21 May 2014

Nigeria: UN Security Council Meets Over Boko Haram Today

Photo: Vanguard
Terrorism in Nigeria.

The United Nations (UN)Security Council is to meet today to decide the status of Boko Haram. Coordinator of the National Information Centre, Mike Omeri, disclosed this on Wednesday at a joint news conference with the Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Police and the Armed Forces in Abuja.

He said the council would decide whether Boko Haram should be designated as an international terror group like Al-Qaeda, adding that the 15-member council would vote on the matter. Omeri said Nigeria had begun the implementation of recommendations at the security summit on terrorism in Nigeria which ended in Paris on Monday.

He said the Federal Government viewed the twin bomb blasts in Jos, which claimed many lives on Tuesday as a heinous crime, despicable and horrifying. He disclosed that the casualty figure from the explosions had risen to 75, adding that the toll included 73 adults and two children.

He said 70 other persons sustained various degrees of injuries and appealed to Nigerians not to rush to the scene of a bomb blast whenever it occurred. Plateau State Government also confirmed that 75 people were killed in the Jos twin blasts.

According to the state government, 126 people sustained injuries and are receiving treatment in six hospitals in the state. State Commissioner of Information and Publication, Olivia Dazyem, spoke on the explosions while addressing newsmen in Jos on Wednesday night.

But emergency and health officials said the casualty figure in the bomb blasts that reduced the environs of the Jos Main Market to rubble has risen to more than 200. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had on Tuesday night said the casualty figure from the explosions stood at 118.

North Central Coordinator of the Agency, Abdusalam Abubakar, disclosed this. However, following a visit to the Plateau Specialist Hospital early on Wednesday morning, an official confirmed that 15 of the injured victims brought to the casualty unit died just before midnight on Tuesday.

A laboratory manager at the National Blood Transfusion unit of the Plateau Specialist Hospital, Demne Kut, said most of the 15 victims died during treatment due to loss of blood.

He said although there were a few people who volunteered to donate blood, the hospital needed a lot more to treat the victims.

"Yesterday (Tuesday), we had 15 persons who came and donated blood freely to the National Blood Transfusion," he said.

"We are calling for more donors," Kut added.

Also, apart from the dead already properly dressed and kept in the mortuary, wire agency correspondent reported at least 52 other corpses on the floor of the hospital mortuary, including that of a little child.

Most of the corpses seen on the floor of the mortuary were women and children, including seven pregnant women.

Also at the mortuary of the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) temporary site, which is adjacent to the blast scene, about 100 corpses were piled upon themselves and thus difficult to count.

The situation was similar at Bingham University Teaching Hospital also in Jos.

In most of the hospitals visited, officials declined comment, as they were busy attending to injured victims. However, a medical personnel at JUTH, who pleaded not to be quoted, said about 120 corpses were brought to the hospital, while injured persons were rushed to the permanent site for medication.

Meanwhile, the Jos Main Market, where the two explosions occurred in a space of 15 minutes, remained closed on Wednesday morning. Plateau Police Commissioner, Chris Olakpe, had said on Tuesday that the area would remain shut until the police concluded their investigations and the debris were cleared.

Olakpe also explained that corpses and the injured were taken to four hospitals.

These were the Plateau Specialist Hospital, Bingham Hospital, Jos, as well as the new and the old (temporary site) Jos University Teaching Hospital. Hundreds of families and friends were seen trying to locate the remains of their relatives or the injured ones in the hospitals.

Christiana Paul, a 500-Level Medical Laboratory Science student of the University of Jos, said seven of her course mates died in the blast. She said five of the corpses had been found, two at the Plateau Specialist Hospital mortuary.

"The seven of them are my course mates, we are in 500-level. They went to Terminus to shop and the bomb caught up with them. Two bodies are here at the Plateau Specialist Hospital Mortuary," the student said in tears.

Also at the Plateau Specialist Hospital, one Usman Adamu said he came to recover the body of his landlady, Amina. He said the victim was at the market to buy a dress for her brother's daughter who is about to wed.

A cleric, Godwin Ejeh, of Kingdom Dominion Chapel, Dadinkowa, said his 18-year-old daughter, Shekina Ejeh, who was sent to the market to buy groceries died in the blast. Keneng Choji, a civil servant, also said she lost her daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and a neighbour to the explosions.

She said her daughter-in-law was a fish trader at the market.

Some of the Muslims seen at the Plateau Specialist Hospital were already taking the corpses of their relatives for burial according to Islamic rites. No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, although they were believed to have been carried out by the terrorist sect, Boko Haram.

The group has killed thousands of people since its insurgency began in 2009.

Senator representing Plateau South, Victor Lar, on his part on Wednesday at Senate plenary denied reports of alleged reprisal attacks in Jos metropolis following the Tuesday's bomb blasts.

Lar, who raised a point of order to give personal explanation on the rumour that some aggrieved residents of Jos embarked on violent reprisal attacks after the bomb blasts, told the Senate that the allegation was false.

He said he got in touch with the commander of the Special Task Force (STF) in Jos about two weeks ago, who confirmed that his team had arrested three people from three different locations, who had attempted to bomb different parts of Jos metropolis.

"Yesterday (Tuesday), while we were saddled with the issue of the extension of the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, and soon after the Senate rose up having dedicated so much time, thoughts and commitment to the security concerns of the country, we were shocked with twin bomb explosions in the peaceful city of Jos.

"At about the time we rose up the bomb exploded around the area called the Abuja market opposite the former Jos University Teaching Hospital.

"We recall that the Jos model market had been bombed; so traders had no market and most of them were trading on the streets.

"This bomb exploded right in that market. At the time it did, people were shocked. Just when they recovered and went to rescue, another one went off again.

"After the twin explosions, over 45 bodies were picked from the scene; 45 were wounded and there were unspecified number of mangled human pieces and parts. We do not know how many people that will translate to.

"While this went on, the Special Task Force (STF) swung into action. When I got the news of this and I got in touch with the STF commander, he indeed confirmed that prior to this, and about two weeks to now, they had arrested three different people in three different locations, who had attempted to bomb different parts of the city of Jos.

"I am saying this, first to underscore the grim security situation we have found ourselves in, to call for alert, to call for understanding of the Senate and the security agencies to appreciate the effort of the government and people of Plateau State because as at seven o'clock in the night, the Deputy Governor and members of the Executive Council were still going round the various hospitals taking care of the wounded and paying for the bills of all those wounded and those that have found themselves victims.

"I say this to underscore the importance and to also correct the impression. This is because, before I came in here, some people called to the effect that they heard that as a result of the bomb explosions, there are reprisal attacks on people and that they were slaughtering people in Jos.

"There is no such thing. The STF has risen to the occasion and they are doing their best," Lar added.

Another report from Maiduguri on Wednesday said the Boko Haram insurgents have again attacked Alagarno village in the Damboa Local Government area of Borno State, killing 19 people and carting away large food items.

The bandits also set almost all the houses in the village ablaze.

Alagarno village is about 30 kilometres to Chibok town where about 275 female students were abducted by the insurgents, and about 117 kilometers from Maiduguri.

A local resident, Umaru Saina, who spoke with our correspondent on telephone, said a young woman in the village was missing following the latest attack, but that nobody knows whether she was taken by the insurgents.

"They destroyed everything we have and burnt down our remaining food. Most painful thing is that they did not spare children. They killed a child, they kill women, they kill men."

Neither the police nor the army has commented on the incident at press time, but military sources said security operatives have already been detailed to the area.

On terrorism generally, the Federal Government chided Governors of the 19 Northern states for not doing enough to check Boko Haram activities.

Addressing newsmen on Wednesday at the State House after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, said leaders of the states most affected by the menace ought to mobilise their people for closer grassroots security monitoring instead of grandstanding and exchanging altercation with Abuja.

According to the minister, what is required at this time is re-invigorating the social and community information/intelligence gathering, monitoring and sharing such that strange movements and activities can easily be spotted and reported to the appropriate authorities.

"The war against terror is a Nigerian war, it is our cooperation that will defeat it; it is our understanding that will isolate the evil. It is the unity of purpose in the country that will lead to victory over terrorism.

"We need greater unity to be able to break into what is going on and defeat it, and that is why the grandstanding and politicking that is associated with the fight against terror is increasing the tempo of the activities of terrorists.

"The variety of opinions among the political class feeds into the confidence of terror groups because their objective is to divide public opinion and continuously penetrate the Nigerian society and destroy it.

"So, we continue to plead that all of us in the politics of this country need to think again to understand that the challenge we face is not to the advantage of anybody; we need to understand that politics aside we need to save our country first.

"We need today the kind of work that will enable every preacher, every religious leader to speak to their followers to be able to sensitise people to give support to what is going on.

"Every state in the North needs to go back to the basics. It means that today to deal with terror, every of the 19 Northern states must reorganise their people from the smallest unit of the smallest village to hamlet, to wards, to towns, to districts.

"There must be a proper organisation of communities for proper information about movement of people and activities that could lead to destruction of lives and property.

"The Federal Government is a fire fighter, it does not own any constituency in the 19 Northern states.

"The Federal Government only sends soldiers and policemen when there is fire on the roof to put out that fire but the real ground where terrorists are operating is at the local level, at the unit level, at the state level.

"Until we have every state government determined, not rhetorically but practically, to sit back and organise their people and to take proactive measures in terms of information gathering, in terms of preparing people to be able to report, to confront, to organise themselves, we will not be able to defeat terror just because the FG has sent soldiers to a particular place. So, we need a lot of the cooperation," Maku said.

And reacting to the Jos bomb blasts, the House of Representatives urged the government of the federation in collaboration with that of Plateau State to foot the medical bills of all victims of the blasts.

While calling on NEMA to provide relief material to survivors, the House also called on all citizens in general and the security agencies in particular to be alert and alive to the responsibilities of protecting lives and properties.

The House resolution was a fallout of a motion moved under matters of urgent public importance by a member, Bitruz Kaze, who brought the issue officially to the notice of the parliament.

In addition, the House commiserated with the government and people of the state, the affected families, friends and relatives of all the victims of the heinous crime, and joined "all well-meaning and peace-loving citizens of this country in condemning in very strong terms, the despicable, callous and reprehensible act".

A minute silence in honour of the deceased victims was also observed.

Factional Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) led by Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State also condemned the bombings.

Jang, in a statement by Administrator of the Forum in Abuja, Osaro Onaiwu, described the bombings as cowardly and designed to shake the faith of citizens in a united Nigeria.

Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, similarly condemned the blasts, describing the incident as "callous and completely unacceptable".

Ekweremadu who spoke while decorating his Personal Orderly, Edward Utuh, with the rank of Inspector of Police, commended the Nigeria Police Force for promoting deserving officers, noting that prompt promotions and adequate welfare were critical in boosting the morale of the security agencies in the war against terrorism.

Former Vice President Atiku in his own reaction advocated an all-party conference aimed at forging a united approach to dealing with the spate of insecurity in the country.

Decrying the series of bomb blasts that have been taking lives endlessly, Atiku said the persistent terrorist bomb attacks in the country is the greatest enemy to the peace and unity of Nigeria.

Atiku spoke in a statement issued by his media office in Abuja on Wednesday.

According to him, the persistent terrorist violence against innocent people was embarrassing and intolerable.

He, however, advised Nigerians not to despair and succumb to terrorists' blackmail.

According to him, terrorism is an act of "deliberate provocation" intended to throw Nigerians at each other's jugular and, thereby destroying every positive gains of the country since independence and amalgamation.

Atiku advised Nigerians not to play into the terrorists' hands by allowing themselves to be provoked into fighting one another.

Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, also condemned the blasts, with a call on the Federal Government to move beyond condemnation and unmask the sponsors of such attacks.

The organisation also commiserated with all the families that have been bereaved in the latest terror attacks and prayed that God would grant them the fortitude to bear the losses.

The group also prayed that God would give "our leaders the strength and courage to do the needful to arrest this dangerous careering to the precipice".

This was contained in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja by Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin.

Human Rights Watch also on Wednesday asked the Federal Government to probe and identify the source of funding for the Boko Haram sect.

It said this will be one of the foundational steps in the move to bring the insurgent group onto its knees.

This recommendation was made on at a press conference held at the Lagos Airport Hotel.

The European Media Director of Human Rights Watch, Andrew Stroehlein, said identifying the source of funding for the group would go a long way in winning the war against the insurgent group.

United States of American Embassy in Abuja also condemned the Jos bomb blasts as well as the bombing in the Sabon-Gari neighbourhood of Kano city the previous week, saying "these vicious attacks on Nigerian civilians and the abduction last month of more than 200 girls in Chibok are unconscionable acts and starkly demonstrate the criminality of the perpetrators who continue to target defenseless civilians".

In a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, the embassy said: "We have seen reports that tensions are high in Jos, and we join the voices of those who are appealing for calm.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims."

The U.S. met last weekend in Paris with Nigerian authorities as well as other partners and allies to discuss the way forward on confronting the regional security threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and West Africa.

The search for the missing Chibok schoolgirls is ongoing.

"The Nigerians are in the lead. We're continuing to lend our unique assets and capabilities to assist in the search.

"We continue to stand with the Nigerian government and people as they grapple with violent extremism," the Embassy pledged.

Already, countries have agreed to work together to establish a regional counter-terrorism strategy, strengthen regional cooperation, including with respect to intelligence sharing and border security, and mobilise support for sanctions against Boko Haram at the United Nations (UN).

Lagos-based Senior Advcate of Nigeria (SAN), Ladi Rotimi-Williams, appealed to retired military Generals to rally together and save the nation from collapse.

He said the spate of bombings in the country has clearly shown that Nigeria is fighting a war with Boko Haram and therefore needs the experience of past Generals to prosecute the war.

Former military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhuri, who was among leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that attended the presentation of the party's flag to Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State for re-election contest in the June 21 governorship election, decried the spate of insecurity in the country with a particular reference to frequents attacks on innocent citizens by the Boko Haram group.

He condemned the Federal Government for its seeming lack of will and tacks to contain the menace.

He expressed this view at Oluyemi Kayode Stadium in Ado-Ekiti where other party leaders like Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Bisi Akande and Governors on the platform the platform of Progressive Governors' Forum also were in attendance.

"APC has competent hands to steer the ship of the nation. It is a party I believe and have conviction that can bring Nigeria out of its present situation," Buhari said.

Speaking in the same vein,Tinubu said "APC is the cure to Nigeria's headache in the areas of unemployment, killings, ineptitude and in Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi is the doctor.

"I don't have to sell Fayemi to you again because his landmark achievements in all facets has shown his values.

"I commend you for standing by our party, but this can only manifest if you refuse to sell your votes or be bought over by the PDP on the day of election," Tinubu told the crowd of party supporters.

But National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reacted swiftly to APC rally in Ekiti, accusing the opposition party of "celebrating violence, and having no respect for human lives".

Rising from its weekly NWC meeting in Abuja, National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh, bemoaned that even with the twin Jos bombings and another in Kano, APC went ahead to organise a rally in Ado-Ekiti, an action he termed inhuman.

However, when reminded that President Goodluck Jonathan was in Kano to preside over a rally 24 hours after scores of Nigerians were killed in the Yanya bombing on April 14, Metuh replied that "that was in the past".

Chesa Chesa, Celestine Okafor, Rotimi Akinwumi, Stella Omona, Joe Egbodo (Abuja), Yaqoub Popoola (Ado-Ekiti), Temidayo Akinsuyi (Lagos), Sunny Nwankwo (Maiduguri) and Onoja Audu (Jos)

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