Unbelievable as it may appear, fresh facts emerging suggest that there was indeed a surface-to-air plot by the dreaded Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram. So, how did Nigeria’s intelligence community react and how was the plot foiled? This is the exclusive report of Nigeria’s emerging dangerous skies.
By JIDE AJANI
It was meant to inflict maximum embarrassment and damage.And had it succeeded, the nation would still have been reeling under the effect of a tragedy of monumental proportions.
The attack was meant to be direct: Bring down President Goodluck Jonathan’s plane.
According to intelligence sources, that was the plan of the Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram.
And whereas very senior government officials were playing it down penultimate Saturday, Sunday Vanguard discovered that but for the “massive intelligence network that was activated prior to and during the President’s two- day visit to Borno and Yobe States, which had the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, on the entourage as well as constant monitoring by the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, and the Director General (DG),Department of State Security (SSS), Ita Ekpeyong”, the sinister motive of the sect may have seen the light of day.
In fact, intelligence sources said the plot was on two legs. None succeeded.
ADMISSION OF A PLOT TO KILL
And although the visit of Jonathan has continued to receive mixed reactions from a cross section of Nigerians as either belated, unproductive or needless, the closest admission that there was indeed a plot to bring down the President’s plane came from one of his spokes-persons.
Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, alluded to the scary nature of the plot last week in a televised interview.
Okupe first pooh-poohed the much celebrated earlier visit of some opposition state governors before hitting the nail on the head.
“Let me talk about the APC governors who went on a dance parade to the market square and were waving hands. And Nigerians were even saying that they were courageous.
“I hope now that the events that happened immediately after President Jonathan left Borno would teach everybody a lesson.
“The cache of arms that were uncovered by the JTF is enough to engage the Nigerian Army in a war for three months.
“What were rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns doing?
“The governors that went to Borno were not the target.
“They were not consequential in the consideration of the Boko Haram.
30 governors can go to Borno State, Boko Haram can not be bothered about that.
“The President was their target.
“And that is what makes the difference.
“So, what was demonstrated was foolish bravery.
“Look at the ammunition that the JTF seized.
“What that demonstrates is that there is clear and present danger in Borno as at the time of the President’s visit and it is only the
Commander-in-Chief who is sure of his troops and who is in control of his army that can go there and not just go there but sleep there overnight.
“Even whenever Obama and Bush went to Afghanistan, they didn’t sleep there.
The strength of leadership and the commitment and the sacrifice are things that are commendable”.
Independent investigations by Sunday Vanguard revealed that at least a month ago, when it became inevitable that Jonathan would visit Borno and Yobe States, an activation of high- level intelligence activities were initiated.
Interestingly, the activation came just at about the time when seven foreign construction workers were abducted in Bauchi by another terror group, Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladissudan, Ansaru, for short, which translates as Vanguards for the protection of Muslims in black Africa.
Mind you, Ansaru is a break away group from Boko Haram and is thought to be more radicalized, according to intelligence sources.
Co-incidentally, the massive hunt for the kidnappers, served to deflect attention from the massive intelligence activities that were being carried out in the North East geo-political zone, with undirectional focus on Borno State.
Fortunately, just as the Ansaru kidnappers were being hemmed- in by security forces, the intelligence activities in Borno State were yielding its own results.
Now, information pieced together by Sunday Vanguard suggest that the cache of arms discovered by the JTF penultimate weekend in Borno had been tracked within that same period of hemming- in the Ansaru abductors.
It was gathered that using electronic devices which track materials and substances used in manufacturing these weapons of war, the intelligence agencies were able to hem- in the insurgents in whose possession the weapons were.
Now, what made it very difficult for the insurgents to move the weapons and set up sites for its deployment, particularly the anti-aircraft missiles and rocket launchers, was because the insurgents, too, have their own back channels through which they are able to sometimes have access to useful pieces of information which aid their own operations.
Information, last week, pointed in the direction of a possible and deliberate plan to use some of the weapons that were eventually seized.
A PLOT OF TWO LEGS
Indeed, beyond the plot to engage in a surface-to-air campaign, Sunday Vanguard was also made to understand that the insurgents had expected a weak underbelly.
With some of its members detained in some strategic facilities (which cannot be revealed on these pages) scattered around Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, the group had hoped to also use some of the weapons for a jail- break campaign.
It was learnt that the focus of this leg of the plot was the military barracks.
“While the President would be carrying on with the business of state, they had hoped to storm the barracks and effect the release of some of their colleagues.
“Unfortunately, the intelligence agencies already had information regarding this plot, too, and were equally prepared”, a senior SSS operative said.
“The fact that assorted uniforms of security agencies, especially those serving in the Joint Task Force, were recovered, is said to be fueling the intelligence that there was indeed a plan by the group and their sponsors to breach the security of the president.
“What security agencies are after are the sources of these weapons because of the huge foreign exchange needed to procure them; why were they procured days to the President’s visit; and how come they are weapons that could either bring down an aircraft, plane or helicopter?Why the assorted uniforms like that of JTF? Are they for easy penetration?” (See photograph)
As with the surface-to-air plot, the major challenge for the insurgents was how to move the weapons.
A LAST- DITCH ATTEMPT
Therefore, it was in the bid to force their way out of their enclave that the gun dwell, which the JTF reported, ensued – JTF claimed to have killed 52 insurgents but the group has come out to dispute the claim. The group has also responded to President Jonathan’s assertion that amnesty cannot be granted to ghosts, a reference to the clandestine approach of the group and its refusal to be identified in the open.
SOMETIME IN APRIL
History records that sometime in April, 1994, the President of Rwanda, a Hutu, Juvénal Habyarimana, was assassinated when his plane was shot down near Kigali International Airport; just as his counterpart in Burundi, a fellow Hutu, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was also killed in the attack.
What followed was some two months of systematic killing of Tutsis numbering over half a million by Hutu militias. It was the possible re-enactment of this spectre of doom that got many Nigerians worried when the news was first splashed last weekend that a deliberate attempt to breach Jonathan’s security, via a campaign of surface-to-air attack, was hatched but had been foiled. Investigations into the amassing of the weapons of war are still on-going.
THE WEAPONS OF WAR
The Joint Task Force, JTF in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, said Yesterday(penultimate Saturday) that it has killed about 52 suspected terrorists and recovered assorted arms and ammunitions within the last ten days, while it also lost two of its personnel during the raid.
Spokesman of the JTF, Leuitenant Colonel Sagir Musa, in an email statement to journalists in Maiduguri, said, “Based on information and intelligence report, series of operations were conducted by the Joint Task Force Operation RESTORE ORDER in the last ten days in Borno State. The latest was the one conducted at Bulabulin, Bayern Quarters and Jajeri in Maiduguri metropolis between 3 – 8 pm yesterday, Friday, 8 February, 2013. During these operations under the period stated, there were exchange of fire that led to the death of 52 Boko Haram Terrorists including ten commanders of the sect. 70 terrorists were also arrested. In the period under review, the JTF lost 2 personnel, 3 were wounded and no civilian casualty was recorded.
”The under listed weapons, ammunition, uniforms and other items were recovered in yesterday’s operation; include, 3 Anti Aircraft Guns, 10 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tubes, General Purpose Machine Guns, 17 AK47 Rifles.
”Other weapons recovered according to Sagir are 3 G3 Rifles, 1 Pistol (Lama), 20 RPG Bombs, 12 RPG Chargers, 1x 36 Hand Held Grenade, 1 Teargas Rifle, 33 AK 47 Magazines, 11 FN Magazines, 3 G3 Magazines, 11,068 Assorted Ammunitions, 2 Techanical Vehicles with mounted Anti Aircraft Stands, 1 Box of weapons cleaning kit, 4 Swords and 2 Knifes, 5 Walking Talkies, 4 VHF Hand Held Sets, 1 Multi Links Router, and Assorted uniforms and kits”.