, legs, arms – and some of them had multiple gunshot wounds. This pattern clearly shows soldiers and police approached IMN processions not to restore public order, but to kill.” The AI said it has evidences to back its claims.
The IMN members have staged a series of protests demanding the release of Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, their leader, who has been in custody since December 2015 after clashes in the Northern city of Zaria, Kaduna State.
Then, the military was accused of killing more than 300 IMN supporters and burying them in mass graves. All efforts to get him out of custody have proved abortive and even court orders to release him on bail have been ignored by authorities.
El-Zakzaky has been at loggerheads with Nigeria’s secular authorities for several years because of his calls for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. Northern Nigeria is majority Sunni Muslim.
The cleric, who is in his mid-sixties and lost the sight in one eye during the 2015 clashes, has only been seen in public twice since he was detained.
While the Nigerian security agencies appear to have been able to curtail the IMN members for now, the intermittent attacks by Boko Haram, an Islamic organisation waging war on the country are very much alive despite government claims of defeating the group. The terror group possibly took advantage of the diversion created by the Shiite group to launch another attack in Borno State on Wednesday, October 31. In the attack on an internally displaced persons’ camp and four communities in the outskirts Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, no fewer than eight persons were killed.
The Boko Haram group attacked Kofa, Mallumti, Ngomari and Gozari villages at about 8:00pm on Wednesday. The villages are on Bama road and not far away from Sambisa, which was once occupied by the terrorist group.
Confirming the attack to journalists on Thursday, Bashir Garga, the North East Zonal coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, in a press release said: “Six people from Kofa village were killed as a result of suspected Boko Haram terrorists that attacked four villages in outskirts of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.”
Besides, he said the attack was launched by the terrorist group on Kofa, Mallumti, Ngomari, Gozari villages, all in the vicinity of Dalori internally displaced persons camp, which led to many villagers fleeing to the Dalori IDP camp for safety.
Garga said that “the terrorists gained access to the area through a bush path behind the villages and came in four vehicles and some motorcycles. They ransacked the market in front of the IDP camp.” He said the villagers who ran into the bush for safety had returned back to their homes while the Borno State Fire Service had been able to contain the inferno caused by the terrorists.
The NEMA boss said an assessment team was on site to provide relief assistance to those affected.
Indeed, those affected by the recent killings and crisis in Kaduna State are also counting their losses after the state government scaled down the 24-hour curfew imposed on Kaduna city and surrounding town and villages. The state government first imposed a 24-hour curfew on Kaduna city and its environs on October 21, following the crisis which engulfed some parts of the state. It relaxed the night-time curfew from the hours between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.. Samuel Aruwan, a spokesperson to Governor Nasir El-Rufai, who said in a statement on Wednesday, said the relaxed curfew was based on the review of the security situation. However, the security review advised that curfew hours in Kachia Local Government Area will remain from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m., until further notice.
That notwithstanding, the government warned that: “The security agencies will continue to strictly enforce the declared curfew hours.”
The curfew in parts of Kaduna State was imposed following violence that caused at least 77 deaths within a fortnight. The violence started from Kasuwan Magani, where 55 deaths were confirmed, before spreading to Kaduna metropolis where 22 deaths were confirmed. Among those killed in the crisis was Maiwada Raphael Galadima, the Agom Adara, a traditional ruler. The monarch was reportedly abducted and then killed.
On Monday, October 29, the Nigeria Police Force said it had arrested 93 suspects in connection to the crisis in state. The suspects arrested, according to the Police were actively responsible for the mayhem that took place in the State.
Jimoh Moshood, the Force spokesman, disclosed this in Abuja, on Monday, when he paraded 18 suspects for kidnapping, armed robbery and car snatching. Moshood said: “So far, we have arrested 93 suspects for being actively responsible for the crisis in Kasuwar Magani in Kaduna South and for other crisis that occurred in other Local government areas within Kaduna State.
“43 of the suspects are being prosecuted as we speak, while 50 are currently in Police custody and investigation is ongoing to know the level of their involvement in the activity. The 93 suspects are from different divides and from across borders.”
Irked by the level of carnage that took place in the state in the past two weeks, President Mohammadu Buhari paid a sympathy visit to the state on Tuesday, October 30. During the visit, Buhari vowed to deal with those responsible for the killings in some parts of the state. He also promised that the federal government will take strongest measures possible to punish the perpetrators.
According to a statement by Femi Adesina, the special adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, the president expressed sadness at the recent loss of lives and property in Kasuwan Magani as well as the unrest around Kaduna metropolis. He declared that such wanton killings must stop forthwith. He said: “If in the past, they (perpetrators of violence) got away scot-free, we shall now hold everyone to account for these latest killings. It is unacceptable that criminal elements can visit on citizens the wanton killings recorded in the Kasuwan Magani incident of October 18, 2018, and the unrest around Kaduna metropolis a few days later. This must stop.”
While assuring the state of more federal government assistance to uphold peace and tranquillity in the state, he appealed to all who call Kaduna home to do their best to uphold peace in their respective communities. He noted that chaos and anarchy tend to worsen and exacerbate whatever issues are agitating a community. Buhari said further: “Violence shatters and divides people and stifles the prospect of any community that succumbs to its tragic logic.”
Indeed, the gulf created by various attacks among communities in Plateau State, if reports coming from the state are to be believed appear to be as real as daylight.
Although the major crisis in the state occurred was back in September when more than 14 persons were killed in two separate attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Jos South and Bassa Local Government Areas of Plateau State, the state is said to be divided along religious lines.
Indeed, since the beginning of the year, no fewer than 200 persons have been killed in similar attacks by suspected herdsmen. According to residents in the state, the suspected herdsmen are said to have territorial ambition of driving away occupants of some lands which they are interested in taking for their kinsmen who are of Hausa Fulani origin.
That may not be far from the truth as an editor, who does not want his name in prints and lives in Jos, the capital told Realnews in an interview, said: “Jos is calm for now. But the city is more divided than ever. The place is divided with Muslims staying on one side and Christians staying in another. If you are a Christian and you want to do something near the Muslim’s side you just have to be careful and do whatever you want to do quickly and leave because trouble can start any time. Up to the time I am talking with you, people are still being stabbed and nothing happens to the culprits. They boast that as long as Buhari is there giving them cover nothing will happen to them. The Muslims are getting away with a lot of atrocities here in Jos. It is terrible that even when you go in the streets you have to be careful and be at alert every time. It is terrible the way we now live like cat and mouse.”
On his part, Sabo Anku, a public commentator, who lives in Kaduna, said no matter where anyone comes or the religion one may profess, Nigerians should be able to live in comfort among each other. He said: “It is so sad that things have become so unbearable and people are suffering from hunger, poverty and insecurity and our country is going backward to the extent that our economy is crippled down. This can that take us back to recession and being headquarters of extreme poverty. People are dying everyday like animals especially in Kaduna, either by hoodlums, kidnappers, armed robbers and killer herdsmen. The situation is bad and unacceptable. Government must live up to its responsibility.”
Similarly, the Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians, CNNC, has urged the federal government to constitute a probe panel to investigate the recent Kaduna crisis, discover the cause, the perpetrators and ensure peace.
Speaking through Larry Joseph Yammai, its Media and Publicity secretary, the Christian body noted that the panel of inquiry will ensure that the crises do not spill to other parts of the state and other states. It also called for a commission to resettle those displaced from their homes to enable them go back and live their normal lives.
The statement said in part: “We are seriously concerned at the disgraceful security situation in Kaduna state that has claimed over 100 lives and destroyed unquantifiable properties this October. The situation has been clearly exacerbated by the lack of unbiased leadership in the state which has further alienated the citizens along religious fault lines.
Besides, the CNNC noted with grave concern the rapid deterioration of the security situation across the nation particularly in the North East. It said: “Boko Haram is reported to be resisting and overrunning the Nigerian Army, even with the recent attack on the 145 Battalion in Gashigar, Borno State. Whether the military is motivated and has enough and requisite equipment to execute this war is a matter of conjecture.”
Besides, Gbola Oba, a public commentator, advised the federal government to release El-Zakyzaky so as to douse the political tension in the country. He warned that keeping a personality like him may be an harbinger for apolitical crisis ahead of 2019 election. Oba similarly cautioned that the ongoing insecurity in the country would do more damage than good, especially if the 2019 elections are to hold.
That notwithstanding, Timi Frank, a former deputy national publicity secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, wants President Buhari and Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant-general and the chief of Army Staff, to be tried for genocide over the killing of unarmed members of the IMN. Frank said the two public officers should face trial at the end of their tenure of office.
The former APC publicist who made the call in Abuja on Monday, enjoined local and international human rights organisations to take note of “the unprecedented record” of brutal killing of peaceful protesters since the current administration came on board.
He also charged: “The President Buhari-led administration has been releasing members of the Boko Haram terrorist group under the guise of ‘repentant terrorists’ yet he sees nothing wrong with security forces attacking peaceful protesters clamouring for the release of their leader who was granted bail by the courts.”
– Nov. 2, 2018 @ 13:55 GMT |