Security agents yesterday recorded a breakthrough in their fight against terrorism with the arrest of Habeeb Bama, one of the alleged masterminds of the Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State last year. Bama was apprehended in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital.
His arrest occurred just as residents of Damaturu got some respite yesterday as the state Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Gaidam, relaxed the lockdown on the state following the terrorist attacks by Boko Haram that had kept residents indoors since Monday.
Gaidam, after the two-day imposition of a 24-hour curfew on the state capital, eased restriction on movements by relaxing the curfew from 10 am to 4 pm.
However, in Kaduna State, which was equally under a 24-hour curfew following the triple church bombings last Sunday and the attendant reprisals, the government reviewed the restriction on movement to enable Muslims to observe their prayers today and for Christians to attend church services on Sunday for a few hours.
The state Governor, Patrick Yakowa, who announced in a broadcast on radio and television said the curfew would be relaxed from noon to 4pm Friday to enable Muslims to go for their Friday prayers while on Sunday, the curfew would be relaxed from 9am to 1 pm so that Christians could attend their Sunday service.
However, the 24-hour curfew will remain in force on Saturday.
On January 14, security agents had arrested another suspected mastermind of the Madalla bombing, Kabiru Sokoto, at the Borno State Government Lodge, Abuja. He, however, escaped from custody a few days later and was re-arrested in February in Taraba State.
The JTF Commander, Col. Dahiru Abdullsalam, said Bama was arrested yesterday following a tip-off from some residents in Damaturu and Potiskum. He said Bama was arrested at an undisclosed location in Damaturu, before his attempt to escape.
Abdullsalam declined to give further details on how the suspect was apprehended.
Reviewing the security situation in Damaturu where over 40 people were killed in the clash between troops and Boko Haram adherents, Governor Gaidam's media aide, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego, in a statement said since the tension in the town was easing, the people could go about their business for six hours daily to attend to urgent needs.
Before the lockdown, Damaturu had been under a dawn-to-dusk curfew since December 31, 2011 when President Goodluck Jonathan declared emergency rule in 15 local government areas covering Borno, Yobe, Plateau and Niger States.
The statement said the decision to ease the curfew was taken after a meeting between the government and heads of security agencies during which they reviewed the security situation and mapped out plans to quickly restore normalcy in the beleaguered state.
The government said the restriction on movement would be reviewed periodically as the security situation in Damaturu and other areas in the state improves.
The government expressed gratitude to residents for their forbearance and understanding over the last few days and urged them to continue to cooperate with security agents to ensure peace and security in the state.
In Kaduna, however, residents were beginning to show signs of restlessness, with several of them crying out to the state government to review the 24-hour curfew in the state to ease their suffering.
This compelled Yakowa to review the 24-hour curfew only on Friday and Sunday to enable Muslims and Christians to attend mosque and church services on the respective days.
He said he wanted Muslim and Christian adherents to use both days to fast and pray for the peace of the state.
He also thanked the security agencies, traditional and religious leaders for their efforts at cooling down tempers and stemming the tide of violence so that peace could reign in the state.
"We have been having close consultations with the security agencies, traditional and religious leaders on the way forward. We also recognise the passion of our citizens for honouring and observing the tenets of their respective religions.
"We want the adherents of the two main religions in the state to use the two days to fast and pray for the peace of the state.
"The windows that have been created are specifically to allow our citizens to go to their places of worship and pray for the peace of our land," the statement said.