Gowon Expresses Fear over Killings, Bleak Economy

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  • Criticisms trail Metele massacre as defence minister meets Chadian counterpart

By Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Kingsley Nwezeh, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Shola Oyeyipo, Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja

Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), yesterday expressed concern over the wanton killings in the country, lamenting that with the 2019 general elections fast approaching, Nigerians were becoming fearful and anxious about the future.

He was also worried over the state of the economy, saying hardship has not only made the poor poorer, but has drastically reduced the quality of life of even the rich.

Gowon, who is also the convener of Nigeria Prays, an interdenominational Christian organisation that prays and intercedes for the people and the country, spoke at a special National Prayer Service held at the national headquarters of the Deeper Life Bible Church in Lagos yesterday, and tasked the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to be alive to its primary responsibility of protection of lives and property of all citizens.

He said, “The problem of economic hardship has not only made the poor poorer, but has drastically reduced the quality of life of even the rich or politically influential.

“But we must continually demand that government be seriously alive to its primary responsibility of the protection of life and property of all citizens. While government is encouraged to do the needful, people of faith also must be encouraged to win over unnecessarily angry and violent people with the force of love.”

The former head of state said despite the killings perpetrated by “the dark agents of insurgency, Boko Haram, or by armed cattle herdsmen and rustlers, Christians should not resort to any form of retaliation that would lead to a religious war.”

The former head of state said despite this, the children of God should come together and pray for the nation, adding that “whatsoever the provocation, whatever the threat, for the sake of the country -Nigeria, Christians should never resort to retaliation.”

He urged the people and the church to embrace the spirit of love, patriotism and commitment to the good of the nation irrespective of political party or religious affiliations or tribal differences.

Gowon said, “I say this mindful of the concerns that have been raised by Christians across the country over the growing spate of the killings of our brethren that have been recorded and reported nationwide.

“Truth be told, these are genuine concerns. Should this lead us to contemplating retaliations or reprisal attacks? The scriptures are clear: vengeance is of the Lord. We must steer clear of any semblance of encouraging religious warfare in the guise of self-defence.”

At the service, where Buhari was represented by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, and was attended by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr. Okey Enelamah, who represented Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate, Mr. Donald Duke, and his wife, Onari; the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate for Lagos State, Mr. Jide Sanwo-olu; Dr. Christopher Kolade; Chief Opral Benson and the wife of the governor of Ogun State, Mrs. Funsho Amosun, among others, the General Overseer of the Deeper Life Bible Church, Dr. William Kumuyi, in his sermon, said that God has not given up on Nigeria.

Kumuyi, while quoting profusely from the Bible, said that Nigeria is like Egypt in the Bible, where God said that “Egypt shall return to the Lord,” adding that despite what the nation may be going through, it shall overcome the present tribulations.

Criticisms Trail Metele Massacre as Defence Minister Meets Chadian Counterpart

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), pan-Yoruba cultural group, Afenifere, and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) among others said yesterday that President Muhammadu Buhari had not done enough to frontally respond to the worsening security situation in the country, especially in the North-east.

In a press statement during the week by the presidency, Buhari was quoted as expressing deep shock over the killing of over 100 military personnel in Metele village of Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists, assuring that immediate measures were being taken to ensure that the gaps that gave room for the fatalities were blocked once and for all.

It was gathered last night that the Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali (Rtd) is expected to visit N’djamena, Chad later in the week to discuss with his Chadian counterpart, General Daoud Yaya, on how to respond to the worsening security crisis along the Nigeria – Chad border.

The scheduled meeting was confirmed on Sunday by a statement by Col. Tukur Gusau, the Public Relations Officer to the Minister of Defence.

But those who spoke with THISDAY yesterday said the president had not done enough to arrest the deteriorating security situation created by the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram in the North-east.

In a press statement in Abuja last night, the PDP berated Buhari for allegedly neglecting the troops fighting in the North-east and reneging on his promise to “lead the fight from the front”, which the party said had resulted in the vulnerability and killing of the soldiers by insurgents.

The main opposition party in the statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, challenged Buhari to explain why he has been ‘’insensitive’’ to the killing of citizens and soldiers by marauders and insurgents, particularly, given allegations that he has been distracting the armed forces by dragging them to participate in his re-election campaign.

“Nigerians recall that at the time our troops were being attacked by insurgents, our service chiefs were attending the launch of President Buhari’s Next Level campaign mantra, stolen from a foreign institute,” the opposition party stated.

Ologbondiyan added that Nigerians could now see why the country has been under peril in the last three and half years, stressing that Buhari should be ready to face his failures and avail Nigerians of his performance scorecards, as well as, present his future blueprint, if any, to enable the electorate weigh him alongside PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

The PDP said Buhari came to power through false promises and propaganda, saying that now the day of reckoning has come and he cannot run away from his failures.

Also reacting to the development, the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, described the recent killing of some soldiers in Borno State as an unfortunate incident.

“It is most unfortunate that our soldiers will be killed in such a large number. Very recently, they took out $2billion unbudgeted for to buy arms. There has been so much noise about ‘we have defeated Boko Haram,’ and seeing those guys taking on our soldiers and murdering them in such large number is most unfortunate for the country,’’ the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, stated last night.

He added, “It took the president almost 72 hours to even say a word, and part of the problem it has also caused is that morale is very down in the armed forces.

‘’There are service chiefs, who should have gone, that are still in office. There are people, who should have moved up to the pinnacles of their careers. The case is that we have just lost it.

“Under President Jonathan there were talks about some Boko Haram being recruited into the army, so when you look at the circumstances; how those people were ambushed, it was clear that possibly they have infiltrated the army and it is unfortunate for our country.

“I don’t know how many countries that have lost such number of soldiers in a day. Even during Iraq war, we never heard of any country losing such number of soldiers in a day.”

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has also expressed worry over what it described as weak response offered by the federal government over the recent massacre of soldiers by Boko Haram.

The CAN President’s spokesman, Mr. Bayo Oladeji, who spoke to THISDAY yesterday said the body is not happy with the handling of security situation in the country.

He said, “It is very unfortunate that the Boko Haram terrorist has struck again. The leadership of CAN has time without number urged the federal government to overhaul the security architecture.

‘’The Christian body had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the security chiefs and inject fresh blood into the hierarchy of the various security apparatus. We believe that their continued stay in office is a liability to the country, they have outlived their welcome.

‘’Last year, when CAN visited President Buhari, they told him to do something about the security architecture but nothing has been done about it. We have a lot of experienced officers that the president can inject into the system but he refused.

“Look at the way they are killing our soldiers, these soldiers were trained with a lot of public money. The soldiers are being killed and maimed by the terrorists and if the reports in the media are to go-by, it took the government four days to respond to the killing of the soldiers.’’

The CAN said that Nigerians are tired of usual political statements that the federal government is on top of the situation, saying the country is presently sick and in dire need of urgent measures to rescue it.

On her part, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, expressed worry over the killings, saying that such does not speak well of the country’s internal security apparatus.

The presidential candidate, in a press statement to commiserate with families of the deceased, yesterday, wondered why it took the military about a week to confirm the incident whose video already went viral.

She challenged the Commander-in-Chief, President Buhari, to prove that he had not failed the nation’s soldiers, while commiserating with families of the deceased.

She asked the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to publish the names and authentic figures of fallen heroes for Nigerians to know the extent of damage and for record purposes.

Ezekwesili said, “There are pertinent questions that the federal government and the military need to answer. How did this latest in a series of killings of our soldiers in frontline of battle catch our country off-guard?

‘’Don’t we think the official line that the presidency and military have been pushing on the state of the terrorism war is endangering our soldiers and nation? Can the government be more honest on the challenges it appears to be facing in prosecuting the war?

”It is no longer acceptable for our heroes to die and not be accorded the honour of gallantry. The FG and the military must accord full military burial rites to the fallen soldiers and also publish the list of others who have died and had been buried discretely in recent times without giving the Nigerian people the opportunity to celebrate their gallantry.’’

She advised the president to immediately take measures to protect and preserve the nation’s soldiers, military establishments, the people and territory to avoid further deaths.

One of the few surviving soldiers, who staged a coup against former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), and now a leading advocate of restructuring, Col Anthony Nyiam (rtd), who spoke with THISDAY last night said going by the daring attack on a military facility in Melete, Borno State, Nigeria should declare war on Boko Haram.

He also stated that those canvassing for votes ahead of the 2019 election are not properly addressing the Boko Haram issue.

According to him, “What is obvious is that Nigerians have not been woken up to the fact that there is a war. Let us not start blaming the military. When the people are woken up to the fact that there is a war, then the whole country will be mobilised. This is how war is fought. We are just sleepy.

“Here we are, a group of people can come in, overtake a barrack and killed soldiers. And there is none of the political party’s manifestoes that has come out with a clear cut action plan on what they are going to do to defeat the war or to declare the war.

“This is not the fault of the military at all. I am blaming all the parties; I am blaming all of us because we have a very serious situation and nobody seems to be talking, because what those guys have done is that they have dared the state. It would embolden more actions if we do not wake up to the reality.’’

On the dispatching of the Minister of Defense, to meet with the Chadian President, Idris Deby, on the deterioration of security at the Nigeria-Chad border, the retired military officer said it is an afterthought, advising that Buhari should do more than been reactionary.

Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in a statement by its National Spokesperson, Mr. Ikenga Ugochinyere, said, ‘’It is most heart rending to realize that this attack happened same week some of the nation’s military service chiefs were frolicking at the APC political party campaign function in the Presidential Villa.”

Ugochinyere expressed shock by the ‘dishonorable silence’ of the federal government on the attacks, which he said only became prominent on the social media after the terrorist group released very gory videos of some of these attacks.

He stated, “For President Buhari to only summon service chiefs for a briefing five days after such a calamity clearly shows the slow response time of this administration to national emergencies and lack of capacity to meet up with the fast pace of developments which affect the lives of citizens.

“We hereby call on President Buhari to salvage the last vestiges of honour left for his regime by immediately sacking the service chiefs, the Inspector General of Police, Chairman of EFCC and Comptroller General of Customs, who have at one time or the other been found playing politics with their offices instead of doing their jobs with every sense of neutrality.’’

Nigeria, Chad’s Defence Ministers Hold Bilateral Consultations

Sequel to directive of the president, the Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen Dan-Ali (rtd), will later in the week, visit N’djamena, Chad, to discuss with his Chadian counterpart, General Yaya, on how to respond to the worsening security crisis along the Nigeria-Chad border.

The scheduled meeting was confirmed yesterday by a statement issued by the Public Relations Officer to the minister, Col. Tukur Gusau.

The bilateral talks are also coming in the wake of the rising tide of insurgency in the North-east.

Over 100 soldiers from the 157 Task Force Battalion, were killed on November 18 in Metele, a remote village in Borno State, along the Nigeria-Chad border by the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), an offshoot of Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State in Syria (ISIS).

THISDAY first reported last week that President Muhammadu Buhari had mulled dispatching Dan-Ali to Republic of Chad for an urgent meeting with President Idris Deby and Ali’s defence counterpart to address the deteriorating security at the Nigeria- Chad border.

The report said Ali’s mission was to unearth what led to the increase in the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the area, including finding an immediate solution to the upsurge.

According to Gusau, Brig-Gen Dan-Ali’s visit was in continuation of consultations with the defence ministers of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) troops contributing countries (TCC) which include Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin Republic.

Dan-Ali had last month paid a similar visit to Niger Republic, during which he held bilateral discussions with his Nigerien counterpart, Brigi Rafini.

“The  minister’s visit to Chad will revolve around strengthening the operations of MNJTF to enable it achieve its mandate of eliminating security threats and creating a safe and secure environment in its area of responsibility,” Gusau said.

Chad, which is a member of MNJTF, is said to be having its own internal security challenges, which has reportedly led it to pull out its troops, manning the country’s border around Lake Chad.

Boko Haram and ISWA terrorist elements are capitalising on this lacuna to launch insurgency against Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger, which are countries bordering the Lake Chad Basin areas.

Army Urges Troops to Remain Alert, Promotes Warrant Officers

In a related development, the Nigerian Army weekend charged troops to remain alert and be decisive in confronting terrorists even as it decorated six warrant officers who were promoted to the rank of Master Warrant Officers (MWO).

This is coming as the Nigerian Air Force refuted simulation video clips circulating online indicating that the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, was under terrorist attack.

Speaking in Borno, the Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, Brigadier General Abdulmalik Bulama Biu, gave the charge during his operational visit to assess the combat readiness of troops of 82 Task Force Battalion in Ngwoshe, Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State.

He commended the troops for their sacrifices in the defence of the country against insurgency. “We must continue to put in our best to consolidate on the efforts of our heroes and ensure that we win the fight against the Boko Haram Terrorists with God guiding us”, he said.

He urged them to be more decisive in their approach in confronting the terrorists and endeavour to work in synergy with other security agencies.

Biu assured the troops that their welfare would receive all necessary support it requires from the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusufu Buratai.

He urged them to be confident, professional and work assiduously towards ending the insurgency and other sundry crimes in the north-east.

The GOC who was accompanied by the Commander, 47 Engineer Brigade, Brigadier General Ignatius Nwogu and other principal staff officers visited troops locations at Banki Junction, Firgi Pulka, Gwoza and Yamteke in Gwoza Local Government of Borno State.

On the promotion of warrant Officers, the Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, who spoke while decorating the newly promoted Master Warrant Officers (MWOs)  with their ranks, said “it is a thing of joy to be among the few selected from the pool of Warrant Officers that participated in the promotion process,” adding that promotion was a reward for hard work, commitment and dedication to duty.

He also noted that “the new status comes with additional responsibility,

advising them to uphold military ethics and tradition”.

In his vote of thanks, one of the beneficiaries, Master Warrant Officer, Effiong Ikpe on behalf of the other beneficiaries, expressed appreciation to Almighty God and the leadership of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for considering them worthy of such elevation.

He assured  of their unalloyed loyalty and commitment to duty, adding that they would strive to improve their performance to actualise the overall objectives of the Nigerian Army.

Six warrant officers benefited from this year’s promotion.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force said the video circulating online was a security simulation exercise carried out by the air force two years ago.

It said the exercise was aimed at keeping security agencies and airport staff abreast of counter-terrorism measures in case of an attack.

NAF, in a statement, urged the general public and travellers to disregard the video as the airport was not under attack.

PAGE 8 STORY

Buhari Extols Atiku, Expresses High Respect for Him

  • PDP presidential candidate becomes seventh Waziri Adamawa

Daji Sani in Yola

President Muhammadu Buhari has said he has high respect for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, adding that he holds him in high esteem.  

Buhari paid these compliments yesterday at the turbanning ceremony of Atiku as the seventh Waziri of Adamawa at the palace of the Lamido of Adamawa, Alhaji Mohammed Barkindo Musdafa.

The president, who is also the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Party (APC), expressed profound joy at the Waziri’s spirit of sportsmanship by sending him invitation for his turbanning ceremony.

“I have high respect and high esteem for Atiku based on the long historical relationship and l wish him a successful turbanning ceremony, Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Mohammed Bello, said at the ceremony.

Bello said the president also sent his greetings and appreciation to the seventh Waziri for sending a letter of invitation to him.

Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who spoke earlier, said Atiku deserved the position bestowed on him because while they were in Abuja dealing with state and international matters, the new Waziri was always in touch with his people and emirate.

He said he was in full support of the new position given to his former vice-president, adding that if the Lamido would give him (Obasanjo) a chieftaincy title, he would accept it in order to support Atiku.

Obasanjo urged Atiku to take the new position bestowed on him seriously and try his best to unite the Adamawa people both home and abroad.

He also expressed appreciation to the Lamido for finding Atiku worthy of the title of the new Waziri.

The Lamido said he conferred the title on Atiku because of his numerous contributions to Adamawa people, the emirate and Nigerians.

He said his many companies across the state and the country had created jobs directly and indirectly for Nigerians and foreigners.

The Lamido said the Waziri is the highest position among the king makers that is saddled with the responsibility of enthroning a new king  in the emirate in the event the king is dead, he is the confidant of the king and has influence to unite the sons and daughters of the kingdom.

He urged the former vice president to fear God and be fair to everybody in the cause of dispending his duties as the new Waziri.

In his acceptance speech, Atiku thanked the almighty God for giving him the opportunity to serve his people and the Lamido for bestowing the title on him.

He also thanked Obasanjo for his mentorship that has contributed to help him to attain where he is today.

He thanked all dignitaries who were in attendance, including Bello, former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan; Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Governors Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa State) and Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe State); and former PDP presidential aspirant.

Others, who attended the ceremony are Governor of Taraba State, Mr. Darius Ishaku; Chief Raymond  Dokpesi; Chief Tom Ikimi; former governors Aliyu Babangida and Boni Haruna; senators, members of House of Representatives and former Adamawa PDP governorship aspirant, Alhaji Ahmadu Fintiri.