- Middle Belt, Southern leaders opts out of peace talks
Omololu Ogunmade, Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja; Segun James in Lagos and Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered an immediate military action against Boko Haram for killing 65 mourners during a funeral procession in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
He directed the air force and army to begin air patrols and ground operations to hunt down the attackers.
No fewer than 65 persons were killed in the attacks on Saturday, the Chairman of Nganzai Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, Muhammad Bulama, told journalists yesterday.
He spoke just as efforts at finding a solution to the intractable security crisis in Nigeria suffered a setback at the weekend as the leadership of the southern Nigeria under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) rejected an invitation from a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to a roundtable on security with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) as one of the participants. The two-day discussion is billed to begin today in Minna, Niger State.
Bulama said the insurgents who were pushed back by the villagers two weeks ago, returned on a reprisal on Saturday, killing some 65 persons and injuring 10 others when they attacked Badu village.
“Two weeks ago, Boko Haram insurgents attacked Badu village but the attack was repelled by the villagers and members of the vigilante group,” he added.
He said in the first attack, the villagers resisted the attackers, killed 11 insurgents and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles from them.
“On Saturday at about 11.40 a.m., the insurgents came on a reprisal mission, attacking mourners at a graveyard in the area, killing over 60 persons and injuring 11 others,” he stated
He said the wounded were taken to the Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri, for treatment.
Attempt at getting the reactions from the military on the attack was unsuccessful as calls to the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Ado Isa, did not go through.
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara, during a visit to Gajiram, headquarters of Nganzai LGA, to commiserate with the people over the killing of the mourners, reiterated his commitment to supporting security agencies to protect lives and property.
He said the state government would not relent until permanent peace was restored to the state.
Umara while condemning the attack, called on the people to be vigilante and cooperate with security agencies in their communities.
He prayed for the repose of the souls of the deceased and also prayed that the families should have the fortitude to bear the losses.
The governor also visited Specialists’ Hospital Maiduguri and sympathised with the injured.
Buhari Orders Reprisal against Boko Haram
However, the president while reacting to the killing of the mourners, ordered the military to go after the insurgents.
A statement by a presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the president had received assurances from the armed forces that the terrorists who committed the killings “will pay a big price for their action.”
“The federal government is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to safeguard the nation’s security.
“This administration is determined to end the menace of terrorism, the statement quoted the president as saying.
The statement said a major exercise by the air force with air patrols and ground operations by the army had begun to hunt down the attackers.
It also said the president assured the residents of Maiduguri and those settled in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps that they would receive increased protection from further attacks by Boko Haram.
Middle Belt, Southern Leaders Opts out of Peace Talks
Also yesterday, the leadership of the southern Nigeria under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) rejected an invitation from a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to a roundtable on security with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN). The two-day discussion is billed to begin today in Minna, Niger State.
In a letter addressed to Abdulsalami, which was signed by Chief Edwin Clark for Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere, Chief Nnia Nwodo for Ohanaeze and Dr. Pogu Bitrus for Middle Belt Forum, the leaders said it was an insult to lump the apex socio-political associations with the cattle herders’ association.
The southern leaders, in the letter they jointly signed, said it would be an insult to invite them to a dialogue with a trader association on national issues and security.
They said they were aware of most of the associations invited to the roundtable on national issues and security as they were socio-political organisations, but took exception to the invitation to Gan Allah Fulani Development Association and Miyetti Allah, which they described as traders’ associations.
“We individually received your invitation to the above event holding in Minna between July 29 and 30, 2019. We thank you for your interest in the affairs of our country, which made us to accept your invitation in good faith.
“It was in the thick of our preparations for the journey that fuller details of the roundtable came to our attention, some aspect of which has necessitated this last-minute communication with you.
“We observed that the roundtable will have in attendance all the national security heads, Chief of Defence Staff and notable Nigerians, underscoring the high level of the consultations,” the leaders said.
The southern leaders welcomed the invitation of PANDEF, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Northern Elders Forum and Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) but rejected the extension of the invitation to Gan Allah Fulani Development Association and Miyetti Allah.
“While we do not know the members of the first group, the lumping of Miyetti Allah, a trade association for cattle herders and whose members have been accused of various violations of rights, including life, across the country sends worrying signal to us. It falls into the categorisation of our respected socio-cultural platforms with Miyetti Allah by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu.
“We consider the above a grave insult on our bodies and our coming to a roundtable with the group would mean acquiescence to the narrative that put us in the same bracket with those wielding illegal AK-47 all over the country and inflicting terror on fellow citizens.
“Even if the above was not the case with Miyetti Allah, bringing a trade group like them in the same vehicle with the nationalities organisations would not have been appropriate as there are organisations of their category for fishermen, farmers, spare parts dealers and poultry owners among others across Nigeria who are not invited.
“Towards this end, we decline participation in the roundtable as scheduled without prejudice to your peace-building effort which is appreciated.
“We equally regret any inconvenience our decision may cause you as we know the efforts that go into putting events such as this together.
“Rest assured of our cooperation in all efforts and dialogues to make Nigeria peaceful, secure and forward moving provided they are organised in a way that does not subtract from our dignity and value,” the leaders said in the letter to the former head of state.