BY AUSTIN OGWUDA, ABDULSALAM MOHAMMED & VICTORIA OJEME
KANO—THE Joint Military Task Force, yesterday, averted what would have turned out as a bloody Easter in Kano, following a combat operation that left 14 insurgents dead, a primed car laden with explosives for suicide attack and assorted weapons of war recovered.
The bloody operation that took place at Layin Yan’awaki , Ungwa-Uku General area of Tarauni Local Council of the state brought economic activities in the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria to a standstill while the gun duel lasted.
Conducting newsmen round the battle ground, the Brigade Commander 3 motorized Brigade, Bukavu Barrack, Kano, Brigadier General Iliyasu Isa Abba said, “my men were on cordon and search operations in the wee hours of this morning at Layin Yan’awaki, Ungwa –Uku General Area when suddenly they came under fire from terrorists that triggered a gun duel”.
General Iliyasu Abba said that the ensuing firefight that lasted for six hours left 14 insurgents dead, while undisclosed number of others were arrested, stressing that “it was an opportunity to demonstrate our superior fire power, and the gallant officers and men gave a good account of themselves”.
The imminent disaster was averted as the British government, weekend, advised its citizens in Nigeria to stay away from 22 states including Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Yobe, for fear of retaliatory attacks by terrorist groups due to the involvement of Britain in the war in Mali.
Anyaoku challenges Northern govs
Meanwhile, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has challenged governors in the northern axis where activities of Boko Haram insurgents are rife to fish out the leaders, insisting that those governors should not shy away as it is their primary responsibility to do so.
Suicide car, arms, explosives recovered
The JTF recovered from the scene, a Golf car primed with explosives, which the commander revealed was ready for a “suicide mission in the city”, while 14 AK 47 assault rifles were recovered.
Also recovered from the scene that comprises two adjoining houses were fabricated anti-aircraft machine guns, a pump action rifle, large quantities of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and chemicals for making IEDs.
The entire Ungwa-Uku General Area was barricaded by military men during the operation and both human and vehicular movement was restricted to a portion of Zaria Road and Eastern Bye pass.
In line with earlier vow of the JTF to demolish property housing suspected terrorists in the state, the military pulled down the two houses and investigation is ongoing to track the property owners.
Panicky residents who woke up to deafening blast of explosives and sporadic gunshots remained indoors several hours after the operation. This might be connected with heavy presence of troops that were still engaged in a mop-up operation.
Britain to citizens: Stay away from violence-prone states
In a travel advisory, the British government cautioned its citizens to stay away from Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Yobe, for fear of retaliatory attacks by terrorist groups due to the involvement of Britain in the war in Mali.
The travel advisory also declared 18 other states unsafe, urging its citizens to restrict travel to the affected states, except where absolutely unavoidable.
The advisory also cautioned British citizens not to travel to specific cities and areas across the country, including riverine areas of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and CrossRiver states, Warri, Kano, and Okene.
It further cautioned its citizens against making unnecessary travel plans that would take them to Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kogi, Abia, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Plateau and Adamawa states.
The travel advisory from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office released to journalists in Abuja, read: “There is a high threat from terrorism in Nigeria; there is a threat of retaliatory attacks, following the French intervention in Mali.
“A bomb attack at a bus station in Kano on March 18, 2013, resulted in multiple casualties; there is a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria; recent terrorist kidnaps have occurred mostly in northern Nigeria, but could occur anywhere in Nigeria.
“In recent years, many attacks have taken place during religious and public holidays against public or crowded places, including places of worship. During the Easter period, you should be particularly vigilant in and around such locations.
“Demonstrations and civil unrest can occur at short notice. Follow news reports and be alert to developments. If you become aware of any nearby protests you should leave the area immediately. A number of curfews are in force.
“Before considering any travel, take professional security advice. Be vigilant at all times, keep others informed of your travel plans and vary your routines. You should follow your employer’s security advice, make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly.
“Violent crime is common in the south of the country, including Lagos. Flash flooding can occur during the wet season (June to October). There is a greater risk from water-borne diseases during the rainy season.
“Around 117,000 British nationals visit Nigeria each year. 50 British nationals needed consular assistance in Nigeria in the period April 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012”
Fish out Boko Haram leaders, Anyaoku tasks Northern govs
Urging northern governors to fish out Boko Haram leaders, Anyaoku said that the international community was deeply concerned about Nigeria’s security challenges.
He was also of the view that the Federal Government should dialogue with Boko Haram group once their leaders are unmasked, noting that such a dialogue should be a prelude to possible amnesty instead of putting out amnesty as a pre-condition.
He spoke during the reception marking his 80th birthday and 50th marriage anniversary at his country home, Obosi, AnambraState, weekend which was graced by dignitaries from all walks of life.
Although he differed with fear already expressed in some quarters that the country was on the brink of another civil war because of the activities of the Boko Haram, he quickly added that the security challenges were posing a danger and should be addressed as there was already a growing concern by the international community.
His words: “My take is that Nigeria is facing various challenges at the moment especially the insecurity in the country particularly the activities of the Boko Haram. These pose very serious crisis for the country and I don’t believe that we are on the brink of a civil war. But I do believe that we face serious challenges which must be addressed because if they are not addressed, then they could lead to the situation that those who said Nigeria is on the brink of a civil war are predicting.
“I am the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs and I do offer advice to the President in the area of Nigeria’s foreign policy and in the area of Nigeria’s relations with the outside world. I think the outside world are looking at us very favourably but there is growing concern in the outside world about security situation in our country. And I believe that the government is addressing it through the efforts of our security agencies and law enforcement agencies to crack down on the leaders of Boko Haram and get them to book.
Identify the leaders
“What I would like to see also happen is that the government should make more serious effort to identify who the leaders of Boko Haram are. And this is not just the Federal Government. This is primarily the responsibility of the state governments in our northern part of the country. They should help the Federal Government in identifying who the leaders of this Boko Haram group are so that the Government can invite them to a dialogue because I do believe that it would be right for the government to pursue a policy of the carrot and stick.
Amnesty shouldn’t be condition for dialogue
“Of course dialogue first, you cannot begin to talk of amnesty before dialogue. You cannot begin to talk of amnesty when innocent people are still being killed. I think the first thing we should talk about is to identify the leaders, engage them in a dialogue and amnesty would be result of a dialogue not a pre-condition to a dialogue”.
Asked whether Nigeria was really being taken seriously in the fight against corruption by the international community, especially the United States, when president, Barack Obama, aborted an earlier scheduled visit to Nigeria, he said: “I don’t think it is correct to say that the United States President cancelled his visit to Nigeria because of the pardon to Chief Alamieyeseigha; that is not correct. I think relations between Nigeria and United States are still very good and we do continue to exchange views on matters of concern to them and matters of concern to us. So I don’t think that the pardon to Alamieyeseigha has had any role to play in our dialogue. I believe that the President is serious when he said that he is against corruption and using the agencies of government to fight corruption. But at the same time, I think that corruption is still a very serious impediment to our national development.”
Expressing joy at the massive turn-out of personalities on the occasion, Anyaoku said, “I feel very excited and very appreciative of the fact that so many people could come from all walks of life from former Head of State, General Gowon to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Tambuwal to the governors from various states and the traditional rulers.
“ I am very appreciative that they could come from all over the country to join in the celebration. If you heard what the Primate said in his sermon and what the chairman of this reception said, they did attach importance to my achievements on the global scene. They did mention the fact that I was very much involved in the process that led to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. That I was very much involved in the process that brought democracy back to Nigeria and that I was very much involved in the liberation of Southern African racist minority ruled governments like Rhodesia which became Zimbabwe and Namibia. They did mention all these and these were facts and they also acknowledged the fact that I am the first African to have a professorial chair named after him at a top BritishUniversity. There is now an Emeka Anyaoku Professor of Commonwealth Studies in the University of London. They mentioned my other global achievements and I appreciated that”, he added.
Jonthan hails Anyaoku
President Goodluck Jonathan in a goodwill message he sent to Anyaoku, said: “In the past four score years of a life of outstanding accomplishment and great personal fulfillment, you have not only served our nation at the highest levels with an uncommon sense of patriotism and unwavering dedication, you have also brought great pride to Nigeria through your notably successful service as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. Till date, you continue to give of yourself in the service of the fatherland.”
Chairman of the occasion, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue in his opening remarks called for peaceful co-existence among the ethnic nationalities in the country.
He said: “It is not easy to talk about Nigeria existing as one country today without direct reference to General Yakubu Gowon, who has found time to be here. General Gowon fought a war. All of us have our views what led to the war and how it was fought. But the important thing is that when the war ended, the military might of Lagos did not intoxicate Gowon and he insisted on the story and practice of no victor no vanquished. General Gowon, our dear Yakubu, we salute you. What we want in Nigeria is commitment to the cause of our country.
“When we do disagree, we disagree on principles but continue to work for the unity of Nigeria based 100 per cent on fairness to all the various units that make up this country”.
Earlier at the church service held at Saint Andrew’s Church, Obosi, officiated by a galaxy of ministers led by the Archbishop Metropolitan & Primate of All Nigeria, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, the celebrant Chief Emeka Anyaoku openly turned down gifts but asked that those willing to offer him birthday gifts should direct such to Iyi-Enu Mission hospital where he was born for its upgrade.
Anyaoku’s home town – Obosi stood still as personalities from all walks of life, far and near congregated.
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Rep Ndudi Elumelu, ACN National leader Senator Bola Tinubu, Minister of Labour Mr. Emeka Nwogu, Governors of Anambra, Imo, Abia, Edo, Minister of Finance Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Professor Pat Utomi, Senator Chris Ngige, including Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi (Vanguard Man of the Year Award winner 2009) and traditional rulers were among the numerous dignitaries that graced the occasion.