On 30 January, at least two persons were killed in a bloody fight between Fulani herdsmen and members of Ohoro community in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. The two victims were said to have died of machete wounds.
There were reports that two other members of the community were shot dead by soldiers deployed in the area to restore peace; but the Media Coordinator of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Lt Col Timothy Antigha said: “There was no such thing”.
Local sources said trouble started when the herdsmen’s cows strayed into farmlands belonging to the community, and damaged crops. Angered by the trespass and damage, the farmers confronted the nomads. One source said the nomads suddenly attacked two of the farmers with daggers, killing them on the spot.
As news of the incident spread, youths in the community mobilized and went after the killers, in a bid to avenge the killing of their kinsmen; but they were unable to find the fleeing nomads. The youth then turned their anger against all Hausa-Fulani in the community, and sent many of them fleeing the area.
The near breakdown of law and order caused a major traffic gridlock along the Delta-Bayelsa stretch of the East-West Road. Reports of the incident also raised tensions as far as the state capital, Asaba, and other towns with Fulani residents.
This incident, coming at a time when many southerners are already fleeing deadly attacks by Islamist militants in the predominantly Hausa-Fulani far north of the country, could aggravate ethnic and religious relations in the Niger Delta.
However, the JTF said it had taken measures to restore peace in the Ohoro community and other towns in the area. Col Antigha said: “JTF is at the scene. Efforts are being made to calm down nerves with a view to commencing investigations”.
On 17 January, Nollywood veteran and Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State, Mr Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD), was involved in a car accident in Delta State. He survived the crash.
Details of the accident are still sketchy, but Mr Mofe-Damijo and his driver were said to be travelling to Warri, when the accident occurred somewhere between Urhonigbe in Edo State and Warri in Delta State. The Toyota Prado jeep in which they were travelling somersaulted, after another vehicle rammed into them.
RMD, as he is fondly called, was rescued from the vehicle and taken to a hospital where he was treated for his injuries. Sources close to him said his injuries are not life-threatening.
However, his driver, who suffered more serious injuries, is said to be in critical condition at the hospital. The SUV in which they were travelling is said to have been damaged beyond repair.
An online statement reportedly issued by Mr Mofe-Damijo today, 18 January, said: “Contrary to the rumours yesterday that I was in a coma, unconscious and even dead, I am alive and well. God kept us (my driver and I) alive by His hands”. The statement thanked his fans, friends and the general public for their prayers and good wishes, and urged continued prayers for his driver.
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?”
On 10 December, an explosion occurred at the main mosque in the city of Sapele in Delta State, injuring several persons.
The blast which occurred around 5.30 am, damaged the ceiling, roof and interior of the mosque. One of the wounded, identified as Tanko, was rushed to the nearby Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara, but was reportedly denied treatment on suspicion that he could be a member of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. He was later rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, in Benin City, Edo State, where he was placed under intensive care.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately known. One local source said an explosive was thrown into the mosque by two passers-by, which was then followed by a loud blast. However, the spokesman of the Delta State Police Command, Mr Charles Muka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), told newsmen that the explosion was not caused by a bomb, but resulted from a fire in the mosque.
Another local source reports that the incident might have resulted from a rift between Muslim worshippers at the mosque. The source said there had been disagreements on the mode of worship at the mosque, particularly after a new Imam introduced preaching in Hausa and English languages. This innovation was opposed by a section of the worshippers, who insisted on strict adherence to the long-standing tradition of preaching only in Arabic.
The explosion generated much anxiety and tension among residents. Many deserted the Boma area of the city, some of them for fear of being apprehended by the police.
But Police spokesman, Muka, said it was an insignificant incident and cautioned against blowing it out of proportion and context. 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”.
On 20 November, Chief Alex Ibru, publisher of the prominent Lagos-based newspaper, The Guardian, died at the age of 66. An announcement by the newspaper’s management said he died at about 1.30 pm, “in the course of an illness”.
Alexander Uruemu Ibru was born on 1 March 1945 and was the youngest of the famous Ibru brothers, renowned as astute entrepreneurs. He hailed from Agbara-Otor in Delta State.
He attended Yaba Methodist Primary School, Lagos (1951-1957), Ibadan Grammar School (1958-1960), Igbobi College, Lagos (1960-1963) and the University of Trent (formerly Trent Polytechnic), where he studied Business Economics from 1967-1970.
In 1983, he met with three distinguished Nigerian journalists – Stanley Macebuh, Dele Cole and Segun Osoba – and they launched The Guardian newspapers, with him as chairman.
From 1993 to 1995, Ibru was Minister of Internal Affairs in the first cabinet of General Sani Abacha. However, soon after his departure from Abacha’s government, he was shot and seriously wounded by unidentified gunmen on 2 February 1996. Flown to England for treatment, many believe he never fully recovered from the injuries of that assassination attempt.
After Abacha’s death in 1998, the dictator’s Chief Security Officer, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and others were charged with the 1996 assassination attempt. The case has dragged on in court for the past 12 years.
Ibru was the Chairman of Trinity Foundation, a massive philanthropic outfit through which he supported the poor and the needy. He was also the founder of the Ibru Centre which seeks to advance the frontiers of ecumenism and religious harmony.
He was a recipient of many honours, including a D. Litt honoris causa, conferred on him by the University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt.
On 6 September, hundreds of youths identifying themselves as former Niger Delta militants, blocked the East-West Road which runs from Rivers State to Delta State, protesting their alleged exclusion from the Federal Government’s post-amnesty programme.
The ex-militants, under the aegis of Niger Delta Development Ex-militants Third Phase, led by Julius Joseph and Tam Odogwu, converged from Akwa Ibom Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, and Ondo States.
They said they had recently written to President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator of the post-amnesty programme, Mr Kingsley Kuku, was trying to exclude some of them from the programme, even after they had surrendered their arms and obtained certificates of disarmament. In the said letter, they had warned of “dire consequences”, if the amnesty office persisted in its policy of excluding them.
Their action in blocking the road, they said, was to warn the Federal Government, of their capacity to disrupt the economy of the region, if there was no positive response from the government at the expiration of their one-week ultimatum.
The action of the youths seriously disrupted the flow of traffic on the busy road, with queues of vehicles stretching many kilometres in either direction. Many innocent travellers whose journeys and businesses were marred by the unexpected road blockage denounced the action of the youths, wondering why they must ruin other people’s business in the pursuit of their own interests.
The situation soon attracted the intervention of military and police units. However, the military and police officers, led by Col M. Lasisi, Commander Sector 2 of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and Mr M.I Buruche, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of the Area command, Ahoada, opted to persuade the youths to clear the road, rather than dispersing them forcefully. After several hours, the road was eventually cleared without any casualties.
The action of the youths is seen as an indication of the threat continually posed to peace in the Niger Delta by the large army of youth who were, or claim to have been, ex-militants in the region.
Mr Omogbehin told the News Agency of Nigeria that his mother, aged 75, was abducted from her residence at Igbokoda, Ondo State, by four armed men at about 7.30 pm.
Recounting the incident, he said: ““She left her shop and got home around 7 pm… The armed men later entered her room, tied her up and also tied up the other female tenants who were in the house. After tying them up, they took my mother’s car and drove away in it”.
The kidnappers later abandoned Madam Cecilia’s vehicle, a black Isuzu Trooper Jeep with registration number ONDO AA 359 REL. Omogbehin said it was the Police that discovered the car, where the kidnappers had dumped it along the Okitipupa/Igbokoda road, late Monday night.
He said the kidnappers were yet to contact the family and that he was very much worried about her safety. Omogbehin said: “It is unfortunate that my mother has been kidnapped. The woman was returning from her shop when they, kidnappers followed her. Up till now, the kidnappers have not contacted the family. I don’t know what my mother has done to warrant such kind of treatment”.
The Police Public Relations Officer for Ondo State, Mr Adeniran Aremu, said the state police Command was making frantic efforts to arrest the kidnappers.
This is the third kidnap incident involving the mother of a notable citizen of the area in the last six months.
On 20 March, Madam Omofenwa Jimoh, mother of business mogul Jimoh Ibrahim, was abducted at Igbotako. The kidnappers asked for N370million ransom (about 2.5 million USD). It is not known how much they were paid, but the woman’s businessman son had said that “Mama is priceless”. Madam Jimoh was later freed on 27 March, after the kidnappers had taken her family through a tourtuous track-scrambling journey, from Sagamu on Ogun State to Sapele in Delta State. Two suspects were later arrested.
On 13 June, Madam Mariam Oke, 83-year-old mother of the National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olusola Oke, was kidnapped in Igbokoda, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N130 million (about 870,000 USD); but it is not known whether any part of that demand was met before the kidnappers released her on 23 June, in a riverine community near Warri, again in Delta State.
The chief magistrate, who works in Oleh Magisterial district, Isoko South Local Government Area of the state, was seized at the entrance to his residence, by about five men on Sunday 21 August. His captors drove him in his own official Honda Civic car, to an unknown destination. Outraged by the incident, the Delta State chapter of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria, reportedly considered shutting down of all magistrate courts in the state, until their colleague was either freed by the kidnappers or rescued by security operatives.
Details of how Aforkeya was freed are still sketchy. Some local sources said he was released at Ekiugbo Iyede in Isoko North Local Government Area of the state, where the kidnappers dropped him off blind-folded late in the evening. However, they could not elaborate on any terms or circumstances under which he was released.
One source reports that one of his suspected kidnappers has been arrested by the police in Warri, near Ughelli. The suspect was reportedly found with the official Honda Civic car which the chief magistrate was driving at the time he was abducted. The report said the suspect was arrested while fleeing with another kidnap victim. There had been no official statement from the police.
On 21 August, a Grade One Chief Magistrate, Mr. Obomejero Aforkeya, was kidnapped by gunmen at Iwhrekpokpor in Ughelli, Delta State. The magistrate works in Oleh Magisterial district, Isoko South Local Government Area of the state.
Aforkeya was reported seized around 6.30pm, by about 5 men who came to the area in a Toyota Camry car.
The men had apparently been waiting for him at the entrance to his residence. They said as soon as the gunmen grabbed the magistrate, they drove him off in his own official Honda Civic car, to an unknown destination. A day after the incident, the family said the kidnappers were yet to establish contact with them.
The Delta State chapter of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria is said to be contemplating a shutdown of all magistrate courts in the state, until their colleague is freed by the kidnappers or rescued by security operatives.
On 19 August, Mr Eddy Eyikimi, a retired staff of Chevron Nigeria Plc, was shot dead by unknown gunmen at his residence in Warri, Delta State. A lawyer-friend, Mr Ochuko Egbune, who was with him when the suspected assassins struck, was also killed.
Local sources say the two men were eating when the gunmen stormed the house at about 10.00 am.
The gunmen reportedly demanded for some money which the two men had just withdrawn from a bank, intended as compensation to persons whose land had been acquired for a project at Ajoki town in Edo state.
They said Eyikimi, widely regarded as a tough “no nonsense man”, initially resisted the gunmen, demanding to know their identity and mission. The killers shot him fatally on the chest and thereafter shot Egbune. They then snatched the money and fled amidst their own gunfire.
The sources said Eyikimi died instantly, while the Egbune died shortly after he had been rushed to a hospital.