As Nigeria’s security crisis bites harder, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has decried the spate of killings in the North, urging all stakeholders to come together to save the region from the spate of killings in the region.
Newly elected ACF chairman, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who raised the alarm in Kaduna Wednesday, charged the federal and northern state governments to improve security in the North and create job opportunities for the teeming northern youths.
Ogbeh is the immediate past minister of agriculture during the first tenure of the Muhammdu Buhari administration.
He urged northern leaders and elite not to make utterances that could aggravate the security situation, just as the group tasked the northern states to avail themselves of opportunities in the agricultural sector.
Addressing the ACF National Working Committee meeting, which he presided over, Chief Ogbeh said: “If we do not save the North now, we will lose the North. We are faced with the problems of killings day and night which are greater than ever, at no time has life been so tough except during the civil war. Our responsibility now is greater than before.”
“ACF is not a political party but an organization working for peace and stability in the North. Some Nigerians mistake the ACF to be an ethnic, tribal, religious or a political
organisation. It is none of these. We have over 300 tribes in the North and we cannot afford to be an ethnic organisation because 78% of Nigerian land mass is in the North.”
Speaking in a communiqué issued after the NWC meeting and signed by its national publicity secretary, Mr Emmanuel Yawe, the ACF resolved that “northern states should take advantage of the N75 billion loan to farmers in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
“Because of the existing tensions and crises leading to a general sense of insecurity, destruction of property and killings in the North, religious, ethnic, traditional and political leaders in the North should be cautious in their utterances and should refrain from making wild and inflammatory utterances that will aggravate the situation.
“Federal and state governments must take urgent steps to arrest the deteriorating security situation in Northern Nigeria which has led to insurgency, terrorism, banditry, ethnic and religious disturbances all over the North.
“The government, particularly state governments of the Northern region should pay adequate attention to agriculture which offers more opportunities for diversification and the development of a more sustainable economy for the North and the country.
“School enrollments have remained low in the Northern region. State governors of the North should take urgent steps to enhance school enrolment and eradicate the rampant incidence of street begging which is very unhealthy for the overall development of the North.
“Unemployment has become a big menace to the Northern region. State governors are advised to design employment schemes for our teeming youths who have become frustrated and pose an additional threat to the security of the North and the country. State governors are also advised to key into programs of the federal government designed to offer employment to the youth and alleviate poverty.”
Terrorists hold hundreds hostage
Meanwhile, terrorists from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an offshoot of Boko Haram, overran Kukawa in the Lake Chad region late Tuesday, seizing people who had just returned to their homes after spending nearly two years in displacement camps, AFP quoted head of local militia, Mr. Babakura Kolo as saying.
“The terrorists attacked the town in 22 trucks around 4:00 pm (1600GMT) yesterday and engaged soldiers guarding the town in a fierce battle,” he said.
Residents of Kukawa, escorted by the military, had returned to the town just August 2, on the orders of the Borno state authorities.
They had been living in camps in the regional capital Maiduguri, 180 kilometres (120 miles) away, where they fled following a bloody attack November 2018.
A local chief who accompanied the residents to the town said the people had returned with the hope of cultivating their farmlands “only to end up in the hands of the insurgents.”
“We don’t know what they would do to them but I hope they don’t harm them,” said the chief, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons.
A security source who confirmed the incident to AFP said fighter jets were deployed from Maiduguri Wednesday to “tackle the situation”, without giving details.
Nigeria’s decade-long militant conflict has forced around two million out of their homes, most of them from the Northern part of Borno.
Many have moved into squalid displacement camps in Maiduguri, where they rely on handouts from international charities.
In the last two years, local authorities have been encouraging the displaced to return home, despite concern by international charities that this is not safe.
Residents have been returned to five major towns since 2018, where they are confined under military protection, with trenches dug around towns to try to fend off militant raids.
Despite the fortifications, the insurgents have continued to launch attacks.
Residents who venture out to work on their farms or collect firewood have been killed or abducted.
The United Nations last Friday said 10.6 million out of the 13 million people in the conflict-ravaged states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe would need humanitarian assistance this year.
It said the figures represented a 50-percent increase since last year, and the highest tally since the beginning of the joint humanitarian response five years ago.
Troops kill 20
In a related development, the Nigerian Air Force reportedly killed 20 suspected commanders and members of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) at Bukar Meram and Dole, in Borno state, during an airstrike.
The Defence Headquarters said troops of Operation Hail Storm, the air component of Operation Lafiya Dole, carried out the operations Monday at the fringes of the Lake Chad region where the terrorists, including some of their leaders were killed.
Coordinator Defence Media Operations Maj. Gen. John Enenche said this in a statement Wednesday.
He said the airstrike destroyed Bukar Meram, a logistics hub of ISWAP leaders.
The statement said: “In continuation of airstrikes being conducted under subsidiary Operation Hail Storm, the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole has successfully neutralised some ISWAP commanders and knocked out logistics facilities at Bukar Meram on the fringes of the Lake Chad in Borno State, while also neutralising several terrorists at Dole, a settlement in the Southern part of Borno State.”
It said the air interdiction missions were executed August 17 on the heels of credible intelligence reports indicating a resurgence of terrorists’ activities in the two settlements.
Enenche said Bukar Meram, a major ISWAP logistics hub linking other island settlements of the Lake Chad, which also housed several of their fighters and some of their key leaders, was attacked by “an enhanced force package of Nigerian Air Force fighter jets and helicopter gunships which hit designated targets in the area leading to the destruction of the logistics facilities and neutralization of several of the terrorists and their leaders.”
“The attack at Dole was carried out after Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions showed a buildup of activities in the area after the relocation of some terrorists from nearby settlements of Kokiwa and Yale.
“Over the area, the ISR aircraft spotted no fewer than 20 terrorists in the area, which were taken out by the NAF attack aircraft,” the statement said.
SOKAPU on fresh killings
And reports from Kaduna state say despite the 24-hour curfew, suspected Fulani militias have allegedly invaded Unguwan Gankon village in Gora ward in Zangon Kataf local government area of the state, killing two persons and burning 7 houses.
The local government area has been on 24-hour curfew for about 63 days, following the Zangon Kataf unrest when a farmer was alleged to have been killed in a farmland.
Alleging a new wave of killings amidst the curfew, National Public Relations Officer Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Luka Binniyat, in a statement said: “Yesterday, 18th August 2020, amidst a rigidly imposed punishing 24 hrs curfew that is 63 days today, armed Fulani militia invaded Unguwan Gankon village in Gora ward, Zangon Kataf local government area and killed two persons and burnt 7 houses. Neighbours, however, came to their rescue and the murderers fled.
“The names of the victims are Kefas Malachy Bobai, a 30-year-old farmer and father of three and Miss Takama Paul, 16, a student.”
The statement explained that though armed troops arrived after the killers had escaped, SOKAPU said it was grateful that there was a response from the military.
The statement said: “The previous day, 17th August 2020, Mr Bulus Joseph, 48, father of 9 was murdered gruesomely in his farm at Sabon Gida Idon along Kaduna – Kachia road, in Kajuru LGA, by armed Fulani militia. He stood up to the killers so that his wife and 3 children could escape, which they did. But he paid the price with his life as he was sub-humanely butchered by the cold-blooded murderers.”
“On the 16th of August, Pastor Adalchi Usman, 39 and father of 2 was murdered. Pastor Usman, who was the pastor of ECWA Church, Unguwan Madaki, Maro ward, in Kajuru LGA in the Southern part of Kaduna state, was ambushed while in a commercial vehicle he had boarded with three others. The killers came from the bush and just started shooting at the car.”
The statement further claimed Mariah Na’Allah of Unguwan Madaki, Shekari from Unguwa Ali – a native of Anchuna village, Zangon Kataf LGA and Ezekiel Maikasa a native of Gadanaji in Kajuru LGA, the driver of the vehicle, Danlami Dariya, were abducted and at the time of releasing this statement, their whereabouts was still unknown.
Binniyat also said on the same night of 16th August 2020, Bugai village near Banikanwa in Kachia local government area was attacked by armed Fulani militia, stressing that the village head, Dan’azumi Musa, 67 was killed with his siblings and his aged mother, with six others sustaining grievous injuries.
Catholic bishops’ call
Meanwhile, Catholic bishops under the Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province have called for genuine commitment on the part of government and the people in resolving the Southern Kaduna crisis.
The clerics made the call at the end of their provincial meeting in Kafanchan Tuesday.
In a statement by the metropolitan chairman, Most Rev Mathew Man’Oso Ndagoso and secretary, Most Rev John Niyiring issued at the end of the meeting, they said peace can only be restored if the people agree to put aside their differences and live as one.
They tasked the federal and Kaduna state governments to do more in terms of showing empathy to the victims of these attacks instead of abandoning them in their grief.
The meeting advocated wider consultation across spectrum and also urged the state governor, Malam Nasir El-Rifai, to listen to those who differed with him to achieve lasting peace in the area.
The Catholic Bishops also challenged the political class in the area to rise beyond the boundaries of ethnicity, party and religious affiliations and see their people as one, instead of playing politics with their lives.
They however, commended the sacrifices made so far by the traditional and religious rulers and enjoined them to remain relentless in the service of their people.
Blueprint reports that the Bishops of the Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province, comprising Kaduna, Kano, Kontagora, Minna, Sokoto, Kafanchan and Zaria, met to pray with the people and extend their condolences and stand in solidarity with the people of Southern Kaduna as a result of the recent killings in the area.
Receiving the bishops in their various domains in Zangon Kataf, Kagoro and Kafanchan, the Chief of Kataf, His Highness, Mr Dominic, Gambo Yahaya, that of Kagoro, His Highness, Mr Ufuwai Bonet and Emir of Jama’a, Alhaji Muhammadu Isa Muhammadu respectively, commended them for their visit and concern.
They said the visit would go a long way in helping to restore normalcy and achieve lasting peace in the area.
The monarchs reiterated their commitment to ensuring peaceful coexistence and meaningful development among their subjects, irrespective of any difference.
Masari on royal fathers
In a related development, the Katsina state government said it would carry out reforms in its local government administration to assign accurate roles and responsibilities to traditional rulers in an effort to improve security situation in the state.
Governor Aminu Bello Masari stated this when he received the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero on a familiarisation visit at the Government House Katsina Wednesday.
Masari observed that the security challenges faced by the state, notably banditry and kidnapping, were bred by a leadership vacuum at the community level.
He noted that the Local Government Reforms of 1976 have created a vacuum by weakening the traditional institution and rendering it ineffective in checkmating crime at community level.
The governor said the new local government reforms would enable local authorities to manage security matters within their communities.
“Village and Ward Heads are well abreast of happenings at the community level, they know every member of the community and their occupation, they know when a visitor comes in and when he leaves, it is a system that assigns defined responsibilities for every official in the local council.
“This makes the system well positioned to monitor the security situation in our community. But for village and Ward Heads to function there has to be some level of authority, because you cannot give somebody responsibility and deny him authority.
“So we are looking at the reintroduction of a village security system where community councils will be in charge by monitoring the security situation in their localities.
“The new reforms will reactivate District Head Councils to resume their critical role of maintaining security and good communal living.
“These councils will in turn advise the local government councils and furnish security agencies with the information they need to contain the crisis,” the governor said.