Wole Mosadomi & Abdallah el-Kurebe

 


MINNA — Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida yesterday described as laughable, the call by Islamic sect,  Boko Haram  on President Goodluck Jonathan to resign from office as condition for peace to reign in the country.

Former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (left) and Vice President Namadi Sambo

General Babangida at an interaction with newsmen at his Hill Top mansion, Minna, Niger state as part of activities to mark his 71st birthday today also declared that he had no link with Boko Haram. He challenged Nigerians to unravel those behind the Islamic sect and its origin rather than point accusing fingers at innocent citizens.

He said that there were other sensitive issues confronting the nation which were also deadly, but were being swept under the carpet.

Babangida said: “From my own observation and reading what the media write, I want to say you have not done more studies, you have not done more investigations and researches to find out the causes of this Boko Haram and even communal clashes within the Fulanis, Gwaris and other tribes in the country. Somebody should be able to tell us; somebody should be able to do a research on these and not just conclude that I and some few others are behind the Boko Haram which is not so”.Reacting to the call by Boko Haram on President Jonathan to resign,  Babangida said: “The call for President Jonathan to resign is laughable and it needs no comments from me or any sensible and patriotic Nigerian. What the present situation in the country needs now is for all Nigerians to join hands with the president to move the country forward in all spheres of life in order to take its rightful place in the comity of nations”.

The former military president also threw his weight behind the establishment of state police, pointing out that the agitation by some Nigerians for state police was in order and needs to be considered.

IBB advocates state police, says it ‘ll work

He said: “The fear is unfounded. I have advocated it in the past and I think it can work and I will continue to advocate it. We should not allow the fear of 1950s on the establishment of state police to continue to haunt us because things have changed and will continue to change. If we got it wrong in the 50s, it does not mean we will still get it wrong now.”

On the recent challenge by elder statesman and Ijaw national Leader, Chief Edwin Clark asking him and other northern leaders to publicly condemn Boko Haram if he had no link with the sect, General Babangida said “I have been commenting on the Boko Haram issue and I have never hidden my disaffection against the sect and I will continue to dissociate myself from the sect.

“Chief Clark is my friend. I have known him for the past 35 years. There is a mutual respect between me and him and so, I wouldn’t want this issue to truncate that respect and I know he will not deny me as a friend and so, that is settled,” Gen. Babangida remarked.

Gen. Babangida who clocks 71 years today said he is thankful to God for sparing his life to see today and that he is fulfilled with his current position.

“The religious book says, in whatever position you are, you should give thanks to Allah and with the position I find myself today, I give thanks to Allah and as my birthday falls into the Ramadan period, I will remain at home with my family, pray to Allah fervently without any fanfare”, Gen. Babangida said beaming with joy.

Nigeria’s insecurity challenge will soon be a thing of the past— Sultan

Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar has reiterated that the current security challenge posed by Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past.

The Sultan who gave the assurance when he hosted members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ to a Ramadan dinner at his Palace, yesterday, said: “We have been working very hard to bring the challenge of insecurity to an end. We have met at NIREC level and other levels. We are doing it to ensure the return of normalcy. You see that there is a lot of violence all over the country, left, right and centre. We must end these”.

He said that “as leaders, we have said so much on the situation of things “but still, some people come out to postulate that Muslims are out to destabilize the country. Government understands our stand. Mr President has high respect for us. It is an issue I am passionate about. We are very honest and straightforward”.

On how to tackle the challenge by the Islamic sect, the Sultan said: “We have to know who are the political Boko Haram, we have to know who are the economic Boko Haram, but we must  work together in order to defeat the insurgents.”

The Sultan also commended the peace moves in Plateau State saying, “I am happy about the positive comments of Governor David Jang, especially his recent meeting with ethnic communities and the comments of Solomon Lar, which were aimed at bringing permanent peace there.”

He then called on Nigerians not to allow enemies of the people to scuttle the peace moves. “We give extra support to this move because we believe that we need peace in Plateau. Those trying to scuttle the moves should be condemned,” the Sultan stressed.

He called on Journalists to consider national security in their reporting. “There are other insecurity problems that are not reported by you. Kidnapping and armed robbery are some of them. You have always concentrated on Boko Haram. I urge you to avoid sensational headlines in consideration for national security and peace and sometimes, you create the monsters. Be patriotic on national security,” the Sultan advised.

 

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By Yusuf Alli, Abuja and Tony Akowe, Kaduna

 


NSA Dasuki, Boko Haram ‘begin talks’

For two would-be suicide bombers, it was a mission impossible yesterday in Kaduna.

•SCENE OF HORROR: People gather at the scene of the explosion in Kaduna...yesterday. Arrowed are the bodies and the motorcycle.

Their bombs went off, killing them instantly. A third victim, who was injured in the explosion, died later in the hospital, it was learnt.

Kaduna police spokesman Abubakar Balteh, a deputy superintendent who confirmed the explosion, said: “Two people were carrying an object suspected to be Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on a motorbike from Singer Road, about going towards Lugard Hall Roundabout. When they got close to the NNPC filling station, the device exploded, killing the two.

“There was no other casualty. We have sent foresonic experts to the area to take evidence, which we will analyse for additional information. We are on top of the situation.”

The blast sent residents of the area scampering for safety.

Eye witnesses, told The Nation that the men carrying the object, which looked like a television set, were heading towards Ungwan Seriki, but it exploded before they got to their destination, which was not immediately known. The House of Assembly is located a few metres from the scene.

A military check point and one of the biggest mosques in Kaduna are about one kilometre from the scene.

The mosque was said to be hosting the final round of the Tasfir (lecture) normally carried out during Ramadan.

The explosion occurred about 3.00pm, opposite the Ali Akilu Road branch of Sterling Bank.

Unconfirmed reports said a third person, who was driving behind the two people carrying the IED, had his stomach ripped open and later died at the 44 Army Reference Hospital.

A swam of bees invaded the area immediately after the explosion, forcing onlookers to cut leaves to ward off the bees while security operatives shot canisters of tear gas.

Many people, including journalists that went to the scene, were stung by the bees.

An eye witness,  Fatima Yakubu, said she was passing by when she heard the blast and ran there only to see the three victims lying on the ground, not far away from some motorcycles, affected by the explosion.

“I was coming from the house going to plait my hair when I heard the sound. I thought it was gunshot; then, I saw the three of them (victims) and three motorcycles. They were all lying on the ground. Two of them were dead; one of them was still moving. Then the bees spread around and started stinging people.”

Another eyewitness, Rita James, said she and her sister were indoors when they heard the sound of the explosion and ran out to see what made the sound and they saw the three victims and their motorcycles, destroyed by the explosion.

“We heard a very loud sound. We were scared and ran out to see what caused the sound only to see the three victims, two dead and one alive and three motorcycles. The police did not come on time, but they later cordoned off the road,” Rita said.

Another eyewitness, Alhaji Abubakar Jibrin, who sells cars close, the scene of the explosion said: “We were sitting here when we saw three persons on different motorcycles and suddenly we had a very loud explosion. The sound caused serious confusion and we quickly took our vehicles inside despite the thick smoke that filled the air.

“The next thing we saw were two dead bodies and the third one was crying for help. Another Okada man opted to help him, but we prevented him. When the smoke subsided, we saw only two bodies and three motorcycles. Nobody can say what happened to the third person.

“When somebody crossed from the other side to help the third person we stopped him, we told him how can you help somebody who wants to kill innocent people? So he left, but we cannot say how he left. Even the third person that was crying for help, we cannot say precisely how he disappeared.

“They were heading towards Kawo, but where precisely, we cannot say. But certainly their destination may not be far from here for it to have exploded in that manner.

“Although we suffered serious attack from bees which have been living on those poles for over ten years, the sound of the explosion scattered them and they stung us seriously while trying to take our vehicles inside for fear of another explosion. It was difficult for the soldiers and policemen who came to the scene to have access to the place because of the bees.

Another eye witness who identified himself as Ahmed Yusuf said: “We saw one of the men on Okada carrying something that looks like a television set on the carrier of the motorcycle which exploded all of a sudden.

“One of the persons on one of the motorcycles was crying for help and we wanted to help him when all of a sudden, the bees drove us back.

Benedict Obadiah said he came to the bank to withdraw money and as he was about driving out, he heard a loud sound and a thick smoke which prevented him from driving out.

The Federal Government has reopened talks with militant group Boko Haram,  the sect which is behind the state of bombings and killings in the North, it was learnt yesterday.

An earlier attempt of third party talks between the sect and the government, which was brokered by National President of the Supreme Council for Sharia’ah in Nigeria, Dr. Datti Ahmad, broke down as soon as it started.

Ahmad claims that the talks, which were meant to be secret, were exposed to the media by government officials.

President Goodluck Jonathan has consistently called on the group to give a face not to remain faceless but to come forward to put its  grievances on the table.

Yesterday, a purported spokesman for the group said it had begun talks with the government to end violence in the North.

In a statement obtained by Voice of America (VOA), Habu Mohammed, who claims to be a deputy to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, said the group decided to initiate the peace moves in response to public appeals for peace in the country. The statement, VOA said, was given to it in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

It did not provide additional details.

The Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, including church bombings and the bombing of a United Nations building and the police headquarters in Abuja. The group has also threatened media organisations.

It could not be confirmed yesterday who Mohammed is as he had neither spoken on behalf of the group nor issued a statement.

Vice-President Namadi Sambo was in Mecca to observe the lesser Hajj where the Boko Haram statement was reportedly made available to VOA.

But the statement’s at variance with the position expressed by Shekau in a You tube post last month in which he foreclosed further dialogue with the government.

Thereafter, there was the attack on a Deeper Christian Life Church in Okene in which 20 worshippers were shot dead during a Bible Study class. Boko Haram claimed responsibility for shooting.

No government official was willing to comment on the talks yesterday.

But a source said National Security Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki had opened talks with Boko Haram leaders as a way of finding solutions to the insecurity in the country.

Details are under wraps, however.

A source said the talks started a few weeks ago but nobody was ready to say where the two parties met.

The source said: “The NSA has met with Boko Haram leaders, but you cannot have the details now. These sessions were meant to appease the leaders of the sect and give insight into their grievances.

“All I can tell you is that the signs so far are positive. We are hopeful that the two parties can come to the roundtable for dialogue.”

Asked who the NSA had talks with, the source said: “I won’t mention any name but they are leaders of the sect. It is when the whole issue is finally resolved that we can tell you how the peace deal was sealed.”

 

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by Sesan Olufowobi and David Attah

 


Christians in the North have asked President Goodluck Jonathan to resign over his comment on Boko Haram.

President Goodluck Jonathan | credits:

Jonathan was quoted to have said he could not crush the Islamic sect because “they are our siblings and you cannot set the army to wipe out your family”.

In a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Sunday Oibe, the Northern Christian Association of Nigeria said the comments credited to Jonathan was an indication that the country  was in a helpless situation as the President “does not seem to understand the aim of the sect to destabilise his administration.”

According to the CAN, it is shocking   for  the President to say he will not deploy the military to deal  with terrorist who have  been killing other Nigerians and threatening the corporate existence of the country.

The body argued that it was clear that the President has been shielding the group at the expense of the lives of innocent people, urging Nigerians to have a rethink on the type of president that is governing the country at the moment.

The statement read in part, “What he is telling us now is that there is nothing he can do about it, but we know that the Federal Government has the capacity to stop the madness being unleashed on Nigerians. However, it is now obvious that the President will rather shield criminals.

“Every Nigerian can recall how former President Olusegun Obasanjo reacted when the Niger Delta militants attacked soldiers in Udi.  Even though the militants were asking for their legitimate right, Obasanjo dealt with them squarely for resorting to criminality in agitating for their right. No country in the world will allow its soldiers, trained to defend the territorial integrity of the nation to be killed by a gang of criminals and get away with it.

“Nigerians can also recall that in Zaki – Biam, Benue state, the same  Obasanjo as President sent troops to deal ruthlessly with the people there for allegedly killing soldiers.

“Now on a daily basis soldiers, police and other security personnel are being killed by Boko Haram members and the President has the effrontery to tell us that these murderers are members of the family and he cannot mobilise the army to deal with them.

“Jonathan has failed us Christians, he has failed Nigerians and he should resign because by this statement, it is very clear that he is not capable of handling the danger pose by the Boko Haram insurgency.”

Also, the Anglican Communion, Kaduna Diocese  said illiteracy, unemployment and poverty  in the North  were not responsible for various crises in the region.

In a  10-point – communiqué issued  at the end of the 1st session of the 19th Synod of the Diocese and signed by the Diocesan Bishop, Rt. Rev Josiah Idowu –Fearon, insisted that illiteracy, poverty and unemployment were never the cause of the sundry crises in the region as many were wont to believe.

 

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BY Sam Eyoboka & NDAHI MARAMA

 


MAIDUGURI—  TWENTY suspected terrorists were killed weekend in Maiduguri, Borno State during a shoot-out between them and the Joint Task Force. It was also gathered that the JTF lost a soldier while two others sustained gunshot injuries in the duel.

Soldiers on patrol

Meanwhile, the Islamic sect popularly called Boko Haram has denied the JTF claim of killing 20 of its members. According to Abul Qaqa, spokesman of the group:  “They (JTF) only succeeded in killing innocent civilians. It is not possible for 20 of our members to sit in a volatile place and hold meeting; it is not possible”. Qaqa who spoke by phone said his group will not relent in its offensive until a Sharia State is established across Nigeria.

Confirming the incident to newsmen, the Field Operations Officer of JTF in Borno State, Colonel Victor Ebhaleme said: “We got intelligence report that some suspected Boko Haram terrorists were having a  meeting at a particular location in the metropolis. As we approached the venue of their meeting the suspects opened fire on the JTF which led to the killing of 20 of them, while we lost one soldier and two others sustained injury.”According to a  military source, “the suspected terrorists were planning attack on the town”, noting that had the security operatives not moved immediately, the town would have been on fire perhaps by Sunday (yesterday).

Ebhaleme said the recent successes recorded by the JTF in its crackdown on terrorists were as a result of a change of strategy by the JTF which tends to treat the civil populace humanely.

He said the new tactics tagged “Humanitarian Line of Operation” tried to embrace the civil society.

Gunmen kill Policeman in Gombe church attack

Meanwhile one Policeman was said to have been over powered and killed by yet to be identified gunmen who attacked All Saints Catholic Church besides Kanoyel, Bogo, Gombe, Gombe State where several hundreds of faithful had gathered for the early Sunday morning worship yesterday.

Sources close to the church told our reporter last night that five  gunmen approached the church between 9.00 and 10.00 a.m. while the service was on and as they made to shoot at the worshippers, two policemen who had been detailed to protect the church intervened.

In the shoot-out that ensued, five armed men were said to have over powered the security details, gunned down one of them while the second escaped with injuries. The gunmen were said to have made away with their riffles while the injured policeman was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital.

It was not clear if the Police in Gombe had arrested any of the gunmen, who eye witnesses said, escaped after police reinforcement stormed the scene.

Reacting to the development, director of Social Communications, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu condemned the continued attack on churches and worship centres and the waste of innocent lives. He charged northern elders to speak out against the killings in parts of the North.

The Lagos Catholic Archdiocesan spokesperson expressed disgust at the silence of the elders in the North and wondered why such mindless attacks can be tolerated even during the Ramadan season.

Osu condemned the latest in the wanton acts of terrorism, saying: “I am indeed tempted to call for a state of emergency to be declared in all the states where these things have continued unabated as if human life is no longer sacred.”

Osu condemns killings, urges Northern elders to speak out

According to him, these strange happenings in the North and the silence of northern elders have increased the clamour for state police, adding “it’s a wake up call for the nation’s legislators to accede to the calls for state and community police, because these things cannot be happening with such impunity.

“Not too long ago they told the nation that arms factories were discovered in certain parts of the country. Who own those properties that are being used as arms factories? What happened to all the people they arrested thus far?”

The new National Security Adviser told the nation that he had the phone numbers of Boko Haram leaders. What has he done thus far,” he kept asking.

According to him, the nation’s Police Force and the military should not give Nigerians and the world in general, the impression that they are incapable of handling the security situation in the country. “They must fish out the perpetrators of the carnage before the nation becomes another pariah state,” he added.

 

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by David Attah, Kaduna

 


Northern youths under the aegis of the Arewa Youth Forum on Tuesday in Kaduna  asked President Goodluck Jonathan to “call to order,” his kinsmen – former Federal Commissioner for Information and Ijaw Leader, Chief Edwin Clark; and the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer  Force, Asari Dokubo – for their “unguarded utterances” which could lead to the disintegration of the country.

Edwin Clark and Asari Dokubo | credits:

National President of the AYF, Mr.  Gambo  Gujungu, in a statement, insisted that the region was not afraid of war.

He said, “People like  Clark and Asari had forgotten that the region was the mainstay of the Nigerian state before the discovery of oil.

“It is pertinent to let the war mongers know that the North is not afraid  of war. But we are advocates of peace.  We are not war mongers and will not and will never call for war within the polity of Nigeria.

“But we are bothered that Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clark and co are turning President Goodluck Jonathan into an Ijaw  leader instead of the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria that he is.”

He warned people beating the drum of war as according to him, in the past two decades, apart from Sri Lanka, nobody had won a war against another country.

Gujungu  said it was unfortunate that the likes of Asari  were blaming the North for Boko Haram as if every northerner is a member of Boko Haram. “That is not good enough,” he added.

Gujungu said in the statement, “Having taken a keen interest and appraisal of what has been happening in the Nigerian polity of recent culminating in the recent outburst and frontal attack on the North by the leader of Niger Delta People Volunteer Force, Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, we have deem it necessary to react as follows.

“Let it be known that the youths of the North under the umbrella of the AYF are peace loving people who believe in the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria and has been working and will continue to work for the peaceful co existence of the country.

“Asari should know that some of us are quite aware of the type of person he is. We know his antecedents and the type of person he is. The Volunteer Force leader is not the one to threaten any body and should not continue in the way of threat or else we will be force to expose him for who he truly is.”

 

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