Ibrahim Lamorde confirmed as EFCC chairman

On 15 February, the Senate in Abuja, confirmed the appointment of Mr Ibrahim Lamorde as chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

President Goodluck Jonathan had, on 23 November 2011, appointed Lamorde to head the anti-graft agency. The appointment followed Jonathan’s sack of Mrs Farida Waziri as the commission’s chairperson, for undisclosed reasons.

Lamorde had been heading the agency in an acting capacity since then.

Pirates kill captain, chief engineer of cargo ship off Nigerian coast, IMB reports

On 13 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that pirates had shot dead the captain and the chief engineer on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria.

A notice on the IMB website said: “Armed pirates chased and fired upon a drifting bulk carrier. Vessel raised alarm and headed towards Lagos. All crew except the bridge team took shelter in the citadel. Due to the continuous firing, the captain and the chief engineer were shot”.

The website notice said this incident, which occurred about 110 nautical miles (126 miles) south of Lagos, is the latest in a string of attacks on vessels off the Nigerian coast.

On 9 February, pirates hijacked a tanker about 80 nautical miles (92 miles) from Cotonou, capital of Nigeria’s westward neighbour, the Republic of Benin, the bureau said. Again on Saturday, 11 February, a cargo ship about 70 nautical miles (80 miles) from Lagos, was shot at by pirates on two boats, who chased it for 25 minutes before giving up.

Last year, the IMO reported a 28 percent increase in pirate attacks on vessels off the West African coast, compared to a year earlier. It said 64 attacks were reported in 2011, up from 46 in 2010.

Kabir Sokoto, Christmas Day bomb suspect, re-arrested by SSS

On 10 February, authorities in the Federal capital, Abuja, confirmed that the State Security Service (SSS) had re-arrested Mallam Kabir Umar Sokoto, the main suspect in the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, in which 43 worshippers were killed.

Unofficial sources had earlier reported that the suspect was re-arrested by the SSS, in a small hut in Mutum Biu in Taraba State, close to the border with the Republic of Cameroon. Mr Reuben Abati, spokesman for The Presidency, later confirmed the arrest to some newsmen.

Kabir was first arrested by the police on 14 January, at the Borno State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja. He was handed over to a Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr Zakari Biu, for further investigations. 

On 15 January, the CP sent a small team of policemen in a Toyota truck, to take him to his residence in Abaji, a town in the Federal Capital Territory, for a search. As the team got into Abaji, some young men believed to be members of his group, attacked and overwhelmed them, and freed the suspect.

A statement by the Police Force Headquarters said the Police viewed that development as “serious negligence on the part of the Commissioner of Police” and therefore queried and suspended him from duty. It added that the CP might be prosecuted, if a criminal case was established against him and his team.

In the aftermath of Kabir’s dramatic escape, many Nigerians described it as a “national embarrassment” and “a shame”. The National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoye Azazi (retd), said it was “a regrettable drawback on our efforts” to fight terrorism in the country. Within the police top brass, several officers expressed muted displeasure at what they saw as a major bungle. Many citizens called on the Police chief, Mr Ringim, to either hand in his resignation or be fired by President Goodluck Jonathan.

On 18 January, at the instance of the President, the Minister of Police Affairs, retired Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade, issued the police boss a query, asking him to explain within 24 hours, the circumstances surrounding the escape. The query also asked Ringim to show why he should not be punished for negligence, since the ultimate responsibility for keeping the suspect was his, as the nation’s Number One police officer.

On 19 January, the Police offered a reward of 50 million naira (about 309,600 USD) to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the recapture of the suspect. It is not known whether any informant contributed to the re-arrest of the suspect, but it is common knowledge that the embarrassment of his escape from police custody contributed to the sudden end of Mr Hafiz Ringim’s tenure as the nation’s police chief on 25 January 2012.

Suicide bomb attacks on military establishments foiled in Kaduna, Kaduna State

On 7 February, suicide bombers targeted two military bases as another bomb detonated at a busy overpass near a motor park in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State.

According to a statement by the spokesman of the 1 Mechanised Division headquarters, Lt. Col. Abubakar Edun, two attackers driving bomb-laden cars (a Sienna Toyota space bus and a Honda Accord) struck at the headquarters of the 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army at about noon.

Refusing to stop, they overran the security post and the lawn leading to the headquarters complex. A soldier opened fire on the Toyota car, causing the car to swerve and explode at a car park. But the Honda car did not explode.

Edun said: “The Honda Accord which did not explode was loaded with ten numbers of 20 litres of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), four numbers of 30litres loaded with IEDs and two numbers of large peak milk containers also loaded with IEDs”. He said the bomber in the Toyota Sienna died in the attack and that the Army recorded no casualty.

In his own account of the incident, the Nigerian Army Headquarters spokesman Maj-Gen Raphael Isa told newsmen in Abuja that a suicide bomber dressed in a military uniform attempted to drive a car bomb into the 1 Mechanized Division headquarters. Soldiers guarding the gate opened fire on the man, who died from gunshot wounds.

“The soldiers repelled the attack and were able to stop what will have been a suicide bombing. However, after firing (at) the suicide bomber who tried to force his way, the bomb exploded and shattered the glasses that adorn the frontage of the headquarters. The suicide bomber was the only casualty,” Isa, who is the director of Army public relations, said.

Soon after the attack at the 1 Division headquarters, two other blasts went off near the Air Force base and at the Kawo flyover.

On the incident at the Air Force base, Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Yusuf Anas said some attackers tried but failed to get through the gate. They then threw an explosive about 500 meters from the outer fence of the base.

Anas said: “They used all these locally made bombs. They used fertilizer and some things to generate some serious detonation”.

At the Kawo flyover, the explosion occurred directly opposite the Kawo Motor park, which is the largest in the city. The popular Kawo weekly market which holds only on Tuesdays was in its peak trading hours, bustling with traders and buyers at the time the bomb exploded. Sources said many people were injured while running for their dear lives.

Later in the day, the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attacks. A man claiming to be the sect’s spokesman, reportedly told journalists by telephone in Maiduguri that: “Government and security agencies have turned against us and betrayed the truce we offered. That is why we attacked Kaduna. And henceforth, we will always attack any town or city where our members are exposed or arrested”.

Gunmen attack Police station in Kano, Kano State

On 6 February, gunmen and bombers, suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, set the Sharada police station on fire, in Kano, capital of Kano State.

A senior police officer said the police station had been burned down by attackers armed with explosives. He said in the shootout between the attackers and the police, a police officer was shot in the leg.

The attack reportedly occurred around 6pm, just before the commencement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the city following the 20 January multiple bomb and gun attacks that killed over 200 people. One resident said she saw the police station on fire from her house and that more policemen and soldiers were later deployed to the area. Others said spent bullets and used explosives littered the grounds around the area, after the gun duel between the attackers and the police.

The Kano State Police Command confirmed the incident, saying one police man was hurt, but it was yet to give further details.

Local sources also said they heard a separate gun battle in the Mariri area of the city. Some said the sounds of gunfire came from an area suspected to be a Boko Haram hideout on the outskirts of Kano. They said a security team had apparently raided a home in the neighbourhood, leading to a shootout with the occupants. Others said the gunshots seem to have come from the Danladi Nasidi police station in the area. There had been no official statement from the police.

Bomb blasts, 3 feared killed in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 6 February, multiple blasts occurred at the Gamboru market and a nearby pharmaceutical store in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. There had been no official casualty report, but three persons were feared killed with several vehicles and shops razed.

Local sources said three blasts hit the ‘Yan Robobi area of the market and two others struck D.K Pharmacy, one of the biggest pharmaceutical stores in the city. The sources said the owner of the pharmacy and two of his employees were killed, as the explosives destroyed the building that housed the store.

Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, chief operations officer of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri, confirmed the explosions at the market to some newsmen but reportedly gave no further details.

Maiduguri is the base of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group responsible for a series of bomb and gun attacks against security operatives and institutions as well opposing Muslim clerics and Christians in several northern states of the country. Its attacks have killed more than 200 people in the past five weeks since the beginning of the year.

However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the market and the pharmacy store – or for the assassination of two persons in the Ummarari ward of the metropolis the previous night.

Ajayi Crowther University shut, following violent students’ protest

On 6 February, the authorities of Ajayi Crowther University, a private institution owned by the Anglican Communion in Oyo town, Oyo State, ordered the immediate closure of the school after its students had gone on rampage. The students were protesting the death of a colleague who passed away at the institution’s health centre.

According to local sources, Elvis Abu Paul, aged 22, a 300-level Computer Science student, was rushed to the health centre on Sunday 5 February, after he had suddenly taken ill. The doctors on duty immediately placed him on oxygen. The accounts said Elvis allegedly died after men of the Works Department mistakenly switched off the generating set which was powering the oxygen machine at the health centre.

Another source further claimed that attempts to rush Elvis to the general hospital in town were frustrated by security men at the main gate, on the contention that the university’s ambulance that was taking him out had no exit pass.

The university management was yet to issue an official report on the circumstances in which the student died.

However, alleging that Elvis’ death was caused by the “carelessness and negligence” of the institution’s management, hundreds of students trooped out on a street protest. Chanting war songs, they barricaded the entrance to the institution and set up bonfires on the Oyo-Ogbomoso highway.

The students then destroyed the university’s health centre, pulled down part of the perimeter fence by the main gate and burnt down the Accounting and Economics Department, including research materials, books and vehicles belonging to some lecturers.

Alarmed at the destruction, the university management hurriedly ordered an immediate and indefinite closure. The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Mrs Wale Ademowo, said students had been directed to leave the campus for their homes. Armed policemen from the Oyo Division were drafted to Oyo town to prevent further breakdown of law and order, while students evacuated the campus.

Sources said this breach of peace and order on the campus is unprecedented in the seven years since the university was established.

Militant group, MEND, claims attack on ENI pipeline in Niger Delta

On 5 February, a group identifying itself as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), claimed responsibility for an attack on an oil pipeline owned by the Italian firm, Agip (Eni), in Bayelsa State.  Witnesses had reported a fire on the company’s Nembe-Brass pipeline late the previous day.

In a statement sent to the media, the group said: “On Saturday, the 4th of February at 1930hrs, fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) attacked and destroyed the Agip (ENI) trunk line at Brass in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria”.

The statement added that: “This relatively insignificant attack is a reminder of our presence in the creeks of the Niger Delta and a sign of things to come”.

MEND was the main militant group in the Niger Delta and responsible for years of attacks on the oil industry. However, following the Federal Government’s offer of amnesty in 2009, virtually all of its known commanders and thousands of its fighters dropped their arms and joined the government’s re-orientation and rehabilitation programmes, which also guaranteed them monthly stipends from the government. Several thousands have been enrolled in vocational and academic training courses, in Nigeria and abroad.

MEND purportedly sent several threats to the media in 2010 and 2011, but the threatened attacks never materialized. Oil industry sources said most of the recent damage to oil infrastructure in the region had been caused by gangs stealing oil, rather than insurgent militants. Security sources add that these gangs lack the capacity to cause the level of damage and disruption that was seen in early 2011, when attacks slashed the country’s oil production by more than 50 per cent.

The military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta said: “JTF advices Niger Deltans to be mindful of people who are out to swindle them by wrongfully appropriating the identity of the erstwhile leadership of MEND to curry sympathy for their selfish and criminal interests”.

Boko Haram confirms slaughtering 6 “traitors”, threatens more “executions” in Maiduguri, Borno State

On 2 February, a spokesman for the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, confirmed that it was his group that killed the six men slaughtered on the night of Wednesday 1 February, in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

The six men were killed in the Shehuri north area of the city, by assailants who trailed them to their houses around midnight and slaughtered them with knives. In a statement following the killings, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, had said preliminary investigations revealed the men were “slaughtered by persons suspected to be their fellow sect members”. He had also suggested that the killings “may have been as a result of division among sect members”.

In a telephone interview with some journalists in Maiduguri, the Boko Haram spokesman who identified himself as Abul Qaqa, confirmed the JTF’s revelation. He said the six men were slaughtered because they were among the traitors who betrayed 11 members of the sect, leading to their elimination by JTF four days earlier.

He further disclosed that the six men slaughtered were only part of a longer list of persons whom the group plans to eliminate. He said: “We have earmarked 30 of them for execution because they betrayed our group”.

It will be recalled that on 28 January, 11 members of Boko Haram were killed by JTF in Maiduguri. In the wake of those killings, the victims’ families had claimed that the men killed were not members of the militant sect, alleging human rights violations and demanding a probe.

The confirmation by the Boko Haram spokesman seems to have put paid to those denials and demands. It also seems to confirm the JTF’s suspicion of a feud within some members of the sect. It thus raises fears of further factional killings within the group in Maiduguri.

Boko Haram says arrested “senior member” is Abu Dardaa not Abul Qaqa, alleges “betrayal”

On 2 February, the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, said its “senior member” arrested by security operatives the previous day was Abu Dardaa, not Abu Qaqa, as had been reported by some security and media sources. The group also claimed the man was arrested after he had started exploratory talks with “key fuctinaries of the Federal Government”.

In a telephone interview with some journalists in Maiduguri, a Boko Haram spokesman said: “The person that was arrested is Abu Dardaa and not Abu Qaqa. I am Abu Qaqa. I’m the spokesman of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (Boko Haram). Abu Dardaa is the head of the Lagina (Department) of Public Enlightenment and not the spokesman”. He added that: “Of course, Abu Dardaa is a senior member of our group”.

The spokesman alleged that the group was deceived by the government’s offer of dialogue and that the man arrested was trailed and picked up by security operatives shortly after he had an interaction with some “key functionaries of the Federal Government on the issue of dialogue”.

He said: “We initially thought that the much-talked-about dialogue was true and we actually resolved that after the initial meeting with Dardaa, we would send five representatives to stand for us. Part of what we told him to discuss with the government representatives was the unconditional release of our members as pre-condition for any further discussion”.

The spokesman further said that: “Indeed, he (the arrested man) had started talking to them but, unknown to him, they directed some security agents to trail him behind and arrested him. This is exactly what happened…Everybody knows our capability and tactics of operation. It is evidently clear that none of our members could be caught on a platter of gold and without confrontation”.

The spokesman further said: “The arrest of Abu Dardaa is an outright deception and betrayal by the Nigerian government and security agents…His arrest has proven to us that they were waiting for us to avail ourselves so that they can arrest us”.

He said: “I want to reiterate that we want all our members to be released for peace to return and for dialogue to hold”. He added that the arrest of its members will not deter his group from its campaign and the pursuit of its goals.

The group, loosely modelled on Afghanistan’s Taleban, says it is fighting to establish Islamic government, based on strict and comprehensive application of Sharia law, in at least 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states. In July 2009, it launched an uprising in the northeastern Borno State and, in five days of fighting with security forces, more than 800 people were killed. The group’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was among those killed.

Regrouping in late 2010, the group has conducted an increasinly deadly campaign targeting mostly police, military and other government personnel and institutions, but also Christians and churches.

In June 2011, it sent a first ever suicide bomber to the national headquarters of the police in the federal capital, Abuja; in August it bombed the Abuja office complex housing the 26 United Nations agencies working in Nigeria, killing 25 people. On Christmas Day, it bombed a church in Madalla near Abuja, killing over 40 worshippers. Most recently, on 20 January, its multiple bomb and gun attacks killed at least 186 people in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria.

%d bloggers like this: