25 June 2014

Nigeria: Borno Govt - We Have No Facts On Abduction of Women and Children

Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima said Tuesday that he was yet to get sufficient facts on the abduction of scores of women and children alleged to have been abducted a few days ago from parts of his state.

The media was awash on Monday and yesterday with reports of the kidnapping of between 60 and 91 women and children from Kumugza village in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State as well as some villages in Askira/Uba Local Government Area, which shares a border with Chibok.

However, in a statement issued yesterday by the governor's media aide, Isa Gusau, the state government said: "Governor Kashim Shettima has read with serious concern, media reports about yet another abduction in part of Damboa local Government Area of Borno State.

"The governor has since directed the chairman of the affected local government area and other government officials from the affected areas to make very urgent but accurate enquiries from communities and report to him as soon as they can, even as security agencies take appropriate actions.

"While the governor views the reported abduction with all the seriousness it deserves, he is also worried that weighty developments such as information concerning the abduction of 60 persons requires careful enquiry in order to obtain information that is comprehensive and beyond any reasonable doubt.

"The governor is worried that only recently, leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breaders Association were reported to have refuted media reports that some 30 fulani women were kidnapped at a community in Chibok.

"The association relied on what it called comprehensive investigation that involved making enquiries from all of its members not only in the area the kidnap was said to have taken place but also in the entire Borno State.

"The governor very much appreciates the urge of the media to inform the public about happenings not only in Borno State but everywhere in the world given the fact that the public has a right to know and they ought to be informed.

"However, he feels the Nigerian is competent enough to deploy means by which comprehensive and accurate information can be gotten. The governor appreciates that both the media and government at all levels, are working in unusual ways given the nature of the unfortunate insurgency that have remained persistent in some parts of Borno State.

"He knows and understands the difficulty but at the same time, he calls for patience at all times so that collectively, the media and government can in giving out information, be sure of exactly what happened, how it happened, when and who is or are involved.

"Governor Shettima stands by those who have been affected and shares their pains and those of their families even as we await the outcome of enquiries going on, hoping the outcome will be as soon as possible, without compromising accuracy of information."

Shettima also expressed hope that the schoolgirls abducted in Chibok would, by the intervention of God, be rescued and "so will those recently affected, if ongoing enquiries confirm reports about the unfortunate incident".

The statement from Gusau was in line with the information obtained by the state government sources on Monday night that they were unaware of the abduction of scores of women and children from parts of the state.

In a text message responding to THISDAY enquiries, a Borno State Government official said: "I do not think there is any truth to the story on the abduction of the women and children. We are making enquiries from all the relevant authorities and will revert (back) to you tomorrow (yesterday) morning."

Also, security sources in the state said they were unaware of the abduction of the women and children from Damboa Local Government Area.

A security official, who spoke to THISDAY last night, said the village head of Damboa was in Maiduguri yesterday, but had not made any complaint about any abduction from his community.

"Damboa was attacked almost 10 days ago by Boko Haram which was reported in the media. We are not aware of another attack since then, not to add last week. If the abduction took place 10 days ago, then we would have known since," he said.

However, a text message forwarded to THISDAY yesterday by another source in the Borno State Government from the chairman of the council said verbatim: "... last week attack on Kumugza village which bh (Boko Haram) abducted over 74 women and killed almost 10 men, but all press are calling me but I reserved my comments to them."

FG Blamed for Failure to Rescue Girls Meanwhile, the United States has said the Nigerian government should be held responsible for the lack of progress in rescuing the 219 teenage girls who were abducted from their secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, over two months ago.

Speaking on the assistance being rendered by the US government in the search and rescue operation for the girls, Ambassador Phillip Carter of the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) confirmed that his government was only assisting the Nigerian government on the kidnapping.

Carter, who spoke yesterday at the 6th US Africa Command Academic Symposium in Accra, Ghana, said: "We were asked by the leadership of Nigeria to provide help to the Nigerian government to deal with the horrible phenomenon, Boko Haram.

"We have an inter-agency, inter-government effort with the Nigerian government run through our embassy in Abuja under our ambassador." He said AFRICOM's core engagement with Nigeria includes locating the girls and improving the Nigerian security forces' capacity to manage information.

"AFRICOM is not leading Nigerian soldiers to do anything. We are not putting any equipment on the ground. We are only to support them. That is the direction of President Obama and the request of President Jonathan," he said.

He explained some of the command's activities on the continent, stating that AFRICOM had no intensions of militarising Africa, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported.

He said AFRICOM is a geographic combatant command of the US Defence Department and is focused on military relations with African states and other regional security organisations on the continent. Also speaking during the event, the representative of the Ghanaian Minister of Defence, Mark Woyongo, bemoaned the mixed results achieved by security operatives in the sub-region.

"This year's theme which is titled Perspectives and Partners on Population-Centric Security Sector Transformation is both timely and topical because of the contemporary security challenges facing our region and Africa as a whole," he said.

California Special Forces Train Nigerian Army It also emerged yesterday that Special Forces troops from the California Army National Guard are currently in Nigeria training a newly formed infantry battalion designed specifically to counter the threat from Boko Haram.

"The Nigerian army's 143rd Infantry Battalion was formed from the ground up within the past few months," said one CNG Special Forces soldier, whose name has been withheld for security reasons.

"This is a classic Special Forces mission - training an indigenous force in a remote area in an austere environment to face a very real threat. We know that within a short time after leaving here, it's more than likely the 143rd Infantry Battalion will be in a fight."

Not only is this deployment a first-of-its-kind mission for the California Army National Guard, it is a first for the US Army.

US troops have previously trained Nigerian battalions for United Nations peacekeeping missions, but this time the Nigerian government requested full-spectrum operational training for its new 650-man battalion.

A total of 12 California Guard soldiers from two Los Alamitos-based Special Forces units - Special Operations Detachment-U.S. Northern Command and Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) - deployed for a two-month mission, the first in a three-phase plan to assist in the establishment of the 143rd.

"It is not peacekeeping," Col. John D. Ruffing, chief of US Army Africa's Security Cooperation Division, said about the 143rd's mission. "It is every bit of what we call 'decisive action,' meaning those soldiers will go in harm's way to conduct counter-insurgency operation in their country to defeat a known threat, and it's all purely funded by the Nigerians."

Among the skills being taught by the California Guard's Special Forces units are fundamentals of patrolling, small-unit tactics, movement to contact, night operations and ambush tactics.

The Nigerian soldiers will also receive instruction on human rights, basic soldiering skills, advanced infantry skills, land navigation, marksmanship and troop-leading procedures.

"We want these soldiers to be able to take the fight to the enemy in restricted terrain and really impact the threat within their borders so that they can then provide more resources to peacekeeping operations, which Nigeria has extensive experience with," the CNG's team leader said.

In addition to training the 143rd soldiers, the Special Forces troops are continuously developing Nigerian cadre as primary instructors, so they can train other Nigerian forces after the CNG troops depart. "This is a huge benefit - that we're able to (improve} the Nigerian capacity to help with training themselves," said Lt. Col. Vinnie Garbarino, US Army Africa's (USARAF) international military engagements officer.

"I think this is going to be the first of a couple of battalion training efforts that the Nigerians are going to undertake, so training their own trainers is huge because it offsets the student-to-instructor ratio. Our 12 guys don't go very far; when you add 40 Nigerian cadre members to the equation, they are doing some heavy lifting."

The information exchange, however, is not a one-way street, one California Guard soldier said.

"We're trying to help them, but also to learn from them," he said. "The US answer may not work perfectly in Africa, and maybe the Nigerian techniques wouldn't be applicable in Afghanistan or Iraq. We're sharing capabilities, and hopefully the Rangers of the 143rd Infantry Battalion will be in a position to share these skills with other units in the Nigerian army."

Maj. Liam Connor, US Army Africa's West Africa Desk officer, said the US Army worked for several months to come up with a programme of instruction that stayed within a limited budget. The training was specifically requested by Nigerian forces to take them out of a peacekeeping mission-set and counter Boko Haram, he said.

"We hope to ... instill a controlled, aggressive spirit necessary to increase their training level and capability to close with and eliminate Boko Haram," a California Guard soldier said.

"The current threats from Boko Haram warrant an increased capability that currently does not fully exist within Nigerian forces." The California Guard training mission is only one piece of a greater effort to achieve a shared vision in the region.

"We're helping Nigeria and its neighbors to develop a Boko Haram strategy," said Maj. Albert Conley III, a USARAF spokesman.

"The key is [Nigeria and its neighbors] have to create the strategy. It can't be a US-directed strategy, so we are helping them facilitate the creation of strategy, development of a strategy, and then once they do that, helping modify that strategy to make sure it's hitting the end states everyone wants."

Gunmen Kill 38 in Kaduna In another development, no fewer than 38 people have been killed in separate attacks on two villages in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

It was learnt that the attacks on the two villages - Kabamu in Karshi district and Ankpong in Nandu district - took place simultaneously at about 10 pm on Monday by Fulani herdsmen.

Several other people were said to have sustained injuries from gunshots during the attack and were rushed to the hospital.

Chairman of Sanga, Mr. Emmanuel Adamu, who confirmed the incident in a telephone interview, described it as unfortunate and condemnable. Adamu, who disclosed that 21 people were killed by the gunmen in Kabamu village while 17 others were killed at Ankpong village, added that the attackers, believed to be Fulani herdsmen, invaded the two villages for about four hours.

While condoling with the families of those that lost their loved ones, the council chairman called on the people of the area to remain calm as security measures were being taken to forestall further reoccurrence. Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero, also condemned the attack, describing it as a "provocative attempt by some unpatriotic people to cause confusion and unrest in Kaduna State".

Yero, in a statement by his Director-General, Media and Publicity, Ahmed Maiyaki, condoled with the families of victims of the attack and called on the people of the area to remain calm as security forces had already been deployed to maintain law and order.

The statement further said security agencies had been directed to commence investigation into the matter, adding that "no stone shall be left unturned in the resolve to bring perpetrators of this attack and all other criminal assault on our people in the past to justice."

However, in its reaction, the Concerned Realists of Southern Kaduna said the state government was incapable of tackling the persistent attacks on Southern Kaduna people and called for the declaration of a state of emergency in the state.

The group, in a statement signed by its convener, Dr. John Danfulani, alleged that there is a monumental failure in handling security issues in Southern Kaduna by the federal and Kaduna State governments.

"We make bold to state that the government of Kaduna State is inciting a crisis like we saw in the Chawai Chiefdom where two persons lost their lives at the weekend, following the forceful appointment of a traditional ruler in spite of the fact that there was a pending court case concerning the traditional stool," he said.

40 Boko Haram Suspects Arrested The attack in Kaduna coincided with the arrest of 40 suspected Boko Haram militants in northern Cameroun, the Voice of America (VOA) has reported. During the arrests, soldiers reportedly sealed off a market believed to be a storehouse for arms and ammunition used by Boko Haram at the country's border with Nigeria.

"A gendarme raid on the Maroua Central Market has led to the arrest of over 40 people," VOA quoted a state radio broadcaster as announcing.

"The arrests are in connection with ongoing investigations into the activities of the Boko Haram group in the far northern region of the country."

According to the officer who supervised the arrests, Colonel Nyemeck Pierre, the Camerounian government ordered the military action, as part of its fight against Boko Haram's activities in the country.

"It is the duty of the military to filter the population so that enemies do not infiltrate Cameroun," he said. "The matter is complicated because along the border, there are Nigerians and Camerounians who belong to the same families; and soldiers have to try to distinguish who is a militant."

The arrest comes 23 days after Camerounian soldiers killed at least 40 Boko Haram militants operating inside its border with Nigeria.

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