Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim
By Ike Abonyi, Muhammad Bello, Yemi Akinsuyi and Senator Iroegbu and John Shiklam
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim, Tuesday visited the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji in Kaduna State, to inspect the St. Andrew’s Military Protestant Church that was bombed last Sunday.
While commiserating with the families of the victims of the suicide bombings, he said a panel of inquiry has been set up to investigate the circumstances that led to the incident.
The setting up of the panel of inquiry into the attack at Jaji coincided with yet another Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (also known as Ansaru) claiming responsibility for the attack Monday morning on the headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force in Abuja.
Also, the Federal Government has said that it is not enthusiastic about entering into talks with Boko Haram, after one if its leaders, Sheik Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, claimed on Monday that the dreaded sect was once again ready for dialogue.
However, before meeting with principal staff officers of the AFCSC and Infantry Centre School, the chief of defence staff urged the families of the victims of the attack to remain strong and committed to their duties while maintaining that the security of the country cannot be compromised.
He also told them that the injured survivors would be well catered for, promising that the military would work hard to unearth those behind the terror attack.
Ibrahim noted that it was still too early to apportion blames on anyone over the twin bomb blasts until the report of the panel of inquiry investigating the incident is submitted.
Responding to reporters’ questions, Ibrahim said it would be presumptuous to comment on how the bomb-laden vehicles got into the cantonment until the findings of the panel of inquiry.
“We also respect due process and the rule of law and there are codes out there that we must insist on because that is the only way we can render justice.
“But the report itself is the only thing that can define precisely who is to blame and who is not to be blamed and who should be rewarded for exemplary action.”
He described the incident as very sad and least expected in a peaceful environment that has been cherished for many years.
On what punishment would be meted out to those manning the gate at the cantonment when the incident occurred, the CDS said: “We expect that the panel of inquiry will reflect blame worthiness of the few and then we will treat it on its merit but we cannot pre-empt what took place and how the bomb-laden vehicles got into the cantonment.”
Ibrahim added that with the lessons learnt, “we cannot afford to take anything for granted. So we will put it behind us quickly after the panel of inquiry and then we will put other mechanisms in place to prevent this kind of incident in the future”.
He said the measures to prevent a future occurrence of the attack would be based on the report and recommendations of the panel of inquiry, and implemented piecemeal.
For the third day in a row since the incident, journalists were again prevented from venturing near the church, as they were asked to wait at a conference hall.
Meanwhile, another Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan (or Ansaru), which means "Helpers of Muslims in Africa", that emerged on the scene some five months ago, has claimed responsibility for the Monday morning attack on the police detention centre in Abuja.
The group first emerged on the scene over five months ago when it was linked to the kidnap and botched rescue of a Briton, Chris McManus, and Franco Lamolinara, an Italian national, in Sokoto, the Sokoto State capital.
As a result of that incident, the British Government banned the group last Thursday, following a presentation made by the Minister of State for Immigration, Mr. Mark Harper, to the British parliament on the activities of the group.
The group, which is headed by one Abu Usamatul Ansar and has pledged to defend the interest of Islam and Muslims in Africa, in a video posted on the internet, said it was responsible for the attack.
According to the group, “Allah (SWT) has obligated us to help those that are oppressed, especially those oppressions that is (sic) taking place in the security cells, prisons and other detention centers, etc, and has become part of the main functions and basics that form Jama’atu Ansasrul Muslimina fi Biladissudan.
“We are stating loud and clear that many of those captured by the Nigerian security or by the Christians in Plateau state such as the women and children in Langtang, Yalwan Shandam, etc, to mention but a few by Allah’s grace we are matching (sic) towards their freedom.
“Lastly, we are calling upon all Muslims to come and joined (sic) hands with us in carrying out this noble duty that Allah (SWT) has commanded us to do. Allah (SWT) said: ‘And what is the matter with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah, and for the feeble among men, and for women and children oppressed…’ Nisa’i:75.”
Distinguishing itself from Boko Haram, the Ansaru group said it does not believe in killing innocent people and security operatives except if it is attacked by them or in self-defence.
The group further claimed that they would not target or kill any security operative in the name of Jihad but will protect the interest of Muslims and Islam anywhere in Africa.
It added that it expects the government to allow its members to freely practise their religion and to always do justice to the people.
However, the Minister of Police Affairs, Capt. Caleb Olubode has said that the spate of terrorist attacks in some parts of the country cannot intimidate or deter the police from carrying out its statutory duty of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
He said this when he visited the SARS headquarters Tuesday, stating that the attack was meant to intimidate officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force and also test their capacity to protect themselves as well as members of the public.
Olubolade, who was accompanied by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Isma’ila, commended the gallantry and bravery of officers attached to the squad in successfully containing the attackers, failure of which would have called their response preparedness to question.
He called on the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar, to take every necessary step to apprehend the attackers and re-arrest the escaped detainees.
He also directed that the detention centre be re-fortified with a new fence and security cameras.
Responding, the IG assured the minister of immediate compliance, adding that some of the attackers were captured, while majority of the detainees that escaped had been re-arrested, even as concerted efforts were ongoing to get those still on the run.
Abubakar also assured the minister that no suspect detained in connection with terrorist activities escaped from detention and that explosives were not used during the attack.
Olubolade also used the visit to condemn the bombing of the church in Jaji, describing it as not only dastardly, but cowardly and evil.
In a related development, the purported offer made by Boko Haram on Monday to commence talks that may lead to peace may be rebuffed by the Federal Government.
A senior member of the Islamist militant group, Ibn Abdulazeez, had distributed a letter requesting talks with the government.
The latest offer came a week after President Goodluck Jonathan had foreclosed talks with the group on the grounds that its members were unknown and had chosen to remain faceless.
But a reliable Federal Government source told THISDAY Tuesday that nothing has happened so far to make the government change its position on the issue of dialogue with the group.
“No dialogue for now. Government is ready and only willing to deal with known faces. Government can't jump at offers from unknown names and faces either speaking on the phone or distributing leaflets,” said the government source.
A news agency report on Monday had said the letter from Boko Haram offer to dialogue was handed to an official of the local chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Aba Kaki, who has often received and distributed statements from the sect.
Ibn Abdulazeez first contacted reporters in Maiduguri earlier this month, setting conditions for peace talks in a teleconference and nominating former military Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, and others as mediators. Gen, Buhari has since declined the offer.
In his latest offer for talks, Ibn Abdulazeez said he was speaking on behalf of Abubakar Shekau, the sect’s leader.
But the letter nominated as mediator, Imam Gabchiya, an official of the University of Maiduguri.