FG Links Kaduna Train Attack to Synergy Between Boko Haram and Bandits

•Govt paying deaf ears to killings, Ortom insists

•Alleges plan to hand over seat of govt to bandits

•Plateau killings: Angry lawmakers restate call for state of emergency, demand NSA, defence minister’s sack

•Lament Nigeria a failed state, under siege

•Obi: Killings in Plateau, Benue horrific, unacceptable

•Presidency: Call for Buhari’s resignation, ploy by desperate politicians to get power

•11, 536 schools closed since 2020, UNICEF reveals, remembers Chibok girls’ abduction

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Udora Orizu, Kuni Tyessi in Abuja and George Okoh in Makurdi

As Nigerians continue to lament the insecurity ravaging the country, the federal government yesterday blamed the recent attack on a Kaduna-bound train on an unholy alliance between Boko Haram insurgents and rampaging bandits. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at the State House, Abuja, while briefing newsmen, along with Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The government’s latest position came as Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom accused the Buhari administration of pretending not to notice the unremitting killings of innocent Nigerians. Ortom, who spoke during an interview in Makurdi, also alleged plans by the government to yield power to criminal elements.

That was as members of the House of Representatives, yesterday at plenary, reiterated their call on the federal government to declare a state of emergency on security in Nigeria. Reacting to the recent escalations in insecurity, particularly the killings in Plateau State, the lawmakers demanded the sack of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.) and Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd.).

Former Governor of Anambra State and presidential aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Peter Obi, stated the recent killing of over 100 people in Plateau State and over 20 persons in Benue State was horrific and unacceptable.

But the presidency yesterday reacted formally to Tuesday’s call by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) on Buhari to resign as a result of the worsening security situation in the country. The presidency dubbed the call a ploy by desperate politicians to get power.

The federal government said, though the security agencies are still working hard to unravel the group behind the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, preliminary report showed that some criminal groups had collaborated to perpetrate the act. It urged Nigerians to also cooperate with government to smoke out the criminals.

Briefing newsmen in Abuja, at the end of the weekly FEC meeting, Magashi and Mohammed assured that the government was on top of the matter.

Responding to a question on whether the government had identified those behind the attack, Magashi said, “Honestly, I think the security chiefs are working hard to unveil those that are involved, and we will tell you very soon those that are carrying out these attacks.

“Both attacks in Jos and Kaduna, we will come and explain to the public what is really going on and our efforts to ensure that all these activities are stopped once and for all. We are really on top of the situation, we are planning hard and we will get it out as soon as possible.”

Speaking also, Mohammed said, “What is happening now is that there is a kind of an unholy handshake between bandits and Boko Haram insurgents.

“Preliminary reports of what transpired at the Kaduna train attacks show that there is a kind of collaboration between the bandits and the dislodged Boko Haram terrorists from the North-east. I can tell you very confidently that the federal government is on the top of this matter.”

The information minister said the federal government was doing all within its powers to achieve the rescue of the train passengers kidnapped by the terrorists. He said this in response to the 72-hour ultimatum given government by families of victims of the train attack to secure the release of their loved ones or they would take their fate in their hands.

He submitted that security operatives were working behind the scenes to get the captives released before long, adding that such moves would not be made known to members of the public in order not to jeopardise the steps being taken.

Mohammed stated, “What the federal government is doing won’t be subject matter of a press conference, because we have lives at stake. The various arms of security are working night and day to unravel the mystery surrounding the attack as a whole.

“On the kidnapped people, what I can assure you is that the respective arms of government actually engaged, as we speak, are working to get those victims released.

“It’s natural for anybody who is a father or a mother of a kidnapped person to be worried and to be concerned. But at the level of government, we appreciate that and we are leaving no stone unturned, but that we’ll give you specific steps we’re taking, I think it will be counterproductive and not going to aid or help those who are kidnapped or help the security forces who are tracing and ensuring that there’ll be no repeat of such attacks.”

In his own reaction to the killings in Plateau and Benue states, Obi said, “Such violence questions government’s responsibility to protect lives and property. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of these wicked acts.

“As a nation, we cannot be insensitive to the on-going bloodletting and targeting of the most vulnerable and helpless in our society. Security measures must be proactive and holistic; more so, in areas close to ungoverned rural and urban communities. Nigeria must cease being a killing field. These numbers are human beings and loved ones of many families.”

Plateau Killings: Angry Lawmakers Restate Call for State of Emergency, Demand Sack of NSA, Defence Minister

The appeal by members of the House of Representatives followed the amendment of two separate motions of urgent national importance on the recent massacre by terrorists in Plateau and Benue communities, which led to the death of over 100 people and destruction of property.

The two motions were sponsored by Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Hon. Yusuf Gagdi  (APC Plateau), Hon. Bem Mzondu (PDP Benue), and Hon. John Dyegh (PDP Benue).

The lawmakers across party lines took turns to condemn the endless killings, the federal government’s failure to secure lives, and the lackadaisical attitude of security agencies. They demanded that in the best interest of the country and to solve the security crisis,President Muhammadu Buhari should sack the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.) and Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd.).

Gagdi, while moving the motion on the terror attack in Kanam and Wase local government areas of Plateau State, prayed that the House should urge the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), to immediately provide relief materials for the victims.

He also prayed that the House should urge the president to, as a matter of urgency, direct the Minister of Defence, Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector General of Police, and Director General of the State Security Service to initiate a coordinated joint security operation and provide aerial surveillance and support to flush out the terrorists and destroy their camps.

While further praying that the House should urge the Inspector General of Police to immediately deploy the Police Mobile Force squadrons to maintain law and order in the affected areas, he asked his colleagues to mandate the Committees on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness; Armed forces (Defence, Army, Navy, Air force); Police; National Security and Intelligence as well as Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance and furnish the House with a weekly report until the insecurity was brought under control.

Gagdi said persons responsible for the safety of lives and property in the country must be held accountable.

According to him, “We have governors, we have National Assembly members, who is responsible for the safety, security of lives and property of the people of this country?

“Without fear of political misrepresentation, it’s Mr. President. We must ask ourselves questions, insecurity issues will never be discussed correctly if you don’t detach political affiliation from it. Is Mr. President aware of what is going on in this country? Before people are killed, one of the operational commandants must be responsible, who allowed that thing to happen?

“Who are the various security agencies that are supposed to protect the lives of the people? Of course, the armed forces.

“We vote money to these agencies every year and we provide supplementary budgets to them. We must hold someone accountable; there must be someone somewhere who has neglected his responsibility.”

He said it was either the president had failed to hold accountable heads of the security services or the security agencies had refused to heed distress calls from troubled citizens.

“This is not acceptable,” Gagdi stated. He added, “We must hold somebody responsible for failing in the discharge of the duties to Nigeria people.”

On their part, sponsors of the motion on the terrorist attacks in Mbadwem and Tiortyu communities in Guma and Tiortyu local government areas, Hon. John Dyegh and Hon. Bem Mzondu, lamented that Nigeria was bleeding. They said if those in the executive arm of government could not secure the country, then, they should resign.

In his contribution, Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP Osun) lamented that information and early warnings were given to the security agencies, but the failed to act.

Salam said, “We have come to a situation in this country where evil is perpetrated and no one is held accountable for the perpetration. We are the privileged class, we move around with convoys and security men, we are being paid to occupy this position of privilege by the sweat and taxes of some people.

“The part of this motion that touched me was the reference that there were early warning signals, information given to security agencies about the plans by some terrorists to attack innocent persons and this information were not acted upon by the security agencies.”

Hon. Fatuhu Mohammed (APC Katsina) said despite budgetary allocations, security agencies appeared to be unwilling to do their job. Mohammed said in his Daura constituency no security agent was willing to come out and do their job, but they were more interested in money.

Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase (APC Plateau), who presided over the plenary session, made reference to a case when a soldier who was supposed to be stationed in Zamfara was given a pass to his Wase community in Plateau and was caught distributing uniforms to bandits.

Wase said the security agencies were part of the worsening insecurity.

He said, “This situation is not about politics, anyone that wants to politicise this is making a huge mistake. In my own community, we had a soldier who was supposed to be in Zamfara, but was given pass for consecutively six months, giving uniform to the bandits.

“Till this moment, he has not been taken to court. I want you to understand the complicity of security agencies in this matter. Why would you give your personnel six months’ pass?”

Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu (APC Anambra), in her submission, described Nigeria as a failed state, saying, “Nigeria right now is a failed state. What can we do? It is a failed state where you cannot protect your people. We have had cases where information were cast to the security agencies and still these terrorists overcome the Nigerian people.”

In his submission, Chairman, Committee on Police, Hon. Bello Kumo (APC Gombe), wondered why Buhari was still keeping Babagana Monguno and Bashir Magashi as NSA and defence minister, respectively, despite their failure to curb the worsening insecurity.

Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC Abia), said the country was under siege, adding that as it stands, no one knows the next community that may be attacked.

Ortom: FG Turning a Blind Eye to Killing of Nigerians

Ortom spoke yesterday in Makurdi during an interview with reporters at the Benue Peoples House, following the attack on two communities in the state where more than 23 persons were killed in their sleep by militia Fulani herdsmen.” He said, “Enough is enough.”

Suspected Fulani herdsmen had invaded and killed eight persons in Mbadwem in Guma local government and 16 in Tiortyu, a sprawling settlement in Tarka local government, along Makurdi-Gboko road.

Ortom described the attacks as “unfortunate and the height of impunity.”

He accused Buhari’s APC government of turning a blind eye and paying lip service to the cries of the Benue people, “As the herdsmen continue to invade our communities and kill innocent people.”

The governor recalled how he had alerted Nigerians and the federal government on the murderous activities of the Fulani terrorists for many years, “Yet they didn’t believe me. Now, they are gradually taking over every space in the country. We are now sharing our sovereignty with terrorists.”

Ortom alleged that the plan of the herdsmen and their sponsors was to send the people away from their ancestral homes, take over the lands, and cause confusion in the country so that the forthcoming elections would not hold.

He stated, “I suspect that very soon, some states will be completely taken over by these Fulani men called bandits. I suspect that very soon, even the Presidential Villa will be handed over to them. I suspect strongly that this is their plan and so nobody should deceive me.”

The governor said he was old enough to understand the agenda of the terrorists Fulani against Nigeria because, as he put it, “it is a plan to hand over to these Fulani men who are called bandits so there will be no election.”

He appealed to good spirited Fulani men and those who had the ears of the president to persuade him to stop the evil going on in the country.

Ortom warned that if nothing was done, the people would resort to self-help, which would throw the country into anarchy.

Presidency: Call for Buhari’s Resignation, Ploy by Desperate Politicians to Get Power

A statement yesterday by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said resignation of the president would not solve the country’s woes. It stressed that all stakeholders, including the opposition, needed to work with government to change the situation for the better.

The statement said the Buhari government was doing everything required to end the reign of violence, which it alleged had snowballed in the current crisis as a result of years of neglect of the early indicators.

The presidency stated, “The presidency does not wish to be drawn into the high-decibel show in the media, taking the nation by the storm from the Northern Elders Forum.

“Publicity is the oxygen for politicians who have failed to connect with voters in a democracy.

“It is enough to say from our part, that resignation call on the president is not a solution to the security problems facing the country, something that has built up to a worrisome level following decades of neglect.

“It is more important that citizens know what their government is doing to deal with this situation and for politicians to come to terms with the fact the it is beneficial to all that they help to preserve the state so that when it is their turn, they will have a place that they will manage.

“People don’t have to destroy what is there in a desperate quest to get power.”

The statement assured Nigerians that the administration was doing what was required of it to refocus the fight against terrorism and other forms of criminality across the country, saying new massive equipment are being assembled to aid the campaigns.

According to the presidency, “In response to the recent spike in terrorist activity, particularly in the Kaduna and Niger states axis, the defense establishment, in response to presidential directives, has realigned and reorganised the on-going operation in the areas, as well as that going on in the Niger Delta region.

“The new operations structures are being reinforced with land-based assets to increase the efficiency of the troops and intelligence is equally being reinforced.

“The air defense system is being reinforced with newly-acquired jets and drones which assemblage and training for operators have been hastened to meet the current exigencies.

“The country is equally getting assurances of early delivery of equipment on order from manufacturers and the effort is on-going to conclude other major procurements still in process.

“Only this morning, the government at a meeting of the cabinet, approved the procurement of the largest ever single procurement of military vehicles.

“At the same time, similar major operations are going in the South-east and the South-south where the economic life wire of the nation and electricity transmission lines are currently being secured from saboteurs.”

It also noted that more than just the coordinated assaults of terrorists on the country, there were other elements who had in recent times engaged in acts of sabotage against critical national assets, like those in the power sector, with the singular purpose of making the Buhari government seem as failing in its duties.

The presidency, however, assured the citizens that the outcome of government efforts to stabilise the country would soon become visible.

The presidency statement alleged, “What the sponsored saboteurs aim to show is that the government cannot provide power, sabotaging equipment at switches and other vital points. They will not succeed. The public knows who is who, and who has done what in our country’s governance.

“Massive gains being made will shortly be manifesting. Large number of arrests have equally been made.

“Nigerians are assured that the government will keep its promise to the nation and threats to security will be handled with the firmness they call for. And government will remain firm in securing the country’s unity and progress.”

Insecurity: 11, 536 Schools Have Been Closed Since 2020, UNICEF Reveals

On the eighth anniversary of the abduction of 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in Borno State, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for action to make schools safe for more girls to enrol in and complete their education.

The international agency also revealed that in Nigeria, a total of 11, 536 schools were closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues.

In commemoration of the abduction of 276 school girls in Chibok, UNICEF called on the authorities in Nigeria to make schools safe and provide a secure learning environment for every child in Nigeria, especially for girls, to increase girls’ enrolment, retention, and completion of education.

In a statement, UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said unsafe schools, occasioned by attacks and abduction of students, were reprehensible, describing it as a brutal violation of the rights of the victims to education, and totally unacceptable.

Hawkins reiterated that girls had particularly been targeted, exacerbating the figures of out-of-school children in Nigeria.

He lamented that this had become a trajectory, which must be halted, adding that every hand in Nigeria must be on deck to ensure that learning in Nigeria is not a dangerous enterprise for any child, particularly for girls.

He added that since December 2020, 1,436 school children and 17 teachers had been abducted from schools, and 16 school children lost their lives.

UNICEF stated, “Today marks eight years since the first known attack on a learning institution in Nigeria on 14 April 2014, in which 276 students at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in North-east Nigeria were abducted by a Non-State Armed Group.

“Since then, a spate of attacks on schools and abductions of students, sometimes resulting in their deaths, has become recurrent in the last two years, especially in the North-west and North-central regions of Nigeria.

“Unsafe schools, occasioned by attacks on schools and abduction of students, are reprehensible, a brutal violation of the rights of the victims to education, and totally unacceptable. Their occurrences cut short the futures and dreams of the affected students.

“Attacks on learning institutions render the learning environment insecure and discourage parents and caregivers from sending their wards to schools, while the learners themselves become fearful of the legitimate pursuit of learning.

“In Nigeria, a total of 11, 536 schools were closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues.

“These school closures have impacted the education of approximately 1.3 million children in the 2020/21 academic year.

“This interruption of their learning contributes to gaps in children’s knowledge and skills and may lead to the loss of approximately $3.4 billion in these children’s lifetime earnings.”

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