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Boko Haram leader justifies attacks on Christians, challenges President Jonathan

ABUBAKAR SHEKAU, delivering his video message

On 11 January, Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, issued a first ever online video message, justifying recent attacks on Christians in some northern states of Nigeria as revenge for earlier killings of Muslims.

In Shekau’s 15-minute video message posted on YouTube, the Boko Haram leader wore a white turban and a bullet-proof vest, sat in front of two AK-47 rifles and spoke in Hausa, the main language in northern Nigeria.

He said the targeting of Christians and churches were reprisals for attacks against Muslims in recent years, in places like Jos in Plateau State, Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi State, as well as Kaduna and Zangon Kataf in Kaduna State. He said: “We are also at war with Christians because the whole world knows what they did to us”.

Referring particularly to the bloody conflicts in Plateau State in the past two years, in which over 1,000 people had been killed in a cycle of attacks and reprisals between the Muslim Hausa-Fulani settlers and the predominantly Christian indigenous groups, Shekau said: “They killed our fellows and even ate their flesh in Jos”.

The Boko Haram leader said he was also responding to statements made recently by President Goodluck Jonathan and the leader of the umbrella Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor.

Jonathan had declared a state of emergency in some northern states on 31 December 2011, and recently said he suspected some politicians, government officials and security personnel had sympathies for Boko Haram. Addressing the President, Shekau said Nigeria’s security forces would not be able to defeat his group.

He said: “All these things you’ve been seeing happening, it’s Allah who has been doing it, because you refuse to believe in him and you misuse his religion and because of that, the thing is more than you, Jonathan”.

The CAN President, Pastor Oritsejafor, had said on 7 January, that his members would protect themselves against the attacks, which, he said, suggested “systematic ethnic and religious cleansing.” On Tuesday, he told the BBC World Service that there should be dialogue with Muslim leaders to halt the violence.

Responding, Shekau called on the CAN president to “repent” for calling on worshippers to defend themselves against Boko Haram’s attacks. He said his group could only hold talks with the government in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

Promising more attacks, he said the group’s primary target remained the security forces, which, he said, were responsible for the killing of its former leader, Mohammed Yusuf, after he had been arrested in Maiduguri in 2009.  He added: “Anyone who attacks us, we will attack him back even if he is a Muslim. We shall kill anyone who works against Islam, even if he is a Muslim”.

Shekau assumed leadership of the sect after the security crackdown of July 2009 in which about 700 people – Boko Haram fighters and innocent citizens – were killed. Police initially claimed he was killed during that crackdown, but he emerged in audio messages from late 2010, just before Boko Haram commenced its campaign of violence.

Some journalists and analysts had reported the sect fractured, with a splinter group responsible for most of the gun and bomb attacks carried out in its name. This latest video, however, confirms that Shekau still leads the sect.

In 2011, attacks atributed to, or claimed by, Boko Haram killed over 500 people, especially in the north eastern states of the country and the federal capital, Abuja. In recent weeks, the group had targeted several churches, the climax of which was the Christmas Day bombing of a church in Madalla near Abuja, in which over 40 people were killed. Over the last week, the group’s gunmen had also attacked Christians inside churches in Gombe and Yola, killing over 20.

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ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT JONATHAN DECLARING STATE OF EMERGENCY IN PARTS OF NIGERIA, 31 DECEMBER 2011

DR GOODLUCK JONATHAN President of Nigeria

1. Fellow Nigerians, it has become necessary to address you on recent events in some parts of the country that have threatened our collective security and shaken the foundations of our corporate existence as a nation.

2.   You are all aware of the security challenges which the activities of the Boko Haram sect have foisted on the country. What began as sectarian crises in the North Eastern parts of the country has gradually evolved into terrorist activities in different parts of the country with attendant negative consequences on our national security.

3.   Government, in an effort to find a lasting solution to the security threats occasioned by the activities of the Boko Haram sect, constituted a Presidential Committee under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the crises. While efforts are being made to implement the recommendations of the Committee, the crises have assumed a terrorist dimension with vital institutions of government including the United Nations Building and places of worship becoming targets of terrorist attacks.

4.   While the search for lasting solutions is ongoing, it has become imperative to take some decisive measures necessary to restore normalcy in the country especially within the affected communities. Consequently, I have in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by the provisions of Section 305(1) of the Constitution, declared a state of emergency in the following parts of the federation, namely:

(i)  BORNO STATE

a)  Maidugiri Metropolitan LGA

b)  Gamboru Ngala LGA

c)   Banki Bama LGA

d)  Biu LGA

e)   Jere LGA

(ii)  YOBE STATE

a)  Damaturu LGA

b)  Geidam LGA

c)   Potiskum LGA

d)  Buniyadi-Gujba LGA

e)   Gasua-Bade LGA

(iii) PLATEAU STATE

a)  Jos North LGA

b)  Jos South LGA

c)   Barkin-Ladi LGA

d)  Riyom LGA

(iv) NIGER STATE

a)  Suleja LGA

The details of this proclamation will be transmitted to the National Assembly as soon as they reconvene from their current recess, for their necessary action.

5.  The Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector-General of Police have been directed to put appropriate measures in place to ensure the protection of lives and properties of residents in the affected parts of the country. I therefore urge the political leadership in the affected states and Local Government Areas to give maximum cooperation to the law enforcement agencies deployed to their respective communities to ensure that the situation is brought under control within the shortest possible time.

6.  The Chief of Defence Staff, in collaboration with other Service Chiefs, has also been directed to set up a special force unit within the Armed Forces, with dedicated counter terrorism responsibilities.

7.  As part of the overall strategy to overcome the current security challenges, I have directed the closure of the land borders contiguous to the affected Local Government Areas so as to control incidences of cross border terrorist activities as terrorists have taken advantage of the present situation to strike at targets in Nigeria and retreat beyond the reach of our law enforcement personnel.

8.  Let me assure our neighbours, especially within the ECOWAS sub-region, of Nigeria’s commitment to its international obligations as provided by the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons. The temporary closure of our borders in the affected areas is only an interim measure designed to address the current security challenges and will be reviewed as soon as normalcy is restored.

9.   I commend the efforts of our political leaders at various levels as well as our traditional and religious leaders for their support for the various conflict resolution mechanisms and peace building measures that have been initiated by this administration. We call on the citizenry to continue to provide useful information to our law enforcement agencies to enable us arrest the situation.

10. Terrorism is a war against all of us. I call on all Nigerians to join hands with government to fight these terrorists.

11. I wish all Nigerians a very happy New Year.

12.   Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Three explosions reported in Maiduguri, but JTF said no casualties

Map of Nigeria showing Borno State

On 30 December, three explosions were reported in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, but military authorities said no one was killed.

Initial reports had said that one of the explosions occurred near a mosque after the Friday afternoon prayers and set off a massive stampede, and that about four people may have been killed. 

BBC had quoted the Director of Army Public Relations, Maj Gen Raphael Isa, as confirming there had been a “major incident” which had caused casualties.

However, the spokesman of the military Joint Task Force in the state, Lt Col Hassan Mohammed, while confirming the blasts to newsmen, said none of them occurred near a mosque. He said the explosions occurred near market areas in different parts of the city but that no one was killed.

The explosions occurred only five days after the Christmas Day bomb attacks on churches in Madalla, a town in Niger State close to the federal capital, Abuja, and also in Jos, capital of Plateau State. Those attacks killed at least 42 people, mostly Christian worshippers at the St Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla. The government blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram; a spokesman for the group also reportedly claimed responsibility.

About 24 hours before the latest blast, the group had emailed a statement to some media houses saying: “If God is willing, we will carry out further attacks”.

Foreign Reactions to Christmas Day Bomb Attacks in Nigeria (2)

JEAN PING, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

On 26 and 27 December, more foreign governments and international organizations condemned the Christmas morning bomb attacks in Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), in which about 40 people were killed. The militant Islamist sect, widely known as Boko Haram, had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION

In a statement, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC),  Dr Jean Ping, condemned the bombings of churches and expressed his most sincere condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, who had been denied the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. He also wished the injured strength and speedy recovery.

Dr Ping contended that Boko Haram’s continued acts of terror and cruelty, and absolute disregard for human life, cannot be justified by any religion or faith. He reaffirmed AU’s total rejection of all acts of intolerance, extremism and terrorism.

EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union’s (EU) foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also condemned the Christmas Day bombings.

In a statement, Ashton said: “I am profoundly shocked and saddened by the terrorist attacks which took place in several regions of Nigeria, including cowardly attacks on religious symbols and churches during the Christmas period, with appalling loss of human lives…I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, these attacks and all other acts of terrorism”.

She added that: “We stand behind the Nigerian authorities in their fight against terrorism, to protect all citizens, in particular the most vulnerable, and to preserve the right to life and the rule of law.”

Bloodier Christmas Day catastrophe was averted by proactive security measures, says NSA Azazi

On 25 December, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen Andrew Azazi (rtd), said a major Christmas Day catastrophe planned by the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, was thwarted by the proactive measures which security agencies had taken recently, to checkmate the group’s activities.

In a statement on Boko Haram’s multiple bomb attacks in Madalla (Niger State), Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State) on Christmas Day, the NSA said the attack on the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, was an act of desperation by the sect, after security agencies had frustrated its other more bloody plans.

He said: “It is important to inform the public that the proactive measures put in place by the security forces during this festive period have so far checkmated a major catastrophic plan envisaged by Boko Haram”. Elaborating on the measures, he said: “Boko Haram’s major armoury in Yobe was destroyed only last week. Yet another armoury in Kaduna and two in Kano were destroyed also last week, in addition to heavy casualties the sect sustained”.

The NSA urged citizens to “go about their activities, remain vigilant and urgently report anything suspicious to security agents”.

He further said: “We renew our appeal to all Nigerians that this is not a fight between security forces and some dissident elements. It is a conflict between some misguided extremists in our midst and the rest of our society, because the victims are not confined to any ethnic boundary. We must cooperate to fish them out. And because our cause is just and our collective resolve is stronger, together we shall prevail!”

Security tops President Jonathan’s 2012 budget proposals

President GOODLUCK JONATHAN

On 13 December, President Goodluck Jonathan presented his proposals for Nigeria’s 2012 budget to a joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja, with security claiming the highest allocation.

Of the total sum of N4.749 trillion proposed for the year, security is allocated N921.91 billion, representing almost 20 per cent or one-fifth of the entire budget.

The proposed allocation to security dwarfs those to other critical sectors of the economy. For instance, it is more than three times the N282.77 billion which the Federal Government proposes to spend on the health sector and nearly 12 times the N78.98 billion allocated to agriculture and rural development.

Most analysts believe the high allocation to security in the Federal Government’s budget is understandable. For one, security is exclusively a Federal Government responsibility, while other sectors like health and agriculture are shared responsibilities with the state and local governments. In other words, the Federal Government’s proposed expenditure on these other sectors is only a part of the nation’s overall expenditure on them.

Furthermore, all through 2011, the country has faced unprecedented security challenges, arising from attacks by the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, communal conflicts in Plateau State and the surge of violent crimes – especially armed robbery and ransom kidnapping – in some other parts of the country. Given the impact of these developments on the safety of lives and property, the conduct of domestic economic activities as well as investor confidence in the economy, many Nigerians had urged better resourcing of the police, military and other security agencies.

At the inauguration of the committees of the Senate in early October, Senate President David Mark had said: “Security is an expensive venture. It is an area where, over the years, we had neglected. If they (security agencies) are not properly funded, they will not be proactive”.

Two bombs explode in Jos, Plateau State

Map of Nigeria highlighting Jos City

On 10 December, two bombs exploded in Jos, capital of Plateau State.

Details of the blasts were still hazy at the time of writing this report, but local sources said they went off within 10 minutes of each other. The sources further said the explosions occurred in two locations within the Angwan Rukuba area of the metropolis – namely Tina Junction and Odus area.

The first blast went off at about 10.15 pm, near a popular television viewing centre called Executive Mansion. Local sources say the explosive was apparently dropped along the road, targeting the television centre. There was no immediate report of casualties, but at least 11 people were said to have been wounded, three in critical condition.

The second blast went off 10 minutes later at Odus, about five kilometres away from Tina junction. The sound was heard many kilometres away, as it echoed through the silence of the night. At least three people were said to have been killed, but this was not confirmed. A Nigerian Red Cross Society official said his men had sighted three bodies.

Plateau Violence: 163 suspects arrested by military Special Task Force

Stopping the killings: Soldiers in a community after violence

On 25 November, the military Special Task Force (STF) in Plateau State said it had arrested 163 persons in connection with the violence in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area during the week, in which over 20 people were killed.

Addressing newsmen, the STF spokesman, Captain Charles Ekeocha said of the 163 persons arrested by the task force, six had been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police. The six persons are suspected to have killed a Police officer, Inspector Dalyop Pinda, along with his wife and daughter, during the clashes.

The Army spokesman said 10 main culprits were arrested with highly lethal weapons, while others were arrested with daggers, knives, cutlasses, swords, bows, arrows and spears.

He said weapons seized from the fighters include one telescopic barrel rifle, four single-barrel guns, two AK-47 rifles, nine locally-made guns, two magazines for AK-47 rifle, 52 pieces of 7.62mm special bullets, three 7.62mm NATO bullets and 46 pieces of cartridges. Other weapons recovered included 55 machetes, 61 arrows, three bows, six iron rods, 26 knives, seven diggers, 12 axes, 12 spears and 11 catapults.

Ekeocha said the 24-hour curfew imposed on the area in the aftermath of the fighting could be reviewed if the security situation improves, but could also be kept in place indefinitely.

20 buried in mass grave in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State

Map of Nigeria showing Plateau State

On 25 November, 20 people killed during violent clashes in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, earlier in the week, were given mass burial.

The burial was supervised by a councillor in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Mr. Pam Choji Pam, whose four children were killed during the violence. Only stern-looking security personnel were seen around, as the area was under a 24-hour curfew ordered by the military Special Task Force (STF).

The state governor, Jonah David Jang, through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Pam Ayuba, expressed sadness over the killings, especially after the state government and various other stakeholders had made sustained efforts to achieve lasting peace in the area. The Chairman of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Hon. Emmanuel Loman, similarly condemned the violence.

Loman said: “This issue is worrisome particularly in Barkin Ladi  LGA. Last week, we held a security meeting with the Police Commissioner, the Fulani elders, the Hausa representatives, the indigenes, the Yoruba and Igbo representatives from the LGA and we agreed that let bygones be bygones. We agreed that we were going to live together. I believe that some people are bent on creating havoc for others and I warn them to stop”.

Fresh violence in Plateau State: 20 killed, over 25 houses razed

Map of Nigeria showing Plateau State

On 24 November, at least 20 people were killed and several others severely injured in violence which occurred at Barkin Ladi, headquarters of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State. The military Special Task Force (STF) imposed 24-hour curfew in the area.

Among those killed was a police officer, identified as Dalyop Pinda. A serving Councillor in the Local Government Council, Mr. Pam Choji Pam, lost his four children who were attacked and killed in their house. Among the buildings destroyed were two churches and one Islamic school.

Briefing the press after assessing the damage, the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr Abraham Yiljap, said the cause of this new wave of violence had not been ascertained.

However, some local sources traced it to the killing of three Berom youths, who were returning from Barkin Ladi to their village of Rasat on Sunday 20 November, by assailants suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. In reprisal, the Berom reportedly went after Fulani herdsmen in the area, killing four of them. According to the sources, the conflict escalated on 24 November, after three Muslim youths had been killed and an Islamic school in the area set ablaze, apparently by Berom youths. Reacting to those killings, the Muslim Hausa/Fulani then mobilized and attacked the Berom natives and their churches. The fighters used guns, machetes, arrows and clubs, along with other deadly weapons.

Yiljap said government officials and security agents were still trying to compile data on casualties and damaged property, but that over 60 people had been arrested and were being interrogated.

He said the rapid deployment of security forces had stopped the crisis from spreading to other areas. The Chairman of Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Emmanuel Loman, also said the deployment of security personnel had helped the situation, as the Hausa/Fulani had remobilized at Kura and Gashish villages, preparing to attack more Berom communities, before the security forces dislodged them.

Officials said members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC)  serving within the local government area had all been evacuated to safety at the NYSC Secretariat in Jos, the state capital.

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