On 6 January, two students of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) were shot dead by three gunmen, suspected to be members of the militant Islamist group widely known as Boko Haram, in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Briefing newsmen on the serial attacks on residences of people living in Dala and Mairi Wards of Maiduguri Metropolis during the week, the Commissioner of Police in Borno State, Mr Simeon Midenda, said the students were shot at about 8pm on Friday night, in their Mairi Ward residences, south of the university campus.
He said the attakers came in an unmarked vehicle with two Kalashnikov rifles hidden under their flowing gowns, and that they fired several shots into the heads and chests of the students.
The police chief said the sectarian attacks in the area had taken a different dimension, with gunmen targeting not only the patrol vehicles of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) and the police, but also the residences of policemen and Christians in the Jere, Bama and Biu Local Government Areas of the state.
The three council areas, along with Maiduguri Metropolitan and Gambouru/Ngala, are the parts of Borno State over which President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on 31 December 2011. On the whole, that declaration covered 15 local government areas in four northern states of the country
Mr Midenda said no arrests had been made in connection with the assassination of the students, but that investigations were underway.
On 22 July, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State reported it had killed a suspected member of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram, during a gun battle that followed a failed bomb attack by the sect, in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
Reporting on the incident, the JTF spokesman Lt. Col. Hassan Mohammed told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that, at about 6.50 pm the previous night, an explosive device was hurled at a military patrol team by some persons, suspected to be members of Boko Haram. He said the explosive missed its target and detonated without causing any casualties.
Col Mohammed said that: “While our men were observing the scene, some suspected Boko Haram militants began rapidly firing at them’’. He said the JTF men returned the fire, engaging the attackers in a gun duel.
“We were able to get one of the militants after a long crossfire, but other members of the group summoned courage and took his body away”, Mohammed said.
He stated emphatically that: “No member of the JTF was affected, either by the blast or the gun duel that followed the incident”. He however added that “Sadly, a civilian was injured during the crossfire”. He said the injured civilian was taken to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) for treatment.
The JTF spokesman said a second explosion occurred at a garbage dump elsewhere in the city, but that no one was hurt. He said: “From all indications, the device exploded prematurely. We still don’t know what the target was and nobody has been arrested”.
Local sources said the bomb was apparently planted on the road side and went off when the patrol vehicle ran over it.
Confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer of the military Joint Task Force in the region, Colonel Victor Ebhaleme, said two policemen and one soldier were wounded when an explosive hit their patrol van at about 7.40am.
He said the injured men were rushed to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) and that no life was lost. He added that the task force had arrested six persons suspected of involvement in the attack.
Operatives of the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, are believed to have been responsible for planting the bomb.
ON ALLEGATIONS THAT BOKO HARAM WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR RECENT ATTACKS ON BANKS IN SOME NORTHERN STATES:
Abu Zaid, Boko Haram spokesman: “Let me confirm to you that our warriors had actually attacked three banks, namely Bank PHB, First Bank of Nigeria and Unity Bank, where they carted away huge sums of money. We took the measure because the mode of operations of the banks was not based on Islamic tenets…If the banks continued to operate contrary to Islamic code, monies snatched from them remain legitimate. We are out to eliminate all aspects of ills in socio-economic affairs of the people which go contrary to the Sharia legal system”.
ON CHARGES THAT BOKO HARAM SENT A THREAT LETTER TO UNIVERSITY OF MAIDUGURI, FORCING CLOSURE OF THE SCHOOL:
Abu Zaid, Boko Haram spokesman: “For someone to accuse us of threatening, attacking a university, is like those behind the claims have underrated our capability; because our determination is to attack the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Of what benefit will it be when we attack a small institution?”
ON CHARGES THAT SOLDIERS ARE VIOLATING HUMAN RIGHTS IN MAIDUGURI:
Borno Elders Forum, led by Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno: “The soldiers have been burning down cars, killing innocent passers-by, looting private property, harassing innocent passerby and even raping young girls…The presence of thousands of weapons brandishing soldiers on the streets of Maiduguri has turned the situation into a nightmare, the worst Maiduguri has ever seen”.
“Hundreds of youths have been shot and killed by soldiers for no known reason other than they are young people. Many communities have been sacked and people in their thousands are fleeing Maiduguri and the level of human suffering in Maiduguri has reached its peak and Borno is faced with horrific and horrendous humanitarian crisis”.
Major General Jack Nwaogbo, Commander of Joint Task Force in Borno State: “The JTF wishes to draw the attention of the public to some allegations against the personnel of the JTF…One of such allegations was that hundreds of youths have been shot and killed by soldiers for no known reason other than they are young people…No member (of the JTF) is involved in violation… The cordon-and-search carried out is properly supervised by members of all security agencies”.
Gen Andrew Azazi, National Security Adviser: Soldiers deployed in any part of Nigeria must behave responsibly at all times. Unfortunately, when you are the target of a bomb attack, there is the possibility that you react in a manner not approved by the people. There is need for cooperation from all sides: the military, the people and everybody”.
Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State: “The most important thing is for us to put in place mechanisms for ensuring that the excesses of the JTF, who are operating under a very tense environment, are curtailed. We are going to provide hotlines and oblige the JTF with a code of conduct – rules of engagement – so that they do not break the rights of the people”.
ON DEMANDS FOR WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS FROM MAIDUGURI, BORNO STATE
Borno Elders Forum, led by Alhaji Shettima Ali Monguno: “Borno elders have demanded the immediate withdrawal of all soldiers on the streets of Maiduguri because the soldiers have been burning down houses, killing innocent people and looting private property”.
Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State: “With no intent to denigrate or question the motives of eminent personalities agitating for withdrawal of the JTF from the state, I regret to note that none has offered a tangible yet sustainable alternative to fill the security vacuum to be created in the event of the withdrawal of the JTF…It’s quite easy to agitate, to call for the removal of the JTF, but what is Plan B?”
ON PROPOSALS TOWARDS RESOLVING THE CRISIS:
Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (retd), new Minister for Police Affairs: “We (the government) will explore dialogue with any aggrieved persons, so that peace will reign in Nigeria. Where that does not work, but I hope that it will work, we will look at what else we can do to guarantee peace, because peace must be guaranteed in Nigeria”.
Federal lawmakers from Borno State: “Dialogue should commence with unconditional amnesty so that when people are coming to the table, they are not coming with swords and guns pointing on their necks and heads. We believe that engaging the elements in an honest process is better than guns, so that peace and unity can return to Maiduguri and, consequently, to the northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large’’.
Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State: “Once again, I wish to beseech my brothers in the Jama’atul ahlul sunnah lidda’awati wal jihad (the name preferred by Boko Haram) to lay down their arms and come and dialogue with us, for indeed this is the only way we can move our beleaguered state forward…Our doors are open for constructive dialogue and a speedy resolution to this state of insecurity”.
Abu Zaid, Boko Haram spokesman: “All soldiers deployed to Borno as part of the Joint Task Force must be withdrawn before any dialogue could be opened with government”.
Barrister Sadau Garba, lawyer of late Boko Haram sect leader, Muhammad Yusuf, in letter to President Jonathan, urging dialogue with Boko Haram: “Do not involve the traditional rulers and the major Islamic groups in reaching the group or resolving the problem, because the members of the group do not have any respect for them but rather consider them as part of the problem”.
Dr. Olasupo Ayokunle, Secretary-General, Nigerian Baptist Convention: “They (Boko Haram) don’t deserve any form of dialogue or glove treatment. They have committed crime against humanity. They should be brought to book. Dialogue should be the last resort and it should even come after the group might have served out the punishment for their heinous crimes”.
ON BOMB ATTACKS AGAINST CHURCHES:
Muslim Rights Concern, a Muslim rights organisation based in Lagos: “A bomb exploded at the All Christian Fellowship Church on Church Road, Suleja in Niger State on Sunday, 10th July, 2011…We, of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), totally and unreservedly condemn this and all violent attacks….The Qur’an forbids the use of force except when Muslims are attacked (2:190). There is no evidence that the Christians inside the Suleja church had attacked Muslims.
We charge the security agencies to unveil the identities of these blood-thirsty extremists. Steps must also be taken to secure churches from future attacks…Christians and Muslims are from one Father of Faith (Abraham). Religion is designed to link people in love. There is no religion that teaches violence”.
ON DECISION BY STATE SECURITY SERVICE NOT TO PROSECUTE OVER 100 ARRESTED BOKO HARAM MEMBERS:
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND): “This is a blatant disregard to all Christians in Nigeria killed with impunity and also an insult to all Niger Deltans as the government is displaying double standards as regards the Niger Delta indigenes falsely and unlawfully arrested over the October 1st bomb blast carried out by our field operatives.
For this attitude…the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (M.E.N.D) is preparing very hard for the resumption of hostilities with the training of new fighters joining our various camps and promises that the results will be felt both nationally and internationally, very soon”.
On 13 July, the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram, for the first time, said it would agree to a “temporary ceasefire”, if the Federal Government withdraws the soldiers on the military Joint Task Force from the streets of Maiduguri, the embattled capital of Borno State.
The group laid down this condition just a day after a Borno Elders Forum, comprising 18 elderly and prominent persons from Borno State, called on the Federal Government to “immediately withdraw” the soldiers from Maiduguri streets, alleging human rights violations and continuing deterioration of the security situation. The elders had also pleaded with the militant group, to cease hostilities on humanitarian grounds, considering the sufferings of fellow Muslims, especially in Maiduguri. It is not known whether that appeal may have persuded the group to now set its condition for the “temporary ceasefire”.
The Abuja-based newspaper, Daily Trust, further reports that in a telephone interview with some journalists in Borno State, Boko Haram also claimed responsibility for the recent attacks on some banks in Borno, Bauchi and other states, where the attackers made away with huge but unspecified amounts of money.
The group’s spokesman, Abu Zaid, said the banks were attacked because their operations contravened Islamic tenets, and that the attacks were aimed at reforming the banking system. He is quoted as saying: “Let me confirm to you that our warriors had actually attacked three banks, namely Bank PHB, First Bank of Nigeria and Unity Bank, where they carted away huge sums of money. We took the measure because the mode of operations of the banks was not based on Islamic tenets”.
Asked if such attacks, which may otherwise be seen as robberies, were permissible in Islam, Abu Zaid said: “If the banks continued to operate contrary to Islamic code, monies snatched from them remain legitimate. We are out to eliminate all aspects of ills in socio-economic affairs of the people which go contrary to the Sharia legal system”.
Abu Zaid also reportedly reiterated Boko Haram’s earlier denial of responsibilty for the threat letter that contributed to the closure of the University of Maiduguri. He said: “For someone to accuse us of threatening, (or) attacking a university, is like those behind the claims have underrated our capability; because our determination is to attack the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Of what benefit will it be when we attack a small institution?”
On 12 and 13 July, several state governments started evacuating their students and other indigenes from the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, following continuing clashes between security forces and the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram.
The intensified clashes, particularly since last weekend, had forced the closure of the University of Maiduguri (with over 35,000 students) and also provoked a huge flight of other city residents.
The state governments known to have started evacuation actions or plans are as follows:
On 12 July, Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, sent 15 buses to evacuate all the state’s students from University of Maiduguri, following the shut down by the institution’s authorities. The governor’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Reuben Buhari, said Mr Yakowa decided to send buses to bring the students home, after he learnt that they were experiencing serious transportation difficulties caused by the massive exodus of people from Maiduguri.
On 12 and 13 July, the government of Gombe State, which has a large number of students at the University of Maiduguri, sent about 42 commuter buses to bring them home.
Kwara and Bauchi States
The governments of Kwara and Bauchi States also commenced the repatriation of their students and other indigenes. The Bauchi State government reportedly sent 31 buses, while its Kwara State counterpart also sent 20 buses to Maiduguri, to bring their people home.
In Plateau State, Mr. James Mannok, who is the Director of Press Affairs to Governor Jonah Jang, said the government had concluded arrangements to evacuate its students from the University of Maiduguri. He said the government had already directed the state-owned transport corporation, “Plateau Riders”, to send buses to Maiduguri urgently for evacuation of the students.
In Rivers State, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said the government had taken steps to bring home its students studying at the University of Maiduguri, but who were now stranded in the embattled town following the abrupt closure of the university. The government’s action followed a desparate appeal by the students, through the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), which said anything could happen to them, if they were not evacuated before 14 July.
On 12 July, after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at Aso Villa (presidential quarters) in Abuja, the governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, said he would send vehicles to Maiduguri to evacuate indigenes of the state, if the situation deteriorates any further.
With the deepening concerns about security in Maiduguri in particular, but also across the entire north-eastern zone of the country, several other state governments, especially in the south, will certainly roll out similar evacuation plans in the days ahead.
On 11 July,authorities at the University of Maiduguri ordered that the institution be closed indefinitely, with effect from 12 July, citing the deteriorating security situation in the city of Maiduguri, capital of Borno State. Some 35,000 students are enrolled in the public university.
The Registrar of the university, Alhaji Babagana Aji, said the decision to close the institution was taken at an emergency meeting of the school’s administration chaired by the vice chancellor. A statement signed by the university’s Chief Information Officer, Ahmed Mohammed, said all students are to vacate the campus on Tuesday, 12 July. The students had been scheduled to start their first semester examinations on 15 August, but authorities said the university will reopen only when the security situation in Maiduguri improves.
University officials say intensifying clashes between Boko Haram fighters and the military task force have made movements in the city increasingly difficult – and dangerous. Mohammed said: “There is restriction of movement in Maiduguri and most of our students are staying off campus”.
Besides the situation in the streets, a further development that must have prompted the closure is a letter reportedly sent to the university’s authorities on 10 July, by a group claiming to be Boko Haram. The said letter demanded that the school be shut down before the end of July or risk becoming the group’s next target. The letter reportedly read in part: “Our next target now is the university, which is our main target right from time (sic). We give the school authorities till end of this month or before the beginning of Ramadan to release you all, if not something very bad will happen”. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and a period devoted to fasting, prayer and charity-giving, starts on 1 August this year.
However, in a twist to the development, Boko Haram has denied sending any warning or threat of an imminent attack to the university. The Abuja-based newspaper, Daily Trust, reports the group, through its usual spokesperson, Abu Zaid, as saying: “The letter must be the handy work of some people, but it is definitely not from us”.
In spite of the clarification by the group, the school will remain closed indefinitely.
On 12 May, two gunmen riding on a motorcycle, attacked and killed Alhaji Abba Mukhtar Tijjani, the district head of Mairari in Maiduguri, Borno State. Tijjani was shot several times on his head and chest. Some sources say his friend, Alhaji Buba Tela, was also shot severally, but did not die and is currently receiving treatment at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
Sources close to the district head’s family said the gunmen waylaid him at his residence in Budun, behind the Shehu of Borno’s palace at about 3.30 in the broad afternoon, concealing their Kalashnikov rifles under their traditional flowing gowns. They say Abba Mukhtar was discussing with some friends and acquaintances when the gunmen, both apparently in their late twenties, stepped out and opened fire on him. They fled immediately after killing him.
In another incident about two hours later, gunmen again shot a policeman who, with his colleagues, was conducting a stop-and-search operation around the Monday Market in the metropolis. Police authorities say the policeman was wounded, but did not die and is currently receiving treatment at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH).
Reacting to the two incidents, Borno State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Lawan Abdullahi, called for public cooperation in tracking down the killers. He said: “We urge good members of the public to cooperate and assist security agents to rid the menace of killings in Borno. They should consider policing as a collective responsibility”.
On 10 May, unknown gunmen killed the chairman of the Borno State branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Ibrahim Dudu Gobe, and wounded his son, in Maiduguri, Borno State.
According to one of Alhaji Gobe’s sons, the three killers trailed the union leader from the community mosque to his residence in an unmarked vehicle around 8pm that night. They waited for him to enter his compound and then shot him several times on his head and chest, with rifles that were hidden under their flowing traditional gowns. He died on the spot.
The gunmen also shot his son, Mohammed, who had opened the gate, on his arm and leg. The wounded child was rushed to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) but his condition could not be confirmed.
The Borno State Police authorities confirmed the incident to newsmen and said the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had commenced a probe of the incident and will bring the killers to justice.
Local residents say there had been several unsuccessful attempts on the union leader’s life before his assailants finally killed him. Security sources suspect he may have been killed by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for series of targeted killings in Borno and neighbouring states since mid-2010.
Shortly after he was elected the new governor of Borno State on 28 April, Alhaji Kashim Shettima stated that his administration would, within its first 100 days in office, hold discussions with Boko Haram towards granting its members amnesty, and restoring peace in the state.
However, on 9 May, a Boko Haram spokesman, Abu Dardam, told the BBC Hausa Service in Kaduna that the group would not accept any amnesty or dialogue because: “First, we do not believe in the Nigerian Constitution and, secondly, we do not believe in democracy but only in the laws of Allah”.