On 28 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that armed pirates opened fire on a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, and robbed the crew before fleeing. The attack also left one of the 14 crew members missing and another injured.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said about eight gunmen attacked the Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo ship near the coast. He said he had received no word yet on any ransom demands.
The IMB said this incident is a continuation of serial piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In September 2011, the group had warned that the seas off the Republic of Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, were becoming a new piracy “hotspot”, partly due to the deficiencies of maritime security arrangements in the region.
Choong said: “The attacks off the Nigerian coast are very violent and they are increasing, So far we have seen seven attacks off Nigeria this year and one off Benin. So that makes eight since the beginning of the year and we believe many more attacks may have gone unreported”.
However, in one of the recent incidents in which a tanker was hijacked, the IMB said Nigerian security vessels intercepted the ship and rescued its crew.
On 20 February, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) said it killed eight Islamist insurgents who had attacked civilians in a market in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Local residents said the Boko Haram attack on the market was apparently a reprisal against the arrest of a member by some traders four days earlier. On 16 February, a lone gunman had walked into the market on a killing mission; but as he was about to pull the trigger of his AK-47 rifle, some traders over-powered him. A local source said the group probably went back to the market to “teach the traders a bitter lesson” over their action, attacking them with explosive devices which then attracted the JTF’s intervention.
The spokesman for the JTF, Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed, said: “This afternoon, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram sect members attacked three civilians at the Baga Road Fish Market. The JTF men came on a rescue operation, engaged the suspects in a shoot-out and succeeded in killing eight of them”.
He further stated that “The JTF detonated three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and defused several others recovered from the attackers. We also recovered large number of arms and ammunition from them”. He said the JTF had cordoned off the entire area and a “come down and search operation” was going on to uncover any hidden weapons and IEDs. He added that no JTF soldier was wounded or killed in the shoot-out.
On 19 February, an improvised bomb exploded near a church in Suleja, a town in Niger State, but on the edge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The blast occurred on Morocco Road, at the heart of the commercial area of the town, wounding five people and damaging five cars.
According to Uyi Idugboe, pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, the blast struck just a few minutes after the church service had started at 10 am. He said a member of the church, who had gone out to check that his vehicle was locked, spotted a suspicious-looking package lying between two cars. He promptly alerted everyone to stay indoors.
Said Idugboe: “When we were alerted, about 25 minutes before the detonation, we called everybody inside the church. That is why we don’t have casualties”.
The Commissioner of Police in Niger State, Alhaji Ibrahim Maishanu, reported that no one was killed by the blast. Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also confirmed that: “No person died in the Suleja explosion. One person was seriously injured and is now in hospital. Four victims had minor injuries while five vehicles were damaged”.
Responding to the incident, large numbers of soldiers, police and other security operatives soon cordoned off the area, to enable bomb experts commence investigations.
Churches in Suleja and nearby Madalla have been targeted repeatedly by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northern states of the country. Its most recent attack in the area was the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Madalla, which killed about 43 people and wounded 57.
However, security operatives have arrested the suspected mastermind of that attack. More recently, the State Security Service (SSS) reportedly raided the home of one Bashiru Madalla, identified as coordinator of Boko Haram’s operations in the FCT and Niger State; but the suspect is said to be on the run.
On 17 February, Vice President Namadi Sambo inaugurated a committee to re-organise the Nigeria Police Force, headed by Chief Parry Osayande.
Speaking at the inauguration, VP Sambo said the task of the committee would be to “redress the rot in the Nigeria Police Force and reposition it to face the challenges of democratic society, through the timely prevention and detection of crime in all its ramifications”.
The 8-member committee was constituted on 25 January, after President Goodluck Jonathan had sacked the former Inspector General of Police, Mr Hafiz Ringim, and his six deputies, following the embarrassing escape from police custody, of a key suspect in a Christmas Day bomb incident.
Its terms of reference as follows:
1. To identify the challenges and factors militating against effective performance in the Nigeria Police Force and make recommendations for addressing the challenges.
2. To examine the scope and standard of training and other personnel development activities in the Police to determine their adequacy or otherwise.
3. To determine the general and specific causes of the collapse of public confidence in the police and recommend ways of restoring public trust in the institution.
4. To examine records of performance of Officers and Men of the Nigeria Police Force with a view to identifying those that can no longer fit into the system due to declining productivity, age, indiscipline, corruption and/or disloyalty.
5. To make any other recommendations for the improvement of the Nigeria Police Force.
Its chairman, Osayande, 76, a former deputy inspector general of police, had been chairman of the Police Service Commission since April 2008.
This is the sixth committee on police reform set up by the Federal Government in the last 17 years. There was a Police Reform Panel in 1995, a Vision 2010 committee in 1997, the Tamuno Committee in 2002, the Danmadami Police Reform Committee in 2006, and a Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force chaired by Alhaji M. D. Yusuf in 2008.
The Yusuf Committee, of which Osayande was a member, particularly lamented that the government had failed to implement the recommendations of previous committees. As it turned out, its own recommendations were again largely ignored since 2008, leading now to the Osayande committee!
On 15 February, the Nigerian Army redeployed 29 Major Generals including General Officers Commanding (GOCs) divisions, along with 42 brigadier generals.
A statement signed by the Chief of Staff, Directorate of Army Public Relations, Colonel Usman Abdul said the GOC 1 Division, Kaduna, Major General Joseph Shoboiki, moves to Defence Headquarters as Director of Policy while former Director of Training at the Army Headquarters, Major General Garba Ayodele Wahab now takes over as GOC 1 Division.
Major General J. O. Nwaogbo, until recently commander of the military Joint Task Force in Borno State, is now GOC 3 Division, Jos while Major General Sunday O. Idoko moved from the 82 Division, Enugu as GOC to become Chief of Logistics (COLOG) Army Headquarters. Major General O.O. Oshinowo, Head of the Special Task Force (STF), Jos, is now GOC 82 Division.
The Commander, Nigerian Army Corps of Artillery (NACA), Major General Emmanuel Etim Bassey, has been appointed Chief of Administration at Army Headquarters while Major General M.B. Ibrahim, formerly of Defence Headquarters now commands the Special Task Force (STF) Jos.
Major General A.T. Jibrin and Major General U. Buzugbe have been confirmed as Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) and Military Secretary (Army) respectively.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Major General Raphael Ishaku Isa, is now the Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army while Major General J.S. Zaruwa is the new Commander of the Nigerian Army Peace Keeping Centre (NAPKC) in Jaji. Major General A.S. Agha-Okoro of the Department of Army Training and Operations (DATOPS) at the Army Headquarters is now the Director, Legal Services (DLS).
Others appointments include Commander 3 Brigade, Brigadier General I. I. Abbah; Commander 31 Brigade, Brigadier General Ilouga; and Commander 21 Brigade, Brigadier General R.O. Bamigboye.
Brigadier General C. O. Okoro, of 81 Division is now Sector Commander/Nigerian Contingent Commander of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), while Brigadier General M. A. Koleoso becomes Sector Commander/Nigerian Contingent Commander for the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
On 15 February, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, raided a prison in Koton-Karfi, Kogi State, killing a security man and freeing their colleagues who had been held in the facility
Local sources said the attackers, numbering over 20, stormed the prison on motor bikes around 7 pm, immediately after the Magrib prayer. They shot a security man at the gate, killing him instantly. They then blew up the main gate of the prison with an Improvised Explosive Device and went inside.
While shooting to scare any prison officers that may have thought to challenge them, they freed some of their detained colleagues. After the gunmen had left the premises with their members, other prisoners also took advantage of the situation and escaped. The sources said the entire operation lasted about 30 minutes. The number of Boko Haram suspects freed, and of other prisoners that subsequently escaped, is not yet known.
This is Boko Haram’s third attack on a prison in the last 18 months. On 7 September 2010, about 50 Boko Haram gunmen attacked the prison in Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, enabling the escape of 721 out of the 759 prisoners then held in the facility, mostly suspects arrested after the sect’s uprising in July 2009. Again on 22 April 2011, Boko Haram gunmen broke into the jail in Yola, Adamawa State, and freed 14 prisoners.
On 15 February, the State Security Service (SSS) declared an ex-soldier, Habibu Bama, wanted.
A statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Relations of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said Bama is “wanted by the Federal Government in connection with crimes against the state”. The terse statement, which did not give further details, said that the wanted ex-soldier is a Kanuri, from Bama in Borno State.
The SSS said that Bama was known by other names such as ‘Habib Bama’, ‘Shuaibu Bama’, and ‘Habib Mamman’.
It implored members of the public with any information that could lead to his arrest to immediately contact the nearest police station, military formations or other security agencies.
On 15 February, the Kano State government released the report of a committee it set up to probe unrest in the city: the report said poor governance, poverty and unregulated migration had turned the largest metropolis in northern Nigeria to “an urban jungle”.
Kano had been in a security crisis, sharply aggravated by the 20 January bomb and gun attacks staged by the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, which killed at least 185 people. In the wake of those attacks, the Kano state governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, constituted a 15-member committee of political and business leaders to probe the factors fueling unrest in the city.
Magaji Dambatta, who headed the committee, said that “With the virtual collapse of governance structure at community level, making it impossible to keep track of activities in local communities… Kano has unfortunately been reduced to an urban jungle”. The report further cited “the uncontrolled influx of foreigners” as a cause of insecurity. It called for “massive assistance” from the federal government to tackle the city’s staggering poverty and explosive unemployment.
Since 2010, Boko Haram has been waging an insurgent campaign with the goal of establishing Islamic government under strict and comprehensive Sharia law, in the northern parts of the country. While its attacks had been largely in the north-eastern states, the 20 January 20 gun and bomb assault on Kano, was the group’s bloodiest attack. On January 26, a security source said Nigeria had arrested some 200 foreign “Boko Haram ”, mainly from Chad, who may have been involved in the attacks.
On 14 February, the Acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Mohammed Abubakar, announced that training programmes for police personnel this year have been suspended on account of poor and obsolete facilities.
Addressing officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force on his maiden visit to Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom, since his appointment as Police chief, Abubakar said that while every police officer was entitled to training courses, the training institutions were in shambles. “Our training institutions are bad enough”, he said, “I will not allow my officers to go on courses and use their money to buy water, bread and other needs”.
The Inspector General said: “There is need for national rebirth in the Nigeria Police”. He told his officers and men that: “The era of corruption is over. We must allow competence and merit to take over its place”. He warned that failure at courses after second attempts would no longer be tolerated, that posting in the police would henceforth be based on the individual’s capacity to deliver, while promotion would be based on performance at promotion courses.
The police chief regretted that “So many things have been done unprofessionally” in the organization, and stressed that the time had come to turn a new leaf. He said: “We must redouble our effort in changing the damaging image that we have in the police today. There is need for you to change your attitude to work. There is need for us to go back to the basics of policing in this country”.
Abubakar also disclosed that plans were underway to change the uniform of the nation’s police personnel. He said: “We are making efforts to change the police uniform to a better uniform that will make you to be respected”.
The IGP, who was on a working visit to the Akwa Ibom Command, used the occasion to inaugurate a special crime-fighting squad funded by the state government and code-named Quick Response Squad (QRS). He commended the Akwa Ibom Police Command for reducing the crime rate in the state but urged its officers and men not to rest on their oars.