As insecurity worsens across the country, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, traditional leaders and elder statesmen are set to hold a stormy session over the dire security situation and festering secessionist agitations in the country.
The meeting was billed to hold on Thursday, May 27. No reason was given for its postponement.
However, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the meeting is now expected to hold on June 10, 2021, at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
Nevertheless, the Presidency had reacted angrily when it heard that a legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), announced a plan to hold a conference on security and other issues in the country.
Recall that the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, issued a statement on May 4 accusing those behind the conference of planning to pass a vote of no confidence in the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Adesina’s statement read in part, “Championed by some disgruntled religious and past political leaders, the intention is to eventually throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel a forceful and undemocratic change of leadership.
“Further unimpeachable evidence shows that these disruptive elements are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians round the country, with the intention of convening some sort of conference, where a vote of no confidence would be passed in the President, thus throwing the land into further turmoil.”
Those expected to attend the Obasanjo meeting include the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; a former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar; and a former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, John Cardinal Onaiyekan.
A letter signed by Obasanjo obtained by one of our correspondents read in part, “I am pleased to invite you on behalf of the Interfaith Initiatives for Peace jointly led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar; John Cardinal Onaiyekan, National Peace Committee chaired by General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Socio-Cultural Consultative Committee for Goodness of Nigeria to an exploratory meeting on pressing issues of national unity, security, peace, integration, economic revitalisation and development, women and youth, welfare and general progress.”
In the invitation letter dated May 6, 2021, the former President asked participants to contact Ambassador Ahmed Magaji on transportation.
However, when one of our correspondents spoke with the former diplomat on Friday night, he said he was not competent to speak on the proposed meeting, adding that only Obasanjo, who signed the letter, was capable of speaking on it.
He said the retired general was at liberty to call a meeting and put his (Magaji) name on the list.
“My suggestion is that you should contact the former President since he was the one that signed the letter. Normally, he can call a meeting and put my name. I am at his beck and call,” Magaji said.
Other groups expected to attend include the Yoruba sociocultural group, Afenifere; Igbo group, Ohanaeze; Pan Niger Delta Forum; and the Middle Belt Forum.
A top source told one of our correspondents that it was unfortunate that the Buhari Presidency had become so paranoid as to suspect that a coup was being plotted.
“We actually informed Buhari last year about the consultations that we would be doing. We were, therefore, surprised to see Femi Adesina’s statement. This is the height of paranoia,” the source said.
No part of Nigeria safe, says Amnesty International
Meanwhile, a global rights group, Amnesty International, says the security situation in Nigeria has worsened to the extent that no part of the country is safe.
Amnesty said this in a statement on Friday titled, ‘Authorities not doing enough to protect lives,’ in commemoration of its 60th anniversary.
“Alarming escalation of attacks, abduction for ransom and frequent killings across Nigeria have left people feeling more unsafe, showing utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to protect lives and properties,” the statement read in part.
The group said incessant killings and the stunning failure of the authorities to end them and bring suspected perpetrators to justice had continued to be a threat to the right to life in Nigeria.
69 killed in Delta, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna herdsmen attacks, others
In a related manner, at least 69 persons have been reportedly killed during the week in separate attacks in Delta, Benue, Taraba and Kaduna states.
On Friday, in Umutu community, Delta State, gunmen killed three policemen in an attempt to burn down the Umutu Police Division in the community around 2 am.
Although the police station was not burnt down, the gunmen killed two police constables and one Assistant Superintendent of Police who were on duty.
“It was not clear if the gunmen carted away arms and ammunition from the police station. But officers were killed,” a source told Saturday PUNCH.
The acting Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bright Edafe, confirmed the attack.
He said, “Due to proactive measures already put in place by the Delta State Commissioner of Police, they were faced with stiff resistance by the policemen on duty who gave them a tough fight.
“But the armed men had to retreat when they saw that the policemen on duty were not relenting. Two of the armed bandits were gunned down while others were injured.
“They quickly carried their dead bodies and ran away, but the command lost two policemen, while one ASP died of high blood pressure in the hospital.”
Also, in Benue, 42 people were reportedly killed in attacks on Katsina-Ala and Gwer West local government areas of the state on Thursday and Friday.
In Katsina-Ala, Saturday PUNCH learnt that suspected Fulani herdsmen killed 36 persons.
A source claimed that the 36 people were murdered in the early hours of Thursday in Shikaan, Mbagena and Kpav, all in Katsina-Ala.
But a military source said 19 people were killed in the local government by bandits.
“It is true that 19 people were killed in some villages in Katsina-Ala yesterday (Thursday) but the killing was carried out by the bandits in the area,” he said.
Also, in Gwer West Local Government Area, six people were reportedly killed while some people were kidnapped along the Naka/Makurdi road.
The council chairperson, Mrs Grace Igbabon, who confirmed the attacks, alleged that suspected Fulani herdsmen were behind the attacks.
She said, “Some suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded Tinader on the way to Makurdi and attacked villagers and travellers. We were holding a stakeholders’ meeting on Thursday between 4 pm and 5 pm when people from Tinader village called me that there was an attack on their village. They said five people were killed.
“Even this morning (Friday) at Mbakpa village, there was an exchange of fire between the Fulani and the villagers. One person was reportedly killed.”
Igbabon said she had reported the incident to security operatives in the state.
The police spokesperson in the state, Catherine Anene, confirmed five deaths in the attack on Gwer West but said she had yet to get any report on the Katsina-Ala attacks.
Likewise, in Taraba State, 14 people were reportedly killed in Gassol and Bali local government areas following attacks by suspected Fulani militiamen.
It was gathered that three persons who sustained injuries in the attack on Gassol were taken to a private hospital in Sabon-Gida, while 11 others injured in the attack in Pangari were rushed to the General Hospital in Bali.
The Chairman of Tiv Cultural and Social Association, Bali Local Government Area chapter, Mr Matthew Baki, said two people were killed on Thursday night.
“The suspected Fulani militia attacked Pangari at about 2 am and killed two people while 11 others were wounded. The police in Bali came and evacuated the corpses. Many people are fleeing the area now,” he said.
Also, in Mutum Biyu, headquarters of Gassol Local Government Area, a Catholic priest, Rev Fr George Dogo, said his church was full of people fleeing attacks from some communities.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Taraba State, David Misal, in a text message to one of our correspondents said, “The report I received from Gassol indicated some huts were set ablaze, but there was no report of loss of life except the one of yesterday (Thursday).”
Meanwhile, some bandits reportedly invaded communities in three local government areas of Giwa, Igabi and Chikun in Kaduna State, killing 10 people, including a community leader and injuring four persons in the attacks.
Confirming the attacks, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, said, “The community volunteers engaged the bandits and in the ensuing gun duel, three residents were killed.”
He added that in a reprisal, youths of Na’ikko village attacked a nearby Fulani settlement, Rugan Abdulmuminu, and killed two persons whom they alleged to be involved in the earlier attack.
Similarly, the commissioner said some bandits also invaded Dakyauro village, Sabon Birni, Igabi Local Government Area and killed four persons after rustling about 25 cows.
Aruwan also said bandits killed a community leader, Dauda Adamu, at Ungwan Ayaba in Chikun Local Government Area of the state.
Police probe alleged killings, human parts sales in Rivers forest
The Rivers State Police Command has said it is investigating a viral video where a middle-aged woman claimed to have been kidnapped and taken to a forest in Etche Local Government Area of the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Eboka Friday, disclosed this in a statement on Friday by the command’s spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni.
In the video, the woman narrated how her kidnappers harassed and tortured her in a forest, adding that the hoodlums sexually assaulted her.
She also alleged that her abductors spared her life because, according to them, they were looking for young unmarried women.
She said a woman, who claimed to have travelled to the state to look for someone, was killed.
The woman recounted, “They fondled my breasts and pushed me to one side. They said I had given birth but they were looking for people who hadn’t given birth. They killed about seven people in my presence.
“My people didn’t even know where I was. They sent my naked picture to my people for them to pay a ransom. There was a lady suffering from asthma; she died on my legs and they threw her inside a pit.
“I saw somebody who said she came to look for someone. They killed the lady. They slaughtered her and sold her parts. She had not given birth before.”
The police said they had commenced an investigation into the video and urged the narrator to report the incident at a nearby police station.
The statement read, “The command has carefully studied the video and has found it expedient to react as follows: that the issues raised in the viral video are hereby being investigated to ascertain their veracity; that the command wishes to appeal to the general public and indeed the young lady to access the nearest police station and lodge her complaint for necessary action.
“That the Commissioner of Police, CP Eboka Friday, wishes to reassure the public that there is no cause for alarm as undercover operatives have been deployed for that purpose.”
Bandits abduct scores along Kaduna-Abuja highway
Several people were said to have been kidnapped by bandits along the Jere and Katari areas of Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State on Friday.
It was learnt that several motorists who unknowingly ran into the hoodlums were abducted and taken into the forest.
It was also gathered that motorists coming and going to Abuja from Kaduna made a return to the direction they were coming from because of the incident which occurred in the afternoon.
The gunmen, it was learnt, abducted scores of passengers as well as motorists during the operation.
Details of the operation were still sketchy as of the time of filing this report, but a former lawmaker who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, tweeted on the matter.
Sani tweeted, “I have just gotten a call that bandits have blocked the Kaduna-Abuja road, in between Jere and Katari village in broad daylight. Scores of people were kidnapped while many have made a U-turn in the face of gunshots.”
There was no official confirmation as of the time of filing this report.
When contacted on the telephone, the Kaduna Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Jalige, said the command had drafted its operatives to the area.
He said, “We sent the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area (that is the DPO of Katari) and we have yet to receive any report from him.
“The Commissioner of Police directed them to ascertain what actually happened in the place in question. So, any response from him (DPO) will be relayed to you.”
New COAS seeks officers’ support to curb insecurity
About 24 hours after his appointment, the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Faruk Yahaya, has sought the cooperation of senior officers to achieve his mandate of safeguarding the country.
According to a statement on Friday by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Mohammed Yerima, Yahaya made the call at a meeting he had with principal staff officers shortly after he formally assumed duties at the Army Headquarters in Abuja.
Yahaya was on Thursday named the new COAS to replace Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, who died alongside 10 other military officers in a military plane crash in Kaduna last Friday.
The statement was titled, ‘General Faruk Yahaya assumes command as 22nd Chief of Army Staff.’