On 14 July, the main militant group in the Niger Delta, namely the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), issued a statement threatening to resume hostilities “very soon”.
In an email message signed by Jomo Gbomo and sent to a select group of journalists and analysts, MEND said its decision to resume attacks, followed the recent announcement by the State Security Service (SSS), that it would seek political settlement rather than prosecute the over 100 suspected members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, whom it had arrested.
The SSS had said it was taking that action in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s “carrot and stick” strategy for dealing with the Boko Haram challenge. However, the delta militia says the government’s application of that strategy to members of Boko Haram who had carried out numerous bomb attacks, at the same time as it is prosecuting two MEND leaders over bombing incidents, amounts to “double standards”.
MEND’s message said the Federal Government’s policy towards the arrested members of Boko Haram is “a blatant disregard to all Christians in Nigeria killed with impunity and also an insult to all Niger Deltans, as the government is displaying double standards as regards the Niger Delta indigenes falsely and unlawfully arrested over the October 1 bomb blast carried out by our field operatives”.
The group, whose attacks on oil facilities had cut the country’s production by around half in mid-2009, last staged a major attack during Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations last October 1 – when its two car bombs killed 12 people in the capital, Abuja. The group had threatened to resume attacks earlier this year, but did not follow through on its threat.
This time, it says it is “preparing very hard …with the training of new fighters joining our various camps”. And it promises that its new offensive would be felt “both nationally and internationally, very soon.”
On 6 July, 16 ethnically-based organisations from across the country, under the banner of the Coalition of Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria (CENN), urged the federal government to confront the challenge posed by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, decisively, in order to prevent further internal disorder and international embarrassment.
In a statement signed by their representatives in Lagos, led by the founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, the ethnic organisations condemned Boko Haram’s indiscriminate attacks on uniformed personnel and innocent civilians. It likened the attacks to an act of war or a foreign invasion against the country. It therefore demanded that “the extremist activities of the group be urgently curtailed and the criminal elements urgently brought to justice”.
The Coalition expressed concern at the seeming inability of security agencies to curb the activities of the militant group. It therefore called for the “restructuring of the Police to reflect better remunerations, with the Force employing more youths, while the Sheriff system of policing should be encouraged to facilitate localised intelligence-gathering and crime-fighting; just as governors, as Chief Security Officers of their states, must also have firm control of the police in their localities”.
On 26 June, the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria (CRCN), a Kaduna-based coalition of over 35 human rights groups in the northern states, urged the Federal Government to engage with the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram urgently, towards ending the current trend of bombings and serial killings in some parts of the country.
In a statement signed by its President, Mallam Shehu Sani, the coalition urged the Federal Government to constitute a presidential contact committee that would meet with members of the Islamist group. It said the committee should be headed by “a respected and politically neutral elder statesman”.
CRCN listed 21 issues which, it said, had aggravated the Boko Haram challenge, notably the extra-judicial killing of its leader, Muhammad Yusuf, and repressive acts against its members in 2009.
Others reasons, it said, included “inspiration from the success of the armed struggle in the Niger Delta, government’s policy on appeasing militancy, abject poverty and high rate of unemployment in the Northern states as well as disconnect between elected and appointed leaders and the people”.
Other factors also identified by CRCN are: “exclusion of members of the Boko Haram sect by mainstream Islamic groups, proliferation of arms in the north east, Chadian civil war and illegal immigration, absence of data and intelligence about individual and organizational links with foreign groups, lack of true federalism, resistance of the political establishment to a national conference, the collapse of public schools and Federal Government’s increasing reliance on foreign security agencies”.
On measures that should be pursued and implemented towards ending the deepening crisis, CRCN suggested “the creation of a Ministry for Peace, Ethnic and Religious Harmony” as well as payment of compensation and issuance of a formal apology to the family of the slain Boko Haram leader. It also called for the release of members of the group currently in detention and creation of a special joint federal and state fund for the rehabilitation and assistance to Almajiri children.
The statement further recommended “massive economic aid and investment in particularly the north-eastern states” where Boko Haram has its stronghold, and “mainstreaming all religious sects and groups in broader religious bodies”.
Initial accounts from local police sources had reported that two men riding on motorcycles threw bombs at a beer garden where people were gathered for evening relaxation. A police superintendent said the attackers “threw bombs and fired indiscriminate gun shots on a packed tavern at Dala Kabompi neighbourhood, killing at least 25 people and seriously injuring around 30 others”.
However, Maj. Gen. Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo, commander of a Joint Task Force recently constituted to deal with the deepening insecurity in the north-eastern states, told newsmen that: “What caused the killings of many people in the attacks were when about 10 gunmen riding seven motorcycles surrounded and took strategic positions at the beer sheds and shops and started firing at the people with their Kalashnikov rifles, before setting ablaze the entire makeshift shacks”.
Under the Sharia law which Borno – and 11 other northern states – adopted about a decade ago, beer consumption is prohibited in the state; but beer gardens hidden from public view still draw good business.
While no arrests have yet been made, local police authorities have blamed the attack on the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The group, whose name in the local Hausa language translates as “Western education is sacrilege,” is demanding the installation of an Islamic regime, and stricter application of Sharia law all over northern Nigeria, where Muslims are in the majority. It has also been fingered in, or has indeed claimed responsibility for, a series of attacks on police and other security personnel, politicians, community and Christian leaders, as well as those Muslim clerics who disagree with its message or tactics.
Boko Haram’s attacks have been concentrated in Maiduguri, in the extreme north-east of the country, which has been the group’s strong-hold since it emerged roughly a decade ago. The casualty figure resulting from this most recent attack, though not yet officially confirmed by police or military authorities, is one of the highest ever recorded at one incident in the state since the group began its serial attacks in mid-2010.
The group recently said it would be launching wider and fiercer attacks across the northern states and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. On 16 June, it carried out a bomb attack on the nation’s police headquarters in the federal capital, about 880 km away, killing at least two people and destroying over 70 vehicles.
The group’s recent attacks followed the failure of a peace proposal initiated by the new governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kassim Shettima, under which its members were being invited to negotiations that could lead to a formal amnesty, in exchange for their disarmament; but the group backed out after the Inspector General of Police, Mr Hafiz Ringim, said its days were numbered.
THIS IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THE REPORT PUBLISHED A FEW HOURS AFTER THE ATTACK.
On 21 June, police authorities in Katsina State said the attacks on the police station and Bank PHB building in Kankara the previous day, in which seven people were killed, was carried out by armed bandits and not members of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.
According to the Public Relations Officer of the Katsina State Police Command, ASP Abubakar Mohammed, the bandits numbering about 10, killed seven people – five policemen and two civilians – and stole all the money from the day’s transactions at the Bank PHB branch, an amount yet to be ascertained. He said the corpses of those killed had been deposited at the morgue of the General Hospital in Katsina.
He said the police was working on measures to bring the perpetuators to book and avert further occurrences. Already, the police has found a vehicle allegedly abandoned by the bandits which may be a useful lead towards tracking them down.
The PRO particularly appealed to members of the public to assist the police with relevant information on any strangers or any unusual developments they see around them.
Local sources say members of the group, numbering about 10, were armed with AK-47 rifles and explosives, and clad in long robes. It was further reported that they wore beards and shouted “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)”, throughout the operation.
They say as the group got close to the divisional police station, its members split into two units. One unit attacked the station, killing three policemen including the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) and freeing suspected criminals who were detained in cells at the station, pending their arraignment in court. They then looted arms and ammunition from the station, and threw an explosive inside before fleeing. The witnesses say the explosion that followed reduced the station to rubble with the bodies of three uniformed policemen lying among the ruins.
The second group stormed the nearby Bank PHB, shooting two policemen and a bank security guard to death. They then blew up the bank’s door with an explosive, which enabled them to gain entry and cart away an unknown amount of cash.
The sources further report that a man who attempted to pick up a bundle of the stolen cash which fell off from the attackers’ loot was shot by the fleeing gunmen, and later died in hospital.
The gunmen were said to have escaped in two vehicles, one speeding down the Kankara-Shema road, the other fleeing through the Kankara-Katsina road.
The gunmen are suspected to have been members of the militant Islamist sect, popularly referred to as Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sin”, has been demanding more comprehensive and stricter implementation of Islamic Sharia law, adopted by 12 states in northern Nigeria between 1999 and 2001. In July 2009, it launched an uprising which was firmly quelled by security forces with over 800 persons, mostly sect members, killed.
Since mid-2010, it has waged a campaign of serial assassinations and bombings, targeting security personnel and politicians, clerics and community leaders. Until recently, those attacks were concentrated in Borno and, to a lesser degree, Bauchi State. But on 16 June, its suicide bomber set off a bomb at the national police headquarters in Abuja, killing at least two people and destroying a large number of vehicles.
This is the group’s first attack in Katsina State. It may also be a first demontration of the notice it served on 15 June, that it will be carrying out wider and firecer attacks in other parts of northern Nigeria.
The Inspector, who was attached to the escort vehicle of the state governor, was reportedly shot at about 7 am, on his head and chest, as he made his way to his duty post at the Government House.
Some local sources said the assailants, who came on a motorbike, had been waiting for him at a railway crossing near the State Low Cost Housing Estate, which was on his regular route to work; and that they shot him as soon as he got to the railway crossing on his motorcycle. But police officials say Kaidai was trailed right from his Madori ward residence, before the suspects shot him at the railway crossing.
Confirming the killing in Maiduguri, the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, said: “We have lost another senior police officer attached to the Maiduguri Government House this morning Friday, at 8 a.m., when two Islamic armed sect members on a motorcycle opened fired at Inspector Maina Kaidai in broad daylight at the railway junction”.
Abubakar, however, said there had been no arrests by the police in connection with the incident and the killing of a District Head, Abba Mukhtar Tijjani, the day before. But he urged the public to continue to assist the police by providing useful information on the hideouts and modus operandi of the armed sect.
Local residents say police has intensified its stop-and-search operations in the city.
On 12 May, two gunmen riding on a motorcycle, attacked and killed Alhaji Abba Mukhtar Tijjani, the district head of Mairari in Maiduguri, Borno State. Tijjani was shot several times on his head and chest. Some sources say his friend, Alhaji Buba Tela, was also shot severally, but did not die and is currently receiving treatment at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
Sources close to the district head’s family said the gunmen waylaid him at his residence in Budun, behind the Shehu of Borno’s palace at about 3.30 in the broad afternoon, concealing their Kalashnikov rifles under their traditional flowing gowns. They say Abba Mukhtar was discussing with some friends and acquaintances when the gunmen, both apparently in their late twenties, stepped out and opened fire on him. They fled immediately after killing him.
In another incident about two hours later, gunmen again shot a policeman who, with his colleagues, was conducting a stop-and-search operation around the Monday Market in the metropolis. Police authorities say the policeman was wounded, but did not die and is currently receiving treatment at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
Reacting to the two incidents, Borno State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Lawan Abdullahi, called for public cooperation in tracking down the killers. He said: “We urge good members of the public to cooperate and assist security agents to rid the menace of killings in Borno. They should consider policing as a collective responsibility”.
On 10 May, unknown gunmen killed the chairman of the Borno State branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Ibrahim Dudu Gobe, and wounded his son, in Maiduguri, Borno State.
According to one of Alhaji Gobe’s sons, the three killers trailed the union leader from the community mosque to his residence in an unmarked vehicle around 8pm that night. They waited for him to enter his compound and then shot him several times on his head and chest, with rifles that were hidden under their flowing traditional gowns. He died on the spot.
The gunmen also shot his son, Mohammed, who had opened the gate, on his arm and leg. The wounded child was rushed to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) but his condition could not be confirmed.
The Borno State Police authorities confirmed the incident to newsmen and said the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had commenced a probe of the incident and will bring the killers to justice.
Local residents say there had been several unsuccessful attempts on the union leader’s life before his assailants finally killed him. Security sources suspect he may have been killed by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for series of targeted killings in Borno and neighbouring states since mid-2010.
Shortly after he was elected the new governor of Borno State on 28 April, Alhaji Kashim Shettima stated that his administration would, within its first 100 days in office, hold discussions with Boko Haram towards granting its members amnesty, and restoring peace in the state.
However, on 9 May, a Boko Haram spokesman, Abu Dardam, told the BBC Hausa Service in Kaduna that the group would not accept any amnesty or dialogue because: “First, we do not believe in the Nigerian Constitution and, secondly, we do not believe in democracy but only in the laws of Allah”.
On 9 May, gunmen in two separate incidents, shot and killed two Islamic clerics, Sheikh Goni Tijjani and Mallam Alhaji Abur, at their respective residences in Mairi and Bulabulin wards of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Sheikh Tijjani was known to have been closely associated to the out-going state governor’s father, Galadima Modu Sheriff.
Abur is said to have been a critic of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.
According to eye witnesses, at about 7pm, two gunmen on a motorcycle trailed Sheikh Goni from the community mosque where he had gone to perform his evening prayers to his residence, and then shot him to death with assault rifles. Once convinced he was dead, they fled on a motorcycle.
In the second incident, three assailants attacked Abur’s residence in Bulabulin at about 8.35 p.m. and killed him with shots to his head and chest.
Confirming the killings, Borno State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar, said four other persons hit by stray bullets during the attacks, had been admitted at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
In view of the fact that most serial attacks in the Maiduguri metropolis have been carried out with the aid of motorcycles between the hours of 6 pm and 9 pm, the police has outlawed any movements of commercial motorcycles and taxis between 6pm and 6am.