This Day (Lagos)

11 May 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan Orders Probe of Bama, Nasarawa Killings

Abuja — President, service chiefs in 2-hour session over security crisis

President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday ordered a probe into the recent killings of civilians and security personnel in Bama, Borno State and that of policemen in Nasarawa State. He gave the instruction after hosting an emergency meeting of the National Security Council in the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja where he received further briefings from security chiefs on the killings.

Also yesterday, the federal government officially reacted to the concerns raised by the United States Government over the killings in Baga, Borno State with a promise that any case of misconduct would be brought to justice.

The United States Government had on Thursday called for a thorough probe of the alleged mass killings of civilians and destruction of property by security forces in Baga.

Sources at yesterday's security meeting in Abuja said the President expressed deep sadness and anger over the large number of policemen killed in the Bama and the Nasarawa crisis, and ordered the security chiefs to get to the root of the killings and fish out the perpetrators of the crimes.

The security chiefs that attended yesterday's meeting included the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade; National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd); Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Alex Sabundu Badeh; Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Dele Ezeoba; Inspector Gneral of Police, Muhammad Dikko Abubakar and the Director General of the State Security Service, Mr Ita Ekpeyong.

When the security chiefs, with the exclusion of the NSA, came out of the meeting, they stood for few minutes in front of the president's office but did not utter a word to waiting journalist.

The Minister of Police Affairs later said the President who had cut short his visit to Namibia called the meeting to explore ways of curbing the preponderance of violence across some northern states of the federation.

After his departure, efforts were made to speak to the IGP, who was spotting a black arm band, obviously symbolising that he was mourning the death of his officers and men, but he was shielded by his police details into his waiting car.

Olubolade, who stated that the security challenges in the country was on the increase daily added: "it is sad that those who are protecting lives and property are becoming the targets of various insurgents and criminality be it political or otherwise.'

When asked about fears among Nigerians that the police might avenge the killings of their colleagues in Nasarawa State, the minister said: "the security agencies particularly the police will not want to go and revenge

"It is not going to help us because they are supposed to protect lives and property. Going to revenge will not douse tensions and will bring about lack of confidence in the system. So, we will strictly discourage that,"

He also dismissed reports on the position of the United States that the current insecurity could destabilize the country, while adding that he was not certain about the truism of an allegation that the police drew the first blood in the Nasarawa crisis by first killing nine of the Ombatse cultists when they went to arrest the leader of the group.

"I wouldn't know what is true about that. All I know is that the police have a duty to perform and as such, they must not fear, they must be equipped, they must be trained, they must do their job because they are under instruction. The police will not just wake up and pick their leaders if nothing had gone wrong. The populace must know that anybody can be brought in by the police for interrogation depending on the intelligence the police get and that is what happens elsewhere."

Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati in the statement which also responded to a previous one issued by the US Embassy on the security situation in the country, said a wide ranging probe had been instituted by the president into the crisis in Bama, Nasarawa and other places.

Said Abati: "The major point in response to the statement by the US Embassy is that thorough investigations are already ongoing with regard to the incidents in Baga, Bama, Nasarawa and other places.

"President Jonathan is on record as having ordered very thorough probes. He has also encouraged independent investigations by the National Human Rights Commission. In addition, he has had to cut short his trip to South Africa and cancel his planned state visit to Namibia. He is back in the country to personally oversee the situation.

"Secondly, President Jonathan has made it very clear that apart from the investigations, where there has been any case of misconduct, the persons involved will be brought to justice. There is no issue therefore as to the fact that the government will ensure accountability and the protection of the civilian population from terrorist attacks."

Abati said it was also not true that the administration was adopting a force-based approach: "The approach to the insurgency by the government is not a uni-focal approach. There are many dimensions to it. One of those dimensions is the consideration of the option of dialogue and what has become known as amnesty.

"Beyond that also, the government is working with state governments in the affected areas to ensure the security of lives and property, protection of the civilian population, human capital development and stability.

"What has been made very clear is the fact that the terrorists that we are dealing with are not just local insurgents; they also have international connections as revealed yesterday in court that they receive funding from certain elements in Algeria. The determination of this government is to reduce through human capital development initiatives, the population of persons who can be recruited for these evil purposes.

"However, we note the opinion and the concerns expressed by the United States Embassy just as we note the very encouraging and supportive comments by the UK Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon. Willia."

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