Special Report

February 6, 2011

Bauchi, Borno, Plateau: Mounting security challenge in the ‘axis of death’

By Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja

Borno, Bauchi and Plateau are northern states with Borno and Bauchi being in the north east while Plateau is in north central.

The three states connect in a way. Borno shares border with Bauchi while Bauchi shares border with Plateau. One thing that is common to the three states in the last months is that they have been theatres of violence claiming scores of lives, and thus challenging security.

The killing on January 28, 2011, of Hon. Modu Fannami Gubio, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) gubernatorial candidate in Borno State, along with six others (two policemen inclusive) in Maiduguri, appeared to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Before then, the unending Jos mayhem, accusations that soldiers of the special task force, Operation Harmony, were not only taking sides with a particular (tribe) or concerned party in the crises, the recourse to the use of terrorists weaponry like bombs, the alleged killing of over 25 Igbo indigenes and persistent calls for a state of emergency to be declared in Plateau State had created a serious situation of insecurity in the entire Middle Belt region of the country.

The Boko Haram menace which, at the last count, had seen Muslim fundamentalists, who claim to be fighting the cause of the sect, killing over 16 policemen and two soldiers, in Gestapo style shootings, had given the police and the army authorities cause for concern.

Just as the security agencies were mapping out further strategies on how to combat the growing threats of these internal disturbances, Tafawa Balewa in Bauchi State erupted in crisis with no fewer that 30 persons slaughtered by marauding youths said to be fighting over snooker.

By the time the police and other security agencies intervened to bring the Tafawa Balewa situation under control, the bodies of 25 people including the aged, women, men, youths and children were recovered from different parts of the Bauchi metropolis, some incomplete.

The security situation became so alarming that Senate President David Mark not only expressed grave concerns but noted that the emerging democracy which, ordinarily gives everybody a sense of belonging should not be taken for granted where lawlessness and violence becomes the order of the day.

“This growing trend of violence is a direct affront on the people and government. It cannot be tolerated any more. Nigeria is bigger than any individual or group interest. The security situation has degenerated to an alarming rate that nothing should be spared in tackling the situation”, Mark said.

It is against this background and the expression of outrage against the threats that the inspector general of police, Hafiz Ringim, on Wednesday, summoned a meeting of all the commissioners of police across the country and the zonal assistant inspectors general of police to Abuja to deliberate on the way forward and map out new strategies to tackle them.

And government, having discovered a lacuna in the intelligence gathering network for security agencies, has ordered the procurement of 450 fully kitted operational vehicles that will be deployed to the nooks and crannies of areas prone to trouble to ensure timely information delivery so that the agencies would act fast before crises escalate or get out of hand.

With regard to the police especially, the inspector general has, at the count, redeployed about six commissioners of police in the volatile states.

In the case of Borno, for instance, the IG, last week, ordered the deputy inspector general of police in charge Force Criminal Investigations Department, Ganiyu Daudu, to relocate to Borno and lead the investigations with a charge that no stone should be left unturned to unravel those behind the assassination even though Boko Haram claimed later that they were responsible for the act.

The Tafawa Balewa disturbance started when, on 26 January, a group of youths that included one Mustapha, alias ‘Black’, Usman Musa and Dung Ayuba, resorted to fighting themselves as they were playing table tennis and snooker games at Central Primary School in the town.

The next day, another group of youths, set fire to one of the snooker sheds near the PDP secretariat, belonging to Dung Ayuba who participated in the previous day’s fight. As a result of the disagreement over the snooker game, two persons were killed by the rampaging youths. The news of their death led to the escalation of the ethno-religious feud in the area.

The police deployed the Special Mobile Police Squads to Borno and Bauchi states with the Jos imbroglio continuing to receive higher security attention.

The IG, touched particularly on the Jos crises, at the meeting he summoned in Abuja, waved aside the calls made by women of Plateau State calling for the withdrawal of soldiers from the state based on allegations that they were providing protection for murderers to kill their husbands to make them widows.

Ringim said on the claim of the women, “First and foremost, it is the responsibility and prerogative of the Federal Government to deploy whichever security agency it deems fit to crises areas.

‘’The police are not deceived by the calls of the Plateau women that they prefer the police to the military. We discussed this matter in Tuesday’s security meeting and the Chief of the Defence Staff explained clearly what happened. When the bomb blast occurred in the market area, the conclusion of some people was that it was done by some Muslims.

“The following morning, some non-Muslims decided to come out and attack Muslims including even their neighbours. And the military were there to make sure they were not allowed to attack people indiscriminately because if that had been allowed, the entire Plateau would have gone up in flames. It means everybody, Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa would have been killed innocently.

“I am telling you exactly what the CDS said and I believe him: That the military stood by and made sure that the people, the non-Muslims thought engineered the problem, were not attacked. That is why they regard the military as the enemy of the people of Plateau State and are calling for their withdrawal”.

He added, “There are some desperate politicians out there who are ready to do anything to disturb the peace. Everything must be done to ensure that the current security problems in parts of the country are tackled and they do not affect the April elections”.

However, the Chief of the Army Staff who carries the immediate burden of having to reassure the people of Plateau that the Nigeria Army is for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or tribe, was quick to respond to the question mark of the protesting women by ordering a redeployment of soldiers attached to the Special Task Force.

Towards this end, he ordered the deployment of a new set of 870 soldiers including 21 officers to Jos while those hitherto in the operation were recalled back to their units. The newly deployed troops were drawn from One Brigade, Sokoto; 3 Brigade, Kano and 31 Brigade, Minna as well as the 41 Infantry Brigade, Kaduna.

While these arrangements are being put in place to checkmate ongoing crises, Sunday Vanguard can report that security agencies with specialized modes of operation like the Nigeria Navy and the Nigeria Airforce, have been asked to be on alert in their areas of primary deployments to contain any crises from any quarters.

In the Niger Delta, for instance, the Eastern Naval Command Headquarters has been mandated to put its men on the ready should there be need to deploy at short notice whereas the Airforce Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt and the 81 Air Maritime Group in Benin are to coordinate any crises if the need arises, from the air.

In Kaduna, which hitherto was known as a volatile ground for trouble makers, the headquarters of the Training Command of the airforce, is already working with the headquarters of the I Division of the army to contain any crises.