Monthly Archives: December 2011

President Jonathan declares to fight Boko Haram to the end, seeks regional cooperation

GOODLUCK JONATHAN President of Nigeria

On 30 December, President Goodluck Jonathan declared the Nigerian government and people will fight the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram to the end.

The president made the declaration in Abuja while receiving the Deputy Prime Minister of neighbouring Niger Republic, Mr Mohame Bazoum, who brought a condolence and solidarity message from his country’s president, Issoufou Mahamadou, following the Christmas day bombings that killed at least 42 people. The declaration comes just six days after Jonathan’s  widely criticized 25 December statement, in which he had said the Boko Haram challenge was a burden Nigerians would have to bear until it fizzles out. 

Mr Bazoum had said President Issoufou was concerned about the recent loss of lives, but did not view the violence as a religious war. He assured Jonathan of the Nigerien president’s support to the Nigerian government and people, in their efforts to check the activities of Boko Haram.

Jonathan agreed with President Issoufou that Boko Haram’s campaign was not a religious war, as the group had targeted both Christians and Muslims. He stressed that “No religion asks its followers to throw bombs to kill people they don’t even know”.  

The President said the federal government will fight Boko Haram, the “group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end”. He called for concerted efforts by all well-meaning Nigerians, and by the governments and peoples of neighbouring countries, in the campaign against the group.

Specifically soliciting the cooperation of neighbouring countries, Jonathan said: “The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region”.

Map highlighting Nigeria and Niger Republics

Nigeria and the Republic of Niger, her neighbour to the north, share a common boundary running through about 1,500 km, and consisting of largely open, flat desert sands that are inadequately policed. In recent times, both countries have stepped up their cooperation on defence and security matters.

In May 2011, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Republic of Niger, Brig Gen Salou Souleymane, was in Nigeria for a five-day working visit.

On 18 November, Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, announced that Nigeria had intensified cooperation with its Francophone neighbours and established a defence outpost manned by a Defence Attaché in Niamey, Niger, as part of its efforts to tackle the threats of terrorism, and to also contain the fall-outs of the violent overthrow of the late Libyan leader, Moumar Gadaffi.

On 29 November, Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Dr Haliru Mohammed Bello, reported that Nigeria was working to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Republic of Niger as part of measures towards fighting terrorism and preventing an influx of arms from Libya.

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Three explosions reported in Maiduguri, but JTF said no casualties

Map of Nigeria showing Borno State

On 30 December, three explosions were reported in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, but military authorities said no one was killed.

Initial reports had said that one of the explosions occurred near a mosque after the Friday afternoon prayers and set off a massive stampede, and that about four people may have been killed. 

BBC had quoted the Director of Army Public Relations, Maj Gen Raphael Isa, as confirming there had been a “major incident” which had caused casualties.

However, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force in the state, Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, while confirming the blasts to newsmen, said none of them occurred near a mosque. He said the explosions occurred near market areas in different parts of the city but that no one was killed.

The explosions occurred only five days after the Christmas Day bomb attacks on churches in Madalla, a town in Niger State close to the federal capital, Abuja, and also in Jos, capital of Plateau State. Those attacks killed at least 42 people, mostly Christian worshippers at the St Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla. The government blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram; a spokesman for the group also reportedly claimed responsibility.

About 24 hours before the latest blast, the group had emailed a statement to some media houses saying: “If God is willing, we will carry out further attacks”.

Hotel attacked with gunfire, explosives in Gombe, 15 wounded

Map of Nigeria highlighting Gombe State

On 28 December, about 15 people were injured in an explosion at a hotel located on the outskirts of Gombe, capital of Gombe State.

Reporting the incident which occurred at around 10.30 pm, the manager of Tumfure Resort, Mr Ojiego Nelson, said: “Three gunmen came and an argument ensued between them and the security guards at the entrance”.

He said the gunmen “manhandled” the security guards and made their way into the premises. As two of them fired shots into the garden where some guests were drinking, the third threw two gas cylinders into the hotel – one to the reception area and the other under cars parked by guests. He said the cylinder thrown into the reception exploded and damaged the building, forcing staff and guests to flee through the back fence. He said 15 people were injured but that none of the injuries was life-threatening.

Nelson said immediately after the attack, all the guests hurriedly vacated their rooms in the hotel and fled. He said the incident was promptly reported to the police.

Addressing newsmen later, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Tumfure, Mr Hassan Bappa, said he came to the scene with his men, but that the gunmen were already gone before he arrived. The DPO said no one was killed and nothing was stolen from the hotel, but that he was still awaiting the arrival of bomb experts before the debris could be cleared.

He also said no arrest had yet been made, but that investigations were continuing. The authorities could not yet say whether the attack was staged by the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, or by a group of common bandits.

Retired Navy Captain Akintade Dumiju kidnapped in Ondo State

Map of Nigeria showing Ondo State

On 28 December, a retired Navy Captain, Akintade Dumiju, aged 72, was kidnapped by five gunmen at his residence in Faboye Quarters, Okitipupa, Ondo State.

According to his elder brother, Ade Dumiju, the retired officer was seized by five men, around 10 pm. He said the men had been spotted around the area, earlier in the evening. “When questioned, they had claimed they were residents of the area. But as soon as my brother came, one of them followed him in and asked him to follow them at gunpoint”.

He said the former Navy officer initially struggled with the first gunman while his wife was screaming for help, but that no one came to their aid; the neighbours later said the noise from generating sets would not let them hear. The retired officer was eventually over-powered by the other four men.

The elder Dumiju said: “They took him away in their own car with his two cell phones. When we tried calling the lines, they rang but nobody picked the calls until the phones were switched off. He pleaded with the police to intensify efforts towards freeing his brother.

Police detectives visited the scene of the kidnap immediately they were alerted and also returned there the next morning.  Investigations are continuing.

Christmas Day Bomb: Muslim leaders pay condolence visit to church in Madalla

SA'AD ABUBAKAR III, Sultan of Sokoto

On 28 December, a delegation of Muslim leaders comprising members of the Committee of Imams of the Federal Capital Territory, and a representative of the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Saad Abubakar III (who is the spiritual leader of all Muslims in Nigeria), paid a condolence visit to Rev. Fr. Isaac Achi, the parish priest of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, which was bombed on Christmas morning by the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram.

The group, led by Imam Tajudeen Muhammadu Adigun, said it had visited the victims of the blast at the National Hospital, Abuja, and the General Hospital, Gwagwalada, but felt it also had a duty to visit the church and commiserate with the priest and his parishioners over the tragedy.

Imam Adigun lamented that the attack was not only on members of the parish but indeed on the entire nation. He said the car of a member of the delegation, who was driving past the church on the day of the blast, was also impacted. He condemned the bombing of the church and all other attacks on churches carried out in the name of Islam, in Nigeria and elsewhere in the world. He said such attacks were not in consonance with the teachings of Islam.

“Islam is a religion of peace”, the Imam said: “May Allah continue to give us peace in our hearts, in our families and in our country”.

The representative of the Sultan (who is also Chairman of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs), Alhaji Abdulkareem Muazu, specifically expressed the Sultan’s condolences to the priest and his parishioners.

Responding, Rev Fr Achii expressed deep appreciation for the visit, noting that it was the first of its kind in his memory. He said: “I want to sincerely appreciate that charisma in you which made you to say: Let us go and pay the affected parish a condolence visit”. He said by its action, the Islamic group had demonstrated that it was committed to the country’s unity.

“We are one Nigeria”, the priest said, “our country must remain in peace”.

Six children choked to death by generator fumes in Ebonyi State

Map of Nigeria showing Ebonyi State

On 27 December, six children, all members of one family, died of suffocation after inhaling fumes from an electricity generating set, while six survivors were rushed to the Presbyterian Joint Hospital, Uburu, in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

Local sources said the incident occurred after the family had gone to bed without switching off the generating set they kept along a passage in their house. The sources said the parents went to bed first, as the children were still praying for one among them who was ill. After the prayers, they went to bed without shutting the door connecting the room where 12 of them slept and the passage where the generator was left running all night. By the next morning, six of the children had died, while six others lay helpless. The six survivors were rushed to hospital.

Reacting to the tragedy, the Chairman of the Ohaozara Local Government Council, Mr. Ogbuefi Akpa, said he was saddened by the incident and had visited the survivors in hospital. He said the deputy governor of the state, Mr Dave Umahi, had also visited the hospital and donated N100,000 to the victims.

Bomb hits Arabic school, injures 7, in Sapele, Delta State

Map of Nigeria showing Delta State

On 27 December, a bomb thrown into an Arabic school wounded at least seven people in Sapele, Delta State.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said some men driving past in a car threw a locally-made, low-capacity explosive into a building where an Arabic class was taking place at 10 pm on Tuesday night. “Six children and one adult were wounded”, he said.

The police spokesman said the children, aged between five and eight years, were at the school for their early night Arabic and Koranic lessons when the explosive hit them. He said: “They are receiving treatment in the hospital. No deaths were recorded and no arrests have been made”.

The attack on the Arabic school is the second incident of its kind in Sapele in less than three weeks. On 10 December, a blast occurred at the city’s main mosque at about 5.30 am, wounding several people. However, Muka said that incident was not a bomb attack and was, in fact, insignificant. He said: “If it is a bomb, we will see the particles. We have combed the place, we found nothing to show it is a bomb”. Even so, that explosion generated much anxiety and tension among residents, especially among the town’s small Hausa-Fulani community.

The most recent attack also comes just two days after multiple bomb attacks on Christmas morning killed an estimated 40 people, most of them Christians worshiping at a Catholic church in Madalla, near the Federal capital, Abuja. Those attacks, for which the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility, have heightened sectarian tensions in some parts of the country.

In a statement on 27 December, Christian leaders under their umbrella organization, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), threatened to resort to “self defence” if the government could not stop the attacks on their followers.

However, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who is also the spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims, cautioned against viewing the Christmas Day attacks as a religious or inter-faith conflict. He told newsmen, after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, that: “There is no conflict between Muslims and Christians, between Islam and Christianity…It’s a conflict between evil people and good people. The good people are more than the evil ones, so the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones”.

The National Security Adviser to the President, Gen Andrew Azazi (retired), spoke in the same vein: “We are Nigerians. I don’t see any major conflict between the Christian community and Muslim community. Retaliation is not the answer, because if you retaliate, at what point will it end?”

Muslims, Christians not at war, says Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Muslims in Nigeria

SA'AD ABUBAKAR III, Sultan of Sokoto

On 27 December, the Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual leader of all the Muslims in Nigeria, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, strongly condemned the bomb attacks on Christian worshippers on Christmas Day, in which an estimated 40 worshippers were killed.

Emerging from a two-hour meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Muslim leader declared:  “There is no conflict between Christians and Muslims, between Islam and Christianity”.

He said: “It is a conflict between evil people and good people and the good people are more than the evil doers. The good people must come together to defeat the evil ones”.

Christmas Day Bombing: Christian leaders threaten to organize for self defence

Pastor AYO ORITSEJAFOR President of CAN

On 27 December, Christian leaders led by the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, reviewed the Christmas day bomb attacks by the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, which killed an estimated 40 Christian worshippers and declared that “Enough is Enough”. They warned that Christians may henceforth have to organize, to defend themselves.

In a statement, the Christian leaders chronicled several attacks and killings of Christians and destruction of their places of worship in some states in recent times. 

The statement said: “We are deeply concerned that Boko Haram sect members and their apologists continue to wage war against Christians, in furtherance of their Islamisation agenda, especially against Christians in the North Eastern states where Boko Haram members first unleashed their terror”.

The Christian leaders observed that while the sect, it its media statements, claimed it unleashed violence on innocent Nigerians in reprisal for the killing of their leader, Mohammed Yussuf, in July 2009, “it was in fact Yussuf that orchestrated and inspired the killing of no fewer that 800 persons, mostly Christians”, in Maiduguri.

The leaders also said they had observed “with dismay that public condemnations of the atrocities committed by Boko Haram have come mainly from members of the Christian community”. They said they believed that “when Muslim clerics, political leaders and leaders of thought from Northern Nigeria publicly condemn and denounce the activities of Boko Haram, it will go a long way to quelling this threat to our future peaceful coexistence”.

They summed up that: “We have hitherto exercised restraint in our public statements on these matters. However, we cannot continue to do so indefinitely, and are determined that in the year 2012, if these unprovoked attacks continue, and Christians remain unprotected by the security agencies, then we will have no choice but to defend our lives and property and take our own steps to ensure our safety and security”.

The statement was signed by CAN president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor; General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E. A. Adeboye; Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission; Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church (also known as Winners Chapel); Rev Felix Omobude, Evangelist Uma Ukpai, Rev. (Mrs) Mercy Ezekiel and Pastor Wale Adefarasin.

Foreign Reactions to Christmas Day Bomb Attacks in Nigeria (2)

JEAN PING, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

On 26 and 27 December, more foreign governments and international organizations condemned the Christmas morning bomb attacks in Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), in which about 40 people were killed. The militant Islamist sect, widely known as Boko Haram, had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION

In a statement, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC),  Dr Jean Ping, condemned the bombings of churches and expressed his most sincere condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, who had been denied the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. He also wished the injured strength and speedy recovery.

Dr Ping contended that Boko Haram’s continued acts of terror and cruelty, and absolute disregard for human life, cannot be justified by any religion or faith. He reaffirmed AU’s total rejection of all acts of intolerance, extremism and terrorism.

EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union’s (EU) foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also condemned the Christmas Day bombings.

In a statement, Ashton said: “I am profoundly shocked and saddened by the terrorist attacks which took place in several regions of Nigeria, including cowardly attacks on religious symbols and churches during the Christmas period, with appalling loss of human lives…I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, these attacks and all other acts of terrorism”.

She added that: “We stand behind the Nigerian authorities in their fight against terrorism, to protect all citizens, in particular the most vulnerable, and to preserve the right to life and the rule of law.”

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