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Kano now “urban jungle”, committee blames poverty, poor governance

On 15 February, the Kano State government released the report of a committee it set up to probe unrest in the city: the report said poor governance, poverty and unregulated migration had turned the largest metropolis in northern Nigeria to “an urban jungle”.

Kano had been in a security crisis, sharply aggravated by the 20 January bomb and gun attacks staged by the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, which killed at least 185 people. In the wake of those attacks, the Kano state governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, constituted a 15-member committee of political and business leaders to probe the factors fueling unrest in the city.

Magaji Dambatta, who headed the committee, said that “With the virtual collapse of governance structure at community level, making it impossible to keep track of activities in local communities… Kano has unfortunately been reduced to an urban jungle”. The report further cited “the uncontrolled influx of foreigners” as a cause of insecurity. It called for “massive assistance” from the federal government to tackle the city’s staggering poverty and explosive unemployment.

Since 2010, Boko Haram has been waging an insurgent campaign with the goal of establishing Islamic government under strict and comprehensive Sharia law, in the northern parts of the country. While its attacks had been largely in the north-eastern states, the 20 January 20 gun and bomb assault on Kano, was the group’s bloodiest attack. On January 26, a security source said Nigeria had arrested some 200 foreign “Boko Haram ”, mainly from Chad, who may have been involved in the attacks.

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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.

Wife of new Inspector General of Police Abubakar dies in Kano

On 30 January, Hajia Mariam Abubakar, wife of the newly appointed Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Mr Mohammed D. Abubakar, died at the age of 48.

Reports said Mrs Abubakar passed on in a hospital in Kano, at about 5 am. Some sources said she died of cancer, with which she had been battling for some time.

The Inspector General was in the Federal capital, Abuja, when his wife died, but rushed to Kano immediately he got the sad news.

Sympathizers thronged the Abubakar family house near the old Bank of the North building. The callers included police chiefs within the state and Abuja, prominent politicians and Muslim clerics who said special prayers for the repose of the late woman’s soul.

The late Hajia Abubakar was interred at Taurani Cemetery in Kano, at about noon, in accordance with Islamic rites.

In a condolence message to the IGP, President Goodluck Jonathan described Hajia Mariam’s death as “sad, painful and untimely”, especially coming just when her husband most needed her moral and emotional support in confronting the challenges of his new office.

In the statement issued by his spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, the President “lauded Hajia Mariam’s great concern for the welfare of the less privileged in the society, particularly orphans; and noted her several charity works even before she assumed her last position as President of the Police Officers’ Wives Association, POWA”.

The statement said: “The President, on behalf of the Federal Government, prayed Almighty Allah to grant the soul of Hajia Mariam eternal rest and grant her husband and family the strength to bear the irreplaceable loss”.

It also said the President had sent a four-man Federal Government delegation led by the Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, to attend the burial and sympathise with the IGP and his family. Other members of the delegation were the Minister of Mines and Steel, Alhaji Musa Mohammed Sada; the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Mr Emeka Wogu; and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Isa Bello Sali.

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.

Police find 8 bomb-laden cars in Kano, AFP reports

Map of Nigeria showing Kano State

On 23 January, the French news agency, AFP, reported a Police source as saying security operatives had found eight cars packed with bombs in Kano city, where multiple bomb and gun attacks killed over 200 people on Friday 20 January.

According to the AFP report, a senior police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said:  “We have discovered eight bomb-laden cars in different areas of the city”. The officer said the bombs were all home-made and that the cars were abandoned by roadsides.

Local sources had earlier reported, on Sunday, 22 January, the discovery of two cars loaded with eight locally-made bombs. The cars, a Honda Civic with registration number BB 748 NSR, Kano and a Kia with registration number FD 966 LND, were found wired with locally-made explosives along Eastern Bypass in Kano city. The Honda car was parked at the NNPC mega-station while the Kia was parked a short distance away, at the Chula filling station along the same bypass.

Witnesses said the cars had been parked at those spots since Friday evening when the city came under the multiple bomb and gun attacks.

The sources further reported that police officers found eight locally-made explosives in the two vehicles. Other items found included cans of drinks, cigarette filters, a kerosene stove, an old electricity metre and electric cables. Reporters said they were unable to obtain police confirmation of the discoveries as they were barred from the police headquarters and the police Public Relations Officer had also switched off his telephone.

A spokesman for the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram had said his group was responsible for the attacks. President Goodluck Jonathan visited the city on Sunday 22 January, and said there would be no let up in efforts to subdue those responsible for the attacks.

President Jonathan visits Kano, vows relentless fight against terrorism

President Jonathan arriving Kano, with Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Petinrin (L) and Kano State Gov Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (R)

On 22 January, President Goodluck Jonathan paid a visit to Kano city, the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, following multiple bomb attacks on the city two days earlier which killed over 180 people. A spokesman for the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram had said his group was responsible for the attacks.

During his two hour visit, the President stopped at the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the bombed headquarters of the Police Zone 1 (covering Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States) and the military hospital where some victims of the bombing were being treated.

In his speech at the Emir’s palace, Jonathan vowed that the Federal Government will not relent in its fight against terrorism, until the terrorists are defeated. He said those behind the bombings were not invisible spirits but “people that live with us”, and urged greater security consciousness and vigilance by citizens, in order to fish them out.

The Kano monarch, in an unprecedented show of emotion, broke down in tears repeatedly, as he reviewed the human loss caused by the bomb attacks on his city.

He expressed deep appreciation for the President’s visit, but regretted that Kano, a sprawling city with a population of over 9 million, was under-policed with only 8,000 law officers. He appealed to the President to boost police presence in the city, as a step towards preventing further attacks.

President Jonathan was accompanied on the visit by the National Security Adviser, retired General Andrew Azazi; Defense Minister, Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed; Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin; and several other top government and security officials.

Kano bomb attacks and gun fights killed at least 160 people

Map of Nigeria showing Kano State

On 21 January, reports from several security, humanitarian and media sources said the bomb attacks the previous day, which targeted police and other security establishments, along with the  gun battles between the bombers and security forces later in the evening, killed over 160 people in Kano, the commercial nerve centre of the northern states of Nigeria.

Local sources said the attacks, possibly involving up to 20 explosions, hit the Zone 1  headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force (which coordinates the police commands in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States), several other police stations as well as an office of the Nigerian Immigration Service.

A senior Red Cross official said his men had counted over 120 casualties. A correspondent of the news agency, AFP, said he had counted at least 80 bodies in the main morgue, but that there were still other corpses, piled up in the hospital.

An official at the city’s main morgue said relief agencies involved in evacuating casualties had brought in 162 bodies. He added that the figure could rise higher, as officials from the Red Cross and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were still picking up corpses.

Multiple bomb explosions rock Kano: Zonal Police headquarters, several police stations, Immigration office hit

Map of Nigeria showing Kano State

On 20 January, multiple explosions and gunfire rocked Kano, capital of Kano State and the commercial nerve centre of northern Nigeria, destroying several government buildings and turning the city into chaos.

Among the buildings hit were the Zone 1 police headquarters at Kofar Dan Agundi, along BUK road, Sharada; several other police stations and the Immigration office at Farm Centre. There were fears of substantial casualties, but no figures immediately available.

Local sources report huge smoke rising from the zonal police headquarters, after the building had been severely damaged by the blast. The building includes the office of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) in charge of the zone, which comprises the police commands in Kano, Katsina and Jigawa States.

One account said the bomber of the police headquarters came close to the building on a motor cycle, got down and then made a dash inside, clutching a bag. The account said police tried to stop him but he forced his way through, and then the blast went off.

Soon after that first blast, several other explosions went off in different parts of the city. Some residents report that another explosion hit the police station on Zaria Road while a third hit the Immigration office.  Others suggest that up to eight police stations may have been hit. Some residents said the attackers had freed detainees from about six police stations.

One report said another bomber also tried to attack the office of the State Security Service (SSS) but was shot down before he could detonate his bomb. A second attacker is said to have been arrested, but this is yet to be confirmed by security authorities.

There are yet no official or comprehensive reports of casualties, but some sources say they could be “substantial”.  Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Kano, said they were having a hard time trying to reach the scenes of the major explosions, as police and army teams had cordoned off most of them and also set up many roadblocks across the city.  

The Al Jazeera correspondent quotes one witness as having seen at least seven dead bodies, including five immigration officers and two civilians.

Police have declared a 24-hour curfew in Kano metropolis, but there were sounds of gunfire, apparently from gun battles between the attackers and security operatives, beyond sunset.

The Islamist militant group, widely known as Boko Haram, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks.

The group says it is fighting to establish Islamic rule in the northernmost third of Nigeria’s 36 states. It had claimed responsibility, or had been blamed by security authorities, for several bomb and gun attacks, especially in the north-eastern Borno State, since late 2010.

On 16 June 2011, it claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attack inside the premises of the Nigeria Police headquarters in the federal capital, Abuja. On 26 August, it also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the United Nations office complex in Abuja, in which 25 people were killed.

Most recently, it said it was responsible for the Christmas Day bomb attack on a church in Madalla near Abuja, in which over 40 worshippers were killed. In the first week of January, it gave all Christians and southerners a two-day ultimatum to leave the northern parts of the country, but government and security authorities urges citizens to ignore that ultimatum.

Fuel subsidy strike and protests: At least 3 killed, over 30 wounded, in Lagos and Kano

Protesters in Lagos

On 9 January, Nigeria’s labour unions and civil society groups started a paralyzing strike and street protests in several cities across the country.  The protests initially appeared largely peaceful, but there have been reports of at least three protesters shot dead and over 30 others wounded in clashes with police in Lagos and Kano.

The striking workers and activists are demanding that the federal government reverse its 1 January decision which ended the subsidy on motor fuel and hiked pump prices by over 100 per cent overnight. That hike spurred further increases in prices of food, transportation and other goods and services nationwide. In a country where about 70 per cent of the 167 million population live on less than two US dollars a day, these sharp and sudden price increases have stung people really hard, fuelling angry protests.

The strikes and protests are being driven by two major unions – Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC). The unions are supported by a loose network of activists called “Occupy Nigeria”, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

ABUJA

In the federal capital, Abuja, there were reports that youths camping in the city’s ceremonial parade ground, Eagle Square, were cleared out overnight, by police using tear gas. By morning, thousands gathered under tight security, some in cars and waving NLC flags. Banks and other commercial houses were shut. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was also closed, preventing flights from landing or leaving.

LAGOS

In Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital, thousands of people gathered outside Labour House in Yaba, waving NLC flags. Others waved placards challenging President Goodluck Jonathan’s record and bearing an effigy of the president with vampire teeth and devil horns. From there, they started marching and chanting “Solidarity forever”, closely followed by armed anti-riot police.

In most parts of the metropolis, roads and streets that are typically clogged on Monday mornings were empty, except for protesters on their way to rallies and police patrols maintaining public order. Shops, banks and offices were all shut. Riot police were on stand-by at the demonstration sites, though vastly outnumbered by the protesters. In some areas, protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and local hoodlums harassed motorists, stoning the cars of those still driving in spite of the strike.

Protesters and police clashed briefly in the Ogba suburb of the city, with one person killed and at least three others suffering gunshot wounds. Residents said the man was shot dead when the police fired to disperse a crowd. A statement by the NLC also said the protester was shot dead by police, but there is yet no police report on the incident.

KANO

In Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, protesters set two vans ablaze and also reportedly set ablaze the office of the Secretary of the State Government (the third highest officer in the executive arm of the state government), damaging it seriously. They also tried to torch the home of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, but police stopped them. Protest organisers said the security personnel killed at least one person, when they fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse a crowd. A Red Cross official reported 30 injured people, including 18 with gunshot wounds. A hospital source later reported that two of those injured had died.

OTHER CITIES

The strikes and protests recorded mixed results in several other cities.  In Kaduna, the streets were quiet, with all shops closed amidst a heavy police presence. In Jos, the military task force, Operation Safe Haven, outlawed all forms of street protests, in view of the volatile security situation in and around the city and some parts of Plateau State, since 2010.

Across the Niger Delta, the protesters were also restrained by heavy security presence. In Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, police prevented them from marching on the streets. In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, hundreds gathered but were largely confined to the Isaac Boro Square. In Calabar, Cross River State, most workers did not comply with the strike order and went about their normal work or business.

FAILED EFFORTS TO STOP THE STRIKE

The government had made spirited efforts to prevent the strike but failed. It had made strenuous efforts to justify its elimination of the subsidy, arguing that with the subsidy, fuel was much cheaper in Nigeria than neighbouring countries, encouraging the smuggling of the product abroad.

It had also promised that the 8 billion US dollars in estimated savings a year from scrapping the fuel subsidies, would be channelled towards improving health, education and the highly erratic electricity supply. But after so many failed promises in the past, nobody believes these new promises.

On 6 January, the National Industrial Court gave a late evening (5.30 pm) ruling, declaring the then proposed strike illegal. The labour leaders said they were not served any copies of the ruling. Many other protesters said they were not bound by the ruling as it was specific to the labour unions.

On 7 January, President Jonathan made a televised broadcast defending the removal of the subsidy. He insisted that the deregulation of the petroleum sector was the best way to curb corruption and ensure the survival and growth of the economy. He also announced a 25 per cent cut in the basic salaries of political officers in the executive arm of government, reduction of foreign travels in 2012 and plans to trim the over-bloated federal bureaucracy. Many analysts said the address offered too little too late.

On 8 January, President Jonathan inaugurated a mass transit scheme with 1,600 buses, as one of his government’s palliatives to cushion the effects of the hike in fuel and transportation costs.

The federal House of Representatives, in a rowdy and sometimes comical session in Abuja, also tried to stop the strike. Its members passed a motion calling on Jonathan to reconsider his action, but also calling on the unions to stop the strike and allow more time for consultations. Union leaders thanked the lawmakers for their intervention, but said the strike would go ahead as already planned. There was also no sign the government would back down.

Speaking shortly before the strike was due to officially commence, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the BBC’s Network Africa that she expected a low turnout. She said: “Everybody is going to work – that’s the information I got from the governors…Even in Abuja… most people are going to work. In Lagos, a lot of associations and schools say they’re going to carry on business as usual”.

Judging by the large turn-out in Lagos, the minister was grossly mistaken. Said one commentator: “That shows you just how totally disconnected these people are from the real heartbeat of the Nigerian people”.

The protesters say the action will continue indefinitely. Many citizens say the government needs to find a quick and satisfactory response, in order to prevent further damage to the country’s economy – and her image.

Fuel subsidy protest spreads through cities: one killed in Ilorin, another shot in Lokoja

Protest on Ikorodu Road, Lagos

On 3 January, protests against the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy, which raised the price of petrol by over 100 per cent overnight, spread through several cities of the country, claiming a first casualty in Ilorin, Kwara State.

LAGOS

In Lagos, the protesters were addressed by leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the labour union’s secretariat in Yaba. Thereafter, led by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and labour officials, they marched through some major streets, carrying unprintable placards against the Federal Government.

The protest disrupted traffic for several hours, especially along the multi-lane Ikorodu Road, a main drag into the metropolis. The march was however disrupted after policemen had tear-gassed protesters. Commercial drivers, fearing their vehicles would be damaged, withdrew their services from the streets, leaving commuters trekking to their destinations.

ILORIN

In Ilorin, protesters set up bonfires in several areas, including those around the Emir’s Palace, Oniyangi, the Taiwo Road -Niger Road junction, Alore, Sango, and the Oloje Ipata market. The spokesman of the Kwara State police command, Mr Ezekiel Daboh, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the protesters attacked two petrol filling stations around the Post Office area, destroyed their fuel pumps, and also damaged two vehicles they found inside the premises of the filling stations as well as a bullion van.

Daboh confirmed that a protester was killed around the railway station, but he said the wound on the man was not inflicted by a police bullet, and so he might have been stabbed by his colleagues. But the NLC insisted the protester was shot dead by the police, and said it was holding President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration responsible for the death. Some of the protesters were arrested by security agents.

LOKOJA

In Lokoja, Kogi State, protesters blocked vehicular movements along the ever-busy Lokoja-Abuja highway, creating a massive traffic gridlock. The protests also disrupted economic activities in Lokoja town, as petrol stations, banks and even government offices remained closed all day. Some sources report that one protester was shot while several others suffered other injuries, as policemen battled to disperse them and re-open the highway.

KANO

In Kano State, students from universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the state marched peacefully through the city. They started from the gate of Bayero University, Kano, and ended up at the Silver Jubilee Square. Their leader, Comrade Mohammed Hamisu Sheriiffa, said they were protesting the increase in fuel prices as well as the month-long strike by university lecturers nationwide. Nine protesters were arrested by security agents, but later released.

KADUNA

In Kaduna State, mostly youthful protesters, under the umbrella civil society movement, Occupy Nigeria, converged at the Murtala Muhammed Square, where a register was opened for people to indicate their opposition to the government’s removal of fuel subsidy. Policemen, who barricaded the gate to the Square, barred the protesters from gaining access inside. The register was later made available at the gate, where an unknown number of protesters signed against the government’s policy.

IBADAN

In Ibadan, Oyo State, protesting youths led by the University of Ibadan students’ union president, Mr Tokunbo Salako, marched through the areas around Agodi, Agbowo, Gate, Dugbe and Challenge and the Governor’s Office. The march paralyzed businesses as banks and many other commercial houses remained shut. However security agencies, deployed to protect public assets and control motor traffic, were able to maintain peace, in spite of the generally chaotic situation.

The protesters demanded the immediate resignation of President Jonathan, Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Information, Labaran Maku; and Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Dieziani Allison-Madueke. They also demanded that members of the National Assembly immediately call off their recess and reconvene to resist the increase in fuel price.

At the office of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the students submitted a formal letter of protest. The Governor assured them of his understanding and urged them to press their demands peacefully. “What you are doing today is part of democracy”, he said. “Whatever message you have brought will be delivered accordingly”.

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