By Kingsley Omonobi, Joseph Erunke & Henry Ojelu

•Indigenes cry out over secret killings, kidnappings in Taraba; 9 criminals taken out along Kaduna-Abuja highway
•NAF deletes bandits’ logistics store in Zamfara; kidnappers of Channels TV Reporter arrested in Abuja
BUJA — As insecurity worsens across the country, the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, yesterday, accused the Federal Government of not showing enough political will to address the situation in the North, saying it has been turned to a land of bandits.

Suspected kidnappers of Channels TV reporter as paraded by police in Abuja.

Addressing newsmen in Zaria, Kaduna State, Chairman of NEF, Prof Ango Abdullahi said the group demands “for decisive, comprehensive and fundamental governmental action against poverty, underdevelopment and insecurity.”

Similarly, some indigenes of Jukun ethnic group in Taraba State have cried out over the rising spate of secret killings and kidnapping taking place in the southern part of the state.

This came as the Police headquarters said that in continuation of its onslaught against bandits and kidnappers on the Abuja-Kaduna highway (Operation Puff Adder), its operatives during the week gunned down nine notorious criminals terrorizing travellers on the road.

Also, the Nigerian Air Force said its Air Task Force, ATF, for Operation Diran Mikiya destroyed some logistics stores belonging to the bandits at a location within Kagara Forest in Zamfara State on Saturday.

Land of bandits

NEF’s Prof  Abdullahi, at the briefing said: “Today, the North still lives under horrendous Boko Haram threats, a situation which has been aggravated by threats of banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery, marauding youth gangs, herders and farmers mini-wars, and seemingly overwhelmed or indifferent governments. Large swathes of territory in our region are now effectively bandit land.

“We are alarmed and our members saddened by the recent cataclysmic collapse of security, and the sanguinary and indeed colossal threat to life and property in many parts of Nigeria but more seriously in the North.

“We cannot in good conscience remain silent as criminal activities and blood-letting escalate in Nigeria and our region. We have sadly lived with unfortunate violence in the last few years but this should not continue or escalate.

“It will be irresponsible for us to refrain from calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to decisively respond to the existential threats faced by Northern Nigerians in particular during these times and beyond. NEF as a matter of social responsibility and tradition, would never shy away from speaking truth to power, irrespective of the partisan, sectional or whatever constellation of political power in the nation.

“It will be recalled that we strongly engaged President Goodluck Jonathan on the need to address the Boko Haram insurgency and even proffered solutions as far back as 2012. All our efforts seemed to have been vitiated by a weak political will and monumental political corruption.

“Agriculture, our pride and national economic comparative advantage, the greatest employer of labour and leading contributor to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product is in ruins as animal husbandry, and crops and roots farming are in the throes of war and damage.

“Our rural folk live in perpetual fear of attacks from sundry terrorist assailants without any reprieve. Our major highways and transportation systems are being abandoned as they have become death traps. We see in all these the cumulative effect of a region whose economy and people, especially the youth have been abandoned. A dangerous youth bulge is indeed a recipe for crime, violence and wars. We understand that poverty and underdevelopment can create a brutish and violent society.

“Should the Nigerian people continue to run and hide from criminals under an administration that has enjoyed and received support from especially Northern Nigerians that it can address their existential and developmental challenges? We expect the administration to address all the short, medium and long term challenges of security and development in a manner that minimal security and good livelihoods can be assured and sustained.

“Are these things rocket science? We believe not. What we believe is that given the political will and commitment, Nigeria has the human resources and ideas to address these challenges. Are the challenges those of under-funding the policing and security apparatuses, or is it a challenge of problem analysis or policy failure? Governments world-wide are expected to handle these matters as a primary responsibility.

“We demand that President Buhari should demonstrate higher levels of concern and sensitivity to the plight of traumatized citizens in the country, especially in the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Taraba and virtually the entire North.

“We demand for decisive, comprehensive and fundamental governmental action against poverty, underdevelopment and insecurity. Above all, we demand that President Buhari shows leadership and compassion which are the reciprocal expectations of the Nigerian people from their President.”

Indigenes cry out over secret killings, kidnapping in Taraba

Meanwhile, some indigenes of Jukun, who addressed newsmen yesterday in Lagos, through the National President of Jukun Development Association, Bako Benjamin said over 148 Junkuns have been abducted from their houses and scores killed in the last few weeks by unknown gunmen.

Bako said the situation in Takum communities in Southern Taraba was far worse than what is happening in Zamfara State.

He said: “In the past, people get kidnapped from their cars, if they are travelling in flashy cars. But today, because people now avoid the roads, the kidnappers now go to people’s houses to kidnap them and demand for ransom. Sometimes, even after ransom is paid, they still kill them.

“As we speak, one Alhaji Mayo who runs some filling stations in Takum, was removed from his house, taken to the bush and they used his phones to call his family and demanded for N200 million. They negotiated and after selling a lot of his property, they managed to raise N105 million which they collected.

“As if that was not enough, they told the wife to drive all the man’s cars to a location. They took all the cars and drove them away. Just on Saturday, the younger brother called and said they have been impoverished. The man is still with them in the bush, in captivity.”

He listed other people abducted from their homes in recent times to include one lawyer, Yagura Lena who is still being held after ransom was paid, one Joy Ubadene who is still in captivity and a member of the state assembly, Osia Aiyegbe, who was killed after ransom was paid.

“We are in deep trouble; far worse from what is happening in Zamfara. Our people no longer travel home while those at home have started leaving to join their families in Lagos. Except something is done urgently, the Jukun communities in Taraba would become extinct.

“When the military came to Taraba, they targeted Jukun homes and our youths, moved into their homes and removed cutlasses, axes and other things the people could have used to defend themselves. At the same time, the Fulanis were attacking us. When we complained, they sent our boys to go back to their houses while some of them were taken to Abuja.”

Also speaking during the conference, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana said that it was regrettable and unfortunate that government had failed in its responsibility of protecting the lives of citizens across the country.

Kidnappers of Channels TV reporter arrested in Abuja

The Police headquarters said acting on intelligence report, on April 9, 2019 about 6:30a.m., its men arrested three notorious persons involved in the kidnap of Channels Television’s staff, Mr. Friday Okeregbe.

A statement by Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer, FPRO, named the suspects as Hanniel Patrick, 29years from Akwa Ibom State,  Abdulwahab Isah, 28 years and Salisu Mohammed,  32 years, both from Kogi State, and they have made useful statement to the Police.

It said investigation revealed that Okeregbe was not originally the intended target of the vicious criminals, adding “the Police have also recovered from the kidnappers a locally made revolver, three live AK-47 ammunition, a battle axe, phones and masks with which they blindfold their victims. Effort is being intensified to arrest other members of the gang still at large.”

Police kill 9 criminals on Kaduna-Abuja highway

The FPRO continuing added: “The unrelenting efforts to root-out criminal elements terrorizing commuters along Abuja-Kaduna expressway recorded additional successes on  April 10, 2019, with the recovery of six AK-47 rifles, one pump-action gun, 1,206 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, seven magazines, 28 cartridges and 158 expended shells by Police operatives attached to Operation Puff Adder deployed to the area.

“The recovery followed a serious exchange of gunfire between police operatives and a  heavily armed notorious criminal gang at the Akilbu Forest, off Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, which resulted in the death of nine members of the gang while two escaped with gunshot wounds.

“One of the police operatives however, sustained gunshot wounds and is presently receiving treatment in a hospital.  Effort is being intensified to arrest the fleeing members of the gang.

“While expressing satisfaction with the successes recorded so far in the fight against kidnapping and other heinous crimes across the Country, Acting Inspector-General Police, Mohammed Adamu reiterates his call for support by the public to the Police and other sister agencies, as he gives the assurance that the war against armed bandits will soon be won.”

NAF destroys bandits’ logistics store in Zamfara

Air Force spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, speaking on the contribution of the Nigerian Air Force in the fight against bandits and other rogue elements, said: “The operation was executed on April 13, 2019, following credible intelligence reports indicating that some of the armed bandits who had fled their camps as a result of NAF’s earlier air strikes had relocated some logistics items, including fuel, motorcycles and local arms making equipment, to another location within Kagara Forest.

“Accordingly, the ATF dispatched an Mi-35 helicopter gunship, supported by an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, ISR, platform, to attack the target. The target area initially appeared uninhabited. However, as the helicopter approached, some of the bandits were seen emerging from under the shrubbery and running away from the area.

“The helicopter engaged the target recording successful hits on the logistics facility, which was engulfed in flames with thick black smoke seen.

“Some armed bandits, who fired at the aircraft, were taken out by the helicopter. Reports from independent sources, including local informants and village leaders around the general area, later confirmed that the logistics base was totally destroyed and four armed bandits killed as a result of the attack.

“The NAF, working in consonance with surface forces and other security agencies, will sustain its operations to flush the bandits out of the North-West of the country.”

NAF loses airman in parachuting accident

Also, NAF, yesterday, disclosed that one of its airmen, Corporal Meshach Komo has died from a parachuting accident in Kaduna.

Daramola said: “NAF is sad to announce the passing of one of its airmen, Corporal Meshach Iliya Komo, who died in Kaduna on April 14, 2019, in a parachuting accident during re-currency training.

“On behalf officers, airmen and airwomen of the NAF, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, commiserates with the family of the late airman over this irreparable loss. We pray that the Almighty God grants his soul eternal rest.”

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