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Terrorists declare war on Nigeria, dare President Tinubu

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Terrorists visit Kaduna again with death, abductions, as FG rules out ransom payment

Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, has in recent weeks become a haven for terrorists who have directly poked their fingers in the eyes Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu. Perhaps, determined to embarrass the new sheriff in town, the terrorists have continued to make bold statements with daring abductions and killings, which, combined with numerous other criminal activities and acts of terror, not just in Abuja, but across the country, has put the nation on the very edge.

“Abuja is becoming one of the scariest federal capital cities in the world,” said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst and senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute.

“Over 200 people were either killed or abducted in Abuja in the last three months of 2023,” he said when he appeared as a guest on Channels TV on Monday, noting that intelligence had shown that violent terrorist groups from the North-East, North-West and North-Central geopolitical zones had moved into Abuja, while some operate from border states, such as Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Nasarawa.

Among other high profile incidents in Abuja in recent months were the abduction, on Thursday night, of two residents, including the wife and one of the in-laws of a lawyer, Cyril Adikwu, by bandits who invaded the Nigerian Army Post Housing Scheme in the Kurudu area of Abuja; the abduction on September 17, 2023, of 19 people by bandits, who also took away 20 residents of Madaki, Manasseh, and Gambo communities in Kuje. Earlier on March 12, about 10 residents of Grow Homes Estate along Kuchibiyi in the Kubwa were also abducted.

The terrorists, ever growing in capabilities, appear determined to make bold statements as they are wont to do when there is renewed offensive against their positions. When in the aftermath of the February 2021 abduction of 279 female students of Government Girls Science Secondary School, a boarding school in Jangebe, Zamfara State, the BBC secured an interview with Abu Sani, one of terrorists, who masterminded the abduction, he gave a startling insight into the mindset of the terrorists.

Asked what justified abducting young girls from their school beds in the middle of the night, Sani, who emphasised that he felt no guilt, said the abduction was necessary to embarrass and teach the government a lesson for sending the military against them, a revelation which could provide a bit of insight into renewed acts of terrorism that have put Abuja, and indeed the entire country on tailspin: perhaps a message to the country’s new helmsman that they can strike wherever they want.

“When the rainy season ended, they sent the military after us. We decided to show the government that they shouldn’t interfere in our problems,” said Sani in the interview. “We went to Jangebe and took the students. We wanted to get the government angry. In our world, terrorism is the right punishment for the government; the right way to teach them that they are wrong.”

Sani also provided important insights into what continues to drive insecurity in the region, and why the menace is unlikely to end anytime soon.

“Because it has become a business,” he said promptly when asked why insecurity is increasing in Northern Nigeria. “Everybody wants money, that’s why things are deteriorating from the top to the bottom. When there’s insecurity, the government gets money, so everyone is benefiting. We also get money. So it continues.”

The terrorists had demanded N300m as ransom for the abducted girls, but eventually got N60m, according to Sani, which they used to buy more rifles. “We bought more rifles with the money,” he told the interviewer. “If it wasn’t already getting dark, I would have shown you where we kept the rifles.”

The hoodlums have been known to use large chunks of ransom they collect from relatives of their abducted victims to acquire more sophisticated armoury, meaning that those paying ransom are unwittingly funding their activities, which perhaps explains why they have grown more daring in their attacks overtime, demonstrating the capacity to shoot down military planes, a reality President Tunubu is having to face amid intensifying attacks, particularly in Abuja, that has made his young administration look clueless.

Encircling the nation’s capital, from neighbouring states of Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa, the terrorists have caused panic, fear and death in what ought to be the most secure part of Africa’s most populous nation, as the agents of destruction appear determined to stamp their knee on Tinubu’s neck, and make a mockery of the legal authority in the land.

The terrorists had defied the efforts of Tinubu’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, to curtail them, and carried out very audacious attacks right under the nose of Aso Rock, such as the invasion of Kuje prison in July 2022, during which several terrorists and other inmates were set loose, many of whom are still at large.

Besides the Kuje prison attack, the Owo Catholic Church massacre in Ondo State, which occurred a month earlier, during which terrorists butchered at least 40 worshippers, and the Kaduna train attack of March 2022 are among other high profile incidents that occurred during the uninspiring years of Tinubu’s predecessor, which, combined with series of school, farm and road attacks and abductions, made the administration appear hapless, such that by the time the Daura born former military general left office on May 29, 2023, the verdict of overwhelming majority of Nigerians was that he failed abysmally to tackle insecurity, as he did in just about everything else.

Unlike Buhari, Tinubu did not enjoy vast amount of goodwill coming into power. The controversial circumstances under which he became president is still hurtful to many, who expected better from the organisers of the 2023 polls. Given his pedigree, however, even his staunchest critic expected him to do better than Buhari, and he’d reshuffled the security architecture and mobilized soldiers to pound the terrorists at their various hideouts. But the terrorists have proved overtime that they are quite capable of striking back when made to face state might, and their increasing incursions into Abuja appears to be a direct message to the new helmsman.

The abduction of 23 residents of Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutsen-Alhaji area, Bwari Area Council of the capital city, and the subsequent murder of four of the victims, including two young women, Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of Biological Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and 13-year-old Folashade Ariyo, triggered a groundswell of anger among Nigerians, with many accusing the Tinubu government of not showing much concern.

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The terrorists, it was gathered, killed Al-Kadriyar, who was abducted along with seven of her family members, including her father, Alhaji Mansoor Al-Kadriyar – who was later released and initially asked to pay N60m ransom for the rest of his family members – and Ariyo, who was also kidnapped alongside eleven others, among whom were three of her siblings, and their mother, over alleged delay in providing the ransom, generating a firestorm of anger across the country and on social media.

Following the killing of the duo, alongside two others on Friday, the terrorists proceeded to demand N700m in ransom for the rest of the victims, after initially demanding N60m, leading the father of the late Folashade, Mr. Oladosu Ariyo, to solicit help from the Nigerian Bar Association.

The Al-Kadriyar family members have now been freed by the terrorists, after payment of unspecified ransom.

The daring kidnap, coupled with other incidents of criminality in Abuja, and the return of terrorists at the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, has caused panic, with a general sense of insecurity now pervading the nation’s capital.

“The escalating violence and lawlessness in our nation deeply distresses me as bandits and kidnappers continue their reign of terror unchecked. Our youths and innocent citizens are being murdered daily, lamented Atiku Abubakar, @atiku, former vice president and Tinubu’s Challenger in the last presidential election, on Monday.

Highlighting the killings of Nabeeha and Folorunsho, among other acts of terror in the capital, Atiku noted that, “It is obvious that the worsening poverty and hunger in the land is escalating the level of kidnapping and insecurity in Nigeria, particularly in Abuja, the federal capital. When the government fails to fulfil its constitutional obligations of protecting the lives and property of citizens, it is an invitation to kidnappers and other criminal elements to have a free reign by visiting houses and hotels in and around the capital city, kidnapping citizens without resistance. This is a sad development.”

Countrywide Escalation

Beyond Abuja, terrorists and other criminal elements have continued to up their activities in recent weeks and months. The Christmas eve massacre of about 200 in over 15 communities in the Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State by the bloodthirsty terrorists sent shockwaves beyond the shores of Nigeria.

The terrorists, it was gathered, attempted another attack on Wednesday at Butura Kompani in Bokkos, but were resisted.

On Monday, the bandits attacked the office of the Nigeria Immigration Service in Kebbi and killed two. Earlier on Sunday, the bandits killed seven people in Kudu community of Toto local government area of Nasarawa State. These are few among numerous incidents of murder and abductions that have occurred over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, the estimated 200 massacred in Plateau, and the murdered Abuja kidnap victims are now new additions to the over 9,754 people killed across the country between January and December 2023, according to the 2023 Nigeria Security Report by Beacon Consulting, an Abuja-based security risk management and intelligence consulting company.

The report had also disclosed that there were 4,049 abduction cases within the period. Last week, 45 passengers in three 15-seater buses traveling from Otukpa in Banue State to Enugu State were abducted by bandits. Soldiers later said they rescued nine passengers.

Comparing fatalities in each geopolitical region for the year 2023, the North-East topped the list with 3,412 cases, followed by the North-West zone with 2,290 fatalities; the North-Central with 2,002 fatalities; the South-West recorded 774 fatalities; the South-South recorded 698 fatalities; and the South-East recorded 558.

For the abductions, the North-West recorded 1,728 cases, followed by the North-Central with 1,006 cases; 795 in the North-East; 186 were abducted in the South-South; 169 in the South-West; and 165 in the South-East.

An intelligence report released on August 23, 2023, titled, ‘The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry: Follow the Money,’ by SB Morgan, kidnappers’ activities have spiralled out of control over time.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, 3,620 people were abducted in over 582 kidnapping incidents in the country, with a reported ransom demand of at least N5bn and an actual ransom payment of over N302m, a figure that could be higher due to underreporting, the SB Morgan report said.

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While the report noted that the North-West and North-Central regions exhibited higher-in-kind cases of this abduction, it said the trend of kidnapping is now shifting to some South-Western states, with Lagos and Ogun states experiencing a similar situation.

“The current state of insecurity in Nigeria is unacceptable. Innocent lives are lost, families displaced, and the trauma is immeasurable,” remarked Ugochukwu Ugwoke, a Catholic priest and public affairs commentator. “It’s time to demand change, accountability, and tangible solutions from those, who swore to protect our lives and property.”

Tinubu, Wike security meetings, as police make arrests

In response to the rising incidents of insecurity and Abuja, the police over the course of last week, said it arrested a number of suspects.

President Tinubu, meanwhile, had on Tuesday, met with service chiefs and other heads of security agencies at the State House, Abuja.

Those at the meeting were the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa; Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogala; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar; the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun; and heads of some other security outfits.

The meeting came few hours after the minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike, convened his own security appraisal meeting over the brutal actions unleashed on residents of the capital territory kidnappers.

After the meeting, the minister on Wednesday, embarked on confidence-building visits to Area Councils in the territory, declaring that security agencies would henceforth make it hot for bandits.

Wike, who visited Bwari town, headquarters of Bwari Area Council, held a town hall meeting with the residents, traditional rulers, security, defence and intelligence personnel in the area and other stakeholders.

At the event, he declared that enough was enough and that informants working for the bandits would not linger be able to sleep among decent residents.

“Security is one of the key priorities of Mr. President’s administration. Yesterday (Tuesday), Mr President summoned a high-level security meeting, which includes all the Service Chiefs, the Minister of Defence, and my humble self, because of recent attacks, particularly in Bwari. And so, currently, it is one of the key priorities, that Mr. President’s Renewed Hope Agenda will want to face squarely,” he said.

“It is no longer going to be business as usual. My coming here today is to show you that we are serious. To all those bandits, enough is enough. We will do everything in our power to make sure that this does not happen again.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, on Wednesday, officially launched a special squad in response to the escalating insecurity in Abuja.

The special, squad, according to Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi, the force public relations officer, “would be officially launched in the 36 states of the Federation. It was flagged off in Plateau State on 29th Dec, 2023, when the IGP paid a visit to Jos and the affected local government areas in the state.”

ACP Adejobi said, “The IGP ordered the deputy inspector-general of police, Department of Operations, to personally coordinate the upscaled security strategies emplaced to decimate kidnappers and other criminally minded individuals in the FCT, and immediately restore normalcy.”

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