•Soldier killed in foiled raid
•President warns terrorists, others to repent or be crushed
Omololu Ogunmade, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday assured his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, of his safety in the wake of an attack on a security post near the home of the former president.
Gunmen, whose identities are yet to be ascertained, had in the early hours of yesterday killed a soldier and injured another in a failed attack on the security post near the home of the former president in Otuoke, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The attack came a few years after militants bombed the country home of the former president.
However, Jonathan has allayed fears over his safety even as the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on security and intelligence agencies to probe the attack.
In the first attack in 2007, dare-devil militants had in 2007 stormed the Otuoke home of the then vice-president-elect about 1 a.m. in five speed boats and then threw a grenade at his residence, which exploded, killing a riot policeman and destroying part of the palatial mansion.
The house was later rebuilt after being evacuated by the family of the former president.
But during yesterday’s incident, one soldier who resisted the gunmen was killed, while another has also been confirmed seriously injured by military authorities in the state.
The gunmen were said to have accessed the area through the river linking Otuoke and Otuaba communities, before attacking the gunboat that was stationed at the riverside to guard Jonathan’s residence.
The attackers had attempted to seize the soldiers’ gunboat apparently to gain access to Jonathan’s residence before they came under heavy gunfire, which led to the death of the soldier.
When THISDAY visited the area, heavy security had been deployed in all roads in Otuoke/Otuaba with the area blocked by military personnel, restricting the movement of residents.
The Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Delta Safe, which is in charge of security in the area, confirmed the attack and the casualties, stressing that the military high command is investigating the incident to determine the motive.
Spokesman of JTF, Major Jonah Unuakhalu, in response to a query on the attack, said several of the attackers were wounded and escaped with bullet wounds.
He said: “At about 0300hrs (3a.m.) today, unknown gunmen attacked our gunboat deployed close to the house of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The vigilant troops repelled the attack while some of the assailants escaped with gunshot wounds.
“However, during the attack one soldier paid the supreme price and another wounded in action. The wounded has been evacuated to the hospital and responding to treatment.
“Preliminary investigation is ongoing to identify the person’s or groups behind the attack.
“The people are advised to go about their lawful businesses as the security of lives and properties is priority to Operation Delta Safe during the Yuletide period and beyond.”
Buhari Assures Jonathan of Protection
Meanwhile, Buhari in a telephone call yesterday, sympathised with Jonathan over the attack and assured him of his protection.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said Buhari expressed sadness over the “tragic and unfortunate attack,” which claimed the life of a gallant soldier.
Shehu also said Buhari commended the soldiers on guard for bravely repelling the attack, and condoled with the bereaved family, officers and men of the Nigerian Army over the loss of one of the guards.
He said Buhari assured Jonathan of his protection, pledging that the protection of all citizens would continue to be the major pre-occupation of his administration.
No Cause for Alarm, Says Jonathan
In his reaction, Jonathan condemned the attack and reassured his people that there was no cause for alarm.
Spokesman of the former president, Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, in a statement yesterday, confirmed that the attack occurred at a security post “near the Otuoke residence of former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in Bayelsa State.”
Eze said one soldier was killed during the attack.
“The gunmen who couldn’t stand the firepower of the military were forced to beat a retreat. One soldier, unfortunately, lost his life in the fight while another was injured. The injured soldier who is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility in Yenagoa, is in a stable state,” he said.
He said the former president who was not in Otuoke at the time of the attack, however, returned to his village early yesterday morning to assess the situation.
“Dr. Jonathan promptly condemned the attack and reassured his people that there was no cause for alarm. The former president has also condoled with the family of the deceased soldier, the military and has urged the concerned security authorities to swing into action and bring the culprits to book,” Eze added.
APC, PDP Demand Probe of Attack on Jonathan’s Home
On their part, the APC and PDP have urged security and intelligence agencies to probe the incident
Its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said APC joined other well-meaning Nigerians in condemning the attack.
The ruling party also called on security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and their sponsors.
Issa-Onilu said: “We extend condolences to the family of the soldier who died in the attack. The party also wishes the other injured soldier a full and speedy recovery.”
In its reaction, PDP charged the federal government to immediately track down and apprehend the gunmen.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, described the attack on the home of the former president as extremely disturbing and demanded for an extensive investigation into the incident.
PDP said, “Our party insists that the gun attack is a direct threat on the life and safety of the former President and members of his family and as such the assailants must be tracked down.
“The party also commiserates with the families of the security personnel killed in the attack and urges Security agencies to go after the assailants as well as rescue those reportedly abducted during the attack,” the party said.
Buhari Warns Terrorists, Others to Repent or be Crushed
Meanwhile, the president has warned insurgents, kidnappers, bandits and all criminal elements in the country to have a rethink or meet their Waterloo.
Buhari issued the warning in his Christmas message to Christians in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which is marked globally today.
The president who said he felicitated with Christians and the entire Nigerians “on the joyous occasion of Christmas of the year 2019,” admonished the criminals to toe the path of honour by aligning themselves with dignity and honour being exhibited by well meaning Nigerians.
He urged Nigerians to avoid ignoble lifestyle that is contradictory to the spirit of Christmas, adding that the virtues of Christmas ought not to be exhibited only on Christmas Day but all even till the New Year.
“I, therefore, urge our compatriots to shun all actions which negate the spirit of the season. However, celebrating the spirit and virtues of Christmas need not be a one-day affair, but rather, ought to continue into the New Year.
“It is in line with the spirit of Christmas that I call on all elements whose actions are opposed to what the season represents, especially, insurgents, terrorists, armed robbers, kidnappers and economic saboteurs, to retrace their steps and join people of goodwill and common humanity.
“If they fail to heed this call, they will meet their end as the armed forces, security and law-enforcement agencies are poised now to confront and defeat them,” he said.
The president urged Nigerians to reflect on the essence of the season through the expression of love and goodwill across the country by sharing and strengthening the bond of brotherhood and good neighbouliness.
He also advised citizens to place priority on what binds the country together and simultaneously make extra efforts to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours.
According to him, cases of violence and insecurity in the land have reduced, therefore, in accordance with the good news of hope and redemption which Christmas commemorates, Nigerians should look forward to improvement in various spheres of life.
“As Christmas indicates good tidings of hope and redemption, Nigerians can look forward to a turnaround in the administration’s priority areas of fighting corruption, providing security, economic diversification, job creation and infrastructure upgrade,” he stated.
The president also made reference to his recent assent to the 2020 budget, pledging that the appropriation act would be vigorously implemented with a view to making it impactful on the lives of the generality of Nigerians.
He thanked both leaders and members of the National Assembly for the speedy passage of the budget, saying he is confident that the newfound cordial relationship between the executive and the legislature would boost service delivery to the citizenry.
“Having recently signed the 2020 Appropriation Bill into law, I reiterate my promise during the presentation of the budget proposal before the National Assembly on October 8, 2019 that, “We remain resolutely committed to the actualisation of our vision of a bright and prosperous future for all Nigerians,” he said.
Buhari advised Nigerians to remember members of the Armed Forces and other security agencies whom he said were making huge sacrifices for the entire citizenry in their prayers as they celebrate Christmas.
He enjoined them to extend love to the families who lost their breadwinners in the battle against insecurity in the land.
Buhari also advised road users to drive with caution during the Yuletide season, adding that security agents and road safety officers should as well ensure compliance with safety measures with a view to avoiding unwarranted accidents that could claim lives and property.