On 26 January, unidentified gunmen waylaid and killed 15 traders and then set their bodies ablaze near Birnin Magaji town in Zamfara State.
Local sorces said the traders were attacked as they were returning from a market in neighbouring Katsina State. They said the gunmen, numbering about 100, sprang from the bush and forced the open truck, in which the traders were travelling, to stop.
The Commissioner of Police in Zamfara State, Mr Tambari Yabo Mohammed, said: “The armed robbers waylaid the traders travelling back in an open truck and opened fire on them. They then loaded the truck with 14 bodies and burnt them”. He said a 15th victim died in hospital.
Although the Police chief suggested the attack may have been a case of armed robbery, local sources said it may be linked to some earlier incidents in Lingyado village in Zamfara State.
On 10 August 2011, vigilantes from Lingyado had evicted a group of people from the village whom they suspected of being behind a series of cattle and other robberies. Those evicted regrouped and attacked the village on 2 October, killing 23 villagers.
Commenting on that attack, the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had said: “From the information I have received, the attackers who are nomadic Fulani, invited their comrades from as far as Central African Republic, for the raid”.
On 21 March, Senator Annie Okonkwo, the senator currently representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, and who is seeking re-election on the platform of the Accord Party (AP), was stabbed on his left arm by a suspected thug wielding a machete. The incident occurred at the popular Eke Awka Central market in Awka, capital of Anambra State. The senator was rushed to a nearby private hospital, later discharged and went home.
His attacker was shot by security details attached to the lawmaker, and there are conflicting reports about his condition.
According to local sources, Okonkwo had donated a 500KVA transformer to the traders in the market about three weeks ago, in response to a Save-Our-Souls (SOS) message from their leadership, who said they had been in darkness since late 2006. In appreciation of his gesture, a section of the leadership of the market union ordered that the market would be closed on any day Okonkwo came there to campaign, but that decision that was opposed by some of other leaders allegedly aligned to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which is the ruling party in the state. These “opposition leaders” therefore mobilised their members, along with suspected APGA thugs, to resist any special respect being accorded the senator and his entourage.
The first sign of trouble was when the thugs started chanting APGA slogans at what was supposed to be the rally of an Accord Party candidate. The chant was echoed by a group of men who had taken positions nearby, in a vehicle belonging to a state government taskforce. When security operatives attempted to lead them out of the arena, they drew knives they had concealed under their clothes and attacked the policemen and others around, precipitating a stampede.
It was amidst the stampede that one of the thugs charged at the senator, brandishing a long knife. He succeeded in stabbing the senator on the arm and also stabbed a policeman who was trying to wrest the machete from him. The policeman then shot him in the leg, apparently in self-defence and also to demobilise him.
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emeka Chukwuemeka, gave the name of the attacker as Sunday Agbo who lives in Awada, Onitsha, and said he was being treated at an undisclosed hospital. The PRO also told newsmen that another suspect, Mr Uchenna Obiora, had been arrested in connection with the incident.
In his reaction to the incident, Senator Okonkwo described the attack as unfortunate and barbaric. He said: “I thought that this contest is going to be a free and fair one. I never knew that some people are desperate. Only God saved me from the hands of those hoodlums”.
However, the state chairman of APGA, Chief Mike Kwentoh, has denied any allegations of his party’s involvement in the attack. He said: “APGA can never attack anybody. We are not violent. The allegation is not true”.