Worrisome Insecurity in Northern Nigeria

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The insecurity in the country remains a vicious circle, causing high and low Nigerians sleepless nights and fear of safety in daylight

By Olu Ojewale

THERE seems to no letup on the state of insecurity in the country. And despite efforts by security agencies, killings, kidnappings and banditries, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria continue unabated.

Apparently irked by the spate of violence in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari and service chiefs held a meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday, May 9. The closed-door meeting was the second this week.

The first was held on Tuesday, May 7, when Buhari received a briefing from the security chiefs.

At the meeting with the president were Gabriel Olonisakin, a general and chief of Defence Staff; Tukur Buratai, a lieutenant general and chief of Army Staff; Ibok Ekwe Ibas, a rear admiral and chief of Naval Staff; Abubakar Sadique, a air marshal and chief of Air Staff; and Mohammed Adamu, the acting inspector-general of police, among others.

Ekwe-Ibok, told State House correspondents after the four-hour meeting, that the president had ordered them to ensure that Nigerians go to bed with their eyes closed, feeling confident that their security is guaranteed. He said on the purpose of the meeting: “It was just basically to appraise Mr. President of the security situation generally after his short vacation abroad. The security agencies briefed him on what has been happening with particular emphasis on the proliferation of small arms and what the various agencies are doing to curtail the consequences of this proliferation.”

Olonisakin
Olonisakin

On kidnapping, the naval chief said: “You will recall during the last meeting, the IG was directed to ensure insecurity is addressed and consequently various operations were set up; Puff Adder was one of the strategies. With the set up of that operations, there has been a remarkable drop in the number of kidnappings. What normally would attract attention is when a key person in government perhaps is kidnapped. On the whole, the number of kidnappings has dropped and generally I think the security situation is improving.”

That perhaps was not the thinking of Abdulmumini Usman, emir of Katsina, when he sent a message to Buhari through Audu Ogbeh, the minister of Agriculture on Monday, May 6. He warned that the government’s initiatives on agriculture may not yield any dividend if the insecurity should be allowed to continue.

“Every day I receive reports of kidnapping and killings from the district and village heads,” the emir said, as reported by Daily Trust.

He told the visiting minister: “Tell the president that we have to take care of our people, security first. All these programmes, as good as they are, cannot be (successful) without security. Security is first and fundamental.

“What are you to gain by killing, kidnapping people? It’s very unfortunate. I have not seen this kind of country; how do we live like animals? Three days ago, Magaji Gari (of Daura emirate council) was abducted. Nobody is safe now, whether in your house or road, wherever you are.

“What we want you to do for us is to stop the fight. Many people have deserted, abandoned their farms in fear of kidnapping and killings and other atrocities. It’s very unfortunate.”

Ogbe was in the Katsina palace, alongside Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, ahead of the national launch of the distribution of cotton seeds/inputs to farmers for the 2019 planting season.

There are no reliable statistics on the incidents but Punch newspaper reported that 41 persons were killed last week in Zamfara State alone and reports of kidnappings and killings in other states, including Kaduna, feature in the media almost every day.

Incidentally, suspected gunmen, who stormed Balle community in Gudu Local Government Area of Sokoto State on Tuesday, May 7, shot dead Aliyu Ibrahim, the tradition ruler of the area.

Buratai
Buratai

The PREMIUM TIMES report said that the gunmen stormed the community on motorcycles shooting sporadically in the air. They later went straight to Balle police station where they burned down patrol vehicles and the building before moving to the palace of the district head. They gunned him down in cold blood, the paper quoted a source, who requested not to be named for security reasons.

“The gunmen, upon arrival to the emir’s palace, found the compound gate was locked. They, however, jumped through the fence while others were stationed outside. After killing the district head, they rode their motorcycles and fled,” the witness said.

He added that it is not clear whether they killed security personnel at the police station.

He said no civilian was reported killed during the attack, “as the gunmen were allegedly from Niger Republic, and were on a plan revenge attack targeting only the district head.”

The source said many residents attributed the killing to vengeance as the traditional leader was the one who allegedly reported the activities of the bandits to security agencies.

The Nigerian Army had earlier announced a ban on the use of motorcycles in seven northern states including Sokoto to curb the rising spate of violence.

Balle is the headquarters of Gudu Local Government Area, and an ancient community. In 1804, it was the capital of Sokoto caliphate. It shares boundary with the Republic of Niger.

It was another bloody day in Taraba State on Wednesday, May 8, as local residents of Murbai, Kisbap, Sembe, and Yawai – Abbare villages of Ardo-Kola and Jalingo Local Government Areas, said 11 persons were killed and scores injured when armed Fulani gunmen invaded their villages. The villages are located on the outskirts of Jalingo the state capital.

Cyprian Kamai, one of the residents, said the trouble started on Saturday, at Yawai village when a Fulani herdsman invaded the farm of one of the locals and in an attempt to stop his cows the herdsman stabbed him with a machete.

According to him, efforts by the community leaders to address the issue failed as the Fulani herdsmen mobilised and attacked Murbai, Kisbap and other villages leaving several people dead.

Kamai, who said hundreds of the displaced persons were taking refuge in Kona village and Nunkai Primary School in Jalingo, called on security agencies to deploy officers in the area. “Those displaced need humanitarian assistance and I want to call on the government to provide relief materials to the IDPs,” he said.

Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari
Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari

Another witness said that five people were killed at Murbai while six were killed at Sembe village.

The Police command in the state confirmed the incident but said six people were killed and scores displaced in the attacks which began on Monday, May 6. Police have since deployed armed officers in the area.

Similarly, on Tuesday, May 7, at least four persons were killed in the evening in Molai and Bukarti villages after gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram attacked the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State capital, residents said.

The terrorists were reportedly embedded themselves in a convoy of travellers being escorted by armed soldiers to Maiduguri from Damboa town.

Upon approaching the outskirts of Maiduguri, the insurgents attacked, using a car bomb and several armed men. They inflicted damages on the convoy and injured some soldiers escorting the travellers.

Ibrahim Biu, general officer commanding, GOC, 7 Division of the Nigeria Army, confirmed the incident in a report by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, but claimed that the attack was repelled “and Maiduguri was not under attack.”

“The insurgents came and fired some shots but troops engaged and repelled them. Some disgruntled elements are peddling misleading information that Maiduguri is under attack. How can Maiduguri be under attack when we already repelled them?

“They attempted to infiltrate Moloi village in the outskirts of Maiduguri but they were immediately countered. As I speak to you now, I am standing in Molai village. Troops are exploiting the area in hot pursuit of the fleeing insurgents,” Biu said.

The Boko Haram insurgency, now in its 10th year, has claimed thousands of lives and crippled economic activities in more than a dozen local government areas of Borno State.

The situation is equally unstable in some other parts of the country. For instance, doctors in Cross River have threatened to withdraw their services over incessant kidnapping of its members.

A communiqué by the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, jointly signed by Agam Ayuk, its chairman, and Ezoke Epoke, secretary, after its emergency general meeting on Wednesday, May 8, in Calabar, said they decided on the action following the kidnap of one its member, Ogbonna Uchenna-Aju on Friday, May 3 while he was travelling from Ogoja local government area to his house in Obudu local government area in the state.

The communiqué said that the kidnap of the Uchenna-Aju had brought psychological trauma and emotional destabilisation to members of his family and the NMA in Cross River.

Boko Haram
Boko Haram

“The state government and security agencies are given 48 hours to facilitate the unconditional release of Dr Ogbonna Uchenna-Aju. Failure to secure his release at the expiration of this ultimatum, NMA in Cross River will proceed on a total and indefinite withdrawal of medical services in both the private, public and institutional hospitals in the state.

“The hospitals include University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, General Hospitals, Medical Centres, Mission Hospital and Private Clinic/Hospitals from 12 midnight of May 9th.

“NMA is not unmindful of the impact of strike action on the good people of the state. However, we cannot continue to save lives while ours is under constant threat by armed bandits and kidnappers,” the statement said.

That notwithstanding the Police said on Thursday, May 9, that 545 suspected kidnappers and armed robbers from different parts of the country had been arrested between January and the first week of May 2019.

The Police said they also recovered 105 assorted weapons plus a large cache of ammunition.

Giving details of efforts made recently to tackle kidnapping, Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of Police and the Force spokesman, said police operatives from ‘Operation Puff Adder’ rescued unhurt 27 kidnap victims including five Chinese nationals.

The Chinese were rescued after spending about 20 days in captivity.

The police said two of the kidnappers died from injuries sustained during exchange of gun fire with the Police in the course of the rescue mission.

“The Chinese citizens, who were earlier kidnapped on 15th April, 2019, in Bobi, Niger State were safely and successfully rescued on 5th of May, 2019, from a forest in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State, following painstaking investigative efforts, including both air and ground surveillance.

“Twenty-two other kidnap victims were rescued in Zamfara State and other parts of the country.”

In any case, the police have introduced new measures to curb the spate of kidnapping across the country. Mohammed Adamu, the inspector-general of Police, on Thursday, May 9, launched new counter-kidnapping strategies.

The new strategies, according to the Police, are purposeful and intelligence-driven, and  targeted at identifying, locating and dismantling kidnapping gangs across the nation and bringing the kidnappers and their collaborators to justice. The Force also said the new strategies would complement and strengthen the ‘Operation Puff Adder’ currently going on in several states of the country.

In a statement in Abuja, issued by Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of police and the Force spokesman, said: “The operation will involve the deployment of undercover operatives, decoy operations and high-level tactical missions with active participation of operatives drawn from the conventional Police Units, the Force Intelligence Unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squads, SARS, the Special Anti-kidnapping Squads and the Police Tactical Units comprising the Police Mobile Force, PMF, the Counter Terrorism Unit, CTU, and the Special Forces.”

With the president’s new order to the security chiefs to heighten the security one can only hope that things will get better.

– May 10, 2019 @ 17:12 GMT |

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