About 49 people were yesterday killed in separate attacks on villages in Borno State by gunmen believed to be Boko Haram, as the terrorist sect sustained hostilities on isolated communities, eyewitnesses and security sources said.
In the early hours of Saturday, gunmen in their large numbers attacked a quiet agrarian village, Dalwa-Masuba in Damboa local area of the state, killing 40 people, injuring several others and torching the entire community.
The gunmen had also burnt down three pickup vans carrying woods to Damboa.
A member of the security vigilante, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday on phone on condition of anonymity, said no security personnel had reached the attacked town at the time he was speaking.
"We heard about the attack from some of the villagers who fled the village, and we had to drive there on our patrol van; the entire village was set on fire, and about 40 persons were lying dead all over the place; three firewood pickups were also set ablaze," the local vigilante said.
The attack which occurred within the morning hours has not been confirmed by the police and other security operatives yet.
Dalwa-Masuba is a farming community 40km away from Damboa town and about 80km south-west of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
Another attack was reported some hours earlier along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway. Boko Haram attacked and killed nine people and escaped with a vehicle loaded with beans.
Witnesses said the incident happened about 6pm on Friday.
A lucky bus driver whose three passengers were not so lucky said he did not notice the attackers until he ran into them while operating on the highway. He managed to escape but three of his passengers died of bullet wounds fired by the attackers.
Relating his story to newsmen, the driver who was in tears said, "I failed to notice that people in the nearby village were stopping me. The attackers shot at my vehicle and killed three people. The rest of us were lucky to have escaped."
The gunmen, according to a witness, had engaged some of the soldiers in the nearby checkpost, but still managed to escape with the lorry filled with about 150 bags of beans.
If not for the arrival of the soldiers and the gunmen decided to escape with the bags of beans, many more people would have been killed.
Though police officials in the state did not respond to calls and text messages sent for confirmation of the incident, some junior policemen who were aware of the attacks confirmed the incident when they spoke with our reporter off the record.
When contacted, director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade confirmed that there was an attack along Benisheikh.
However, Olukolade could not confirm the number of those who lost their lives in the attack.
"Yes there was an attack along Damaturu road and some soldiers were wounded in the process of repealing the attack.
But Boko Haram insurgents have suffered another setback as local vigilante ambushed them and killed dozens of them in Madagali local government area of Adamawa State.
A source in Madagali said the incident took place when a suspected Boko Haram member driving in a Hilux van purchased foodstuff from a local market and was trailed to a hideout in the bush by members of the vigilante who later mobilized and launched an audacious attack on their enclave.
The source added that, before the attack, soldiers were also informed, leading to the formation of a strong alliance that faced the insurgents.
The ambush led to the killing of dozens of the insurgents while many weapons were recovered after hours of gun duel.
"After a tip-off that the insurgents set up a camp in Madagali from where they could launch attacks, we contacted the military and mobilised our vigilante to intercept them. The combined effort of soldiers and the vigilante led to the killing of 90 Boko Haram fighters," he said.
The official added that "seven soldiers including Captain Akintola and the commanding officer of 123 battalion also lost their lives in the gun battle which took place between Bita and Jaji in Madagali area just on the border with Borno State".
Hospital sources told our correspondent that corpses of the slain soldiers were deposited at the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, on Wednesday and Thursday.
However, the police PPRO in Adamawa, Usman Muhammad, said the incident did not take place in Adamawa. "Our investigation reveals that the incident did not happen in Adamawa but in Borno State. The root of the event started in Adamawa when a person suspected to be a member came to Madagali Market to purchase large stock of food," he said. "The people having marked him as a suspect began to trail his movement up to Borno State where he came from... and they launched the attack on them."
When contacted on phone, the spokesman of the 23rd Armoured Brigade, Yola, Captain Nuhu Jafar, said he was busy attending to some official duties and promised to call back, but he did not.
... Europe, Africa declare war on sect
The Paris summit for security in Nigeria put together by French president François Hollande held yesterday in France with Cameroun, Chad, Niger, Benin Republic and representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and European Union agreeing to team up with Nigeria against the Boko Haram insurgents.
While agreeing to tackle the violent group as a regional threat not only to Africa, the countries also decided to map out strategies that include instituting sanctions against Boko Haram within the framework of the United Nations. It also agreed to share information and mobilize funds in support of women and girls in marginalized and threatened communities.
President Goodluck Jonathan also used the summit to clarify why he shelved his planned visit to Chibok community in Borno State, saying it was not necessary for him to visit the place where over 200 girls were abducted from Government Secondary School since the girls were not in the school.
While noting that he had visited such sites before, President Jonathan however said the case of Chibok was different since there was nobody in the school. He added that while his service chiefs had already visited Chibok, what was incumbent was the rescue of the girls and not his visit.
Insisting that his interest was to locate and rescue the girls, Jonathan said, "These girls are not held in Chibok. Sometimes, people want the president to go to Chibok. If the president goes to Chibok today, it does not solve any problem. The problem facing the president and indeed the Nigerian government is how to get these girls from wherever they are."
The president, who noted that the allegation of misappropriation of funds by the military was being exaggerated, acknowledged that administrative lapses might have been responsible for the inadequate funding of the fight against insurgency.
He said Nigerian soldiers were being trained to develop the capacity to effectively combat terrorism, though there are still challenges because terrorism is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria.
Earlier at the summit, President Jonathan told world leaders that the Boko Haram sect had so far killed 12,000 people and 8,000 injured in Nigeria.
"This unconventional war has so far claimed over 12, 000 lives, with more than 8, 000 persons injured or maimed, not to mention the displacement of thousands of innocent Nigerians," he said.
While delivering his speech, Jonathan noted that Boko Haram, being hostile to democracy, uses every means to indoctrinate its members with an ultimate objective to destabilize the country "and take over Nigeria in order to turn it into a base of operation in West Africa and the entire continent".
"Since 2009, we have had to contend with many attacks and killings, which have now developed into a full-scale war targeting the stability and integrity of our nation. Boko Haram has launched a vicious guerrilla-style campaign against the government and the people of Nigeria. It has attacked schools, slaughtered students in their dormitories, destroyed villages, communities and government infrastructure and has wreaked havoc on the economic and social life of our people," he noted.
Jonathan declared: "At the international level, we should take concrete steps to designate the Al Qaeda in West Africa, alias Boko Haram, as a terrorist organisation on the basis of the Proscription Order that my government has already imposed on the organisation.
"We should also accelerate the implementation of other international sanctions, particularly under the auspices of the United Nations, on Boko Haram, Ansaru and their principal leaders."
Noting that Nigeria was working relentlessly to expose the sponsors of Boko Haram, the president said, "We are already making thorough intelligence efforts to identify their sponsors and their sources of funding and arms supply. I have no doubt that with the cooperation of Nigeria's neighbours, it would be possible to rein in these organisations until this scourge is ultimately eliminated and defeated. We will not succumb to terrorists and their dangerous tactics.
"Terrorists will not be allowed to define who we are or instil fear in our people and cause destruction and mayhem. The time has therefore come for all peace-loving peoples of the world to unite against this new threat to global peace and stability."
After the summit presided over by the French president, Nigeria and its neighbouring countries agreed to build analysis and response capabilities that will contribute to enhancing the security of all populations and the rule of law in the areas affected by Boko Haram's terrorist acts.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting notes that, in order to combat the insurgents' threat "which manifested itself through several murderous attacks and the abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls, Nigeria and its neighbours have decided to implement coordinated patrols with the aim of combating Boko Haram and locating the Chibok girls".
They also agreed to establish a system to pool intelligence in order to support this operation, establish mechanisms for information exchange on trafficking of weapons and bolster measures to secure weapons' stockpiles while also establishing mechanism for border surveillance.
According to the communiqué, the countries are to establish an intelligence pooling unit, create a dedicated team to identify means of implementation and draw up, during a second phase, a regional counter-terrorism strategy in the framework of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
It states: "The United States, the United Kingdom, France and the European Union will coordinate their support for this regional cooperation through technical expertise, training programmes and support for the border area management programmes.
"The participants committed to accelerating the implementation of international sanctions against Boko Haram, Ansaru and their main leaders, within the United Nations framework as a priority.
"France, US, Britain and the European Union pledged to mobilize donors in support of programmes fostering social economic development of the regions concerned with particular emphasis on gender equality and the rights of women and girls.The participants agreed that the United Kingdom would host a follow-up meeting next month at ministerial level to review progress on this action plan."
The leaders of Nigeria's neighbours - Benin, Cameroon, Niger and Chad - as well as representatives from the United States, United Kingdom and European Union attended the summit to discuss fresh strategies for dealing with the security threat posed by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in West and Central Africa.
President Jonathan arrived Elysee Palace at 11:55am local time and was received by his host, President Hollande.
They were later joined by presidents Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger Republic), Boni Yaya (Benin Republic), Paul Biya (Cameroon) and Idriss Deby Itno (Chad) as well as US under-secretary of state Wendy Sherman, British foreign affairs secretary William Hague and European Union representative Herman Van Rompuy.
The chief of defence staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, and the national security adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), were invited to the meeting about one hour after its commencement.
Hollande had on Friday discussed the issue of the rescue of the Chibok girls in a phone conversation with US president Barack Obama. The US, which says it considers the safe return of the girls as one of its priorities, already has its specialist teams and drones searching the Sambisa forest.
The US had criticized the perceived slow response of the federal government to the abduction of the schoolgirls by Boko Haram with US Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh III who testified on Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying that the Nigerian military was afraid of the insurgents.
APC govs to rebuild Chibok school
The chairman, Governors' Forum of the All Progressives Congress, Rochas Okorocha, has announced that governors of the party would rebuild the secondary school in Chibok where the girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents 36 days ago.
He stated this yesterday when the Nigerian Guild of Editors paid him a courtesy call at the Government House, Owerri.
Okorocha, while reacting to the warning of the Guild to politicians who have hijacked the situation of the girls and other security challenges in the country, said that his party would be at the forefront to condemn such a person, just as he added that all political parties should work in harmony to rescue the country from its present predicament.
"Many have attributed Nigeria's problem to hunger and other things , but Nigeria is going through trying times. APC, PDP should close ranks and see how to rescue the country," Okorocha said.
The resolve of the APC governors to rebuild the burnt school is coming on the heels of an aborted visit by President Jonathan who had already made preparations to visit the community on Friday. Even though the Presidency denied the "rumour" of the visit, the fact that the president's advance party was sighted in Maiduguri punctured holes in the denials.
Earlier in his speech , the Guild's president , Femi Adesina, said they were in the state for its second quota standing committee meeting. He cautioned politicians against playing politics with such a serious issue as security .
In particular, he warned that the insurgency in the nation is enough woe to give everybody a lot of concern, saying that " security issues should not be mixed with politics".
Adesina also praised Governor Okorocha for his laudable achievements in the state.