In three states of Rivers, Kaduna and Benue, people were welcomed into the New Year in the pool of their own blood, writes Olawale Olaleye
Not even the thoughts that the nation’s security architecture had been struggling within its limited resources to protect lives and properties suggested that such mindless killings of people would herald the New Year in any part of the country, to say the least, Rivers, Kaduna and Benue States.
Although the security situation in these three states had long demanded special attention given what was obtainable in the last two and a half years, the little effort since sunk in had yielded some commendable results, thus completely leaving out any inkling of the recent killings.
Starting with the situation in Rivers State, the oil-producing state had barely known peace since the change of guards in 2015. With rising insecurity exacerbated by cultism and the battle of rival gangs, the relative peace known in the state during the immediate past regime of Rotimi Amaechi had long been thrown to the dogs. Yet, no help has come to specifically address the situation as one demanding special attention.
It was therefore not unexpected that some people turned the New Year celebration into a killing spree as they opened fire indiscriminately on people returning from church in the early hours of Monday, where they had gone to usher in the New Year at a cross-over service.
The incident, which occurred at Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (ONELGA) Local Government Area of the state, claimed about 21 lives, according to reports. But the Police spokesperson in the state, Omoni Nnamdi, who confirmed the incident, said it was difficult for them to give the exact number of people killed in the shooting.
That was Rivers State. A similar incident took place in Southern Kaduna, also on New Year’s Day, during which a traditional ruler, the Etum Numana, Mr. Gambo Makama, and his pregnant wife were reportedly shot dead. His palace and car were also set ablaze. His son was,however, lucky as he survived the attack with gunshot injuries.
The killing of the traditional ruler and his wife has reportedly brought to 10, the number of persons killed by unknown gunmen in Southern Kaduna in the last one week. Yet, no arrest has been made so far. The state’s Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Aliyu Mukhtar, said as much but contended that the Police were on the trail of the gunmen.
A certain report had it that the traditional ruler had travelled to his village to celebrate the New Year, when gunmen, said to be wearing masks, invaded the palace few minutes after midnight and opened fire on them. While the chief and his pregnant second wife reportedly died on the spot, the son sustained injuries and was rushed to a hospital. The armed men immediately fled into the bush.
On Monday night, many people were equally killed in separate attacks on two villages in Sanga Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Chairman of the council, Emmanuel Adamu, said the attacks were carried out simultaneously, describing it as unfortunate.
Again, on New Year’s Day, another 50 people including members of the Benue State Livestock Guards were reportedly killed in what was described as coordinated attacks on Tom-Atar and Umenge, Akor villages in Guma, Governor Samuel Ortom’s home town and Ayilamo, Turan, Ngambe-Tiev in Logo Local Government areas of Benue State by suspected herdsmen.
The attacks, according to reports, started late on New Year’s Day and continued till the early hours of Tuesday, leaving in its wake, a totally decimated community. The governor, Ortom has since called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and protect his people from the herdsmen, who are overrunning many of Benue’s communities.
Truth is that the president needn’t be reminded that security was one of the key campaign promises upon which he rode to power. His claim to having a good understanding of what the security problems were and the capacity to contain them earned him the admiration which translated into votes for him.
Unfortunately, the administration has been grappling with security challenges almost from the first day it assumed office. From the increasing insurgency to herdsmen attacks, armed robbery, kidnapping and ritual killings not to mention inter-communal clashes, security in the Buhari era has been a deterioration of what used to be in time past.
Even more disturbing is that outside of the growing insurgency, which is not a regular security challenge, the security situation in the country is not insurmountable. What has been lacking, however, is leadership and the capacity to deploy skills and resources to good use.
What happened in Rivers, Kaduna and Benue is a clarion call, disturbing enough to warrant emergency intervention were it a civilised clime. Government must learn to buckle up, rise up to the challenge and give hope to the hopeless that have remained the easy and soft targets for these anti-social disturbances.