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.
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.
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.
On 29 January, gunmen believed to be members of the militant Islamist sect known as Boko Haram, bombed a police station at Naibawa district outside Kano city, capital of Kano State.
Local sources said the attack took place near the Naibawa motor park, a major bus terminal on the fringe of the city. They said a large number of gunmen stormed the area at prayer time, hurled an explosive at the police station and then opened fire on it. They said as the police returned fire, a gun duel ensued.
The Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said the blast caused damage to “part of the police station”. He also confirmed that the blast was followed by about an hour-long gun fight, adding that: “We were able to push them out of the area”.
Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria and populated by about 10 million people, recently came under a siege mounted by members of Boko Haram. The sect said it is fighting to install Islamic governments under strict and comprehensive sharia law across northern Nigeria.
On 20 January, it staged multiple bomb and gun attacks across Kano city, mostly targeting police stations, and killing over 200 persons.
On 26 January, the presumed leader of the sect, Abubakar Shekau, posted an audio tape on the Internet threatened to kill more security personnel, kidnap their families and also attack western-style educational institutions.
On 28 January, the group’s spokesman, Abul Qaqa, told some journalists on phone that security agents had arrested “many” of its members in Sokoto and demanded their “immediate and unconditional” release.
Qaqa he urged senior citizens in Sokoto and neighbouring states to intervene in order to avert a repeat of “the big attack in Kano State”. He said: “This is an open letter to the Emir of Sokoto (Sultan of Sokoto) Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and the Acting Governor of Sokoto State.
The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of all Muslims in Nigeria and has expressed disapproval of Boko Haram’s violence, publicly and repeatedly. Speaker Tambuwal, who hails from the village of Tambuwal in Sokoto State, is the highest ranking figure from the state within the Federal Government.
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.
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.
On 16 and 17 January, police and military authorities reported that eight people had been killed in four separate attacks, by gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, widely known as Boko Haram.
The Commissioner of Police in neighbouring Yobe State, Mr Tanko Lawan, reported that, on the same day, gunmen shot and killed three people from Chad in the state capital, Damaturu. Reports said gunmen had shot two Chadians dead in the town the previous day.
In the third incident on 17 January, a local source reported that the gunmen, each with an AK-47 rifle, came on a tricycle and attacked soldiers, at a military check-point in Ajilari-Railway Cross, a suburb of the Maiduguri metropolis. The Commissioner of Police in Borno State, Mr Simeon Midenda, reported that the two soldiers were distributing food to other soldiers on duty, when they were shot dead by the gunmen.
Also on 17 January, unidentified gunmen killed a police officer, Jubril Abdulkarim, in Mubi, Adamawa State. A local source reports that the gunmen shot the officer around 6am, as he was riding on a motorcycle, near the abattoir in the Wuro-Gude area of the town. Confirming the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer in Adamawa State, Altine Daniel, said the policeman was on his way home after a night’s duty in a bank in the area. She said the police was investigating the incident.
Some security authorities however believe that members of Boko Haram were responsible for all the four attacks.
On 17 January, the police in Rivers State confirmed that gunmen had abducted two members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and their female friend, in Odagwa, Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
According to the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Ben Ugwuegbulam: “Two Corps members, a male and female…attached to C.S.S, Odagwa, Etche Local Government Area, and their female friend, were kidnapped”.
The police spokesman said as soon as the incident was reported, a team of policemen and soldiers moved to the scene and, while combing the area, found and rescued the male Corps member. He also said efforts towards rescuing the two female victims and arresting the culprits were continuing.
This is the third major incident of kidnapping of NYSC members in Rivers State over the last 16 months.
On 16 September 2010, five Corps members – four of them ladies – were seized from their lodge in Omuma, Omuma Local Government Area of the state and taken to the kidnappers’ camp, deep in the forests of Abia State. It was only on 4 October, when soldiers from the internal security task force, Operation Jubilee, stormed the camp, that the victims were freed from their 20-day ordeal.
On 7 June 2011, another five Corps members, again four females and one male, were seized at Omademe village in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state. The kidnappers initially demanded N100 million ransom, but later cut their demand to N10million, after the Rivers State government and NYSC authorities had firmly rejected the idea of paying any ransom. The Corps members eventually regained their freedom on 19 June, after 12 days in captivity.
These and other incidents, in which Corps members had been endangered or indeed killed in other parts of the country, have fueled a continuing debate on whether the NYSC scheme should be continued or scrapped.
On 13 January, a 14-year-old son of Prince Aboko Agolia, Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Rivers West Senatorial District, was kidnapped in Rivers state.
Details of the incident were still sketchy, but local sources reported that Master Isaac Aboko was seized at the family’s residence by about eight heavily armed men. They said the men first attacked the Vice Chairman before they dragged his son away.
The Chairman of Degema Local Government Area, Hon. Ibigoni Daddy Pokima, reportedly condemned the abduction. A statement issued by his Press Secretary, Rev Success Ekine, said Pokima called for the unconditional release of the hostage and appealed to youths in the area to keep away from crime.
The Police has launched an intensive search for the abducted teenager.
In 2011, the Rivers State Police Command rescued 101 kidnap victims and arrested 305 suspected kidnappers, 71 of whom were fatally wounded mostly in gun battles with the police.
On 15 December, a bomb exploded in Gwange area of Maiduguri, Borno State, just as gunmen suspected to be members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, killed two people and injured three on Santimari Polo Road.
According to the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, some members of Boko Haram detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Gwange ward at about 7.45pm. He said the men had targeted a JTF patrol vehicle, but that the vehicle had left the area by the time the device went off and that there was no casualty.
In the shooting incident, residents said at about 8pm, some gunmen came in an unmarked Volkswagen Golf car and opened fire on people playing cards in front of a shop owned by a GSM recharge card dealer.
One witness said he heard the gunmen saying to people: ‘Don’t run, don’t worry, we are not here for you. We have our target’. They shot two men to death, including the Head Teacher of COCIN Church Primary School in Polo. One report suggests they may have been targeting a security officer who usually comes to the shop, especially at night.
Col Hassan confirmed the incident. He said JTF men pursued two of the suspects who then abandoned their car and fled into the night. He said no arrest had been made, but that normalcy had been restored to the area.