RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale
I thought the Nigerian military was finally ready to take out the leaders of the terror gangs ravaging the North-west when on November 14 last year, it declared no fewer than 19 of them wanted. The military offered N5 million cash reward to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the arrest of any of the wanted terrorists. For years, I persistently rolled out names of these terror leaders (with locations) and challenged the military to take them out for peace to reign in the region. There was no positive response until November 14, 2022 when the military declared blood suckers like Ado Aliero, Kamfanin Daudawa, Ali Kachalla, Bello Turji, Hallilu Sububu wanted for a long list of killings and kidnapping for ransom. Thousands of innocent Nigerians have been sent to early graves by these mad men.
But almost 10 weeks down the line, not even one of the terror leaders declared wanted has been apprehended. Nigeria’s lethargic secret police, the DSS has also not been able to help the military with vital information to arrest the terrorists. So, the terrorists are still killing, abducting and maiming in Katsina, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara states. They are also walking freely across these troubled states.
The impression created by the military when they declared the terror leaders wanted was that they are in hiding. No! Turji Bello is roaming freely in Gidan-goga village, Maradun LGA of Zamfara State. This is the LG of Governor Bello Matawalle, who holds the title of Matawalle Maradun. Residents of Gidan-goga are being traumatised by Turji who imposes all sorts of levies on them. The latest was his demand for N20 million, early in December last year, with a deadline. Matawalle seems incapable of rescuing these villagers from the grip of Turji.
To avoid being attacked by Turji, the community had to raise and deliver the money to the terrorist. An additional N6 million was also paid by the community for the release of five people abducted by Turji’s men. Many are fleeing Gidan-goga to avoid Turji’s unending pain. Security agencies are aware of the villagers’ predicament but nothing is happening in terms of helping them. An outlaw is roaming freely unhindered and security agents pretend to be unaware of his location.
On January 9, seven personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were killed by terrorists in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The officers were ambushed and killed while on routine duty of protecting a mining site in the area.
A yet to be determined number of worshippers were abducted at New Life for All Church in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State by one of the terror leaders’ gang on January 15. The following day, another band of terrorists invaded Kira village, in this same Katsina State and abducted the Vice Chairman of Musawa Local Government Area, Aminu Umar Kira, along with one Isah Paiki. As at press time, the LG vice chairman had not been released.
Another set of terrorists went on rampage on January 15 at Kafin Koro, Paikoro Local Government Area of Niger State, during which Reverend Father Isaac Achi of Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church was burnt to death at home.
For peace to reign in Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kaduna and Katsina states, the military must take out Sani Dangote, Bello Turji, Leko, Dogo Nahali, Hallilu Sububu, Nagona, Nasanda, Isiya Garwa, Ali Kachalla aka Ali Kawaje, Abu Radde, Dan-Da, Mamudu Tainange, Sani Gurgu, Umaru Dan, Nagala, Ado Aliero, Monore, Gwaska Dankarami and Baleri. It is good that these criminals have been declared wanted. However, I challenge the military to go beyond this because they know the hideouts of these criminals. The military should go after them with venom and take them out. This idea of waiting for civilians to provide information is preposterous. The DMI and DSS should rise and do their jobs efficiently.
On the flip side, the Nigerian Air Force must rejig its mode of operation to reduce the number of civilian casualties during air raids across various theatres of operation. They must stop dropping bombs on innocent civilians while trying to kill terrorists. The mistakes are embarrassing and appear unending too. The killing of about 400 IDPs in Rann a few years back is still fresh in our memory.
Last year alone, there were five wrongly-directed airstrikes by the Air Force that resulted in the death of 78 innocent persons while 45 residents were injured. One of them took place on December 19, 2022, when 64 people were killed and many injured in an airstrike by Nigerian Air Force at Mutumji community, Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara.
On July 7, 2022, one person was killed and 13 injured following an airstrike by the Nigerian Air Force at Kunkuna village in Safana Local Government Area of Katsina State. Seven children were killed and five injured in the neigbouring Niger Republic during an airstrike by the Air Force on February 20, 2022.
In March, 2022, six children between the ages of five and 12 were killed by the Nigerian Air Force airstrike in Kuregba community of Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State. Properties of residents were destroyed in a miscalculated airstrike in Kaduna on December 13, 2022.
In September 2021, scores of innocent fishermen were killed in Kwatar Daban Masara, a border town in Monguno LG of Borno State, when the military dropped bombs on them in error. The mishit in Kwatar Daban Masara came barely two weeks after 10 villagers were killed in error in a similar airstrike during a pursuit of Boko Haram members in neighbouring Yobe State.
I was delighted when it was reported last week that the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, had expressed concern over the number of civilian casualties during miscalculated air raids. Amao said there was a need to ensure that measures at reducing these incidents are put in place to enhance the legitimacy of the Air Force’s operations in the country. He has gone ahead to set up a committee to investigate past incidents and the circumstances leading to the mishits.
Amao, in the December 2022 edition of the official magazine of the Nigerian Air Force, Airman, said, “I strongly believe that the efforts to mitigate and respond to civilian harm are a direct reflection of our values as a Service, as doing so is a strategic and moral imperative. We must therefore note that taking appropriate measures to minimise civilian casualties can further NAF’s mission objectives; help maintain the support of vulnerable populations; and enhance the legitimacy and sustainability of NAF operations critical to Nigeria’s national security.
“Concerned by the need for extra measures to minimise civilian harm and casualties, as well as take all feasible precautions in the strategies and methods of air attack to be deployed to avoid, or at least minimise civilian collateral damage, I recently instituted a committee of officers to compile all allegations of accidental strikes on civilians as well as investigate the circumstances leading to such strikes.”
He also said he had instructed the committee to go as far as interviewing those that might have been affected as well as local authorities and government officials, all to proffer far-reaching recommendations that would mitigate future harm to civilians in NAF operations: “We must accept that the need for effective investigations and reviews into civilian harms can help address important questions for affected victims or their families, promote accountability, and allow the NAF to learn valuable lessons for avoiding or mitigating similar harms in the future.”
The NAF Chief must go beyond instituting a committee to compile accidental strikes on civilians as well as investigating the circumstances leading to such strikes. The Nigerian Air Force has to show a greater sense of professionalism. In this modern era, consistent mishit by the Air Force is unacceptable. Our fighter pilots must be properly trained and properly equipped. Amao must seek for help in developed climes to ensure appropriate training of fighter pilots, with fitting attack equipment too.
Eulogies to Reverend Father Achi
Ordinarily, I would have challenged security agents to produce the killers of Reverend Father Isaac Achi who was the parish priest of Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kafin Koro, Paikoro Local Government Area of Niger State. But there is no point doing so. It is a waste of time in this part of the world. Father Achi was burnt to death by terrorists in his residence last Sunday. Just like previous killings by terrorists, his killers may never be apprehended. So sad!
Terrorists operated for hours unhindered at Father Achi’s house, set it on fire and waited for it to burn to ashes before departing. No single security man came to the scene until after the terrorists had left. This is the level beloved Nigeria has deteriorated in almost eight years of the Buhari government.
So, what crime did Father Achi commit? I guess the terrorists are angry that he is shepherding people within their stronghold.
Father Achi was a blessing to all in Kafin Koro, whether Christian or Muslim. He was always ready to share all that he had, particularly his food and drinks. He was a blessing to many families during the trying period of the Madalla bomb blast. Father Achi lived a life of service to humanity. At the General Audience last Wednesday at the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke glowingly about Father Achi.
The late cleric survived the December 2011 bombing at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Suleja Local Government Area of Niger State. He escaped a previous kidnap attempt when terrorists invaded his residence in 2013, and survived a robbery shooting in 2020. But they got him on January 15, 2023. I can confidently say that the killers of Father Achi have murdered sleep. They will never sleep again. The vengeance of God is certain.
Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello of Niger State has shown great concern about the killing of Father Achi. The governor declared: “I am saddened and horrified to learn of the killing of Rev. Fr. Isaac Achi, who was set ablaze by bandits at his residence in Kafin Koro. This senseless act of violence is a heinous and unacceptable crime that has no place in our society. The tragedy has undoubtedly caused a great deal of pain and suffering. There is no justification for such a heinous crime, and those responsible must be brought to justice. As governor, I assure the people that we will do everything in our power to ensure those responsible are held accountable. We will also work to ensure that all religious communities are protected and respected.”
I’m impressed with Sani-Bello’s denunciation of the monstrous crime in Kafin Koro. He has vowed to bring the perpetrators to book and directed the security agencies to work towards arresting the culprits. But I have no confidence in this directive. Nothing concrete will happen. Quite impressive verbal response, no doubt. Nonetheless, this governor should practically fight terrorists in Niger State. This state is in a big mess. Governors must work (practically) as Chief security Officers of their states. I urge Sani-Bello to use more of his security vote to properly mobilise security agents to troubled areas of Niger State.