By Our Reporters
It was exactly a year ago (on Christmas eve) that bombs rocked parts of Jos, the Plateau State capital sending scores of innocents people to early graves, maiming others and leaving many homeless.
The explosives which were planted at a market, shops and other crowded locations in Kabong and Angwan Rukuba areas, as people made last minute purchases for Christmas was a strange dimension to the violence that had rocked the state for about a decade.
While pockets of violence especially organized attacks on villages, continued all though this year around the state capital, the explosions at television viewing centres penultimate Saturday have heightened the fear of residents especially as another Christmas approaches. What with reported threats by faceless terrorist groups to unleash fresh violence in the state during the festivities.
To say many residents are edgy is saying the obvious especially with the security agencies singing discordant tunes over the threat by the groups to bomb as many as over 20 places! A group which did not identify itself had circulated a letter threatening to bomb various places before or during the Christmas festivities.
According to the document signed by one Idris Musa, “We, the entire Muslims of Plateau state will never give up until we have our rights, we will use your boys to destroy you. Nothing can stop us from bombing these areas before December 26, 2011.”
The document listed the targeted places to include Archbishop’s Court, ECWA churches, West of Mines, Civil service Club, Lamed Pharmacy, Living Faith Church, Samunaka viewing Centre, Redeemed Christian Church, Alheri, St. Mulumba Church, Alheri Melody Guest House, Elkasim Guest House along Rukuba Road, Kowa Guest House, etc.
However, in an apparent bid to douse the tension generated by the letter which came after weeks of rumour of a plan to disrupt the Christmas festivities allegedly in retaliation for violence along Rukuba Road during the Eid-el Fitr celebrations in August, Media Officer of the Special Task Force (STF) maintaining security in the state, Capt. Charles Ekeoha said it was designed “just to create panic” and asked residents to discountenance the threat.
“I know there are apprehensions and it’s written all over the faces of people. But they should not be afraid and allow some misguided people to spoil their day. We are equal to the task,” he assured. He added that members of the task force and other security agencies had been placed on red alert to forestall any breach of the peace during the festivities.
If Ekeocha’s assurance made any impact in assuaging the fear of residents, it soon disappeared as the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Emmanuel Dipo Ayeni came out to confirm the planned bombings of about 23 places during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Speaking on Monday at a parley for security agencies, religious leaders and other stakeholders on ensuring peaceful celebrations, he said intelligence reports have confirmed the planned attacks, hence the need for joint efforts to forestall it.
According to him, “Intelligence reports at our disposal indicate that over 23 spots have been identified as likely areas targeted for bombings in Jos North Local Government Area during this period.
“The above intelligence has made all security agencies on the Plateau to put their heads together and strategize on how to checkmate the evil elements that are planning to pump IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) or bombs into strategic locations in Jos.
“We have been reliably informed that some youths will be used by the criminal elements that are planning to unleash terror on the Plateau to carry out their operations. Therefore, we want to appeal to the religious leaders, traditional leaders, ethnic leaders, opinion moulders, parents and guardians to use their leverages and positions to speak to our youths and children not to allow themselves to be used for criminal purposes”.
Ayeni said the parley was designed to strategize on ways to frustrate the plans of the terrorists warning that security agencies on their part, would do everything needed to avert any unpleasant situation. “An inch of operational avenue in Plateau state would not be given to these elements, and if nabbed they would not be treated with kid gloves, but as common criminals and enemies of the people who are trying to levy war against the state”.
The commissioner said the security measures being put in place would entail the restriction of movement of motorcycles during the festivities adding that security agencies would be tough with anyone found carrying offensive weapons or using offensive or inciting language during religious preaching. He solicited the cooperation of all stakeholders in this regard.
Despite the assurances from the security agencies and the strategies they claim to be putting in place, many residents told Saturday Vanguard that they are still very worried because similar assurances in the past have not made any difference. They claim that the deployment of hundreds of soldiers and other security agencies in the state has not brought the desired peace and has, in some cases not even helped the situation, and as such they take such assurances with a pinch of salt.
The recurring question on the lips of residents is, ‘is it going to be another “Black Christmas” in the Plateau State capital as is being speculated?’ Some of them have even compared the situation in the state to walking a minefield with palpable fear of a likely explosion at any moment.
For Henry Nwosu, a civil servant, there is always some element of truth in rumours going by previous experience and every sensible person must be security conscious. “Even though it is a rumour, like all rumours, there is always an element of truth in them”, he said.
He noted that it will be foolish to frequent crowded places or venues that could be targeted by bombers adding, “I am now more conscious of the places I go to; in fact, I have become more sensitive and aware of my environment”.
His views were shared by Fwangchi Damang, a businessman who had this to say on the issue: “It has happened before, hence there is every reason to give serious heed to rumours like these lest one is caught off guard. It is vigilance that is paramount since you never know when or where the hit will be. Bombers’ most effective tactic is surprise. It is imperative to be careful where many people are gathered as such places offer open invitations to marauding bombers.” Damang advanced three reasons why he thinks the crisis in the state has refused to end.
According to him, “there are at least three reasons. First is the fight for the heart of Jos by settlers; secondly they want to discredit the government of the day seeing that it is performing and thirdly, there are those who benefit financially and otherwise from the crisis. These are some of the reasons I think these people carry out wicked acts like planting bombs to kill innocent people.”
He commended the security agencies in the state for the various efforts to nip crisis in the bud but urged them to be more proactive than reactive. “You recall that 27 places were mentioned as likely spots that will be bombed, but let me tell people on the Plateau that this could be a diversionary trick. Let government and security agencies spread very widely their tentacles to cover the whole city to ensure citizens’ security not just during the yuletide but beyond”, he stressed.
Former General Officer Commanding Three Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army who was also ECOMOG Commander, General Joshua Dogonyaro (RTD) who spoke at Monday’s parley shared the sentiments of the people saying security agencies must move beyond “talk shows” to putting in place effective practical security strategies.
He argued that only proper intelligence gathering could nip the security challenges in the state to an end, urging security personnel to be more proactive and sensitive to their environment since those in the habit of causing problems are not spirits, but are people living within the society.
Rabiu Zakari, a jewelry dealer along Ahmadu Bello Way, Jos also believed that the security agencies need to do more even as he commended their efforts. Zakari who said the tensed climate in the state was adversely affecting business urged security agencies to “counter strength with strength, power for power with trouble makers to end the violence because business can only thrive when there is peace” even as he wishes Christians in the state peaceful celebrations.
However, Hussaini Mohammed another trader blamed the rumour and the attendant tension it has generated on the inefficiency of security agencies. He said rather than announcing to people of a plan to bomb some places and creating panic, they should have swung into action to get the planners.
His words: “This is a lapse in intelligence. They are supposed to investigate and get to the root of the rumour to bomb places unless they are telling us that they are incapable of protecting us. It is surprising though, to find that bombs are being planted mostly in areas occupied by the poor, a situation which simply tells us that there is nowhere that can be considered safe. Everyone must be on guard and keep vigil to remain safe”, he said.
In line with this reasoning, some residents have resolved to keep away from crowded places during the festivities to avoid being caught by any planned bomb attack. One of such people is Plangnan Dashe, an applicant who said she would not be found in any rowdy environment during the Christmas.
According to her, “I am scared by the rumour of plans to bomb some places and I have resolved not to be found in crowded areas. Times have changed and one has to exercise care; being cautious is not cowardice.”
As residents express their fears, security agencies re-assured during the week that they are not relenting in their efforts to ensure a hitch-free Christmas and New Year celebrations. Acting spokesman of Plateau Police Command, ASP Samuel Dabal told Saturday Vanguard that the security agencies were collaborating to put in place “an impregnable arrangement” similar to that of the last Eid-el Kabir celebration which was peaceful.
“We will also put in place, a comprehensive and extremely solid security during the Christmas and New Year celebrations. We will not allow Plateau State to be turned into a theatre of bombing and unmitigated mayhem”, he said.
Many residents expressed hope that the security agencies would move beyond promises and “talk-shows” as General Dongoyaro put it and take measures that would preserve lives and frustrate the threat by some people to unleash mayhem in Plateau State during the festivities.
They cannot ask for less because as the police spokesman admitted, it is incumbent of security agencies “particularly the Nigerian Police to protect lives and property and maintain law and order so that law abiding citizens can operate freely without fear or criminal intimidation in their day to day activities.
KADUNA—Twenty-four hours to Christ
mas, Kaduna residents are living in the fear of another attack from the deadly sect Boko Haram. Last Tuesday, about 20 gunmen had besieged Malagun village at night, about 5 km East of Kagoro tourist town and gunned down nine people.
“Four people escaped with serious injuries. Those that could not run, were chopped to death with machetes,” said Chairman of Kaura Local Government Area (LGA) Mrs Florence Aya in a telephone chat with Saturday Vanguard last Wednesday. According to a source, “the invaders, like in other similar attacks, are said to be Fulani men”.
Kagoro, a small town where Christian missionaries made a home almost a century ago, is located about 180Km South of Kaduna metropolis in Kaura LGA. It sits at the foot of the haunting Kagoro mountain, capped in white smoke, and adorned with pristine woods and wild flowers . Kagoro, is famous for its Affan Day international festival which attracts tourists from far and wide every New Year Day.
But, with possibilities of violence, it is likely that the state government may put this year’s event on hold.
The Chairman of Zangon Kataf LGA, Mr. Dominic Yahaya told Saturday Vanguard last week that there had been threat messages from unknown men promising to turn the Christmas and New Year celebrations in this mainly Christian enclave, into a nightmare that would never be forgotten.
“We may have to take certain actions that may limit both the Christmas and New year celebrations to a certain time. The kind of warning we are getting from our enemies should be of concern to any leader. I hope our people would understand some of the measures that we just have to take for the sake of security”, he said.
The entire 10 LGAs that make up the Southern Kaduna, which the 2006 census figure gives 51% of Kaduna state population, is replete with this alarming threats of invasion by Fulani militia.
But as at Thursday, most motor parks in Kaduna and its environs were bustling with passengers going for home for Christmas.
When Saturday Vanguard inquired from some of the touts at Sabon Tasha Garage, they all agreed that there is no indication to show that the there would be less passengers travelling South than last year.
“In fact, it is out of defiance that some people want to go home, in spite of the threat.
“I cannot be scared from my one and only true home on earth”, said Ishaya Markus, a Civil Engineer that runs his own firm.
“My family left for home yesterday. And I will be on my way later. I have asked all my siblings to make it a matter of duty to come home for Christmas. We have to face what they are promising us together. That will spur us to find a final solution to this madness. We will not run from home”, he said.
The Chairman of Southern Kaduna Indigenes Progressive Forum (SKIPFo), a socio-cultural group made of professionals from Southern Kaduna, Major George Asake (rtd) in an interview yesterday told Saturday Vanguard about the resolve of the group.
“We encourage our people to come home for Christmas. We are known for being a hardworking, God fearing people that worship no other god but the Living God through his son Jesus Christ. We must go home and venerate him with our home folks. That is a tradition we were born into, and we must sustain it, come war come peace.
“I want to warn those merchants of violence, if our ancestors could stand and fiercely defend our lands against invading Jihadists, we will follow in their footsteps. It is just a matter of time. We will come home for Christmas in our usual spirit of pursuit for peace, development, justice and personal liberty.
However, a Fulani community
leader in Southern Kaduna, former Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Abdulmalik Mohammed Durunguwa said the Fulani of Southern Kaduna are herdsmen who had never had any understanding of partisan politics and as such had no business with the violence of politics. According to him, “even the Fulani that were alleged to be attacking villages in Southern Kaduna could not have been our own Fulani”.
Said Durunguwa: “We also look at this violent Fulani as our enemies. We are also their victims like other people. They also attack us and steal our cows. I have personally made several complaints to the Police in Kamuru and in Zonkwa about these cattle rustlers. The Police there will confirm this. We also dread them. You must understand that we have Fulani, who speak like us all over West Africa. Some of them are brigands, ex-rebels fighting in Chad and Niger. They come in here to steal and kill only for their own interest. We are not part of them.
“Most of these crises that happen in the towns, both in Kaduna and Zaria in April have nothing to do with the Fulani man here. I’ve never seen a Fulani man’s poster here vying for a political office because he has no business with the Peoples Democratic Party or the Congress for Progressive Change.
“As far as Fulani in Southern Kaduna are concerned, none of them can attack another ethnic group. We, the Fulani in Southern Kaduna have no power to arrest these other Fulani. But anytime we see them, we report them to the police. My cows that were stolen from Southern Kaduna, I recognized them in Bauchi and the thieves are Fulani that came from Niger. They use the opportunity of the crises and went away with our cows and even killed our own people.
“We don’t and will never be part of any plan to cause problems during Christmas because we are all in this mess together. We must find ways to reconcile artificial differences created by politics and used by criminals for their selfish reasons”, he said.
This will definitely be a fearful Christmas for us – Damaturu residents
By Bala Ajiya, Yobe
DAMATURU – In Damaturu, the fear of Boko Haram attacks has intensified as yuletide is here . Residents of Jerusalem ward which is the most attacked part by the Boko Haram group on the 14th November, 2011 where over 200 people were killed are more fearful because of the volatile nature of the area.
Mr. Ameachi Paul a teacher in one of the private schools in Damaturu, while reacting to the insecurity situation in the country and fear of another attack said “the precarious security situation in the country over the years had been on the increase and the recent Boko Haram insurgency in the North East part of the country had shown clearly that those in authority that were charged with the responsibility to protect its citizens had reneged on the oath they took to serve their country.
“Insecurity in the country, unemployment and mostly social problems breed all sorts of evil that pervaded our country today. Before the advent of Boko Haram, the government deployed all its energy and resources with the view to curb menace of militancy in the Niger Delta but up till this moment, the creek boys are still perpetuating their heinous crime which the government created because of their negligence in providing social security to the teeming youths in the country”.
The resident further spoke in an emotion-ladened voice, that the “the attack on Damaturu and the effrontery in which that the insurgency carried out the whole operation for almost 6 hours without repulsion from the equally armed police men left much to be desired on the police negligence.
Despite the huge resources the government spends on the police force, the gadgets and the mobilization, we still have not gotten the right frame of mind.The recruitment exercise saw many unqualified/unscrupulous elements that could pay their ways into the police force.
The whole system is reeking of corruption. A former police Chief in Damaturu was simply transferred out of the state after being found capable of inefficiency and negligence of his duties that resulted in the massacre of over 200 innocent souls. So the police being an institution that is supposed to be a friend of the community have turned out to be the worst enemy of the society.
Meanwhile, to solve the country’s insecurity problems, the armed forces that comprise of police, army, navy, and air force should stop aggression to the citizens whenever they were deployed to any part of the country. To me, community policing is the best solution to these problems or rather state police where every indigene’s bio-data will be known”.
Malam Umar Abubakar, coordinator of Islam for peace in Damaturu blames the government for all the problems that have bedeviled this country today, saying that what breeds insecurity in this country is the unemployment for over 600,000 graduates that universities produce every year.
“ So,the minds of the youths were aggrieved and polluted when they saw the way some select Nigerians pocket the country’s resources by siphoning it at the expense of these teeming youths. That is why all these groups like the OPC, Bakasi Boys, Egbesu and recently Boko Haram emerged.
“No religion preaches violence, there is no place in the Holy Book where you are permitted to kill . It was the Nigerian system that produced all these atrocities. Social security is lacking in this country, a country where one person will steal billions of naira and go unpunished. Money that was enough to reform, rehabilitate and get job security for over 2 million youths is being pocketed by a soul.
“Now the government is talking of removing fuel subsidy, fuel is N 65 per litre and by the time the subsidy is gone, we will start buying fuel for N150 and the multiple effect is that the masses will continue wallowing in poverty.Hence , the youths get themselves engage in all sorts of evil. All these problems of insecurity in the country boils down to corruption and this country needs divine intervention to over come its mirage of problems.
“We need God-fearing leaders that will restore our values, arrest the corrupt public servants and politicians who are found wanting so that by the time one or two politicians are sent to jail for corruption, the desired change will be achieved.”
The Islamic scholar remarked that creating employment for the youths should be where government must focus on instead of planning to remove subsidy.