Friday, 10 May 2013

Nigeria May be Consumed by Revolution, Shettima Warns

President Goodluck Jonathan

Our Correspondents
Obviously at his wits end and frustrated with the seemingly endless orgy of violence unleashed on his state, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State yesterday warned that the nation could be consumed by a revolution, as Nigerian youths in the not-too-distant future will chase politicians out of power.
Painting a grim picture of things to come, the governor of Borno, which has been at the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, said the crisis was a mere appetizer of things to come.
Shettima made the statement yesterday while receiving a 32-member Senate Joint Committee on the Massacre in Baga, which paid him a courtesy visit before proceeding on their fact-finding mission.
The governor’s warning came just as the Nigerian Army officially confirmed that 47 persons were killed in Bama on Tuesday during the multiple attacks on the town.
The casualties comprised 21 insurgents, six policemen, 14 prison officials, two soldiers and four residents made up of three children and a woman, who were burnt to death by the insurgents.
Reacting to the attack on Bama, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) strongly condemned the siege on the town by the terrorists, with the party stating that the barbaric attack was another reason for all stakeholders to work together to end the daily carnage in some parts of the north.
Also, Muslims under the auspices of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) have urged the insurgents to accept the amnesty that might be offered by the federal government and stop further bloodshed and the wanton destruction of property.
Shettima said: “Underneath the mayhem of Boko Haram, beneath the madness lies the underlying cause which is extreme poverty and destitution which have permeated all spectrums of our society.
“Only and until we address some of these issues, believe me, the future is very bleak for all of us as the current crisis is just an appetizer of things to come. Very soon the youths of this country will be chasing us away.”
The governor lampooned fellow politicians for being selfish and inconsiderate, stressing that “the most important thing in Nigeria is all about the last election and the next election, that is the only thing that is agitating our minds.
“How we can perpetuate ourselves in power. How much we can steal, how many mansions we can buy in Florida, Dubai and London, this is what agitates the minds of the elite of this country, including you and I.”
Shettima said he was confident that the senate would act as an independent and impartial arbiter, and that the committee’s report would finally erase the controversy surrounding the incident in Baga.
Earlier, the chairman of the committee, Senator George Thompson Sekibo, had told the governor that they were in the state to carry out an on-the-spot assessment of the situation in Baga, and make the necessary recommendations to forestall a recurrence.
He said they had even commenced their assignment, revealing that they had invited some people whose inputs would be required for their report.
In a related development, the Nigerian Army has confirmed that a total of 47 people were killed during the massacre at Bama.
Speaking to the press yesterday, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru said the casualties comprised 21 insurgents, six policemen, 14 prisons officers, two soldiers, and four civilians including three children and a woman, who were burnt to death by the insurgents.
The army spokesman however assured that normalcy had returned in Bama, and vowed that the Joint Task Force (JTF) would “defeat the terrorists and other criminal agents in Borno State.”
He said that the army had taken full control of Bama-Banki, with ground and air patrol, as well as improved intelligence and round-the-clock surveillance to make the place safe for the people to live in.
He noted that several persons, who were being interrogated, had been arrested in connection with the attacks, and those culpable would be made to face the law.
Attahiru disclosed that the original aim of the Boko Haram insurgents, “who were dressed in military fatigues and attacked the 202 Battalion Barracks in Bama with rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), general purpose machine guns, bombs, an 18 seater bus, six Toyota Hilux vehicles fitted with anti-aircraft guns, was to overrun the barracks and create mayhem.
“The attack was however repelled and the barracks was not in any way breached,” he said.
He expressed regrets that the Bama police station, police barracks, local government secretariat, Independent National Electoral (INEC) office, a local magistrates’ court and primary school were burnt by the insurgents, who also set free about 105 prisoners from Bama prison.
He further disclosed that four vehicles, 14 weapons, 12 improvised explosive devices, assorted ammunition, several RPG tubes and bombs, were recovered from the insurgents.
Wading into the Bama incident yesterday, the president condemned the attack, which claimed scores of lives.
The president said he believed that the continuation of such callous and wanton attacks on innocent Nigerians, government facilities and security formations flies in the face of ongoing efforts to establish a workable framework for dialogue and the peaceful resolution of security challenges in northern Nigeria.
He warned that the federal government’s consideration of dialogue as an option for the elimination of some current threats to security should not be seen as a weakening of its resolve and determination to use all the forces at its disposal to crush all brazen affronts to the powers and sovereignty of the Nigerian nation.
Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati, extended sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of the soldiers, policemen, prison officials and innocent civilians who lost their lives in the dastardly attack.
He urged the armed forces and police not to be disheartened or daunted by the loss of their colleagues, but to remain focused and undeterred in discharging their responsibilities for the security of lives and property in all parts of Nigeria, with the assurance that the federal government will continue to give the armed forces and police the fullest possible support to enhance their ability to meet the continuing challenges of terrorism and insurgency.
In a statement, the ACN also strongly condemned the multiple attacks on Bama by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, which left 47 people dead, saying the barbaric incident was another reason for all stakeholders to work tirelessly to end the daily carnage in some parts of the north.
The party which had been very critical of the recent confrontation between the military and the sect in Baga, described as barbaric and callous the killing of defenceless citizens in Bama, especially women and children, saying the perpetrators of the senseless killings have lost their sense of decency and humanity.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said while every human life is sacrosanct, it was particularly saddened by the mindless killing of security personnel in the course of carrying out their duties of ensuring the protection of lives and properties.
ACN wondered what the insurgents wanted to achieve by attacking women and children in police barracks and targeting health centres, courts and the local council secretariat, all areas most likely to be populated by innocent civilians.
“Nothing in the world can justify the kind of killings we have witnessed in recent times, and it is high time those who are behind these orgy of violence stopped and retraced their steps,” ACN said, adding that the Bama killings, coming about three weeks after the Baga massacre, portrays Nigeria as a country where human life has little or no value.
The party urged the federal government to work closely with other key stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the Boko Haram crisis, saying the time for flip-flopping and foot-dragging was over.
In addition, Muslims under the auspices of NSCIA have urged the insurgents to accept the amnesty that might be offered by the federal government and stop further bloodshed and the wanton destruction of property.
Addressing the press yesterday at the national headquarters of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) in Kaduna, the new Secretary General, Ishaq Oloyede, also called on the federal government to call to order those making inflammatory statement on the forth-coming 2015 elections.
“The council calls on the insurgents to accept the amnesty that may be offered by the federal government and stop further spilling of blood and wanton destruction of property,” the Muslim body said.
The Islamic organisation, which is the umbrella group for all Nigerian Muslims, also called for a probe of the Baga killings.
“The council strongly condemns the Baga and Bama massacre as heinous crimes against humanity, and calls upon the government to immediately set up a judicial commission of inquiry to ensure that justice is done.
The council frowns at the continuous failure of the state and federal governments to implement the white paper of their commissions/panels of inquiry on various ethno-religious crises and conflicts in the country.
“The council calls on the federal government to act immediately to restore normalcy and ensure enduring peace and security by re-settling and protecting Muslims that have been unjustly displaced in crisis-ridden areas including Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi State, scores of villages in Wase Local Government in Plateau State as well as in Southern Kaduna where Muslims had been massively massacred sequel to the 2011 general elections,” it stated.
The communiqué further reminded the government that the Hijab is a religious obligation for Muslim ladies, and asked that government agencies and private organisations should stop the harassment and persecution of Muslim ladies for wearing it.
Also commenting on the attack on Bama prison, an official of the Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) said yesterday that the inmates who escaped from the prison on Tuesday are not members of the sect.
A top official confided in THISDAY that none of the 105 freed inmates was a member of Boko Haram, but those who had been imprisoned for other crimes.
He said suspected members of Boko Haram members are usually imprisoned outside the hot spots of the insurgency, adding that the incessant attacks on prisons were aimed at embarrassing the government and instilling fear in members of the public.
His assurance came just as the Minister of Interior, Aba Moro, condemned the incessant attacks on prisons and killing of their officials all over the country, particularly the gruesome murder of 14 officials of Bama prison including a chief superintendent.
Moro stated this yesterday in Abuja after an emergency meeting with the Controller General of NPS, Mr. Zakari O. Ibrahim   and other   top prisons’ officials, to review the Bama attack and appraise the security situation in prisons nationwide.
He also expressed anger over the release of 105 inmates from the Bama prison, adding that the dastardly act was committed only a few months after the killing of some prison officials in a similar manner by suspected members of the sect.
He commiserated with Ibrahim, staff and the families of the murdered NPS officers over the loss of their colleagues and loved ones.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Special Duties and Chairman Presidential
Amnesty Committtee on Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, yesterday said the committee was yet to commence talks with the members of the Boko Haram sect.
Speaking during an interview with the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monitored in Sokoto, Turaki said the committee was currently carrying out consultations before engaging in any dialogue with the sect.
According to him, what the committee members did initially was to study reports and recommendations of previous committees set up on violence in the north and even the Niger Delta.
Turaki said the aim was to study the reports, as they would assist them in discharging the onerous task ahead.
He explained that the committee was currently discussing with security agencies in order to understand the main issues at hand before opening talks with the sect.
The minister expressed optimism that going through the process would enable them get information that would chart a way forward.
Turaki disclosed that as soon as the committee rounds up its deliberations with security agencies, it would meet members of the sect to listen to their grievances and chart a way out of the crisis.