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SSS declares ex-soldier Habibu Bama wanted

On 15 February, the State Security Service (SSS) declared an ex-soldier, Habibu Bama, wanted.

A statement signed by the Deputy Director, Public Relations of the SSS, Marilyn Ogar, said Bama is “wanted by the Federal Government in connection with crimes against the state”. The terse statement, which did not give further details, said that the wanted ex-soldier is a Kanuri, from Bama in Borno State.

The SSS said that Bama was known by other names such as ‘Habib Bama’, ‘Shuaibu Bama’, and ‘Habib Mamman’.

It implored members of the public with any information that could lead to his arrest to immediately contact the nearest police station, military formations or other security agencies.

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Kabir Sokoto, Christmas Day bomb suspect, re-arrested by SSS

On 10 February, authorities in the Federal capital, Abuja, confirmed that the State Security Service (SSS) had re-arrested Mallam Kabir Umar Sokoto, the main suspect in the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, in which 43 worshippers were killed.

Unofficial sources had earlier reported that the suspect was re-arrested by the SSS, in a small hut in Mutum Biu in Taraba State, close to the border with the Republic of Cameroon. Mr Reuben Abati, spokesman for The Presidency, later confirmed the arrest to some newsmen.

Kabir was first arrested by the police on 14 January, 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 15 January, the CP sent a small team of policemen in a Toyota truck, to take him to his residence in Abaji, a town in the Federal Capital Territory, for a search. As the team got into Abaji, some young men believed to be members of his group, attacked and overwhelmed them, and freed the suspect.

A statement by the Police Force Headquarters said the Police viewed that 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.

In the aftermath of Kabir’s dramatic escape, many Nigerians described it 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, at the instance 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.

On 19 January, the Police offered a reward of 50 million naira (about 309,600 USD) to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the recapture of the suspect. It is not known whether any informant contributed to the re-arrest of the suspect, but it is common knowledge that the embarrassment of his escape from police custody contributed to the sudden end of Mr Hafiz Ringim’s tenure as the nation’s police chief on 25 January 2012.

Abul Qaqa, Boko Haram spokesman, arrested by SSS

On 1 February, an official of the State Security Service (SSS) said the agency had arrested Abul Qaqa, the spokesman of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram.

An unnamed official had initially told Reuters news agency that security operatives were still trying to confirm the identity of the man arrested.  He said: “We are still talking to him. Since ‘Abu Qaqa’ is a pseudonym for the Boko Haram spokesman, we want to be sure of who we have with us”.

However, a later statement by a top SSS officer in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, confirmed the man arrested was actually the Boko Haram spokesman.

The officer said the man was arrested after security operatives had tracked signals from his mobile phone, using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. He further said the arrest of Qaqa, “a senior member of the Shura (Supreme Council) of the sect”, was “a landmark feat that was achieved through collaboration with various stakeholders”.

As there is yet no official report of this development, several accounts are emerging about how Qaqa was arrested. One source reports that he was arrested after security officials had traced the house he was staying in and that he was picked up without any exchange of gunfire with members of his group. Another account said he was seized while attempting to enter the Central Market in Kaduna. The SSS is expected to issue an official briefing that will clear up these contradictions.

Abul Qaqa had often spoken to journalists in the wake of bomb and gun attacks, claiming responsibility for several deadly incidents in the northern states and the federal capital, Abuja.

His most recent interaction with journalists was on 28 January, when he told some newsmen on phone, that security agents had arrested “many” members of his sect in Sokoto and demanded their “immediate and unconditional” release. He threatened that Boko Haram would attack Sokoto in the same manner as it bombed Kano city on 20 January, if the arrested men were not released.

One report said the arrested man is a Nigerian citizen, and that he is not from the far north of the country, but from central Kogi State, ethnically an Igala. This is yet to be confirmed by security authorities.

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.

Foreign Reactions to Christmas Day Bomb Attacks in Nigeria (1)

UN Sec Gen BAN KI-MOON

On 25 and 26 December, the multiple bomb attacks which killed almost 40 people in three cities on Christmas Day, drew widespread condemnations from the international community.

The attacks killed about 35 Christian worshippers just outside a church in Madalla, Niger State; a policeman in a firefight with suspected bombers in Jos, Plateau State;  and four other people at the office of the State Security Service (SSS) in Damaturu, Yobe State. The militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Early reactions came from the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon; the governments of the United States, Turkey, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and Israel, as well as the Vatican.

UN SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he condemned “in the strongest terms, the attacks targeting churches in Madala, on the outskirt of the Nigerian capital, Abuja and the north-eastern city of Jos, which have left many dead and injured”.

The Secretary-General called, once again, for “an end to all acts of sectarian violence in the country” stressing that “no objective sought can justify this resort to violence”. He expressed his sympathy and condolences to the people of Nigeria and to the families who lost loved ones.

UNITED STATES

White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day. We offer our sincere condolences to the Nigerian people and especially those who lost family and loved ones.” The White House statement said initial investigations showed the attacks were “terrorist acts” and pledged to help Nigeria bring those responsible to justice.

TURKEY

A statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Turkey strongly condemned the deadly bomb attacks. It said the attacks “saddened Turkey deeply and Turkish people share the sufferings of the Nigerian people and the government of the friendly country.”

RUSSIA

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed condolences to the Nigerian leadership on the heavy death toll of the attacks. In a telegram to the Nigerian government, Medvedev said Moscow “condemns the cruelty and cynicism of the crimes perpetrated”. He added that terrorism knows no boundaries and that Russia was prepared to actively cooperate with the international community in fighting off the threat posed by terrorists.

 FRANCE

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed “solidarity in [Nigeria’s] fight against terrorism”.

GERMANY

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed regret that: “Even on Christmas Day, the world is not spared from cowardice and the fear of terrorism”.

BRITAIN

The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said: “These are cowardly attacks on families gathered in peace and prayer to celebrate a day which symbolises harmony and goodwill towards others. I offer my condolences to the bereaved and injured”.

ISRAEL

Israel “condemned in the strongest terms these attacks carried out on Christmas Day” and said it would send medical aid to Nigeria.

THE VATICAN

The Vatican said attacking a church was “blind hatred” seeking to “arouse and feed even more hatred and confusion”.

Christmas Day Bomb Attacks kill over 35 in Madalla, Jos and Damaturu

Cars burnt by the Christmas Day blast in Madalla

On 25 December – Christmas Day – bomb explosions in three cities – Madalla (Niger State); Jos (Plateau State) and Damaturu (Yobe State), left dozens dead or wounded. Some estimates said the blasts killed over 35 people.

MADALLA

In Madalla, a market town near Suleja in Niger State, a powerful explosion near the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church killed about 30 people and wounded more than 50. The blast destroyed or seriously damaged several cars, with some of the occupants burnt inside.

Security sources said the explosion occurred after members of the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram, threw improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from a moving vehicle. Some sources report that the attackers threw the explosive after failing to gain access to the church during the Christmas morning service.

A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) put the casualties at 16, but local residents and other rescue workers said the toll was significantly higher. The French news agency, AFP, quoted a local priest, Father Christopher Barde, as saying rescue officials told him they had counted 27 bodies.

Some of the wounded were rushed to hospitals in the Federal capital, Abuja, for treatment, but died before getting there. Madalla is about 30 km from Abuja.

JOS

In Jos, the Plateau State capital, two blasts targeted the Mountain of Fire and Miracles church, as some young men reportedly threw bombs at the building. No one was killed by the blast, but a police officer was mortally wounded, after security operatives engaged the attackers in a gun battle. The officer was rushed to the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for medical attention, but died of his wounds.

After the firefight, the attackers fled into a crowd, but the Police arrested four suspected persons. Military and other security personnel also recovered and disabled some explosive devices at a nearby building.

The blasts mark the second Christmas that bombs have hit Christian houses of worship in Jos.  Five churches were attacked in the city, on and around Christmas Day 2010, with dozens killed. Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for the attacks.

DAMATURU

In Damaturu, capital of Yobe state, a State Security Service (SSS) building was attacked by a bomber. Sources said a suicide bomber seeking to run his car into a military convoy in front of the agency’s office, killed himself and three security agents. Only hours earlier, on Christmas Eve, an explosion had targeted a church in Gadaka, a town near Damaturu. Local sources said many people may have been wounded, but there were no figures of any casualties.

SECURITY AUTHORITIES BLAME BOKO HARAM, SECT CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY

The National Security Adviser to the President, Gen Owoye Azazi (rtd), in a statement, blamed the attacks on the militant Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The statement said: “The latest mindless and cowardly attacks by Boko Haram members, specifically directed at churches, were pre-meditated”.

AFP later reported that a Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa, had called on phone, claiming responsibility for the blasts. The news agency quoted the spokesman as saying: “We are responsible for all the attacks in the past few days, including today’s bombing of the church in Madalla. We will continue to launch such attacks throughout the north in the next few days”.

Boko Haram: Ndume charged with terror acts, returned to SSS custody

Senator ALI NDUME

On 12 December, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the Federal legislator alleged to be a sponsor of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, was re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja, on a four-count charge bordering on terrorism.

The four charges, brought by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, include: failure to disclose Boko Haram spokesman’s phone number, failure to disclose information on planned attacks on judges of the Borno State Election Petition Tribunal, making telephone numbers of top government officials available for sending threat text messages to them, and supporting a Boko Haram spokesman to carry out unlawful acts. The prosecution said Ndume, by these actions, had violated sections 3(b), 4(1)(a) and 7(1)(b) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011. The senator pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole ordered that he be remanded in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) till 16 December, when his application for bail would be heard and determined.

It will be recalled that Ndume, along with the former Boko Haram spokesman, Ali Umar Konduga (also known as Al-Zawahiri), was first arraigned before an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court on 22 November, for alleged breach of official trust and criminal intimidation by anonymous communication.

Konduga, who pleaded guilty to the charge, was convicted and, on 6 December, sentenced to a three-year jail term. Ndume pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be detained in SSS custody. His case was then withdrawn from the Magistrate Court and new charges were filed against him at the Federal High Court.

The embattled senator is the first Nigerian to be arraigned before a court under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act of the National Assembly which President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law on 2 June 2011. Under the provisions of the Act, the offences for which he is charged attract various jail terms ranging from 10 to 20 years.

SSS foils bank robberies, arrests robbers, kidnappers in Awka, Anambra State

On 8 December, the State Security Service (SSS) in Anambra State reported it had foiled a robbery operation that targeted four banks in Awka, the state capital. It arrested three suspected armed robbers, along with their arms and ammunition, as well as two suspected kidnappers, one of whom had 318,000 fake US Dollars.

FOILED BANK ROBBERIES

Briefing newsmen on how the bank robberies were foiled, the Director of SSS in the State, Mr Alex Okeiyi, said in the early hours of 20 November, a consignment of arms and ammunition was brought into Anambra State from a neighbouring state.

 “At about 1500 hours of the same day in Awka metropolis”, he further reported, “the hoodlums who ordered in the weapons mobilized and came in a red bus to take delivery of the consignment. In an exchange of gunfire that ensued, three members of the gang were arrested, some members sustained varying degrees of injuries and the rear glass of their bus shattered with bullets, and some escaped”. He said the three arrested persons were already assisting the Service in its investigation.

The director added that preliminary investigations had established that the gang had planned to rob some banks on Zik Avenue in Awka. He said First Bank was to be their first target, because it was to take delivery of a large volume of cash from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Monday, 21 November.

The robbers thereafter planned to extend their operation to UBA Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc, all on the same Zik Avenue, Awka, before they were pre-empted by a joint team of security operatives. Arms and ammunition recovered from them included two general purpose machine-guns, 1,069 rounds of live ammunition and three pairs of hand gloves.

ARRESTED KIDNAPPERS

The SSS director also reported the arrest of two persons from Umueri in Anambra State and Ohaozara in Ebonyi State, in connection with the kidnap of one Mr Charles Aniemeka-Akaa, a final year law student at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. He said the suspected kidnappers were arrested in Gwagwalada in the Federal Capital Territory, by operatives of the state police command assisted by the FCT command.

He explained that: “During the search operation at the residence of one of the suspects, the sum of 318,000 fake US Dollars in 100 denominations and charms were recovered. An ATM card belonging to one Innocent Idibia, now at large, which was used to withdraw the initial ransom of N1 million paid by the victim’s father, among other incriminating items, were also recovered”.

The director said all the suspects would be prosecuted once investigations are concluded.

Former Boko Haram spokesman, Konduga, bags 3 years jail; denies any mental problem

ALI UMAR KONDUGA Sentenced to 3 years in jail

On 6 December, an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court sentenced the convicted former spokesman of the militant Boko Haram sect, Ali Umar Konduga (a.k.a Al-Zawahiri) to three years jail.

Two weeks earlier, Konduga had pleaded guilty to a two-count charge of felony, criminal breach of public trust and intimidation through anonymous communication. He was summarily convicted by Chief Magistrate Oyebola Oyewumi, in line with the provisions of Section 318 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). However, the court had withheld its sentence following a plea by the prosecution, that the State Security Service (SSS) still needed Konduga to enable it conclude investigations of his interactions with Senator Ali Ndume whom he had named as a sponsor of the sect.

In sentencing Konduga, Chief Magistrate Oyewumi said: “In view of the plea for leniency and the fact that Section 302 of the CPC provides for a maximum of five years imprisonment, the court hereby sentences you to three years of imprisonment, and by virtue of section 303 of the same code, the convict will be kept at the pleasure of the government”. The court, however, approved a request by the SSS for the convict to serve his term in its custody, in view “the heightened security situation, as it relates to jail breaks in the country”.

Responding to questions from newsmen shortly after he was sentenced, Konduga rejected the claim made by his father, Alhaji Sanda Konduga, last weekend, to the effect that he (the younger Konduga) had been battling with mental challenges. He said: “Even though my father has a big responsibility towards knowing me, according to the Holy Quran, I know myself and I know I’ve not been insane before. In fact, I’ve never been to a psychiatric centre before”.

He however urged that other members of his sect currently in custody be released, as a step towards solving the crisis. He said: “I want the government to release our members that have been imprisoned as an incentive to bring the crisis to an end by laying down their arms”.

SSS bursts suspected kidnappers of King Igodo in Bayelsa State

On 5 December, the State Security Service (SSS) paraded an ex-militant arrested in connection with the kidnap of King Godwin Igodo, the paramount ruler of Atissa clan and a first class traditional ruler in Bayelsa State.

The monarch was abducted by three armed men at his Ogbogoro community home on 1 September. His abductors subsequently took him to a hide-out in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State. While he was in captivity, his kidnappers extracted GSM recharge credit totalling N150,000 from his family. They eventually released him at the Abonema River on 27 September, after his family had paid a ransom of N12.5 million.

Mr Didacus Egbeji, an Assistant Director of the SSS, said the suspect, 24-year-old Promise Adegbe, hails from Olodo compound, Azuzuama Community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Formerly in the camp of militant leader Young Shall Grow, Adegbe signed up for the Federal Government’s amnesty programme and underwent training at the ex-militant’s camp in Obubra, preparatory to his rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.

Adegbe claimed he had never participated in any kidnap operation before, but that he was lured into King Igodo’s case by his friend Mikel. He said he was not part of the team that abducted the King from his community but joined them in Port Harcourt, six days later. He further confessed that out of the N12.5 million ransom paid by the King’s family, he had already been paid N50,000 and was about to collect the balance when he was arrested.

The SSS said others who participated in the kidnap include one Mikel, Osuo and Kingdom, who are still at large. It said it had completed its investigations and that Adegbe would be arraigned in a High Court in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on 6 December.

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