On 31 December, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in troubled areas stretching through 15 local government areas in four states, namely Borno, Yobe, Niger and Plateau.
In a televised broadcast, Jonathan said the declaration had become necessary due to “the security challenges which the activities of the Boko Haram sect have foisted on the country”. Boko Haram, a militant Islamic sect demanding the installation of Islamic government under Sharia law in the predominantly Muslim north of the country, has carried out a sustained campaign of assassinations and bomb attacks, including suicide attacks on the national police headquarters on 16 June and on the United Nations office complex in Abuja on 26 August.
Jonathan said the declaration of emergency was in accordance with the provisions of Section 305(1) of the Constitution. He said details of the proclamation will be transmitted to the National Assembly for necessary action, as soon as the federal legislators reconvene from their current recess.
The states and local government areas affected by the declaration are as follows:
BORNO STATE: Maidugiri Metropolitan, Gamboru Ngala, Banki Bama, Biu and Jere.
YOBE STATE: Damaturu, Geidam, Potiskum, Buniyadi-Gujba, and Gasua-Bade.
PLATEAU STATE: Jos North, Jos South, Barkin-Ladi, and Riyom.
NIGER STATE: Suleja.
President Jonathan ordered an interim closure of those stretches of the nation’s land borders “contiguous to the affected Local Government Areas so as to control incidences of cross border terrorist activities”. He also directed the Chief of Defence Staff and Inspector-General of Police to work out appropriate measures that would ensure the protection of lives and property of residents in the affected states and local government areas. He urged political leaders in the affected areas to give maximum cooperation to the law enforcement officials deployed to their communities, in order to bring the situation under control within the shortest possible time.
The President further disclosed that: “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”.
Later elaborating on the President’s declaration, the National Security Adviser, retired General Andrew Azazi, said democratic institutions in the affected areas would not be suspended. But he said the security forces being deployed to the affected local governments would have extra powers to conduct stop-and-search procedures and arrest persons.
Apart from the affected areas, the NSA said security agents are also working hard to monitor places where reports of possible threat have been recorded, including Lagos State.
On 23 July, a new group identifying itself by the name, Akhwat Akwop, distributed leaflets in several northern states, threatening to retaliate if the militant Islamist group generally known as Boko Haram, carries out any further attacks against Christians.
In the leaflets titled ‘’Warning to Boko Haram’’ and reportedly dropped in Kaduna and about nine other northern states, Akhwat Akwop claimed it was the Christian equivalent of Boko Haram. It said it was spear-heading the struggle for emancipation of northern minorities – both Christian and Muslim – from “continued oppression and inhuman savageries” of the Hausa/ Fulani, whom it also accused of continually using the name of Islam to stoke conflicts across the region.
Akhwat Akwop attributed the recent surge of Boko Haram’s violence to those elements that are not happy with the victories of President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna State, both minority Christians, in the April 2011 elections. The group claimed that ‘’majority of Nigerians know that it is the Hausa/Fulani and their misguided allies who always plan and execute mayhem” in the country. It therefore declared that while it prefered peace, it was also now ready for war.
It therefore warned that “if it (Boko Haram) carries out any further attacks on Christians anywhere in the north, our commandos will unleash deliberate attacks on selected targets in cities with majority Muslim population in the far north”, adding that ‘’Your people (Boko Haram) will see and experience what you have been doing to others, first hand”.
The group, which is apparently based in Kaduna State, particularly warned Boko Haram against any attack on the wife of the State governor, who happens to be a Christian. It said: “Akhwat Akwop has never targeted women and children, and we do not intend to ever do so. However, if the fatwa placed on our daughter, Nyeri Debby Yakowa, by Boko Haram is not immediately lifted, and indeed if anything happens to her or any Christian lady anywhere in the north, we shall unleash a storm of wastage on female Hausa/ Fulani anywhere we get them”.
The group warned that ‘’Boko Haram must not involve itself in the internal politics of Kaduna State”. It said: “Kaduna State and the Middle Belt are a no-go area for Boko Haram. Go back to the desert where you come from”.
It added that: ‘’Hausa/ Fulani Muslim men who wear jeans and T-shirts, sneak into our areas to drink alcohol, cavort with and deceive some of our gullible and irresponsible women, should know that their days are numbered…Our commandos have instructions to take you out. You are strongly advised to stay in your Sharia”.
The emergence of this group, which had been reported a short while ago, is said to be causing concern in government security circles.
Neither the police nor the State Security Service has yet issued any public statement on the group and its activities. However, security authorities are greatly concerned that if groups like these are allowed to proliferate, they could aggravate the security challenge in the region, significantly.
On 8 July, attackers armed with bombs and guns destroyed a divisional police station and robbed a bank, killing four policemen and a bank staff, in Alkaleri, 60 kilometers from Bauchi city, in Bauchi State.
The targets of the attacks – the police station and local branch of the Unity Bank Plc on Gombe Road – are located about 500 metres apart. Residents said the attackers struck the two targets simultaneously, in an obviously coordinated operation.
According to local sources, those who attacked the police station shot their way inside, killed three police officers, and took away their weapons. They then threw in bombs to destroy the station.
The other group killed a police officer who was guarding the bank as well as a bank employee, then hurled away an unknown amount of money.
Local people believe the attacks were carried out by the militant Islamist group commonly known as Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish an Islamic state, under strict and comprehensive Sharia law, across about 12 states in northern Nigeria.
Serial bombings and assassinations by the group, which started about a year ago, have intensified in recent weeks. These attacks have been concentrated in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, where the group is based; but there have also been several incidents in Bauchi State. On 29 May, a bomb attack at the “Mammy market” of the army barracks in Bauchi killed at least 14 people.
Earlier this week (on 5 July), police stormed one of the group’s hideouts in Bauchi metropolis, killing three suspected members, wounding several others and arresting many more. But barely 12 hours later, in what looked like a reprisal operation, armed men suspected to be members of the group invaded a Divisional Police Station in Toro, 100 kilometres from Bauchi, sacked the station and took away police arms and ammunition.
On 6 July, a thunderous explosion shook the central area of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. The explosion occurred around 7am, at a military checkpoint near the new prison. The exact number of persons wounded or killed could not be ascertained.
City residents say the blast was unusually loud, shattering the windows of many buildings in the area. Some say the explosion was followed by heavy automatic gunfire. Troops from the military joint task force recently deployed to deal with the spiralling violence in the region, speedily blocked most roads leading into the city’s central area.
Maj Gen. Jack Nwaogbo, Commander of the Military Task Force on Operation Restore Order, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and other media that the attack targeted a military patrol.
He said: “One of our patrol teams was targeted this morning by hoodlums around new prison, Maiduguri. Two men on motorcycle tossed the bomb at our men which exploded causing panic and fear in the neighbourhood. Three soldiers were injured and there was no civilian casualty”.
However, other sources said the commander’s report must have been based on a preliminary assassment. One local journalist reports “at least one soldier dead and four others critically injured”. Another report cites a hospital which it said received the bodies of four soldiers at its morgue later in the day. Some residents close to the area in which the bomb exploded said they saw “six or seven corpses”, apparently of security personnel, near a check point. Local journalists say efforts to gain first hand assessments of casualties and damage were hampered by military and police personnel who had thrown a firm security cordon around the blast area.
Gen Nwaogbo said 25 suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack, but that the search for other persons possibly involved, was continuing. He also said military and other security authorities believe the attackers were members of the militant Islamist group, commonly known as Boko Haram.
Markets, major shopping areas and banks throughout the city were shut for the rest of the day. Many panic-stricken residents stayed close to their homes. Military and police units mounted countless road blocks across the metropolis.
Boko Haram, based in Maiduguri, is fighting to establish an Islamic government, under strict and comprehensive Sharia law, across about 12 states in the far north of the country. Its July 2009 uprising was firmly quelled by Nigerian military and police forces. However, it soon re-organised. Since mid-2010, it has been progressively scaling up its targeted assassinations of security personnel, community leaders and politicians, Christian as well as opposing Muslim clerics. It has also staged many bomb attacks, especially against police stations as well as leisure spots at the fringes of military establishments, known locally as “Mammy markets”.
On 16 June, it claimed responsibility for an unprecedented bomb attack at the police headquarters in Abuja, which killed at least two people and burnt over 70 vehicles. Only 5 July, a military patrol unit in Maiduguri, narrowly escaped death after its vehicle was targeted by bomb throwers, strongly believed to be Boko Haram operatives.
[THIS IS A SECOND UPDATE ON THE REPORT PUBLISHED SOON AFTER THE INCIDENT]
On 27 June, at least two girls were killed and three Customs officers seriously wounded as armed men staged a daylight assault on a Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) office in Maiduguri, Borno State.
According to Maj. Gen. Jack Okechukwu Nwaogbo, commander of a military Joint Task Force recently deployed to deal with the deepening insecurity in the north-eastern states, the attackers struck while officials were holding a meeting inside the office. The exact nature of the blast was not immediately known, but the general said the assault included bomb blasts and gunfire.
He told an AFP correspondent that: “Three Customs officers were seriously injured in the attack while two child vendors – both of them girls – were killed in the blast”.
However, residents and witnesses later reported higher casualty figures, saying the real toll could be as high as 10 or 12.
Authorities believe the attackers were members of the militant Islamist group, known locally as Boko Haram, which wants to install an Islamic regime across northern Nigeria, based strictly on Shariah law. The group has been blamed for many bomb attacks and assassinations since mid-2010 and has itself claimed responsibility for several others.
On 16 June, it carried out what was apparently a suicide attack on the national police headquarters in Abuja, in which at least two people were killed and over 70 cars burnt. On 26 June, a handful of men believed to be members of the group hurled three bombs into a beer garden in Maiduguri, killing at least 25 people. Boko Haram has not yet claimed responsibility for that attack.
The new governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kassim Shettima, who assumed office on 29 May had tried to open talks with the group. He has the go-ahead of President Goodluck Jonathan who said on 8 June, that the government would apply a “carrot and stick” approach in dealing with the Boko Haram challenge.
But Shettima’s overtures to the group suffered a setback after his government procured 10 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) for the police and the Inspector General of Police said Boko Haram’s days were numbered. The group said those actions and pronouncements and what it sees as the continued militarisation of Borno State, have undermined any progress towards the conference table.
In an interview with the Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper on 24 June, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zaid, said the federal government was asking his group to disarm at the same time as it was rearming security forces that had violated past agreements. He quoted the Prophet Muhammad as saying, “A believer should not allow himself to be attacked twice in one place”. He added, significantly, that the group is fighting for a sovereign land under Islamic law, which might then engage in dialogue with what he called “the country of the unbelievers”.
However, the Public Relations Officer of the Borno State Police Command, Mr Lawal Abdullahi, has said the APCs and other security equipment acquired by the police are “not aimed at harming or confronting any person or group” but are meant to protect the lives and property of everyone. The police say the “doors for dialogue and constructive criticism” will remain open, and are calling on all citizens to reject violence and sectarian killings.
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 20 June, an Islamic cleric, Dalhatu Ahmed Katagum, declared his readiness to facilitate negotiations between the Federal Government and members of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram.
Speaking with the Hausa service of the Voice of America, Katagum said it was accumulated injustice and mal-administration that had fuelled the recurrent uprisings in the country. He further stated that: “We must strive and ensure that we follow God’s ways only, and I am ready, even if it means losing my life, to broker peace between the Boko Haram and the government of Nigeria”.
Stressing that he was not working for the security establishment, Katagum said he was ready to meet the leaders of Boko Haram at any agreed location in order to start the negotiations. He said: “It is very important that Nigerians become critical (in order) to understand the whole issue regarding Boko Haram, their grievances and misgivings. I want us to sit down with Boko Haram and address their plight. It is important that government pays them compensation over the brutal killings of their leaders”.
He added that: “My phone numbers are 07095169420 and 08058013273. I am ready to meet them anywhere, because this is what is good for our country and society”.
Turning to the sect, the cleric urged: “Please they should try and come back and follow Sharia’s provision. We are wrong to allow this trend to continue because the solution to our challenges has nothing to do with killings and maiming ourselves”.
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.
On 16 June, the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a blast at the national headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja. A spokesman for the group said it is planning fiercer attacks in “the entire north and other parts of the country, including the capital, Abuja”.
The attack, in which at least two people were killed and over 30 cars burnt, is the most audacious by the group which had targeted security personnel and especially police stations in the north eastern Borno State since mid-2010. It is Boko Haram’s first attack on a police establishment in the federal capital.
The Police headquarters, stands just outside the Three Arms Zone, the nation’s power centre in which the Presidential Villa, the National Assembly (parliament) and the Supreme Court, are located. The explosion occurred within its sprawling premises, setting dozens of cars in the vast parking lot ablaze and sending a dense plume of smoke rising into the city’s skies. The multi-storey main building (Louis Edet House), in which the police top brass have their offices, was not directly hit. But some of its windows were shattered.
A statement by the Public Relations Department of the Police said the explosion killed a suspected suicide bomber and a police traffic warden who had climbed into the bomber’s vehicle and was directing it to the parking lot for a thorough search.
The statement said an investigation was underway. It added that: “The criminal elements behind this dastardly act will be fished out as the government, the police and other security agencies will not succumb to the demands of any criminal group or individuals”.
Boko Haram’s claim
Later in the day, the Boko Haram spokesman who gave his name as Usman Al-Zawahiri, called both the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Voice of America (VOA), and said his group was responsible for the blast.
He said: “We are behind it, and we are going to attack the entire north and other parts of the country, including the capital, Abuja”. He also said Boko Haram “jihadists” who just returned from training in Somalia five days ago, had been sent out across the northern states of the country and that the group was advising all citizens to be wary.
Boko Haram, whose July 2009 uprising in Borno State was firmly quelled by security forces, has been targeting security personnel, politicians, Muslim and Christian leaders in Borno and other north eastern states since mid-2010. Most recently, the group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Bauchi, Zaria and Zuba (near Abuja) in which at least 14 people were killed, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan was inaugurated president on 29 May.
The faltering peace initiative
The newly-installed governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, also sworn into office on 29 May, had been trying to persuade Boko Haram’s leaders to come round to a conference table and possibly work out an amnesty-for-peace deal similar to the one that has calmed the once volatile Niger Delta.
On 12 June, the group laid out its own conditions for a ceasefire and dialogue, including demands for strict enforcement of Sharia law all through northern Nigeria and resignation of the present government in Borno State. Those conditions were variously described as “unrealistic” and “impossible” by government officials, but they at least signaled the beginning of a process that could possibly lead to the roundtable.
However, that process unravelled only a few days later, after Shettima’s government publicly presented 10 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to the police, and the police chief, Hafiz Ringim, declared that “the days of Boko Haram are numbered”.
In its reaction on 15 June, Boko Haram said it had called off the proposed talks with the Federal and state governments. It then indicated that it would widen the scope of its attacks to “all the northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja)”, using “Jihadists (warriors)” who recently “arrived Nigeria from Somalia where they got serious training on warfare from our brethren who made the country of Somalia ungovernable”.
Threats of further attacks
In claiming responsibility for the attack on the police headquarters, Al-Zawahiri told VOA that, for now, all efforts towards a negotiated peace had collapsed. He said the government’s security agencies should prepare for intensified attacks.
Local sources say policemen who were attracted to the scene by the shots engaged the gunmen in a shootout, but the assailants escaped arrest.
Confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer of the Borno State Police Command, Malam Lawal Abdullahi, told newsmen in Maiduguri that: “They (the gunmen) raided the joint and shot the victims who were busy drinking. All the victims died even after some were rushed to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) for help”.
He explained that the reason the militants were able to carry out the attack successfully, was because the joint was not properly secured by the owner.
The police spokesman said: “The area is purely residential and the owner illegally converted the place to a beer parlour without properly registering the place. If the place had been properly registered, there would have been the presence of security agents to safeguard it, especially in the face of the security challenges facing the state”.
Borno State adopted Sharia law on 19 August 2000, one of the 12 northern states that did so a decade ago. Under the new religious code, the consumption of alcohol was prohibited. However, the state has a substantial Christian minority and, at the time Sharia was adopted, the then governor, Mala Kachalla, had assured Christians that the Islamic law would apply only to Muslims. In some parts of Maiduguri, residents still drink beer openly.