Category Archives: MAJOR CRIME

Pirates attack ship, kidnap two, off Nigerian coast

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.

Bomb explosion in Suleja near Abuja, 5 wounded

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.

Boko Haram raids prison in Kogi State, kills guard, frees inmates

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.

Al-Mustapha, Abacha’s former aide, sentenced to death over the killing of Kudirat Abiola

On 30 January, a Federal High Court in Lagos handed down a death sentence to Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the once-dreaded Chief Security Officer to the late military dictator, General Sani Abacha.

Al-Mustapha and his co-accused, Lateef Shofolahan, were found guilty and convicted over their roles in the assassination of Mrs Kudirat Abiola on 4 June 1996. Justice Mojisola Dada ordered that they be hanged.

Mrs Abiola was the wife of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, a flambouyant business mogul who later turned to politics. Abiola was heading to a landslide victory in presidential polls, but the election was annulled by the ruling military junta in June 1993. Abiola was imprisoned by the dictator, Gen Abacha, after he had declared himself President in 1994. His wife was assassinated while he was still in detention, and he himself eventually died in prison, a month after Abacha’s own death in mid-1998.

Al-Mustapha, who was arrested after the return to civilian rule in 1999, had earlier confessed his involvement in the killing of Mrs Abiola; but he later denied, saying he was tortured into making a false confession.

In giving the court’s judgement, Justice Dada described Al-Mustapha as a “venomous beast”.  The judge also described Shofolahan, once a trusted employee of the Abiola family, as a Judas who “sold his master for 30 pieces of silver”.

Dada said: “I think it is amazing that those who are most willing to shed the blood of others are the ones always scared of death”.

Members of the Abiola family, along with some leading human rights and pro-democracy activists, welcomed the judgement. Many said the judgement was long expected and appropriate.

However, the lead defense lawyer, Mr Olalekan Ojo, said both Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan would appeal their sentences and file for stays of execution. Al-Mustapha’s family said the court’s ruling was only a temporary setback.

The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), an organisation based in Al-Mustapha’s northern part of the country, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the sentence was not justifiable, saying there was nothing connecting al-Mustapha to the murder. The AYCF President, Alhaji Yerima Shetima, said: “He was incarcerated for years in jail for want of evidence. How can they justify this sentence?”. He said his group “will appeal against the judgment on his behalf”.

15 traders killed, burnt by gunmen in Zamfara State

Map of Nigeria showing Zamfara State

On 26 January, unidentified gunmen waylaid and killed 15 traders and then set their bodies ablaze near Birnin Magaji town in Zamfara State.

Local sorces said the traders were attacked as they were returning from a market in neighbouring Katsina State. They said the gunmen, numbering about 100, sprang from the bush and forced the open truck, in which the traders were travelling, to stop.

The Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State, Mr Tambari Yabo Mohammed, said: “The armed robbers waylaid the traders travelling back in an open truck and opened fire on them. They then loaded the truck with 14 bodies and burnt them”. He said a 15th victim died in hospital.

Although the Police chief suggested the attack may have been a case of armed robbery, local sources said it may be linked to some earlier incidents in Lingyado village in Zamfara State.

On 10 August 2011, vigilantes from Lingyado had evicted a group of people from the village whom they suspected of being behind a series of cattle and other robberies. Those evicted regrouped and attacked the village on 2 October, killing 23 villagers.

Commenting on that attack, the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had said: “From the information I have received, the attackers who are nomadic Fulani, invited their comrades from as far as Central African Republic, for the raid”.

German engineer kidnapped near Kano, Kano State

Map of Nigeria showing Kano State

On 26 January, unknown gunmen abducted a German engineer working with a construction company on the outskirts of Kano, capital of Kano State.

According to the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Magaji Musa Majiya (an Assistant Superintendent of Police), the victim, identified as Raufach Edgar, is an engineer working with Dantata and Sawoe Construction Company.

Majiya said the incident occurred around 8am, near a bridge under construction. He said the expatriate engineer was seized by a driver, along with two other assailants. He said: “They came and hand-cuffed him and put him in the boot (of their car) and zoomed away”.

The Police spokesman said he could not yet say who was behind the kidnapping and that there had been no communication from the kidnappers.

He said security operatives had blocked all major highways around Kano in their efforts to track down the kidnappers, and that authorities in neighbouring states had also been alerted.

On 20 January, Kano city suffered multiple bomb and gun attacks in which over 200 people were killed. The militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks.

This is the second incident involving the kidnap of expatriate construction workers in the northern part of the country in the last 10 months. It will be recalled that on 12 May 2011, a Briton and an Italian working with the foreign construction company, B. Stabilini, were kidnapped from their lodge in Birnin Kebbi, capital of Kebbi State.

In early August, a video clip sent by unknown persons to the AFP office in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, showed the men blindfolded and urging their governments to meet the demands of the kidnappers, whom they said were from the transnational terror group, al Qaeda. The British, Italian and Nigerian governments said they were investigating the development, but there has been no official update since then.

17 killed as soldiers smash fleeing bank robbers in Ebonyi State

On 24 January, about 17 people were killed, as an armed gang attempted to rob a bank in Ugep, Cross River State, and was later intercepted and smashed by soldiers in Ebonyi State.

Local sources report that three persons, including a policeman, were killed during a gun duel between the robbers and security agents in the bank at Ugep, after the gang had raided another bank at Ikom.

The sources said another four people were killed by stray bullets, as the robbers shot indiscriminately while escaping the town in two vehicles, heading towards Ebonyi State through the Ugep-Abomege Road.

As the robbers fled, soldiers on routine patrol in Ebonyi State were alerted of their movement. Troops from the 103 Battalion and the 24 Engineer Regiment, 82 Division Garrison, blocked all the routes through which the gang could have escaped. The soldiers soon intercepted the robbers as they were heading towards the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.

In the fierce gun fight that followed, seven of the robbers were killed; two others were seriously wounded and bled to death before reaching a hospital, while six escaped into the bush, apparently with bullet wounds. The soldiers lost one man, with two others wounded.

The Assistant Director of Army Public Relations at the Army’s 82 Division headquarters in Enugu, Lt Col Sagir Musa, confirmed the casualties.

He added that items recovered from the robbers included two RPG7 bombs, 28 empty magazines, two gas cylinders, 37 empty cases of 7.62 mm special ammunition, 22 live rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition and two vehicles.

Armed men attack Niger Delta Minister Orubebe’s country home

GODSDAY ORUBEBE, Minister for Niger Delta Affairs

On 24 January, a group of armed men attacked the country home of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, in Ogbubagbene community, Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.

The men, armed with AK-47 rifles and explosives, invaded the riverside community after midnight and blew up the main gate to the house, using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Some residents reported hearing a loud blast around 12.45am. 

Reports said the invaders thereafter ransacked the house, looting vital property which they loaded unto their speed boats. The invaders then torched the multi-million naira building and conference centre, as well as a property owned by the minister’s mother, before fleeing the community.

The motive of the attackers was not yet established. Some residents speculated that they may have been armed robbers, acting on allegations that the minister had kept a large amount of money in the house. Others said the attack may have been staged by ex-militants or other interests in the Niger Delta, who had accused the minister of “not carrying them along” in the award of contracts by his ministry.

However, Orubebe himself alleged that the attack was politically motivated. He claimed that, from the report available to him, the attackers were loyalists of the Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva. He said: “They claimed that they carried out the action to protest my roles in the exclusion of Governor Timipre Sylva from the governorship election in February. They said I was part of the syndicate that denied the governor the second ticket”.

Governor Sylva, speaking through his Commissioner for Information, Mr. Nathan Egba, promptly dismissed the Minister’s allegation as unfounded and baseless.

On receiving the report of the incident, the Commissioner of Police in Delta State, Mr. Ibrahim Tsafe, directed the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Burutu Local Government Area to send men to Ogbobagbene community, for first-hand assessment of the incident and also for speedy investigations.

Gunmen shoot senior Customs officer in Zamfara State

Map of Nigeria showing Zamfara State

On 23 January, unidentified gunmen shot the Comptroller of Customs in charge of the Sokoto Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Atiku Mustapha.

Reports said Mustapha, who was only recently posted to take charge of the Sokoto Command (comprising Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara States), was shot near Tsafe town, while on his way to Gusau, capital of Zamfara State.

The Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State, Mr Tambari Yabo Muhammad, said the gunmen, who seemed to be armed robbers, had laid ambush along the Gusau-Funtua Road near Tsafe town, between 6.45 and 7.15am, shooting at passing vehicles.

Mr Muhammad said: “They fired indiscriminately at vehicles. As a result, they shot the Customs officer”. He said the gunmen also shot and killed a retired soldier who was travelling in a commercial bus.

Sources said the Customs chief was travelling with his family at the time he was attacked and shot in the thigh. He was said to be admitted and receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital in Gusau.

29 policemen killed in Kano bomb attacks, police authorities report

On 23 January, the Kano State Police Command reported that 29 policemen were among the 186 persons it confirmed killed, in the multiple bomb attacks staged by the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, on Friday 20 January.

In a statement, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said apart from the police casualties, the breakdown of other victims was as follows: three operatives of the State Security Service (SSS), one Customs officer, two Immigration officers, one journalist and 150 other civilians.

The statement listed the areas targeted by the attackers as the Police zonal headquarters along Bayero University Road, the Farm Centre and Zaria Road police divisions, the Immigration office located at Farm Centre, SSS headquarters at Giginya quarters, the official home of the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 1 (Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States) and St Louis Secondary School. It said the attacks were launched simultaneously by several suicide bombers.

The statement further disclosed that the state Police Command had recovered 10 motor vehicles loaded with improvised explosive devices, in different parts of the metropolis.

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