Sam Eyoboka, Evelyn Usman, AbdulSalam Muhammad
ABUJA â€” PRESIDENT Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, yesterday, assured the nation that the Federal Government was in control of the Islamic sect crisis in some states in the northern part of the country which has claimed several lives just as more arrests have been made while police commands in Adamawa and Lagos States have put their men on the alert to forestall any ripple effect of the crisis.
President Yarâ€™Adua who gave the assurance at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, shortly before he departed for Brazil on a state visit said he had directed the security chiefs to launch a special operation, particularly in Borno State, to contain the situation.
Said he, â€œWe have the situation under control now and I believe by the end of today (yesterday), everything would have taken shape.
â€œI have been monitoring the situation in the last few days. By yesterday (Monday), the situation in Bauchi State was under control so also the crisis in Kano and Potiskum, Yobe. What we have now is a situation in Borno where the leader of the so-called Taliban group is residing and from where most of them migrated to other northern states.â€
The President said the security agents would launch the main operation immediately saying â€œI have just finished a meeting with our defence chiefs who have been in constant contact with the Governors of Borno, Bauchi, Kano and other statesâ€.
According to him, â€œonce the operation in Maiduguri is completed today (yesterday), we are going to continue with the security surveillance of all the states in the northern part of the countryâ€, noting that the target was to fish out remnants of the elements and â€œdeal with them squarely and promptlyâ€.
He decried the situation where a group of people would take the law into their hands and cause insurrection.
â€œThese people have been organising, penetrating our society, procuring arms, learning how to make explosives and bombs to disturb, confuse and force their beliefs on the rest of Nigerians. Definitely, our security agencies have been tracking them for years and I believe that the operation we are launching now will be an operation that will contain them once and for all.
â€œI want to assure this nation that this administration will not tolerate any arms insurrection anywhere and in any part of this country. Anywhere any group of people begins to launch arms insurrection and destruction against their fellow Nigerians, they will be dealt with,â€ Yarâ€™Adua said.
The president noted that the violence in Bauchi, Kano and Borno was not an inter-religious crisis.
The violence was fomented by members of Boko Haram, an Islamic group opposed to Western education.
Police arrest ex-Varsity don
Meanwhile, the police in Sokoto State have arrested Malam Abdurrahman Abdullahi, aÂ former lecturer of Islamic History in the Katsina State University, and four others over their membership of â€œBoko Haramâ€™â€™ Islamic sect.
Mr Mohammed Umar, the Police Public Relations Officer in Sokoto State, who paraded the suspects before newsmen in the state capital, yesterday, said that the suspects were arrested on Monday at the residence of their leader, Mallam Kabiru Atiku, at Gagi village, Sokoto South Local Government Area.
Umar said the police command had earlier received an intelligence report that some members of the sect were holding series of meetings in Kabiruâ€™s house. He said: â€œInformation reaching us showed that they were planning to attack members of the public and security agencies. Upon hearing their motives, the command mobilised its officers and arrested five members of the gangâ€. He however said that Kabiru is on the run.
The other suspects who were arrested with Abdullahi are Yusuf Ahmed, Babangida Mohammad, Mustapha Abdullahi and Samsu Atiku.
Umar disclosed that several items, including weapons, were seized from the suspects at the residence of their runaway leader. He said that the items included several knives and catapults, 20 sharp cutlasses, uniforms and assorted drugs.
â€œThey will be charged to court as soon as investigation is completed,â€™â€™ the police spokesman said.
However, Abdullahi told newsmen in an interview that their group was agitating for the full implementation of the Sharia legal code in Nigeria.
â€œI resigned my appointment as lecturer to fully participate in the struggle toward the full implementation of Islamic law in Nigeria,â€ he said.
In Kano, the police said they have arrested 18 more suspects for their alleged involvement in the attack on its formation in Wudil town near Kano city bringing the total figure to 55 so far.
The Police Public Relations Officer, SP Baba Muhammad told Vanguard that the casualty figure has equally increased by one bringing the death figure in Wudil to four.
Baba Muhammad disclosed that the DPO of Wudil formation, Sagir Idris, who sustained gunshot injuries during a gun duel with the fundamentalists is responding to treatment at an orthopaedic hospital in the city.
The Police Public Relations Officer further revealed that 100 persons believed to be members of Izala sect on transit picked up in the heat of the crisis have been set free. The PPRO further explained that the situation is now under control.
In the aftermath of the crisis, the Police Command in Adamawa has ordered all policemen under its command to be on the alert.
The commandâ€™s spokesperson, Mrs. Altine Daniel, said yesterday in Yola that some policemen had been posted to some strategic locations and all government establishments.
She further said that teams of â€œOperation Tsaroâ€ a special security outfit which comprised all security operatives in the state, were on the prowl to sniff out any attempt to breach the security of the state.
Daniel said that all police officers manning the 21 Local Government Areas in the state had also been alerted to step up surveillance.
Some residents of Jimeta and Yola expressed fears considering the 1984 Maitatsine riot that devastated the state capital, during which many lives and property were lost. Some said that though the said group were only out to fight the government, they feared that some innocent persons might fall victim.
Lagos Police tightens security
In Lagos the Police Command said it was putting adequate security measures in place to ensure that there was no ripple effect of the wave of the sectarian unrests.
As first step to checkmate this, the Command said it had infiltrated most of the traditional hot belts in the state with undercover policemen, adding that it was also monitoring the situation very closely.
Noting the peculiarity of Lagos as not only a mega city but highly heterogenous, spokesman for the command, Mr Frank Mba, said the command was in touch with religious leaders as well as ethic groups in the state.
Said he: â€œWe have heightened the level of security and have also fully mobilisedÂ the divisions, Area Commands, the Criminal Investigative Bureau (CIB) and the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) Departments of the Commandâ€.
Even though he noted that the on-going crisis was not ethnic or religious, he said close surveillance would be concentrated on volatile areas such as Ajegunle, Idi-Araba, Mile 12, Obalende, Ijora and others.
Also speaking on the crisis, the National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, yesterday blamed the 17 Southern State Governors for the killing of Christians in the latest sectarian uprising just as the Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde, called on the Federal Government to prosecute all those culpable and responsible for this latest wave of religious extremism.
In his reaction to the crisis, Oritsejafor wondered why anybody should extend a purely Islamic matter to rival Christians, killing and burning churches, saying he holds the Southern Governors responsible for their inability to defend Christians residing in the North, pointing out that some of the victims may have contributed to their election into office.
Angered by reports of killing of Christians and torching of churches in parts of the North, the PFN helmsman explained that the umbrella body of Pentecostalism in Nigeria had written a letter to all the Southern Governors on the need for them to engage their 19 northern counterparts to forestall these incessant violent sectarian crises in the North.
Makinde also called on all security agencies to take seriously warnings and alarms from credible quarters henceforth so as to avert future occurrences of this nature, stating that the country cannot continue on the path of non-challance and which creates crisis that ends up spiraling because of the ill-preparedness of security agencies saddled with the responsibility of combating such situations.