By Emmanuel Aziken, Kingsley Omonobi, Ben Agande, NDAHI MARAMA & Luka BINNIYAT
ABUJA— Following Sunday’s massacre in eight Borno communities by the Boko Haram sect, which has so far claimed 121 lives, former Head of State and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), has condemned the continued violence in Borno State. He described the ideology fueling the Boko Haram insurgence as devilish and senseless, adding that it should not be given space in any civilized society.
This came as the Federal Government declared, yesterday, that the Air Force and the Army have stepped up their air and land attacks to checkmate the terrorists.
Meanwhile, governors of the 19 Northern states, under the aegis of Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, as well as the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, have also joined General Buhari in condemning the killings and urged the Federal Government to arrest the situation before it spreads to other parts of the country.
Boko Haram violence devilish
Buhari in an unprecedented rebuke against the sectarian violence, called on the security agencies and the authorities to intensify vigilance just as he expressed amazement that the terrorists and criminal elements could still express themselves despite the heavy militarization of the region.
Gen. Buhari’s statement posted on his facebook page on Sunday night after the latest reports of about 121 deaths had at press time, yesterday, drawn 862 likes and 967 comments.
The three-time presidential candidate and national leader of APC in the statement said: “We condemn the recent escalation of senseless violence in Borno State. Our prayers and sympathies are with the victims and their families.
“There is no justification for this wanton disregard for the sanctity and dignity of human life. Any ideology that trafficks in terror and violence is a devilish ideology that has no place in a civilized society.
“This is the time for our security agencies and those responsible for the security and well-being of our citizens to intensify vigilance in order to mitigate future occurrences.
“Because, it is inconceivable that despite heavy militarization, terrorists and other criminal elements are still able to terrify the defenceless populations of those areas.
“May God grant us the strength and unity to overcome this.”
Military in air, land raid
Reacting to weekend’s attacks in Borno, Defence Headquarters in a statement by the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade said: “The ongoing onslaught against terrorists in some parts of the country will not be deterred by the unfortunate attacks being carried out against troops and innocent civilians by the insurgents.
“The terrorists who move from village to village attacking innocent civilians are those escaping from the onslaught against their makeshift hideouts along the border and entry point from neighbouring countries.
“The fighting patrols by air and land are being stepped up in the forests and hills of the affected areas and other parts of the north east where the Boko Haram terrorists are hiding.
“The security forces will continue to employ necessary fire power to enhance the effectiveness of the mission until the terrorists are duly curtailed.
“Meanwhile, locations that are prone to attacks are being reinforced while the general area is now under heightened surveillance and patrols. Some suspected perpetrators of the recent assault have been apprehended and weapons recovered from them.”
Death toll hits 121, thousands displaced
Meanwhile, the District Head of Izge, Mallam Bulama Apagu and the chairman of Madagali Council of Borno State, Mr Maina Ularamu, yesterday, said the death toll in Boko Haram attacks and killings at Izge; has increased from 106 to 121, as more bodies have been recovered in destroyed houses, nearby bushes and farmlands and were buried, yesterday.
The 15 additional dead bodies including women and teachers who were slain by the sect members as they attempted to flee their houses into the bush were discovered by the district head.
Speaking yesterday, in a telephone chat with newsmen, Ularamu said that 60 bodies were buried Sunday evening, including the 31 bodies that were discovered from the market square.
He said the other bodies were recovered Sunday by the Volunteer Group Members from houses and the nearby bush.
He, however, noted that more bodies could be recovered by the volunteer group, as some of the residents fled in different directions when the entire town was burning for over five hours.
Ularamu said: “The killing of many people in Izge has terrified and shocked the survivors, mainly the elderly, women and children. These forced some of them to flee to the nearest safe place, like Gulak, the council headquarters of Madagali Local Government Area of Adamawa State. You know that Gwoza is also not safe for the fleeing residents to take refuge. This was why more people from Izge are fleeing on foot, bicycles and motorcycles to the administrative headquarters of Madagali council, 30 kilometres away from Gwoza town in Borno State.
“As at yesterday morning, when I visited the temporary resettlement camps, we had over 10, 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); and more are coming into this camp, because the people of other villages of Yazza, Bita, Waga Chakawa, Sabon Gari, Gori and Jaje with a population of over 1, 500, are still trooping into Gulak town for safety and relief materials from either the state or Federal Government.”
Mallam Apagu said the withdrawal of troops by the 23 Armoured Brigade, Yola, after the killing of 10 soldiers in a clash with insurgents on Thursday, February 13, left the entire township vulnerable to Boko Haram attacks and killings on Saturday.
“I cannot speak further to you on these multiple attacks on my people who had done nothing against these gunmen. We need more soldiers and policemen to protect us against terrorist attacks and killings here in this town,” Apagu said, yesterday.
He said as a result of the large number of people killed, the volunteer group members were burying the bodies in mass graves of 15 bodies per grave as the ground was hard to dig.
Boko Haram better armed, motivated — Shettima
Also, the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima said, yesterday, that members of Boko Haram were better armed and motivated than the security services.
Speaking with State House Correspondents after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on the latest attack by the terrorist sect,Shettima said it was high time political leaders were held responsible to curb the wanton destruction of lives and property.
He said: “What we are being confronted with is a state of war. It is what I came to update Mr. President and the sooner we stopped playing the ostrich and rise to the challenges of the day, and marshall all resources towards neutralising the antics of Boko Haram, the better for all of us.”
Northern govs decry security situation
Meantime, governors of the 19 Northern states, under the aegis of Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, also, yesterday, condemned the terrorist activities of Boko Haram and urged the Federal Government to arrest the situation before it spreads to other parts of the country.
The governors spoke after their meeting which lasted for about five hours in Kaduna State.
This was even as the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, also yesterday, regretted latest killing of hundreds of innocent Nigerians in some parts of Borno and Adamawa villages by suspected Boko Haram terrorists.
The JNI made its feelings known in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu in Kaduna.