By Our Correspondents
President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have heeded the advice from some Nigerians to seek outside help in containing the rising spate of killings and kidnapping in the country by bandits and terrorists.
Yesterday, he urged the United States to reconsider relocating US Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart, Germany, to Africa, nearer the Theatre of Operation.
He also called on the international community to support Nigeria and the sub-region in tackling growing security challenges to avoid it from spilling over to neighbouring countries.
According to a statement by his media aide Femi Adesina, President Buhari made this request in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Mr. Anthony Blinken.
He said AFRICOM, which partners with countries to counter transnational threats, should be relocated to Africa to strengthen ongoing efforts to check the worsening security situation.
“The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively by exerting complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes. The support of important and strategic partners like United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM Headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation,’’ he said.
The president said Nigeria was ready to work with friends and strategic partners to ensure greater security for all.
President Buhari congratulated Blinken on his appointment by President Joe Biden, and commended the United States for the decision to repeal the immigration restriction known as the “Muslim ban’’, re-joining the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
“Nigeria attaches great importance to its relations with the United States. Let me in this connection express appreciation to President Joe Biden for his far-reaching decision to repeal the Immigration restriction known as the ‘Muslim ban’ on travel and visas for citizens predominantly from Muslim nations and African countries, including Nigeria.
“I also wish to congratulate the United States for re-joining the WHO and Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The leadership of the United States in these two organisations is crucial to the international community.
“This action is a demonstration of the United States’ commitment in championing and supporting international organisations with the aim to build a better world for all,’’ he added.
President Buhari noted that Nigeria remains resolute in her commitment to support global efforts to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.-
According to the president, the convening of the Climate Change Summit last week by President Biden was a strong indication of the renewed interest of the United States to the Paris Agreement.
“I would like to extend our goodwill message to President Joe Biden and his Administration. May I also thank you for initiating this meeting, which I am confident, given your background and current position, you will use to promote the existing bilateral relations between our two countries,’’ the president said.
The US Secretary of State said he was pleased to make Nigeria part of his “first virtual visit to Africa,” noting that Nigeria and the US share a lot of bilateral issues.
He added that he would be delighted to build on the foundation that was laid between the two countries over 60 years ago, disclosing that areas of discussion with Nigeria would include “how to build our economies back after the COVID-19 pandemic, security for vulnerable communities, and climate issues.”
Senate Accuses Executive Of Incompetence, Says Nigeria Inching Towards A Failed State
…Declare State Of Emergency now, Reps Tell President
With no end in sight to halt to the relentless killing of Nigerians daily, angry senators yesterday berated the executive for showing incompetence and lamenting that Nigeria is inching towards a failed state on its watch.
During debate yesterday, the lawmakers said the executive had shown clear incompetence in addressing the killings in the country, and warned that after overrunning neighbouring Niger Sate, the terrorists could target Abuja.
The Senators, however, mandated its leadership to book an appointment with President Muhammadu Buhari and also invite the service chiefs for a closed-door meeting.
The Senate also mandated the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, the director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and service chiefs to appear before it to brief them on the developments in Chad.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly lamented the heightened spate of killings and kidnappings, even as they expressed hopelessness, helplessness and melancholy over the insecurity in the country.
Speaking during a debate on a motion on the activities of bandits and Boko Haram in Niger state, former deputy president of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said the nation should decide whether to shut down government and deal with the issue or not.
Senator Francis Fadawusi called for drastic action to contain the violence.
He said: “If the government has failed to protect us, the Senate should do the needful.”
On his part, Senator Seriake Dickson lamented the general loss of faith in the government, noting that the situation is caused by a faulty constitution.
He said: “Our federalism is only in name. Our security is structurally incompetent. We are about to lose the Nigerian dream.”
To Senator Matthew Urhoghide, if nothing is done in the next few days, Abuja will be the next target.
He, therefore, urged the government to invite foreign countries like America, Britain and others to assist the nation in curbing insecurity.
Senator Biodun Olujimi said the problem is due to a lack of political will to handle insecurity, adding that the nation is almost inching towards a war-torn country like Syria.
Senator Gabriel Suswan, on his part, lamented that the executive had shown clear incompetence in tackling insecurity.
“Our lives as senators are in danger. Nobody is attaching value to human life again. Maybe our president doesn’t know the magnitude of this situation,” Suswan said.
Abdullahi Sabi Aliu toed the line of Senator Matthew Urhoghide – that the next place after Niger State is the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and it could come under attack.
Other lawmakers called on the presidency to urgently do something drastic.
Senator Smart Adeyemi wept for the nation
“Our country is bleeding, we shouldn’t pretend,” Adeyemi said.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the plenary, lamented that the nation is gradually sliding into a very difficult situation.
Kicking against closing the National Assembly, Lawan said that in a difficult situation like the one the nation is experiencing, the parliament is needed most.
Fielding questions from newsmen, the sponsor of the motion, Senator Musa Mohammed Sani (Niger East) ruled out the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier, while leading debate on the motion, Senator Sani said about 42 communities across the two local government areas of Shiroro and Munya Local Government had so far fallen under the Boko Haram control with about 5,000 villagers already displaced in the last three days.
“They have kidnapped many villages and seized wives from people and forcefully attached them to Boko Haram members. Three military camps in Allawa, Bassa and Zagzaga in the two local government areas have been sacked and some security personnel killed by the insurgents in the last one month of renewed attacks,” he said.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency on insecurity in the country.
This is contained in a resolution read by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila at the end a four-hour executive session yesterday in Abuja.
Gbajabiamila condemned attacks on security agents and formations across the country, while sympathising with the families of those who lost their loved ones.
He urged the Nigeria Police to put in place modalities for the recruitment of new personnel into the force, adding that the current number of policemen in the country was inadequate.
Gbajabiamila also said every citizen must do their bit to arrest the security challenges in the country.
He urged the judiciary to accelerate the processes of prosecuting suspects awaiting trial due to banditry, terrorism and other criminal activities.
The speaker called for the provision of relief materials to communities affected by terrorist attacks in the country.
He urged the federal government to ensure the protection of national infrastructure and assets across the country.
He mandated all security committees at the House to commence a comprehensive audit of all military and paramilitary assets in the country, as well as all arms and ammunition in the armed forces.
The committee is to report back to the House within four weeks
Zulum Meets PMB, Says Attacks In North East Pathetic
Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, has described the recent barrage of attacks on the north east by Boko Haram terrorists as pathetic.
He spoke to State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday night at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, he came to brief the president on the true situation of things in his state and the north east.
He said, “In Borno, particularly Brigade headquarters was attacked, many soldiers, men and officers of the Nigerian Army were killed. Let me use this opportunity to extend my condolences to the families of the deceased. God in His infinite wisdom, forgive them.
“I think it is my own responsibility to come and say the truth to Mr. President. Let him know what is going on in the entire North East sub region. I think there is the need for us to get support for us to succeed in this war against insurgents. It’s very pathetic.
“Few days ago, Damask was attacked, hundreds of people started fleeing Damasak, and now Geidam is almost deserted; many people have left Geidam.”
He also attributed the deteriorating security in his state to lack of equipment for the military.
“I think the military is yet to receive some of the equipment that they have ordered for,” he said.
Terrorism in Nigeria complex, says UK minister
British minister for Africa, James Duddridge, has described the activities of the Boko Haram sect and other terrorist groups as a complex phenomenon that requires different approaches to tackle.
Duddridge said this yesterday when he led a delegation to pay a courtesy visit to the minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.
He said the United Kingdom is a strong ally of Nigeria in the efforts to mitigate the challenges posed by terrorism and insurgency.
He said, “The situation is massively complex and no partnership is going to resolve the multiplicity of problems, whether it is Boko Haram or Daesh or a number of other issues.
“In the UK you have a strong partner across the full gamut of issues, so it is not just about intelligence and hard security and military; it is about societies, it is about humanitarian support, it is about education and development partnership.
Onyeama decried the complex nature of the challenges the country is facing, especially in the North-East due to the nature of the war.
“It is not a conventional war where the enemy is readily identifiable; it is asymmetrical warfare, and we are dealing with very difficult situations. We have an intelligence fusion unit with our partners – the US, UK, France,’’ he said, adding that intelligence sharing will continue to help.
Insecurity: Consult Your Predecessors, Others Now, Saraki Tells Buhari
Former Senate President Abubakar Saraki yesterday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call a meeting of former presidents and other leaders on ways to tackle the security crises before it consumes the country.
Saraki, who stated this while reacting to the spate of killings in the last few days, said it had become obvious that Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) government had been overwhelmed by the situation and need help.
“Thus, I urge Mr. President to seek help wherever it can be given. This matter has gone beyond what the government can handle alone. The President should know that calling for help in our present situation is not a sign of weakness.
“Just as I stated in my press statement on the same issue on January 24, 2021, I want to reiterate that the president needs to bring together all former presidents and heads of state, serving and former chief justices, serving and former presiding officers of the National Assembly, serving and former heads of security agencies, traditional rulers with relevant experience, leaders of the private sector, development partners, friends of Nigeria in the international community and all others who can help in finding solutions to the problem at hand.”
“The leaders of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) also have a vital role to play. They must do all that is necessary to help the administration to get solutions to this national crisis. This is a time for them to be part of the search for the solution and getting the government to act swiftly in implementing good ideas that will return the country to normalcy and the path of genuine development.
“Even those of us in the opposition party recognise the fact we can only exist if we continue to have a country. Thus, we are willing to cooperate with the government in finding solutions to this problem. Our friends in the international community, have also demonstrated their willingness to help us out.
“However, all these actors will not jump into the arena without the government facilitating their intervention. The government needs to call on them before this problem consumes all of us.”
“At this point, words and press statements are not enough. We need to see action. I appeal to Mr. President to take the bull by the horn. He should act to stem the tide of this violence threatening to tear the country apart.”
7 Feared Dead In Benue IDP Camp Attack
Suspected herdsmen militia yesterday morning attacked Abagena Internally Displaced Persons’ camp located about two kilometres from Màkurdi, the Benue state capital, killing seven persons and injuring many others.
When Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom visited the camp, he lamented that within two weeks, suspected herdsmen had killed over 70 farmers in three local government areas of the state – Màkurdi, Guma and Gwer-West.
He said, “What kind of a country are we in? Where are we heading to? For me, it is better not to be alive to see this kind of shame; it is really a shame for we, the leadership of this country, to wake up every day and see our people being killed as chickens and then keep quiet.”
Governor Ortom also accused the country’s leadership of behaving as if it was working with the herdsmen to take over the country as they earlier said Nigeria belonged to them.
“I am saying this because how can a president give an order of shoot-at-sight whoever is found carrying an AK47 rifle and a minister will counter the order? This is strange. Does it mean there are ministers who are controlling the president?
Our correspondent who spoke to one of the IDPs, Iorliam Ungwachii, during a visit to the camp said the herdsmen invaded the camp at about 1am and started shooting sporadically at anyone in sight, killing seven persons on the spot while several others who sustained gunshots and machete wounds had been taken to the hospital by the state government.
Our correspondent visited the scene of the attack and observed that the youths in the camp, which is hosting nearly 16000 IDPs, were visibly angry and blocked the highway for several hours with the corpses of those killed.
The governor, who was at the camp to calm tension, also directed the chairman of Màkurdi local government to take the corpses of the slain IDPs to the mortuary just as he appealed to the angry youths to calm down and open the road for commuters to pass.
While describing the attack on the IDP camp as inhuman, barbaric and unacceptable, the governor said, “Our patience of preaching the rule of law is being overstretched, and I am calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to live up to his responsibility of protecting Nigerians who have become refugees in their father’s land.
The governor also called for urgent action against the activities of militia herdsmen across the country, saying if the federal government had taken the issue of militia herders seriously, it wouldn’t have escalated to this level.
A survivor, David Ayagwa, 45, told our correspondent on their hospital bed that the attack was unprovoked.
He said his four children were shot and matcheted and one of them, James, died in the process.
David said in tears that he did know where else to run to.
“We are not safe again. Herdsmen are occupying our homes, nobody is saying anything and now even in the camp that we are taking refuge, we are still being attacked. Where can we go from here?”
Gunmen Kill 2 Soldiers, 1 Security Guard In Ebonyi
There was panic yesterday in Amasiri and Afikpo communities as unknown gunmen on Monday night shot and killed two soldiers at a military checkpoint located at Timber Shed Junction in Afikpo North local government area of Ebonyi state.
It was gathered that a private security personnel attached to a gas station within the area was also shot dead by the gunmen.
LEADERSHIP gathered from a top security source in the state that the gunmen struck at about 9pm on Monday, and made away with the rifles of the two dead soldiers.
Another source in the community, who pleaded anonymity, said the gunmen arrived at the checkpoint in a white bus and as the military men stopped the bus for a stop- and-search, the gunmen opened fire on them, killing two of them.
They also shot and killed a private security personnel who they might have suspected was armed.
“It was a terrible situation last night. The unfortunate incident disrupted both vehicular movement and business activities going on around the area. Amasiri and Afikpo communities were thrown into confusion as people scampered for safety.
“The natives, especially petty traders, hurriedly packed their goods and went home. It’s a very sad situation here. They said it was people suspected to be gunmen, who came to the checkpoint at Timber Shade (boundary Ehugbo and Amasiri) in white bus.
“As usual, it appeared the military were checking them and, all of a sudden, they opened fire on them. Two of the military men, a man and woman, died. Others ran away.
“The area is as quiet as the graveyard. The bordering villages used to be very busy and people here are farmers and traders, but the moment that happened, people started going home. Nobody is outside as I speak to you. Every place is calm. There is fear here now,” the source said.
At the time of filling in this report, the military had yet to react to the report.
The commissioner of police, Mr Garba Aliyu, could not pick calls and was yet to respond to several text messages sent to him for confirmation of the attack.
Similarly, the police spokesperson, DSP Loveth Odah, also failed to respond to calls put across to her.
The Ebonyi attack is coming barely 10 days after three policemen were shot dead by gunmen in the state.
Similarly, the Ebonyi State Federal High Court located close to the Enugu-Abakaliki expressway was yesterday set ablaze by some hoodlums.
According to a source in the area, “We woke up late last night to observe that the Federal High Court was on fire. The youths had to mobilise to save the court from burning down completely”.