April 13, 2022

Boko Haram/bandits cells: Kaduna govt, DSS tango over intelligence report


•Intelligence are being provided to bandits/terrorists by some retired/serving military personnel, says ex-DSS Director

By Kingsley Omonobi

Abuja—Claims by the Department of State Services, DSS, that Kaduna State government failed to act on intelligence that Boko Haram and bandits were working in collaboration to set up cells in the state has pit the agency with the state government.

Although the DSS said this has resulted in the frequent bandits attacks in Kaduna State, especially considering the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train which claimed eight passengers, injured 41 and kidnapped scores of others, as well as the attack on military base in which 17 soldiers were killed, the state government said it was not its responsibility to act on intelligence it generated.

The DSS in a 2020 memo said it alerted Kaduna State government of plans by Boko Haram/bandits to set up cells in the state.

But the state government in a 2021 security report, said it had on several occasions sent intelligence reports to both the military and the Nigerian Railway Corporation, alerting them to stop trains from operating at night on the Abuja-Kaduna route.

A source close to the government said talks of not acting on intelligence that bandits/Boko haram were out to set up camps in Rigasa and Birnin-Gwari, where the bandits are very active now, were false.

”It is absolutely false. If you read the security report of 2021, you will see that this is false. Kaduna State is the first sub-national entity in the country to issue intelligence reports. We alerted the military and other security agents of the intelligence that Boko haram and bandits are trying to set up cells in Kaduna.

Kaduna State and powers over security matters

”Kaduna does not have the powers over security matters, it is the military. We don’t have our own military and all we can do is pass on intelligence to them, which we often do. Note that Boko Haram is not at Rogasa in Kaduna State but on the boundary with Niger State, from where they strike at targets in Kaduna.

”What the DSS has caused with its allegation is confusion which will further aggravate the security situation in the country. Kaduna State should be commended because only the state issues security reports regularly.

”It is the duty of the DSS to generate actionable intelligence which should be sent to the military for action and not the duty of the state government,” said the source.

For instance, the state government said it alerted both the military and the Nigerian railway Corporation, NRC, that bandits were plotting to attack train service on the Kaduna-Abuja route, and advised that night operations be stopped.

It said the intelligence was given in the aftermath of the near fatal attack on a train on the route on October 20, 2021, which led to derailing of the train.

A source said the intelligence contained in a letter dated November 2, 2022 and addressed to the Rigasa Station drew attention to a thorough review of train operations on the route.

”Following this review and an assessment of the general security situation, Kaduna State government hereby advises that trains operate during the day time. All arrivals after dark, to Kaduna should be avoided completely,” the letter read.

Acknowledging the letter, NRC Chief Executive Officer, Fidet Okhiria, said: ”They wrote to us that they suspected that they (bandits) wanted to attack the train but that was in December/January. But we looked at it and said if there is something like that, they (government) should find a solution to it and stopping the train is not the solution.”

Page 40 of the security report of the state, cited by Vanguard yesterday, read: ”Kaduna State government strategies to address the security challenges affecting the state have been sustained throughout 2021.

”These are: Strengthening the human intelligence gathering networks in critical areas; providing material and logistic support to federal security agencies; empowering Kaduna State Peace Commission to engage communities and incline them towards peaceful resolution of differences; and supporting strong responses to areas considered main flash points in the state.

”Critical security assessments have revealed the following consistent features of the security situation last year: Ethnic and religious narratives continuously built around banditry, with widespread politicisation of the insecurity in the state to actualise certain agendas or gain cheap popularity.

”Persistent selective condemnation of attacks by certain individuals and political actors which appears to be a deliberate attempt to ignore the suffering of some groups while highlighting that of others. This has proven to be a serious drawback to effective conflict resolution.

”Usurpation of the mandates of elected representatives and traditional institutions by non-state actors to achieve vested interests.

”Recruitment of criminal mercenaries by aggrieved groups to carry our revenge attacks against those they believe have attacked them. There are also alliances between some communities to execute attacks on others.’

”A growing interaction between bandits and mainstream terrorists groups, such as Boko Haram, ISWAP and Ansaru.

”Informants supplying tip-offs to bandits on potential targets and on movement of security agencies, while other collaborators served logistic suppliers, couriers of arms and ammunition and transporters of rustled animals.”

However, Kaduna State has been in the news over the last two weeks because of the worsening security situation, which culminated in the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train by bandits.

Page 43 of the report read: ”Kaduna State government has depoyed institutional and collaborative measures to address security challenges in the state. It established a mandate ministry to coordinate and support federal security agencies in their security operations.

”These efforts are reinforced by the soft initiatives under the aegis of Kaduna State Peace Commission and were sustained through 2021.

”As the data presented shows, the victims of criminal actions in the state still cut across all ethnic and religious groups. Contrary to narratives which ignore the commomnality of the pain and misery among residents of the state, no part of the state has been insulated from the security challenges.

”Victims of criminal acts like banditry and kidnapping are to be found across ethnic, religious or political leanings and persuasions. In the areas that suffered communal violence in the period under review, peace processes are also underway, based on the acknowledgement of the involvement of all sides in the violent conflict and a collective desire to adopt peaceful avenues for resolving differences.

”These processes are community-led but actively supported by Kaduna State Peace Commission, the Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs and security agencies deployed in the areas concerned.

”Criminals cannot be accorded refuge and comfort in their religious or ethnic identities. They must be exposed and described as outlaws. The interest of our communities, and their right to peace and security must remain paramount.

”The position of Kaduna State government remains the same: recourse to the law remains vital in tackling inter-communal violence.”

In the 2020 memo to Kaduna State government, the Department of State Services, DSS, had warned that Boko Haram was seriously considering making Kaduna State an operational base in the North West and advised the state to consider the threat as ‘top priority’.

It also reportedly advised the government to collaborate with the federal government to bring about a ‘holistic solution to disrupt the menace before it becomes fully rooted’.

According to sources at the security council meeting which was said to have been presided over by the Deputy governor, Dr Hadiza Balarabe, in the absence of the governor, many members of the council were said to have offhandedly dismissed the report, saying such cooperation was ‘far-fetched’ as the motivations of the two groups for their criminal activities were not the same.

According to one security chief who was in attendance at the meeting but has now retired from service, the ‘manner of presentation of the security briefing contributed to the skepticism that greeted it.

The source said: ”I remember the security meeting was called at the height of the COVID-19 and it was to proffer solution to the escape of patients from quarantine centre. So when the matter of cooperation between Boko Haram and bandits was brought, many people felt that it was a distraction. It was an error on the part of the council.”

In the two and half page report sighted by Vanguard, the intelligence detailed the areas of the state where it said Boko Haram had established cells and was actively recruiting members mainly bandits of Fulani extraction who swore allegiance to Boko Haram.

The report gave the areas where the Boko Haram had established cells as Doka/Rijana, kuduru, kubau and Gagafada forests, spanning five local governments of Chikun, Igabi, Giwa, Birnin Gwari and Kubau.

Rijana and Birnin Gwari are now notorious for the activities of kidnappers and bandits. The recent attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train was carried out around the Rijana axis of the state, while the attack on a military base was in Birnin Gwari.

The briefing to the security council meeting which was held on September 1, 2020, detailed how one Umar who had headed the Boko Haram Camp in Oyu, Nasarawa, before relocating to Kaduna State, informed another top Boko Haram commander based in Oguma, Kogi State, to train the new converts on weapons handling for the task of kidnapping for ransom.

On the reaction of the security council to the security briefing, an official of the Kaduna State government who was in attendance, told Vanguard that ‘the prevailing mood then was that the intelligence was unnecessarily alarmist.

”Both the police and the army almost dismissed it with a wave of the hand and the deputy governor who presided over the meeting appeared confused too, especially when the commissioner of health on whose instance the meeting was convened was not happy that the security report was capable of whittling down the seriousness of her memo on the escape of COVID -19 patients from quarantine camps.

” I don’t know what happened after the meeting but that was the mood at the meeting then,” the official said.

Vanguard further gathered that because of the large converts at the Boko Haram camp in Rijana, a sub-commander in the camp “requested for some members to be sent to Oguma camp in Kogi State, pending the establishment of more camps in Kaduna State.”

This, according to a source, is already taking place, based on the debriefing of a kidnap victim who was kept at Damari village in Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area by his kidnappers who overhead their conversations.