Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum yesterday raised fresh concerns over the increasing activities of the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWAP) terrorists in the core and northern parts of the state.
Revealing that two local government areas of the state, Guzamala and Abadam, are still being controlled by the terrorists, Zulum claimed that ISWAP terrorists are better equipped, better trained and more sophisticated than the defunct Boko Haram terrorists led by the late Abubakar Shekau, hence the need for the Nigerian military to be more decisive in dealing with them.
The Borno State governor’s comments are at variance with the claims by President Muhammadu Buhari during his recent interviews on local television that no part of Nigerian territory is under the control of terrorists.
The president’s assertion is also in spite of recent reports that terrorists in some states in the North West were collecting levies and taxes from locals before allowing them to have access to their farms.
Zulum, who disclosed this when a delegation of the Senate Committee on Army led by Senator Ali Ndume and Senator Lekan Balogun paid a courtesy at his Council Chamber in Maiduguri, further said that ISWAP terrorists were having checkpoints in Damboa and Biu local government areas of the state and collecting taxes from communities.
He berated Senator Ali Ndume for criticising the surrendering terrorists despite the fact that he, Ndume, cannot go to his hometown in Gwoza without escort, adding that the senator’s community of Hambagda in Gwoza local government area had been deserted by his people due to the activities of the terrorists.
Zulum further stated that ISWAP terrorists had been growing in stature and making things very difficult, noting that the major problem with the Army was that when peace begins to return, the troops will relax, allowing the terrorists to regroup and take the initiative.
Hence, the governor urged the troops to always be on the offensive and pursue the terrorists to their enclaves.
Zulum said, “ISWAP terrorists are having checkpoints between Damboa and Biu local government areas, collecting taxes from the communities. Few days ago, I got security report that ISWAP terrorists are holding a marriage ceremony in one of the communities with the presence of over 300 motorcycles.
“I only have one discrepancy with Senator Ali Ndume. I heard him criticising the repentant terrorists and I felt that this should not had come from someone from Borno. We know where we were before now. Ndume cannot go to his hometown without security escort.
“Ndume’s hometown Hambagda has been deserted. Ninety-five percent of them cannot go to their farms, but the situation is different since we started witnessing the surrender of the terrorists. Areas under cultivation have increased. ”
The governor added that over 20,000 members of the Boko Haram terrorists had surrendered out of which 5,000 of them were fighters. No magic can be done in this war if not supported with dialogue.”
He lamented that two local government areas, Guzamala and Abadam, are still under the control of the terrorists, and called for them to be retrieved from the grip of ISWAP.
“Another issue is that two of our local government areas are still under the control of the terrorists. We want to see these two local government areas taken over by the owner, that is the government of Borno and the local government authorities,” the governor added.
Zulum, however, thanked the army for restoring peace in the state even as he urged the troops to do more to stop the activities of ISWAP terrorists so that people can go back and have their livelihood.
In his speech, the leader of the delegation, Senator Ali Ndume, said that the committee was in the state to carry out its oversight functions on the army commands.
He said despite the successes of the military, they are facing some difficulties such as poor welfare of personnel and paucity of funding, among others.
At the headquarters of the Theater Command, Operation Hadin Kai, at Maimalari Cantonment in Maiduguri, Ndume commended the successes recorded by the Nigerian military in the Northeast.
The Senator, who led members of the Senate Committee on Army, who were in Borno State on an oversight function at the Command, assured the troops of the continuous support of the National Assembly and federal government toward protecting the sovereignty and integrity of the country.
Lamenting the poor living conditions of the soldiers, Senator Ndume disclosed that N17 trillion had been budgeted for the Nigerian military to enhance their welfare and operations.
He, however, called on the troops to check the activities of terrorists in the Borno State and North East region.
In a related development, the Catholic Archbishop of Kaduna, Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso, yesterday expressed worry at the rising insecurity in the country.
The archbishop, while speaking to journalists in Kaduna, noted that the primary function of every government is to secure the life and property of its citizens.
“President Muhammadu Buhari should sit up to ensure that Nigerians are safe in their homes and places of work. Our government needs to do something,” he said, adding that Nigerians can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed, with people being killed every day.
Gunmen Kill 18 People In Plateau Village
Meanwhile, the Special Task Force in charge of security in Plateau, Bauchi and some part of Southern Kaduna state, code-named Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) has confirmed the killing of 18 persons in a fresh attack in Ancha village of Bassa Local Government Council by unknown gunmen.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the gunmen stormed the community early in the morning and started shooting sporadically. It was further gathered that several houses were razed down by the rampaging gunmen.
The OPSH, in a statement signed by the military information officer, Major Ishaku Takwa, said troops of OPSH received a distress call of an attack on Ancha Community in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau in the late hours of Tuesday, January 11, 2022,.
According to him, troops responded swiftly and mobilised to the village but that on reaching the community, the attackers had fled the village.
He said houses were destroyed and some villagers lost their lives during the attack, adding that troops were on the trail of the assailants and details of the pursuit would be made available later.
Major Takwa further said the Commander OPSH, Maj Gen IS Ali, while commiserating with the families of those who lost their lives during the attack, reiterated his resolve to ensure the perpetrators of evil on the Plateau face the consequences of their dastard acts, the statement added.
Also, the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has expressed shock over the unfortunate attack that led to the alleged killings of 18 persons at Ancha village of Bassa LGA.
According to a statement signed and issued by the chairman of MACBAN in Plateau State, Muhammad Nuru Abdullahi, while the group condemned the said attack, it, however, frowns at the allegation labelled against Fulani people – that they carried out the attack which led to the death of 18 people.
“We see this allegation by the national publicity of Irigwe Development Association, Malison David, as absolute falsehood, that lacks merit and is more of hype than substance,” MACBAN said.
Our correspondent recalls that Irigwe People had accused the Fulani of attacking their villages and killing and burning houses in the process .
The state governor, Simon Lalong, expressed deep sadness over the attack which left many dead and properties destroyed.
Lalong in a statement signed by his director of press and public affairs, Simon Macham, said the attack of Tuesday night was another sad tale in the unending cycle of violent attacks in the area which had continued despite several measures taken by the government to stop them.
He ordered security agencies to ensure that they fish out the attackers at all costs, as bringing such perpetrators to justice is the only way to halt the barbaric killings.
The governor asked the GOC 3rd Armoured Division and Commander of Operation Safe Haven, the Commissioner of Police, Department of State Services, Operation Rainbow and other security organs in the state to utilise intelligence available from survivors and other sources and ensure that the perpetrators of this and other attacks are apprehended and exposed.
8,372 Killed, 5,018 Abducted In 2021 – Report
Non-state actors killed 8,372 Nigerians and abducted 5,018 others across the country between January 01 and December 31, 2021, according to report by Beacon Consulting Limited.
The report tagged ‘Nigeria Security Report December 2021’ and obtained by LEADERSHIP said the North suffered the most deaths with 79.2 percent in the period under review, which shows the region is bleeding.
A breakdown of these fatalities, according to the geopolitical regions, shows that the North West suffered the highest with 3,051 deaths, followed by the North East with 1,895 casualties, North Central – 1,684 victims, South East – 853, South-South – 448, and South West – 441.
The breakdown further shows that 36.4 percent of the yearly fatality figures affected the North West region, 22.6 percent affected the North East and 20.1 percent, North Central, putting the total percentage of fatalities for Northern Nigeria at 79.2%”
The report shows that 1,516 deaths were recorded across the country in the 4th quarter of 2021 alone.
A breakdown of these deaths according to geopolitical regions shows that the North West suffered the highest with 673, followed by the North East with 413 casualties, North Central with 235 victims, South East with 114, South West with 51 and South-South, 30.
“In addition, an analysis of the states most affected by the fatalities shows they spread across 31 states and the FCT, with Borno State recording the highest fatalities at 1,508 deaths. Our incident tracker did not record any confirmed fatality associated with the threat elements we monitored in Bauchi, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Jigawa and Kano states,” it said.
The report indicates that in 2021, 5,018 abductions were recorded across the country.
The breakdown shows that the North West suffered the highest with 3101 incidents, followed by the North Central with 1082, North East with 276 victims, South-South with 245, South West with 223 and South East, 91.
“The breakdown further shows that 61.8 percent of the yearly abduction figures affected the North West region, 21.6 percent in the North Central and 5.5 percent in the North East. This puts the total percentage of kidnapping incidents in northern Nigeria for January – December 2021, at 88.9 percent.”
According to the report, government efforts led to a consecutive month-to-month reduction of security incidents and fatalities, but not kidnapping as 574 cases, representing a 58 percent month-to-month increase, was recorded in December 2021.
For the month of December, the firm recorded a diverse range of security incidents and 431 deaths in 29 states across 96 LGAs.
A breakdown of these incidents shows that 26 percent occurred in the North West geopolitical region, 19 percent in North Central, 17 percent in South West, and 13 percent each in South-South and South-East and 12 percent North East.
It said, “The thematic indications of the incidents that resulted in these fatalities include mostly armed attacks and a continuation of the trend of several non-state actors successfully challenging the state’s monopoly of the use of force.”
On North East, the report observed continued armed conflicts between government security forces, codenamed Operation Hadin Kai, and several non-state actors including the Islamist jihadist groups, the Jamatus Ahlis Sunna lil dawatil wal Jihad (Boko Haram) and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), mostly affecting parts of northern Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
The report for December 2021 observed attempts by ISWAP to maintain territorial control, including setting up illegal checkpoints on travel routes where they targetted commuters, and an increased interdiction attacks by the security forces with a noticeable improvement in the Nigeria Airforce support and response capabilities, leading to more effective repelling of Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters’ attacks and destruction of their platforms.
The report further indicates series of clashes between Boko Haram and ISWAP fighters, the use of anti-aircraft weapons, artillery mortar fire and rocket launchers by ISWAP using improvised platforms to effect long-range attacks but with little accuracy in their targeting,
Bandits Kidnap More Traders On Kaduna Road
Another set of traders travelling to Kano from Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State, were reportedly abducted by bandits yesterday.
The bandits were said to have blocked the highway between Birnin Gwari and Kaduna at Unguwar Yako forest where they abducted the traders, whose number is not yet known.
Although the spokesperson to Kaduna State Police Command, ASP Muhammad Jailge could not be reached on his phone to confirm the incidence, a source who prefers anonymity said the victims were likely on a business trip and moving from Birnin Gwari axis to Kano before they were kidnapped.
He said,”We spotted four empty vehicles and they said an unspecified number of persons moving from Birnin-Gwari axis to Kano have been kidnapped,” he said.
For several years now, the Birnin-Gwari road has remained a hot spot for kidnappers and bandits who terrorise travellers passing the route.
Recently, bandits have twice kidnapped traders along the same route.
PMB Reiterates Commitment To End Banditry
Meanwhile, responding to the recent killing of scores of Zamfara residents, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday conveyed his condolences and that of his government to the people of the state on what he called the “extremely unfortunate” mass killings of innocent people by retreating bandits.
The president, who described the recent incident as a very sad one for the nation, reiterated his earlier commitment to tackle the monster of terrorism head-on, giving assurances that the besieged communities and other Nigerians will not be abandoned to their fate.
In an address to the governor, commissioners, Emirs, the Chief Judge and Grand Khadi, legislators, council chairmen and political leaders, President Buhari, who was represented by a delegation led by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd), expressed the strong determination of the administration to get rid of the bandits who have now been classified as terrorists.
“There will be no let-up in the ongoing campaign to rid Zamfara and other affected states of the menace of these terrorists. Since they have no regard for the sanctity of life, so shall they be dealt with.
“The government is fully informed of what is going on and will do whatever it takes to end this (carnage). We are here to talk to the governor and to assure the state that the administration is determined to do more to defend the life and property of the people,” he said in a statement.
President Buhari condoled with the government and the people of the state over the losses of life and directed the military and other security agencies to intensify the ongoing campaign until everyone and everywhere is safe.
The governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, who welcomed the delegation, said the visit was a testimony to the strong support of the President and the government at the centre.
He appreciated the wisdom and vision of the president in approving the ongoing military campaign in the state, the effect of which has led to the dismantling of terrorists’ hideouts used as launchpads for kidnapping, rustling and terrorism. He, however, said more still needs to be done.
He called on the federal government to fortify the security of the state with additional Armored Personnel Carriers, APCs, and to roll out a special intervention fund for Zamfara and other states equally affected by the scourge of insecurity.
Security Tops NASS 2022 Agenda
The Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, has said the National Assembly in 2022 will focus on security through oversight of funds appropriated in this year’s budget to the armed forces and other security agencies.
He said doing so would guarantee transparency in the procurement process and ensure the welfare of military and security personnel tasked with restoring security across parts of the country.
Lawan made these comments yesterday when the Senate Press Corps paid a visit to felicitate with him on the occasion of his 63rd birthday in Abuja.
“That takes me to the challenge for the National Assembly, particularly the Senate in 2022. So far, we have done over ninety percent of what we set for ourselves in our legislative agenda, but because the country and people are dynamic, we have so many other things to do.
“Today, the security situation still begs for more attention. We will give a lot of attention to the security situation. We have appropriated about a trillion for our security agencies and armed forces, now it is for members of the National Assembly to ensure that the procurement process by the armed forces is transparent and everybody there is accountable.
“[And} of course, we should do oversight as much as possible on the welfare of our soldiers and security personnel. They need to continuously be motivated,” he said.
The Senate president added that the upper chamber would also, in the first-quarter of this year, focus on addressing the challenges of revenue generation, collection and remittance to shore up earnings by the federal government.
He said Nigerians will remember the Ninth Assembly under his leadership for its outstanding legislative achievements after the end of its lifespan in June 2023.