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.
Nigerian police offers 50 million naira (310,000 USD) reward for information on escaped bomb suspect
On 19 January, the Nigeria Police Force offered a reward of 50 million naira (about 309,600 USD) to anyone who provides information that could lead to the recapture of the main suspect in the Christmas Day bombing of a church in Madalla, near Abuja, which killed over 40 people. The suspect escaped from police custody on Sunday 15 January.
A statement issued by the Force headquarters in Abuja said: “The Police High Command has declared Kabiru Umar (a.k.a. Kabiru Sokoto) wanted in connection with cases of bombing and terrorism across the northern states of the Federation, especially the Christmas-Day bombing of a church at Madalla”.
The statement added that the suspect “is aged 28 years, fair in complexion and speaks English, Hausa and Arabic languages fluently”.
Kabiru was arrested by the police on Saturday 14 December, 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 Sunday 15 December, the CP sent a small team of policemen in a Toyota Hilux truck, to take him to his residence in Abaji, a boundary town between the Federal Capital Territory and Kogi State, for a search. As the team got into the town, a group of armed young men, believed to be members of Kabiru’s sect, attacked and overwhelmed them, freeing the suspect.
The statement by the Force Headquarters said the Police viewed this 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.
Many Nigerians variously described Kabiru’s escape 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, on the prompting 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.
Olubolade said: “If he (the IGP) is found guilty of complicity, he himself would have to account for his mistakes”. When asked whether the Police chief could be sacked over the incident, he replied: “Yes, anybody (could), including me”.
On 4 January, the nation’s two main trade unions – Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) – announced they would commence an indefinite strike and mass protests by 9 January, if the Federal Government does not reverse its recent removal of fuel subsidy.
A statement signed by leaders of the two unions said: “All offices, oil production centers, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, amongst others will be shut down” starting from 9 January, advising citizens to “stockpile basic needs, especially food and water”.
The statement said the decision to call the strike was reached “after exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace”. It further said: “The NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that The Presidency immediately reverse fuel prices to 65 Naira”, the pump price per litre before the subsidy was removed. Some labour leaders say there will be no dialogue with the government until their demand is met.
On 1 January, the government had announced it was ending the subsidy on imported refined petroleum which it says costs the nation about 8 billion US dollars annually. It had argued that continually committing such a huge amount to subsidizing the cost of motor fuel was not sustainable, and that it would rather spend the money on providing or improving infrastructure the nation direly needs, especially in the areas of electric power supply, health and education.
However, in the immediate term, the withdrawal has only led to a more than 100 per cent increase in the pump price of petrol prices since 1 January, and attendant doubling of public transport fares nationwide. Many citizens are worried that this steep hike in the price of fuel will send the prices of foodstuff and most other commodities and services to the skies.
Some say the timing of the government’s action is particularly ill-adviced and insensitive, considering that many citizens had just exhausted their wallets and bank deposits on the Christmas and New Year celebrations, and on travels. Many also doubt the government’s ability to deliver on the alternative projects to which it says it will commit the subsidy funds.
The hikes have already sparked angry protests in the Federal capital, Abuja; the economic mega-city, Lagos; and several other cities in the country. The protests have been generally orderly and devoid of violence. But on 3 January, a young man was killed amidst the protest in Ilorin, Kwara State, while another was shot in Lokoja, Kogi State. Police and labour leaders are in dispute over what caused the Ilorin death.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
On 8 December, hundreds of ex-militants from the Niger Delta, who were heading to Abuja at night, with the intention of staging a surprise dawn protest in the Federal capital, were stopped by military and police personnel near Lokoja in Kogi State.
The group, whose leader identified himself as ‘General’ Ramsey, said it was on its way to Abuja to protest the Federal Government’s implementation of the amnesty programme. The ex-militants’ convoy and their blockage of all vehicular traffic on the Lokoja-Abuja Highway, caused a traffic gridlock for over eight hours, before a combined team of Army and Police personnel cleared the road for thousands of stranded travellers to continue their journeys.
Explaining the basis of their protest, Ramsey alleged that some of the ex-militants had been denied participation in the Federal Government’s Amnesty programme. He further claimed that others had graduated from the demobilization/re-orientation camp in Obubra in December 2010, but that till date, they had neither been paid nor ‘settled.’ He said they were appealing to the Federal Government to address their grievances, so that they would not have to go back to the creeks to resume trouble.
Ramsey said: “Now, we are giving four days ultimatum to the Federal Government to fulfil its side of the bargain. Our boys are angry, and they want to go back to the creeks and we are tired of holding them back”.
He also denied any responsibility for the chaotic traffic situation and the distress caused to thousands of travellers. He said his convoy did not obstruct traffic, but was blocked by the security men. He said: “The police intercepted us at about 4 am and asked us to go back to where we were coming from. They said our convoy was too long to go to Abuja for any protest. We did not block the road; it was the police that blocked the road and prevented travellers from moving freely on the road. We are not armed”.
The Commissioner of Police for Kogi State, Mr. Amana Abakasaga, said: “The police intercepted the militants…They were too many and we considered the security implications of allowing them to reach Abuja”.
In Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta and Chief Executive of the Amnesty Office, Hon Kingsley Kuku, condemned the action of the youths. At a media briefing, Kuku clarified that even if these youths were genuinely ex-militants, they did not accept the amnesty offer before it closed on 4 October 2009. He said as things stand, only President Goodluck Jonathan can order their admission to the programme. Said Kuku: “Until he does so, the amnesty programme cannot include them”.
On 7 November, at least 16 people including a pregnant woman were killed in a ghastly motor accident near Okene town in Kogi State.
Local sources say the accident on the Ogori-Auchi road, occurred when a vehicle coming from Benin was attempting to overtake another and in the process collided with other vehicles coming from Abuja.
The Kogi State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr Sunday Maku, said the accident involved a Toyota Hiace bus with registration number XT 911 FKJ and another Toyota Hiace bus XJ 700 USL. Maku said 16 people died, 10 were injured while four were unhurt. He said those injured were taken to the General Hospital at Okene, while the corpses of the dead were also deposited at the hospital’s morgue. There were fears that some of the most critically wounded may not survive.
The accident is reportedly one of the worst on that road in recent times. Attributing the crash to dangerous overtaking, the FRSC boss appealed to all drivers to drive with greater care, especially as Christmas is approaching and the volume of traffic on the highways is increasing.
On 2 August, at least 14 of the passengers on a luxury bus that was travelling through the night, from a southern city to Abuja, were crushed to death at Zariagi town on the Okene-Abuja highway. The incident occurred around 5a.m.
The bus, operated by a popular transport company (name withheld) and marked XL 300 ABC, had been stopped by armed robbers who had blocked the highway in the dark night. The robbers ordered everyone on the bus to disembark and lie face down on the road.
As the robbers were searching them and dispossessing them of their valuables (including cash and mobile phones), a truck and another luxury bus, which were also heading towards Abuja, pulled up to the road block. Realizing that the men on the road were robbers not policemen, they tried to swerve through the roadside, unaware that the passengers from the earlier bus were all lying face down in the darkness. In the process, they ran over the robbery victims, killing 14 of them. One of the victims was a small child.
The bodies of the victims were said to have been so mangled that it was difficult to identify or reassemble some of them. However, eight bodies were deposited at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Lokoja, while six others were taken to the Lokoja Specialist Hospital.
The Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Kogi State, Mr Sunday Maku, confirmed the casualty figure to newsmen. The Public Relations Officer of the Kogi State Police Command, Mr Ajayi Okesanmi said the the police was trying to track down the criminals who caused the accident. Meanwhile, the driver of the bus that ran over the unfortunate victims had been taken into police custody.
On 2 July, security authorities disclosed that the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, was threatening to bomb two bridges across the River Niger, linking the northern and southern parts of the country, in Kogi State.
A senior security source in the Kogi State capital, Lokoja, disclosed to newsmen that the sect had sent text (SMS) messages to some security outfits, warning that its operatives were infiltrating the state.
The source reportedly said: “There are threats by Boko Haram to infiltrate and seek hideouts in Kogi State, following the planned crackdown on them by security agencies. They have threatened to bring down the River Niger bridges at Jamata and Itobe. Our men have been deployed there”.
The report of the sect’s threatened attacks had created new comcerns about public security around Lokoja; but the security sources also indicated that several measures were being introduced to minimize any risk of attacks.
Apart from the deployment of military and police personnel at the bridges, a particular Muslim sect, called Abani, in Adavi Local Government Area of the state, has been put under surveillance as its mode of operation appears similar to that of Boko Haram.
All persons operating commercial motorcycles (popularly called ‘Okada’) in the state, must now register their motorcycles and always wear jackets that reflect the registration point of the motorcycles. Motorcycles have been known as a favourite get-away vehicle for hit-and-run bomb throwers and assassins, at Boko Hram’s stronghold in Borno State.
Furthermore, several potential “flashpoints” in the state have been placed under watch, with security operatives particularly stepping up surveillance all over the state capital. The security source also said “We are sensitizing the public to inform us about strange movements around them”.
On 14 June, the Enugu State Police Command reported that it had rescued the wife of Professor Ikechukwu Onuora of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, who was kidnapped by gunmen at the weekend. It also paraded four men, suspected to be members of the gang that seized the don’s wife.
According to the police report, Mrs Onuora and her younger sister who were riding in a Jeep, were abducted in Nsukka, Enugu State, on the afternoon of Sunday 12 June, and taken to Idah, Kogi State, from where the kidnappers planned to contact members of their family to demand for ransom. But their plot failed, as one member of the gang, apprehended by policemen from the Enugu State Police Command, squealed that the women had been taken to Idah, which led to the busting of the gang.
Narrating how the criminals were smashed, the Commissioner of Police in Enugu State, Mr Dan’azumi Job Doma, said: “They kidnapped some women on Sunday. One of them is the wife to Professor Ikechukwu Onuora of UNN. Immediately we got wind of it, we gave them a chase and in the early hours of Monday, we were able to pick one of them”.
“As we were driving to Idah in Kogi State to locate these women where they were kept, our men decided to get to the police station in Idah to report their presence. One of them sighted the Jeep of the kidnapped women being driven by the kidnappers, who were probably looking for where to dispose of it”.
“Our men gave them a chase and shot the tyres but they continued, knocking down motorcycles on the road. Eventually, two of the suspects were picked up and they led us to where the third fellow was. We picked him and rescued the women without any hurt”.
The Commissioner of Police said the suspects will be arraigned in court shortly.