January 30, 2011

Fresh Jos violence, Borno killings heighten security concerns

Taye Obateru, Jos,  Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja, Demola  Akinyemi, Ilorin, Jimitota Onoyume, Portharcourt, Inalegwu Shaibu, Henry Umoru

The outbreak of fresh violence in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday, and the Friday’s killing of the ANPP gubernatorial candidate in Borno State, Engr Fannami Modu Gubio, along with  six  others by suspected terrorists, at the weekend, heightened security concerns in the country.

Thick smoke billowed into the sky in Jos yesterday as property were torched and a yet to be ascertained  numberof people killed in another orgy of violence.

One of the buildings set ablaze by the protesting youths in Jos, Plateau State

The Plateau State capital has, for several times in the recent past, been a theatre of violence which claimed scores of  lives.
Worried by the spectre of violence, governors from four of the nation’s six geo-political zones, who met, yesterday, said they had commenced moves to end threats to security in the country.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Sarki Yarki Bello, identified internal security problem as one of the contemporary challenges facing the nation.

Senate President David Mark condemned the Borno killings of Friday, tasking security operatives not to leave any stone unturned in the effort to unearth the killers.

The Acting National Chairman of PDP, Dr. Bello Haliru Mohammed, described the killings as wicked while  ANPP, whose members were the victims of the Borno  incident, challenged President Goodluck Jonathan, saying “the state of insecurity in the land has reached its peak.”

Jos boils again

No fewer  than 20 houses and  two filling stations were torched in the Jos violence, yesterday,  which was a fall-out of the stabbing, on Friday, of some students of the University of Jos (UNIJOS)  by hoodlums and the subsequent shooting of about 12 of them by soldiers when they trooped out to protest the stabbing of their colleagues.

However, Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Sonni Tyoden, said though none of the students shot died, but they were being treated at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital.

A claim that two of the shot students had died was said to have triggered fresh demonstration by students, yesterday morning, as they took over the Farin-Gada highway and were joined by a group of women protesting unjust killings in the state.

The protest was said to have been hijacked by some street urchings who unleashed violence on those perceived to belong to the opposite camp, attacking them and burning houses and other properties.

The violence threw the city into panic  as people hurriedly closed their businesses and ran for safety. Sound of gunshots rent the air for many hours as security agents tried to restore normalcy.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abdulrahman  Akano, confirmed that the protest by students and the women was hijacked by hoodlums, adding that he had not got report of any death.

He urged parties to the crisis in the state to be ready for dialogue and make compromises as the cycle of violence was doing damage to all sides, adding, “this is madness.”

Reacting to the situation, the state government, through the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gregory Yenlong, condemned the violence and the killings.

He said in a statement: “Government condemns these acts of terrorism and unprovoked attacks on citizens by hoodlums and miscreants and hereby directs  the Special Task Force to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

“Government also notes with serious concern and dismay the use of firearms on harmless and unarmed citizens by men of the Special Task Force who are not observing the simple rule of engagement thereby causing grievous hurt and deaths among women, children and innocent citizens merely protesting actions of miscreants and hoodlums terrorising the state.”

The statement, however, called for restraint from citizens urging them not to take the law into their hands as the state government works with security agents to contain the situation.

Insecurity worries govs

Yesterday’s meeting of the governors in Ilorin, Kwara State capital under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), was attended by the state chief  executives from four of the six geo-political zones and discussed  threats to the nation’s unity with a view to fashioning ways of  reconciliation among the various tendencies seen as responsible for the threats.

Governors at the meeting included Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Timpriye Silva (Bayelsa), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Liyel  Imoke (Cross River), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Bukola Saraki (Kwara) and Peter  Obi (Anambra) while Nassarawa was represented by the deputy governor.

Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who briefed newsmen after the meeting, said the governors  discussed the Friday’s  violence in Borno where the  gubernatorial candidate and a brother to the state governor were gunned down along with four others in Maiduguri, the state capital.

Obi  said the meeting started in Kwara, a north central state, in honour of the state governor who also is chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.

He explained that  the meeting was conveyed for the purpose of ‘reconciliation’ and was a follow-up to a previous one held by governors from the South-South and South-East zones hosted by Uduaghan in Asaba, Delta State capital.

He, however, failed to clarify on what  he meant by the reconciliation although it was thought to refer to recent conflicting positions being canvassed publicly by some stakeholders on the coming general elections.

According to him, “Basically, this is a meeting of governors in a kind of what we say a reconciliation in our polity. The South-South and South-East governors met about a week ago and decided to consult round the country with our colleagues on how to stabilise the polity. We have commenced that from the North-West and we move to the North-East and South-West all in a bid to reconcile the polity and ensure that the unity of the country is paramount in whatever we are doing.”

He described the meeting as a furtherance of the progressive roles of governors across the country, saying they will continue with the task.

Obi also told journalists that  the  meeting would move to other geo political zones as they will continue to spread the message of unity across the country.

Internal security a challenge —GOC

Identifying internal security as a challenge facing the nation during a courtesy visit to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in Port-Harcourt, yesterday, the GOC, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Bello, said the problem manifests in the form kidnapping, terrorism, etc.

Bello said the army was set to tackle the challenge head on.

Consequently, the 82 Division under him, he said, was setting  up more forward base operations.
Bello said, already, the recently launched Operation Jubilee in Abia State had produced  95 percent success rate, and would soon rise up to 100 per cent, adding that the 82 Division was the first  in the country  to have “full compliments of three fighting brigades”.

Senate to probe Borno killings

Meanwhile, Senate President  David Mark, at the weekend, condemned the Borno incident, tasking security operatives not to leave any stone unturned in the effort to unearth the killers.

Mark, in a statement  by his chief press secretary, Mr. Paul Mumeh, also said that relevant standing committees of the Senate will be mandated to investigate the killings with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.

The statement said, “The Senate and indeed the National Assembly will invoke the relevant sections of the law and bring it to bear on the perpetrators of this mayhem. Nigeria is bigger than any individual or group interest.

“The Senate would move in to complement the efforts of security operatives to unmask the killers of the Borno six.”
Mark empathised with the families of the victims and government of Borno State, noting that the spate of violence in the country and Borno State in particular had become a thing of grave concern.

The acting PDP national chairman, Mohammed, also, yesterday, described the gruesome murder of the governorship candidate of ANPP in Borno  and six other members as wicked and barbaric.

In a statement signed by the party’s national publicity secretary, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, the leadership of PDP said, ‘’meanwhile, we call on all security agencies to track down the perpetrators of this assassination and urge all Nigerians to brace up to this challenge.

‘’The Peoples Democratic Party wishes to state in unambiguous terms that this ugly  spectre of violence that took place in Borno State is both condemnable and unacceptable in our body politics.

‘’The gruesome murder of Engr. Fannami and several other innocent citizens, no doubt is a direct affront to our collective resolved on democracy as the only alternative to peaceful, united and prosperous nation.

‘’We wish to commiserate with the government and people of Borno State and the families of all those caught up in this unholy act.”

Also deploring the Borno killings, the ANPP  challenged Jonathan, saying ‘’the state of insecurity in the land has reached its peak.”

Reacting to the incident, the ANPP national publicity secretary, Emma Eneukwu, in a statement, said the party condemned the act, adding that,’’the sad incident is clearly retrogression into the dark days of  political violence where bloodshed was an option to outwit an opponent.’’

The statement described the Borno killings as ‘’one too many’’, adding that it was a gross failure on the part of the government to provide adequate security for its citizens.