The bloodbath in the north continued in the early hours of yesterday. Unknown gunmen unleashed terror in four states - Plateau, Kaduna, Yobe and Katsina -- and killed 71 people.
Thirty people were killed in Plateau, 22 in Kaduna, 18 in Yobe and one pastor in Katsina.
This is just as the chief of defence staff (CDS), Air Marshal Alex Badeh, yesterday made a U-turn on his declaration that Boko Haram would be wiped out before April this year.
In 2 Plateau villages
Thirty people were killed and over 50 houses burnt down in two separate attacks by gunmen suspected to be Fulani militia in the early hours of yesterday in Dajak and Atakar villages of Riyom local government Area of Plateau State.
The fresh attack is coming barely 24 hours after a security stakeholders meeting called by the commissioner of police in Plateau State, Mr Chris Olakpe, on Monday.
A source who did not want his name in print told LEADERSHIP on phone yesterday that two STF staff, a mobile police and a navy man, were also killed by the rampaging gunmen in the area. Scores received various degrees of injuries and were said to be receiving treatment at Vom Christian Hospital.
Our correspondent gathered that most of those killed were women, children and aged people in the area.
Confirming the development to one of our correspondents on phone, a member representing Riyom State Constituency, Hon. Daniel Dem, who is also the majority leader of the Plateau State House of Assembly, said 19 people were killed in Dajak village while 11 others were killed in Atakar village of Ganawuri District of Riyom LGC.
According to the lawmaker, the attack took place between 3 and 4am yesterday as the gunmen surrounded the two villages simultaneously with sophisticated weapons, burning down many houses in the process.
Dem added that more than 50 houses were razed to the ground by the suspected Fulani militiamen. He also condemned the incident, saying that it is sad that his people have suffered several attacks without security operatives making any effort to curtail the situation. He lamented that after all the attacks no person has been arrested.
Dem, however, called on the federal government to send military helicopters to patrol the villages because most of the areas are rocky locations, especially the Ataka village.
He said, "The attackers would come and stay in the rocky area and hide in the cave, cook their food and eat before carrying out attacks on innocent villagers and, as soon as they are done, they would go back to hide again."
Last month over 40 people were also killed in Shonong village of the Riyom LGC by suspected Fulani ethnic militias in the area.
The spokesman of the special task force on Jos crisis, Captain Salisu Mustaher, could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone was switched off.
In Kaduna villages
Another night raid by unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani militiamen in two villages of Kaura local government area in Kaduna State left over 22 people, including a soldier and a mobile policeman, dead.
Our correspondent gathered that the attacks, which took place in both villages of Zangang and Mayit simultaneously, also left scores of villagers injured and many people homeless as their homes were completely razed down by the gunmen.
A resident who narrowly escape death in the hands of the Fulani militia, Mr Timothy Kambai, told LEADERSHIP that the assailants launched the attack on the two villages about 5:30pm Tuesday evening.
He said the attacks lasted almost six hours before the situation was brought down following the reinforcement of the military.
He further told our correspondent that "the Fulani gunmen over-powered us and because they surrounded the two villages at once. We have discovered about 22 dead bodies already and many of our homes have been burnt down".
Bulus Gwaza, a resident of Zangang, said that the gunmen numbered over a hundred and started shooting indiscriminately last Thursday night.
"Right now, we have discovered about 20 dead bodies and we are still looking for more in the three villages. Not a single house is standing now as I am speaking to you. They killed one policeman and one soldier. In fact the soldiers had to run because of the guns that they had and their numbers. No one is in these villages, except some of us looking for bodies to bury. Please tell government to come to our help", he said.
When contacted, commissioner of police, Kaduna State command, Adenaike Olufemi, said, "Yes, such an attack took place. But I cannot give you details now, because they are coming in bits. By tomorrow I will give you the details in a press conference."
Meanwhile, the Centre for Development and Rights Advocacy (CEDRA) has asked the federal government to declare a state of emergency in Kaduna State as the only means of securing Southern Kaduna from such attacks.
In a statement signed by Dr John Danfulani, director of CEDRA, sent to newsmen in Kaduna, the group said: " It is clear that Governor Yero of Kaduna State and his security team are deficit of the knowledge of effective administration and physical security management. This has denied him/them the capacity to carry out the number-one duty of the state i.e protection of lives and property of citizens under their control. It is a global norm that any government that is incapable of performing that crucial role is not worth staying in power for a single second.
"Therefore, we call on Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero and his inept team to throw in the towel immediately to save the people of Southern Kaduna from extinction by 'unknown known' local terrorists in tandem with their failure. Any delay or refusal shall leave us with no option than to believe that he is barren of any scintilla of humanity and respect for lives of our people.
"We are by this reinforcing our 2013 position that Mr President should declare a state of emergency in Kaduna State."
Bandits kill 18 traders in Yobe
Also, the Yobe State police command yesterday confirmed the killing of 18 traders by bandits in Bara village.
Alhaji Sanusi Rufai, the commissioner of police in the state, told newsmen that the traders were ambushed by the bandits while travelling back from Ngalda market.
"The bandits attacked and killed 18 traders; 10 from Kukuwa and eight from Dokshi villages and took away their money. The bandits were masked and wearing army uniform," he said.
Sanusi said that a policeman attached to a quarry in Bara village was also shot dead by the fleeing bandits.
"The Joint Task Force (JTF) and police are now combing the bush and security agents across the state are on red alert,', he said.
He stressed that the police were rebuilding confidence among the communities to volunteer information to security operatives.
The commissioner said that "bandits now parade themselves as Boko Haram to induce fear in people."
Youths kill pastor, burn church over alleged ritual murder
Irate youths in Kankia town, the headquarters of Kankia local government area of Katsina State, yesterday, killed a pastor of an ECWA church, Pastor Dike Ocha, aged 50, over the alleged murder of a six-year-old Fatima Yusuf.
The youths also set both the church and the pastor's house ablaze.
It was gathered that Fatima had been declared missing for four days but her body was found mutilated and the private parts removed at an area close to the residence of the pastor.
The youths were said to have concluded that the body was dumped by the pastor and hence attacked him. He was reportedly rescued and rushed to the hospital but his attackers followed him to the hospital where they killed him and set his corpse ablaze.
Confirming the incident to newsmen, the Katsina State commissioner of police, Muhammad Hurdi, said the attackers presumed the pastor to be the killer of the girl and so took the law into their hands by setting him ablaze.
Hurdi said the Eze Igbo of Kankia who was at the residence of the pastor at the time of the attack escaped narrowly as he was also attacked by the rampaging youths. The Eze's properties were set ablaze by the youths, he added.
"It is unthinkable to assume that the pastor having killed the girl for whatever purpose would go ahead to dump her body near his house. Somebody who did that would not be stupid to bring the corpse near his house.
"This is the work of some mischief makers who want to ascribe some notion that the action was done by the pastor and we will investigate the matter to bring the perpetrators to book," Hurdi said.
He said it could be the work of some mischievous characters that committed the act and tried to frame the pastor for an offence he never committed or "it could be the work of some rapists who probably raped the girl".
The police boss, however, noted that the whole incident has no religious or ethnic undertone, even as he urged residents of the area to go on with their normal business, assuring that the police would get to the root of the matter.
Our correspondent reports that normalcy has returned to the area.
CDS recants, says April deadline not certain
Meanwhile, the remarks made by CDS Badeh during the handing- and taking-over ceremony between him and the immediate past CDS on the need to end terrorism by April this year, has been clarified yesterday by the Defence Headquarters.
Since the speech was made, it has generated a lot of comments, interpretation and reaction especially from security watchers who wanted to know the magic wands that would end the menace by April.
Speaking through its director of information, Major General Chris Olukolade, the Defence Headquarters said the statement was a direct challenge to the military commanders by the CDS with a view to making them rise up to the challenge of the insurgents.
The CDS had discussed the menace of insurgency/terrorism in parts of the country and the state of emergency. He also implored the service chiefs to take every necessary step towards bringing the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents in the north-east to an end. Accordingly, he declared that April is very crucial in this task, to avoid possible constitutional stalemate.
He said: "For the avoidance of doubt, the declaration was more of a charge to the new service chiefs to brace up to the expediency of sufficiently defeating terrorism and restoring normalcy in all parts of the country to avert extension after April. The CDS' statement should not be mistaken for a false sense of hope or mere grandstanding as have been imputed by some individuals. Ending terrorism anywhere has never been and cannot be precisely determined by a directive.
"The remarks by the CDS was meant to motivate commanders and troops to work harder towards restoration of normalcy as envisaged in the states under emergency rule. Unfortunately, the charge has been taken too literally to mean definite promise to end terrorism by April."
He continued: "Much as the security agencies are working hard to ensure the safety of citizens, the nature of terrorism in Nigeria, especially the trans-border dimension, makes it difficult to make definite commitment or promise. Efforts are however being made to secure better cooperation from neighbouring countries serving as safe havens for terrorists from where they unleash mayhem in Nigerian communities. However, there is still need for communities to deploy capacity to clean up their territories of terrorists and appropriate actions have started in this direction.
"The CDS was not unmindful of the hydra-headed nature of the situation when he made those comments. He was simply being optimistic that, given the vigour, zeal and combat-readiness of the new service chiefs, the Nigerian military must work hard to bring the situation in the north-east to an end or sufficiently under control to pave way for normal socio-economic activities in these parts of the country.
"The Defence Headquarters is concerned about the implications of the varying interpretations and insinuations given to the remarks of the CDS which was essentially directed to the new service chiefs."
Olukolade, however, stated that a lot of human and material resources are being released to the north-east with a view to ending the war as soon as practicable.
"Meanwhile more resources and troops are being deployed to beef up the operations. It is however usual and indeed not out of place to point out that as it is often the case in other climes individuals and corporate bodies go all out to demonstrate support for the country's effort at containing threats to national security or war by even going to the extent of channelling materials and moral resources towards assisting the military to combat the sources of threat. Accordingly, in times like this, every citizen, individual or corporate organisation including the media and the general public, are expected to join hands in ensuring that sustainable peace and security is achieved for the good of all in record time. We do not expect less from Nigerians.
"Security challenges call for unity of purpose and not buck-passing. Indeed, no material or moral support to the efforts of the security forces is too much in demonstrating a collective resolve to end the menace of terrorism in Nigeria.
"All things being equal, it is envisaged that normalcy would have been restored substantially enough to guarantee restoration of normal socio-economic and political activities in these states in no distant future.
"The DHQ wishes to assure Nigerians and indeed the international community that the Nigerian Armed Forces is committed to restoring normalcy in all parts of the federation."