Tension is now brewing in Kafanchan, Kaduna State, following the arrest of 24 suspected Fulani herdsmen with a truckload of arms and ammunition by soldiers.
The development has led to imposition of a 24-hour curfew on Kafanchan town, the commercial hub of Jema'a local government area of the state, yesterday.
Announcing the curfew, the chairman of the council, Mr Daniel Amos, disclosed that the decision was taken by the council to restore normalcy.
Amos explained that security operatives at Kwoi in Jaba LGA intercepted 24 travellers who claimed to be hunters from Katsina en route to Keffi, Nasarawa State.
He said the suspects, upon a search, were discovered to be in possession of dane guns, machete, knives, and bows and arrows.
The council boss said the arrested suspects were brought to the military base in Kafanchan for further interrogation.
He said the development attracted youths who came out en masse and threatened to take the law into their hands.
"The situation degenerated to a level that prompted the imposition of the curfew to enable security operatives take firm control," he said.
The chairman, however, urged Kafanchan residents to remain calm and avoid all tendencies that could lead to a breach of the peace.
Meanwhile, soldiers have reportedly shot dead two young men who were among those that insisted that jungle justice be meted out to the 24 Fulani herdsmen arrested with weapons.
Mr Yashim Bonnat, 30, a youth leader in Kafanchan, said trouble started when youths surrounded the office where soldiers kept the 24 Fulani men that they had caught yesterday morning while trying to fuel their truck.
"I saw with my eyes the weapons recovered from them. They included 12 AK-47 rifles, about 13 dane guns, a bag of ammunition, all kinds of machetes, knives, and what looks like improvised explosives, among others.
"They are displaying the arms and made the men sit in front of them. No one needs to tell you that they are Fulani men.
"This made the youths here very angry. They were saying that the men were coming to attack Kafanchan and it was God that apprehended them. So they wanted the soldiers to release them to be lynched by them."
Kaduna State police command spokesman DSP Aminu Lawan said the entire incident had to do with the Nigerian Army and not the police. "It is the army that arrested the people. It is the army that is said to have shot people. They have not briefed us. I cannot speak for them," he said.
The army spokesman in Kaduna, Col. Usman Abdul, could not be reached for comment.
Yero calls for calm
Reacting to the development, Governor Ramalan Yero called on citizens resident in Kafanchan and environs to remain calm and law-abiding as government was doing all within its powers to sustain peace in the entire state.
A statement signed by the director-general, media and publicity, to the governor, Ahmed Maiyaki, called on the people to remain calm and desist from taking the law into their hands to avoid throwing the state into confusion and anarchy.
Governor Yero said security operatives have intensified surveillance across the state aimed at foiling any attempt by miscreants and criminals to attack innocent citizens in the area.
He called on all law-abiding citizens to cooperate with government and the security agencies in the ongoing push to rid the state of hoodlums and evildoers.
"This is not the time for people to obstruct the course of justice by attempting to perpetrate barbaric acts of jungle justice. Government and indeed security forces will never fold their arms and allow people take laws into their own hands.
"We want to assure the entire people of Kaduna State that in our resolve to end the spate of unwarranted attacks on innocent citizens, government will continue to work with security agencies to ensure that those behind the various killings in the state are brought to justice. This will be vigorously pursued without fear or favour," the statement said.
Sponsors Of Terrorists Groups Out To Destabilise Africa - Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in faraway Brussels, the capital of Belgium, said the sponsors of terrorists across the world should be held responsible for their actions which basically are aimed at destabilising Africa.
"The weapons of choice of these terror groups are the small arms and light weapons (SALW). Of recent, they have acquired the rapid propelled grenades and even surface-to-air missiles. Where do they get these sophisticated weapons? The total value of what these terrorists possess as individuals, in terms of what they wear, where they live, cannot buy an assault rifle," he stated.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the ongoing Fourth European Union-Africa Summit taking place in Brussels, Jonathan urged all nations across the globe to see it as a collective responsibility to identify sponsors and supporters of terror groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria as well as other groups operating in the Sahel region.
"We all have the collective responsibility to un-earth their sponsors and supporters who are determined to destabilise Africa. We should hold them responsible and accountable for their actions", the Nigerian president enjoined world leaders at the summit.
He commended the EU and other development partners for their assistance in addressing the menace of the terror groups, even as he maintained that a terror attack on one nation is an attack on everybody.
According to Jonathan, issues of peace and security called for a holistic and integrated approach, as peace and development are two sides of the same coin, adding that it was based on the importance that Nigeria attaches to the issue that he organised a summit on "Human Security, Peace and Development: An Agenda for the 21st Century" which attracted over 20 heads of state and governments and heads of international organizations.
He noted that the summit resolved that leaders must continue to strengthen existing mechanisms for national and international conflict management, and create new avenues for cooperation within and between their people and their nations.
Fish Out Kaura's Killers - Buhari
Former head of state and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) General Muhammadu Buhari yesterday led a delegation of national leaders and members of the APC on a condolence visit to the chief of Marwa, Malam Tagwai Sambo, over the attack on his domain recently.
He called on the Kaduna State government to fish out the perpetrators behind the recent attacks in Kaura local government area of Kaduna State where over 119 people were killed by yet to be identified gunmen.
According to him, it is only when the perpetrators of such dastard acts are brought to book and punished according to the law of the land that it would serve as a deterrent to others with such intention.
"If Nigerians will give their mandate to APC come 2015 general elections, it will address the prolonged insecurity that has been bedevilling the country which the government of President Good luck Jonathan has woefully failed to address," he stated. "For me, I am not a stranger in Kaura because my elder brother is a close friend of the chief of Marwa; so I feel like I am at home here."
Also In his remarks during the condolence, former Kaduna State commissioner for finance and now a chieftain of APC in Kaduna State, Alhaji Sulaiman Hunkuyi, who also unequivocally condemned the attacks, commiserated with the chief of Marwa over the incident and prayed Allah to forestall a repeat of such ugly incident.
During the condolence visit, the delegation also donated the sum of N2 million to victims of the attack. General Buhari presented it to the chief of Marwa.
Responding, Chief Sambo thanked them for the visit and described the incident as an act of God. He expressed hope that a similar incident will not occur again.
He further called on the relevant government authorities not to relent until the perpetrators of the act are brought to book.
Other members of the APC on the condolence visit include deputy national chairman Aminu Bello Masari, deputy national secretary Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Senator Sani Saleh, Kaduna North local government chairman Samaila Suleiman, and APC members at the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
Withdrawing Troops From Northeast Now Dangerous - Military
The military has warned members of the political elite who are calling for an end to the state of emergency in the north-east to join hands in the efforts being made to end the insurgency because withdrawing troops now would be dangerous.
A group of elders from the north-eastern part of the country, under the aegis of the Borno-Yobe Forum, on Monday called on the federal government not to extend the state of emergency which expires on April 19.
Reading out the forum's concerns and recommendations, a former chief of defence staff, Air Vice Marshall Al Amin Daggash (rtd), said the state of emergency had not worked as terrorist activities had not abated in any way.
The forum urged government to fulfil its constitutional responsibility of providing adequate security for the citizens, ensuring their welfare and arresting "the senseless destruction of lives and properties". It also called for the implementation of the various recommendations of the Ambassador Usman Gaji Galmatari and Taminu Turaki presidential committees on the violence in the north-east.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on May 14, 2013, declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states following worsening insecurity in the region. However, unlike what happened in the Obasanjo era, the governors were allowed to remain in office. The order was extended for another six months with effect from November 12, 2013, when Jonathan made the request to the National Assembly.
Speaking with our correspondent in Abuja on Tuesday, a retired general who said he did not want his name in print explained that if the war still rages on by April 19 and the troops were withdrawn, the insurgents would regroup and invade the three states, and stopping them would become impossible.
"Withdrawing the soldiers from the scene now would embolden the insurgents and it would be back to square one. Before the state of emergency, these terrorists had taken over most of the local government headquarters which they were using as their camps. It was the military that sent them packing. This is my fear," he said.
A top military officer said, "The All Progressives Congress (APC), which is the ruling party in the three states, had earlier on made similar call and, since they are almost at par in the National Assembly, extending the state of emergency almost looks impossible. This is what the CDS wanted us to avoid when he made that April deadline call."
A serving general said, "If the state of emergency order expires, the troops may not be totally withdrawn from the affected states but may maintain a low profile through the Joint Task Force to enforce law and order. To do otherwise is to expose the innocent people to danger because it was because the police could not handle the situation that brought us into the picture."
However, the situation may not be hopeless because this could well mean a full implementation of the "Soft Approach to Countering Insurgency", a programme designed by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) to the president.
According to a top officer in the office, "This soft approach is not the alternative to the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign as some people are thinking. They have missed it. Instead, it will complement and support the hard-core counter-insurgency operations. The soft approach creates an interface between our military and law enforcement personnel on the one hand and the civilian population on the other hand."