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Week of horror: FG helpless over B/Haram’s daring attacks

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

– Abduct 600, scores killed

In response to the daring abduction of 287 primary and secondary school students in Kuriga, Chikun Local Government of Kaduna on Thursday, the subsequent abduction of at least 15 pupils from a Tsangaya school in Gada Local Government Area of Sokoto State, and the earlier abduction of an estimated 400 people, including women and children, in different IDP camps in the Gamboru Ngala part of Borno State, barely a week earlier by Boko Haram terrorists, Nigeria’s president Bola Tinubu on Friday issued a statement sympathising with families of the victims, while promising action against the culprits.

“I have received briefings from security chiefs on the two incidents in Borno and Kaduna, and I am confident that the victims will be rescued. Nothing else is acceptable to me and the waiting family members of these abducted citizens. Justice will be decisively administered,” the president said on Friday.

“To this end, I have directed security and intelligence agencies to immediately rescue the victims and ensure that justice is served against the perpetrators of these abominable acts.

“I sympathize with the families of the victims, and assure them that they would soon be reunited with their loved ones.”

That was four days ago, and up till today, Monday, nothing has been heard or done to give effect to his words. Most Nigerians say they have heard such several times before under former president Buhari, and nothing was ever done. Buhari had in his day blamed some unnamed elite for the menace of insecurity. Ajuri Ngelale, the Tinubu’s spokesperson, would take to blame game a notch higher, noting in an interview with TVC on Sunday night that, “some of the sub-regional geopolitical forces that are currently at play are actively conspiring against the stability of the Nigerian nation.”

However, Mr Ngelale revealed that the U.S. government was collaborating with Nigerian authorities to secure the rescue of over 280 schoolchildren kidnapped in Kaduna.

As opposition leader in 2014, Tinubu held then president, Goodluck Jonathan, accountable for the abduction of 276 female students of government secondary school Chibok, but it doesn’t appear as though he feels so much so today. Indeed, many were quick to note that his words are only reminiscent of the years of his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, under whose watch insecurity spread from the North East to become a nationwide tragedy, while he looked out of touch, resorting to statements of condemnations and promises that never amounted to anything. Nine months after his nearly disastrous reign, Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, who came on board as a ‘master strategist’ with all the answers, has already disappointed many people.

“This particular government is a continuation of the crisis we had in the previous administration of the Buhari regime,” said human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa. “Essentially I believe that this is still the same regime, the same political party, the same manifesto, the same agenda. So, I do not really think that Nigerians should expect anything different from this particular government from the previous regime.”

The withdrawal of fuel subsidy and the floating of the naira by Tinubu, both of which happened in the first week of his administration, have combined to spike inflation and trigger a cost of living crisis that has made life unbearable for millions. And as if the economic crisis is not bad enough, insecurity has made life, for many, like the Hobbesian state of nature: ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.’

“Seven local governments in Sokoto are completely in the hands of bandits,” said Terrence Kuanum, chair of National Coalition Against Terrorists. “Most times they (the terrorists) are able to overrun our security forces because of their sheer numbers.”

Kuanum argued that the denialist attitude of the government has helped the insecurity to fester in the region, noting that often the government don’t appreciate the enormity of the challenge, as according to him, the terrorists have taken over large swaths of the North West; a assertion collaborated by Bulama Bukarti, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Tony Blair Institute.

“Bandit terrorists have taken control of hundreds of villages across northwest Nigeria, effectively supplanting governments and traditional rulers,” Bukarti, @bulamabukarti, posted on X last week. “At this rate, it won’t be long before they begin to seize control of entire local government areas, replacing elected officials such as the chairman and the council. The FG must take significant and immediate action to address this crisis.”

Sani Abdullahi, a teacher in the Kaduna school had confirmed on Thursday that a total of 287 pupils and students were abducted during the attack on the school, a figure that surpasses that of the Chibok school girls that triggered a global outrage and marked the beginning of the end for Jonathan.

“At GSS Kuriga, 187 students are presently missing. In the primary school, 125 pupils were initially missing, but 25 of them escaped and returned home,” he told journalists, recalling how the bandits, who attacked at about 7:47am marched over 700 students and teachers of the school into the bush, but many managed to escape.

“The bandits asked us to enter the bush, so we obeyed them because they were many and the pupils, who were about 700 were following us. So, when we entered the bush, I was lucky to escape alongside many other people,” Abdullahi said.

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“So, I returned to the village and reported what happened to the community. So, immediately our vigilante and personnel of KADVS followed the bandits, but the vigilante did not succeed. In fact, the bandits killed one of the vigilantes, we just buried him.”

The Nigerian military, present in nearly all the states of the federation, appear overstretched. Press statements chronicling its successes in battling bandits, terrorists and other non state actors in different parts of the country suggest, perhaps, that things could have been a lot worse. But even so, many wonder how a band of criminals can successfully march nearly 300 students into the bush in broad daylight without being challenged by security operatives.

“Moving 200+ humans around to me looks like the hierarchy of the community and our security architecture in that region need to answer serious questions,” noted a commentator, J.A Olaoye, @JA_Olaoye. “We need to be serious for once. This is repeating because no one paid for the laxity of Chibok girls. Too annoying.”

However, a security source, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, argued that it’s difficult to confront bandits in such situation as it would inevitably put the lives of the victims in danger.

“Yes, I understand the concerns,” he said. “But you see, it’s not as simple as it might seem to you. Tracing the bandits in such scenarios is not the problem, but how do you engage criminals using students as human shield?”

It is perhaps a difficult task, but as Tinubu pointed out in a tweet on April 14, 2014, on the night the Chibok school abduction happened, “On matters of security, the bulk stops at the President’s table. Like in other countries, Jonathan is the Chief Security Officer. Stop Boko H.”

In yet another tweet on the same day, Tinubu had noted that, “Nigeria’s security outlook is depressing. The unending attacks suggest a failure of intelligence. Government must rethink its strategy Now.”

With him in-charge today, many Nigerians have continued to dig up the old tweets to remind him of the need to walk the talk.

“You (Tinubu) promised us this kind of incident wouldn’t be happening under your administration,” noted an X user, ZAID®, @EmiolaZ. “This is not the 1st, nor 2nd but 3rd. You’re failing in your primary responsibility. There’s no room for excuse or pity. Do your job Mr. President.”

The former Lagos State governor, who is noted to have been preparing for the office of President for the past 20 years, had indeed, said he knew how tough the job would be before he signed up for it, and thus required no pity. But as insecurity escalates and economy continues to struggle, his opponents argue he has already demonstrated that he has nothing to offer.

“The APC-controlled government has failed woefully to give the people the basic things expected of a responsive government. It is a clear manifestation of the failure of governance,” said Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, who came second in the last election.

Abubakar, in a statement on Friday, lamented Boko Haram’s abduction of over 200 persons from Borno IDPs camp and more than 250 students in Kaduna. He berated Tinubu for making empty promises.

“The government has continued to play the ostrich while the nation is plagued by insecurity; while the weak and vulnerable are neglected, the government is making empty rhetoric about reforms,” he added.

“The problem of insecurity in Nigeria is getting worse by the day,” Mr Abubakar said. “Banditry, kidnapping, and bloodletting that has turned our country into, perhaps, one of the most terrorised territories on earth.”

Abubakar’s Labour Party counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, who came third in the presidential election, according to the results announced by INEC, was more temperate.

“We are again confronted with the ugly news of the abduction of over 200 pupils and students plus a teacher of local primary and junior secondary schools in Kuriga, Chikun Local Government area of Kaduna State,” he said in a tweet on Friday.

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“While every effort should be directed towards the safe release of the children, better security measures need to be implemented to avoid future occurrences”.

Obi noted that “insecurity has continued to bear down on every sector of our national existence, its negative impact on education will be more devastating for the nation.

“We are already contending with an army of over 18 million out-of-school children, arising from the closure of schools due to insecurity. Further attacks on schools will only aggravate these numbers, drive more children into the streets, and add to the insecurity situation of the country.

Regarding the Borno incident, Amnesty International said on Friday that the terrorists abducted over 400 people including women and children. The victims, it said, are Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from Babban Sansani, Zulum and Arabic IDP camps in Gamboru Ngala, Borno State.

“The latest mass abductions clearly show President Bola Tinubu and his government have no effective plan for ending years of atrocities by armed groups and gunmen that are increasingly having a free reign across many parts of Nigeria,” said Isa Sanusi, the director of Amnesty International Nigeria. “Whatever security measures being implemented by President Tinubu and his government are clearly not working.”

Babagana Zulum, the Borno State governor, had said on Thursday that the government was yet to ascertain the actual number of the abducted persons, while suggesting that the abductees may have willingly followed the terrorists into the forest because of hunger and unpalatable living conditions in the IDP camps.

“What you heard a few days ago in Gamboru Ngala is about recruitment. They lost their members and their numbers have depleted and they are now looking for new recruits and women, Zulum said when he met a team of North East Ambassadors group in Maiduguri on Thursday.

“We are yet to ascertain the correct numbers of the abducted victims. Some may have decided to go voluntarily. And that’s what I am afraid of. If people decided to go to the bush voluntarily, you cannot do anything to stop them, that has been my fear since.

“Reliably, I was informed that some of the women were returning to the bush willingly. Even in Mafa, I went a few days ago and I saw a group of 200 women who said they wanted to go to the bush.

“They said they are in the camp and they are not getting anything. We went and calmed them. This also underscores the fact that there is hunger in the IDP camps. We, therefore, needed your support, especially, at the local government levels, where we have resettled our people.”

However, for many families in Benue, a state that has witnessed renewed violence in recent weeks, it has been one unforgettable tragedy after another. On Thursday, suspected herders murdered 16 people at Wandoo, Mbalom, in the Gwer-East Local Government Area of the state.

Fr. Hyacinth Alia, the state governor, who confirmed the incident in a statement on Friday, amid videos of the gruesomely murdered victims being circulated on social media, explained that “armed herders last Thursday, 7th of March, 2024 at about 7 pm invaded the Wan-doo community in Mbalom of Gwer East LGA and killed scores of natives.”

The governor further said, “We gave these criminals orders to leave the state immediately. We also gave an ultimatum to those practicing open grazing in the state to ensure they comply with the law or leave the state within 14 days.

“That ultimatum has since elapsed. I can see what happened at Wandoo is a calculated attempt to test the resolve of my government over the matter I have already given priority.”

 

More tragedy

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The Thursday attack, horrendous as it was, pales into insignificance when compared to an earlier reported massacre of about 50 people, including a family of seven and a soldier by suspected armed Fulani militia, supported by local Tiv bandits, in an invasion of Gbagir community in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue.

The reports said most of the dead were members of the rival militia gangs, while about 12 innocent farmers were caught in the crossfire, which also left over 30 persons injured and many others declared missing.

Confirming the killings, the lawmaker representing Ukum state constituency, Ezra Nyiyongo, said 20 corpses had been recovered.

In yet another incident last week, bandits invaded a mosque and killed two worshippers during Friday prayers at Anguwar Makera, Kwasakwasa Community, Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna.

A community leader, Hudu Kwasakwasa, who confirmed the attack to Daily Trust added that the incident occurred around 2pm on Friday.

 

Bloody 2024

 

The Christmas eve massacre of about 200 people in over 15 communities in the Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State by terrorists had only sent a signal of what to expect in the new year 2024. Barely a month later on January 23, gunmen went on a rampage, burning worship centers, and killing just about anyone within reach as a religious crisis escalated in Mangu Local Government Area of the state.

On Wednesday, January 24, a graphic video of a young man being beheaded by a suspected Islamic mob trended on social media, even as a family of five, including both parents and three children were killed by the assailants, witnesses had said.

As Plateau boiled, so did Abuja, the nation’s capital, which in January became a haven for terrorists, who directly poked their fingers in the eyes President Tinubu, carrying out daring Kidnappings, including the abduction of 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 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, which triggered a groundswell of anger among Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the 2024 casualty figures are only fresh 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.

 

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