Monthly Archives: May 2011

Suspected Islamist gunmen kill younger brother of Shehu of Borno, second highest Muslim leader in Nigeria

The Shehu of Borno, His Royal Highness, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi

On 30 May, gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, assassinated Alhaji Abba-Anas Umar Garbai, younger brother of the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai, Al-Amin El-Kanemi, in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The Shehu of Borno is the most prominent traditional and Islamic leader in the north-eastern part of Nigeria, second only to the Sultan of Sokoto in the hierachy of Muslims  leaders nationwide. His influence spreads across the old Bornu Empire, stretching into parts of present-day Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.

Local sources say Alhaji Anas, 30,  was a former banker until recently, when he changed career and joined the paramilitary group, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), as a Supervisor. He was killed by gunmen around 9 pm outside his home in Gangamari ward of Maiduguri.  

According to the Police Public Relations Officer in Borno State, Lawal Abdullahi, “He was about to enter his house to retire for the night when some gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members accosted him and shot him at close range”.

The police said he is the second close relation of the Shehu to be killed by suspected Boko Haram hit men, after another sibling had been gunned down in early April.

Boko Haram’s leades had always viewed traditional rulers as compromised Muslims, working in league with the corrupt state establishment. After state security forces ruthlessly quelled their uprising in Bauchi and Maiduguri in 2009, relations between the militants and the rulers grew even worse.

Most militants believed the local chiefs encouraged and endorsed the killing of their members by state security forces. Thus since they re-grouped and started their serial attacks in mid-2010, the militants have targeted not only security personnel and opposing clerics, but also a number of chiefs or persons close to them.

In September 2010, they killed two local district heads (with the title of “Lawan”) and shot another village warden (“Bullama”), in a fierce twilight attack just behind the palace of the Shehu in Maiduguri. They claimed the chiefs had been police informants. That incident, in an area previously considered not vulnerable to militant strikes, raised the risks of attacks anywhere in the city.

In February 2011, the Shehu urged both Muslims and Christians in the state to pray and fast for three days, starting from 10 March 2011, as a means of ending the serial attacks and killings by the militants. In a statement by the Secretary of the Borno Emirate Council (BEC), Zanna Laisu, the Shehu said the growing trend of daily killings now called for sober reflection by adherents of all faiths, as the attacks “seemed to have defied all possible solutions”.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that since 2 July 2010 when Boko Haram militants started attacking individuals believed to have played roles in quelling their 2009 uprising, some 100 persons have been killed.

 On 29 May, at the inauguration of his new administration in the state, Gov. Kashim Shettima appealed to the militants to come forward for dialogue towards ending the killings in the state.

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President Jonathan re-appoints Gen Azazi as National Security Adviser

Gen OWOYE ANDREW AZAZI, National Security Adviser

On 30 May, less than 24 hours after being sworn in for his first full term as the country’s chief executive, President Goodluck Jonathan named his first two appointees: Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate president now appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and General Owoye Andrew Azazi, who is re-appointed as National Security Adviser (NSA).

Azazi, a retired four-star general who had earlier risen to the peak of the country’s defence establishment as chief of defence staff, was first appointed NSA in October 2010, following the resignation of Gen Aliyu Mohammed.

Like other presidential advisers, his tenure formally ended with the end of the administration under which he was appointed. As it turned out, Azazi became the first presidential adviser to be re-appointed.

Azazi’s early retention signals the President’s confidence in him. Perhaps more importantly,  it also suggests that the President may be placing a high premium on security and is seeking to ensure stability and continuity in that department of the government.

[ See detailed “PROFILE: General Owoye Andrew Azazi, National Security Adviser”, also on this website].

PROFILE: General Owoeye Andrew Azazi, National Security Adviser

Gen OWOEYE ANDREW AZAZI, National Security Adviser

General Andrew Owoeye Azazi, re-appointed National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on 30 May 2011, had a distinguished career in the Nigerian Army, rising to the peak of the defence establishment as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration before his retirement in 2008.

Born in Peretorugbene in present-day Bayelsa State on 1 February 1952, he had his early education in the old Bendel State where he attended Government College, Bomadi (now in Delta State) and graduated in the class of 1968.Thereafter, on 3 July 1972, he enlisted in the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, as a member of the Regular Combatant Cadet Course 12. On 14 December 1974, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, after winning the bronze medal as the Best Cadet in Arts subjects during his course.

Azazi’s career in the army was largely devoted to intelligence work, as well as research, professional training and development. He attended Staff Intelligence and Security Course, School of Service Intelligence, Ashford, Kent, UK and the Combined Strategic Intelligence Training Programme at the Defence Intelligence College, Washington DC, United States.

Back home, he attended the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, (AFCSC), Jaji, and the highly regarded National War College (now National Defence College), in Abuja. He graduated from the College as winner of the President and Commander-in-Chief’s Merit Award for the officer with the Best All-Round performance on the course. He thereafter proceeded to the University of Ibadan, where he earned a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Strategic Studies.

As an intelligence specialist, Azazi served in various intelligence-related posts, including Intelligence Officer of the Lagos Garrison Command; Colonel Coordination in the Directorate of Military Intelligence; Colonel General Staff, 81 Division; and Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). He also served as Assistant Defence Attaché at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, United States, for a period of three years. He was later rose to become Director of Military Intelligence in 2003.

Gen Azazi as Chief of Defense Staff, Nigeria, with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, US, walking through an honor cordon into the Pentagon on 24 June 2008

As a military instructor vastly knowledgeable in the field of intelligence, he served as a member of the Directing Staff of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji. He was later posted to the Training and Doctrine Command, Minna, as Colonel Research and Development and then as Director of Training. He also served as a member of Directing Staff of the National Defence College, Abuja, later becoming the Principal Staff Officer Coordination at the institution. He was, for several years, an external assessor at the College and a Guest Lecturer on the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and Military Operations Other Than War (MOTWA).

While in the army, Gen Azazi served on numerous research, policy and planning committees. Perhaps most notably, he was also a member of Nigeria’s Defence Policy Review Committee 2000/2001 and then Chairman of the Committee of The Nigerian Army in the Next Decade in May 2004.

In January 2005, Azazi was appointed the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna. He was subsequently appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in June 2006 and Chief of Defence Staff in 2007. It was from that post that he retired from the army on 20 August 2008. He was appointed National Security Adviser by President Jonathan on 4 October 2010, following the resignation of retired General Aliyu Gusau in September 2010.

In his private life, Gen Azazi, who is married with five children and two grand children, is regarded by many associates, as a gentleman par excellence. In security and particularly intelligence circles, both within the country and beyond, he is widely respected as a knowledgeable and thorough-going professional, totally devoted to his job.

His retention in the President’s team is seen as an excellent decision.

Police, MASSOB clash: 3 feared dead, vehicles smashed, over 300 arrested in Owerri, Imo State

On 30 May, three members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were feared dead, while about 60 commercial vehicles which the group had hired to convey its members to a gathering were allegedly smashed by policemen in Owerri, Imo State. Over 300 members of the group were arrested and detained by the police.

MASSOB and the police have offered divergent accounts of how the conflict started.

The MASSOB members said they were gathering at Owerri, to mark the 44 anniversary of the declaration of the State of Biafra, when they were accosted by armed policemen. They said they were at the Okigwe Road/Imo State University Junction, Owerri, at about 9.00am, awaiting the arrival of their colleagues from various towns, when they were confronted by policemen who were evidently under orders not to allow the gathering.

They said the policemen, drawn from the anti-terrorist squad, ordered them to leave, but that as they made to board their vehicles, the officers opened fire on them, killing two youths on the spot. They said a third casualty was recorded on Onitsha Road, Owerri, when another MASSOB group coming from Anambra State was attacked by the police as it entered the city.

The MASSOB activists said they were able to recover the body of one of their dead, but that about 500 of their members were arrested and detained by the police. They said the police also smashed over 60 vehicles, mostly buses which they had hired for use in conveying their members to Owerri, and towed them away to the Police headquarters in the city.

Local sources reported that the Okigwe Road/Imo State University roundabout was littered with broken glass from the buses allegedly smashed by the police. One source reported that some wounded members of the group were tied with ropes, hands and feet, and left by the roadside for hours.

MASSOB’s leader, Ralph Uwazuruike told newsmen that the group had planned a peaceful celebration of the 44th year of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra in 1967, but that, as had always been the case in the past, “security personnel preferred being brutal to MASSOB members”.

The MASSOB leader said the police could afford to shoot and kill members of his movement at will, “because we’re Igbo”. He said:  “In the North, those people who have killed innocent National Youth Service Corps members are going about scot free. How many of them have been prosecuted?”

He urged President Goodluck Jonathan to take drastic action against those who killed the MASSOB members. He warned that the actions of the killers could provoke some of his colleagues to shift from their “avowed non-violent posture” and retaliate through the force of arms. 

The Commissioner of Police in Imo State, Mr. Ibrahim Maishanu, rejected MASSOB’s claims, particularly the allegation that his men shot and killed three members of the Movement. He said it was MASSOB’s “usual gimmicks and red herrings”.

Addressing newsmen at the command headquarters in Owerri, Maishanu said the police command arrested more than 304 suspected members of the Movement. According to him, the arrested members were coming from Onitsha, Anambra State, riding in about 30 buses. The police chief said it was the MASSOB members that attacked his men first. He said it was MASSOB members who kidnapped a policeman and seized his rifle, and that the policeman was only rescued through the reinforcement of soldiers, leading to the arrest of the 300 members of the movement.

Maishanu said that no MASSOB member or policeman was killed as was being speculated by the public. But he stressed that those arrested would be prosecuted for breach of peace in the state.

The Republic of Biafra was declared a sovereign state by Gen Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on 30 May 1967. The Federal Government declared war and fought Biafra until it collapsed on 15 January 1970.

The Police Public Relations Officer for the Imo State Police Command, Mr Linus Nwaiwu, said he was not aware that MASSOB members were celebrating 44 years of the declaration of Biafra. But the director of MASSOB’s information unit, Chief Charles Ndukuba, told newsmen that their leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, had obtained police permission for the rally.

 

Bomb attack on military patrol team in Maiduguri, Borno State

Soldiers on patrol in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 30 May, an explosive device targeting a military patrol team went off in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

The Public Relations Officer of the 21 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, based in Maiduguri, Lt Abubakar Abdullahi, told newsmen that the army patrol team was attacked with an explosive device around 7.30 in the morning. He said the van in which the team was riding was “substantially damaged”, but that there were no deaths or even injuries.

He also reported that security forces had arrested three suspects in connection with the attack, and are trying to track down all others who may have been involved.

No group has claimed responsibility, but military and police authorities strongly suspect the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which has been involved in a series of shootings and bomb blasts in the state and beyond, was almost certainly responsible for the latest attack on the patrol team.

Abdullahi told AFP that: “The primary suspect is Boko Haram”.

Update on Zuba explosion: NEMA confirms 2 dead, 11 injured

On 30 May, the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi, confirmed that two people died and 11 were injured as a result of the explosion which occurred in Zuba, a small town near Abuja, the previous day.

The bomb, suspected to have been locally made, had gone off at about 8:35pm on Sunday 29 May, at a bar within the Lagos Garage of Zuba International Market.  Early reports had assessed the incident as a minor blast which caused slight injuries to only three persons.

However, updating the records many hours later, the NEMA boss said the number of persons injured was 11, while two deaths were recorded.

He also directed the Abuja Operations office of the response agency to move the victims from the hospital where they were being treated in Zuba, to the Specialist Hospital in Gwagwalada, about 15 km away.

Gov Shettima restates commitment to talks with Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Borno State

Alhaji KASHIM SHETTIMA, Governor of Borno State

On 29 May, the new governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, said security would be the first priority of his administration and restated his commitment to dialoguing with members of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, towards restoring peace in the state.

In his inauguration speech at the Ramat Square in Maiduguri, shortly after he was sworn in as the sixth elected governor of the State, Shettima said his administration would address poverty and unemployment, create jobs, restructure the state Civil Service, provide qualitative health care delivery services, drill and rehabilitate 300 boreholes within its first 100 days in office.

But he acknowledged that: “The implementation of the policies and programmes to address poverty, unemployment and delivery of health care services and infrastructural facilities to urban and rural centres may not be fully actualised, unless the insecurity of lives and property are addressed”. He therefore invited any aggrieved group to come forward and dialogue with his administration as a means to ending the violence in the state.

Shettima said: “I therefore reiterate my call on all aggrieved sections of the society (Boko Haram) to eschew violent expression of their grievances and come forward and dialogue with us. We are indeed very willing and ever ready to conference with such groups, with a view to amicably resolving whatever their grievances with the rest of us are”.

The security threat posed by the militant sect was all too evident around the inauguration. Two days earlier,  all shops and markets surrounding the Ramat Shopping complex and others on Kashim Ibrahim and Shehu Laminu roads were closed and condoned off by the Joint Military/Police Taskforce (JMPT) on security in the state. The entire state capital was under unprecedented security watch as from Friday 27 May.

On the inauguration day proper, many churches put off their Sunday services, following rumours that Boko Haram was planning a violent disruption of the inauguration ceremony.  The few that went ahead with the Sunday morning service had to bring forward their starting time to 7am, to enable their members run back home before the commencement of the inauguration ceremony, when it was feared that anything could happen.

At the venue of the ceremony, security personnel drawn from the army, anti-riot police, State Security Service (SSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other security agencies were massively present. Shettima was sworn in amid fear and tight security, provided by 6,000 policemen and soldiers with eight armoured personnel carriers.

The swearing-in ceremony, which was scheduled for 10a.m. was delayed for almost two hours as every invitee, including traditional rulers, was subjected to a thorough search by the police anti-bomb squad at the single entrance to the Ramat Square. The new governor told the audience at the poorly attended ceremony, that the occasion called not for celebration but for sober reflection.

 

Slain NYSC members: Bauchi State Gov Yuguda offers N2 million, scholarships and pilgrimage to families

Alhaji ISA YUGUDA Governor of Bauchi State

On 29 May, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State announced an offer of N2 million, scholarships and flight tickets for going on pilgrimage, to the families of the 10 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) personnel killed during post-election violence in the state.

Speaking shortly after taking the oath of office for a second term at the IBB Square, Bauchi, Yuguda said his government was offering to the families of each of the deceased, the following:

  • The sum of N2 million.
  • Scholarships for two siblings from secondary to university levels of education within Nigeria.
  • Three seats for going on pilgrimage to either Saudi Arabia or Jerusalem.

Making good the offer, Yuguda handed the NYSC director in the state cheques for the amounts, for conveyance to the families of the deceased on behalf of the state government.

The governor who described the killings of innocent citizens during and after the elections as barbaric and satanic, said security agencies had arrested over 600 persons, and that the suspected killers of the Corps members had already been arraigned in courts.

He also said he would have preferred a solemn inauguration at the Government House, in view of the recent incidents in the state, but that he still had to observe established traditions which include some public protocols and ceremonies.

It may be recalled that Yuguda had incurred the wrath of millions of youths and others across the country, when he disobligated himself from any responsibility for the security of Corps members in his state, as they had been engaged as ad-hoc staff for the elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In particular, his statement that whatever happened to the Corps members was their destiny, drew intense anger from several quarters and efforts to control the damage achieved little results. The governor’s recent offers therefore appear an effort both to compensate the bereaved families for their losses and to mollify some of the harshest critics.

Two blasts in VP Namadi Sambo’s hometown Zaria, Kaduna State: At least 6 persons injured

Zaria: Gate to the Emir's Palace

On the night of Sunday 29 May and the morning of Monday 30 May, two explosions occurred in Zaria, the second largest city in Kaduna State and hometown of Alhaji Namadi Sambo who was sworn in as Vice President in Abuja, earlier on 29 May.

The first explosion occurred in a beer parlour in the government reservation area (GRA), an elite district, wounding at least four people.

The second, reported around 6am, occurred on the fringe of a refuse dump in Tudun Masallaci, in the Iyan Juma Ward of the city’s ancient quarters.

Local residents said it went off when two teenagers on an errand for their parents unsuspectingly stepped on it. The youths suffered serious injuries and were rushed to a nearby clinic.

The Public Relations Officer of the Kaduna State Police Command, Mr Aminu Lawal, told the AFP news agency that both blasts were caused by “locally-made explosive devices” and that the police had “intensified security in the affected areas”, deploying more patrol teams.

Zaria was a notable flashpoint of the violence that erupted in a dozen northern states, following the 16 April presidential elections. Vice President Sambo’s country home in the city was sacked by the rioters.  

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosions. It is also not clear whether the blasts are related to the earlier post-election violence, to other bomb attacks staged by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, mostly in Maiduguri, Bauchi and Kaduna in recent months, or to the inauguration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as President  – and Sambo as his deputy.

Police Alert: Militant Islamist group Boko Haram planning fresh attacks in Borno State

Headquarters of the Police Command in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 30 May, the Police said it had received information about impending attacks by suspected members of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Borno State.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a statement issued in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Malam Lawal Abdullahi, stated as follows:

“We wish to inform the public that we have received an intelligence report on possible attacks. Some fundamentalists have decided to launch an attack on the good people of Borno State. The group and other social miscreants have decided to team up with some politicians to terrorise the good people of the state, using the leadership of a dangerous sect from neighbouring Yobe State’’.

While acknowledging the police alert as a proactive measure towards pre-empting possible violence, some Maiduguri residents say they do not fully understand why the Police issued this particular statement, considering that Boko Haram’s attacks have become almost a daily occurrence in the city. They also say the alert would have been more helpful, if it had provided some indication of when, where or how the group might strike, so that citizens can take more meaningful precautions.

Those details were probably not necessary as the police statement said the Police Command had already mapped out strategies to counter any attacks. It said: “The Command has set modalities and mechanisms in motion to track down these miscreants for immediate arrest and prosecution’’.

Boko Haram, a radical Islamist group, launched a major uprising in Borno and Bauchi States in 2009, but was overrun by government security forces, with more than 800 persons killed. Since mid-2010, it has carried out the serial assassination of policemen and soldiers, moderate Islamic clerics, local politicians and Christian preachers. It has also bombed several police stations and other government buildings mostly in Maiduguri, but also in other towns in Borno State and beyond.

In September 2010, it stormed a prison in Bauchi, freeing over 700 inmates, many of whom were its members awaiting trial over previous acts of violence. In December 2010, it claimed responsibility for a Christmas Eve bombing of Jos, capital of Plateau State, in which scores of people were killed. In January 2011, it claimed responsibility for assassination of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) governorship candidate, Modu Fannami Gubio, in Maiduguri. In its most recent assault on 27 May, about 70 members of the group attacked a police station/barracks and a bank in Damboa, about 80km south of Maiduguri, killing at least 12 people.

Although its activities have been confined largely to the north-eastern zone of the country, the group says it is fighting for the installation of an Islamic regime under Sharia law nationwide. Its extremist views and violent tactics are not shared by most other Muslims, even in the majority-Muslim north of the country. The new governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, is proposing an amnesty for the group and a negotiated response to its demands and grievances, but Boko Haram spokesmen have thus far dismissed that offer.

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