…as death toll rises to 30
….Buhari, Ortom, ACF shocked, N/East Elders say military at breaking point
…Gov laments ambush
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru and Joseph Erunke, Abuja, Peter Duru, Makurdi
Nigerians are angrily reacting to the jihadist attack on the convoy of Governor Babagana Umaru Zulum, which death toll rose to 30 yesterday.
Sources told AFP that fatalities from the Friday assault on the governors’ convoy in the restive Borno State had doubled as more bodies were found, which now included 12 policemen, five soldiers, four members of civilian militia and nine civilians.
The attack on the governor is coming days after Nigerian Army Colonel Dahiru Bako and several of his men were killed in insurgents’ ambush on September 20 at Sabon Gari-Wajiroko axis in Damboa Local Government Area of the state.
Yesterday, elders from the North-East restated their call on President Muhammad Buhari to immediately re-jig the security apparatus in the country and relieve Service Chiefs of their jobs.
The elders, under the aegis of Coalition for North-East Elders for Peace and Development (CNEEPD), made the call in a statement titled, ‘Military Now At Breaking Point, It’s Time For Change of Guard’, signed by the Chairman, Engr. Zana Goni and Secretary, Dr. Muhammed Misua.
They said: “We believe at this point that the military, which is at the forefront of prosecuting the war against the adversaries in the two regions of the country, has come to a breaking point.
“We are worried at the ceaseless and relentless attacks on troops and civilian population resulting in heavy casualties in the North East despite repeated assurances from the service chiefs that the region has not only been cleared of insurgents and terrorists but also made safe for those displaced from their original communities to return.
“As elders in the North-East,we are worried over the state of insecurity, which is not getting better in spite of the relentless efforts of the President to that effect.
“We had chosen to remain silence in the past even when there were compelling needs to speak out because of our conviction that the insecurity especially in the North-East would get better.
“But events in recent weeks coupled with the brutal killings of some troops including a commander have forced us to open our lips once again.
“To this end,we wish to hereby passionately appeal without bias or sentiment to President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the Service Chiefs of their positions.
“We believe strongly that it has reached a point for him to carry out the action to save the country of what has become an embarrassment to his administration.”
In its reaction, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), described the latest incident as “alarming”.
ACF’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Emmanuel Yawe, said, “We are alarmed that the deadly attacks have continued in spite of assurances we have received from the military and the Federal Government of an improved security situation.
“These attacks are affecting public confidence in the ability of the military to successfully defend Nigeria in the ongoing war against terror,” ACF said, however, calling on the military to act swiftly to restore public confidence, while insisting that the terrorists were targeting Zulum because he was raising hope in a demoralised country.
President Muhammadu Buhari also condemned the ambush, describing it as an orchestrated sabotage against long planned return of displaced persons to their local communities.
The President, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, urged the government of Borno State, working with security and intelligence agencies, to remain firm in their determination to restore normalcy to all communities liberated from Boko Haram terrorists.
Also reacting, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, yesterday, described the attack as shocking and sad.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Terver Akase, Ortom urged his Borno State counterpart not to be deterred by the incident.
Sources told AFP that the convoy transporting Zulum came under attack from insurgents near the town of Baga on the shores of Lake Chad.
“A second security source gave the same death toll of 30 from the assault and said the militants seized eight vehicles. “The terrorists made away with an armoured personnel carrier, a gun truck and six sports utility vehicles in the convoy,” the source said.
Police confirmed in a statement that the attack on the “security convoy” had killed eight policemen and three government-backed militia members. It said 13 other people had been wounded and the attack had been “successfully repelled.”
Zulum, who sources said was unhurt in the attack, had flown to the area to prepare for the return of residents displaced from Baga by the conflict. He was driving in the convoy accompanied by government officials under tight security towards Baga ahead of the arrival of the returnees.
ISWAP splintered from the main Boko Haram group in 2016 and has gone on to be the dominant insurgent force in the region.
The IS-affiliated Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group maintains most of its camps on islands in Lake Chad and the region is known as a bastion for the jihadists.
The militant group has recently intensified attacks on military and civilian targets in the region. In July, Zulum’s convoy came under gun attack from ISWAP outside Baga, forcing him to cancel his trip to the town.
The governor, while lamenting the death of eight policemen and three members of Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), yesterday, explained his mission to the area of his ambush.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Strategies, Malam Isa Gusau, the governor said he was in Baga from Thursday to Friday as part of the efforts to resettle the people back to their community after displacement by Boko Haram insurgents.
His presence is also “aimed at cutting Boko Haram’s long use of the commercial town as main transit for undertaking major fishing trade and tax administration, from which the insurgents fund their murderous activities.”