By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Ndahi Marama, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Bashir Bello & Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo
ABUJA — Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State cried out yesterday that two local government areas in his state, Abadam and Guzamala, are still under the control of Boko Haram.
The governor’s disclosure came against the backdrop of repeated claims by the Federal Government that the insurgent group had been largely decimated to the extent that it could no longer hold on to any local government in terms of control.
This came as gunmen suspected to be bandits on Tuesday night, attacked Ancha village, Irigwe chiefdom of Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, killing at least 18 persons.
This is even bandits, also on Tuesday night, abducted village head, two Burkinabes and nine others in fresh Zamfara attacks.
Governor Zulum, who corroborated statements credited to speaker of the Borno State House of Assembly, Abdulkarim Lawan, that 99 per cent of communities of his local government area, Guzamala, are under the control of the sect, spoke when Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, led senators and top military officers on a courtesy call to Government House, Maiduguri.
Guzamala, Abadam LGAs still under B-Haram — Zulum
Zulum said: “I am plea-sed to inform you that we have started witnessing gradual return of peace, but more needs to be done because at present, Guzamala and Abadam Local Government Areas are still under the control of Boko Haram.
“Although the current service chiefs, the Theatre Commander, and, indeed, our General Officer Commanding, GOC, 7 Division are up and doing, we still have much to do.
“We want to commend the military and other para-military personnel for their gallant efforts to see to the end of terrorism in this part of the country.
“Unfortunately, the government and people of Borno State, especially those from southern and northern parts of the state, are worried over the increasing number of ISWAP groups who have been terrorizing their communities.
‘ISWAP, B-Haram regrouping with 300 bikes’
“Just few days ago, I received a security report that in some communities of Mandaragirau axis in Biu Local Government Area, there are reports that over 500 Boko Haram/ISWAP group have been converging with over 300 motorcycles and even celebrating parties/marriages among themselves without confrontation.
“ISWAP is more equipped, sophisticated, intelligent and dangerous as they grow from strength to strength. ISWAP is collecting taxes along major roads in Damboa and other axis in southern Borno. It is very unfortunate.
“But the good news is that about 11 local Government Areas of Gwoza, Bama, Marte, Monguno, Kaga, Gubio, Mafa, Dikwa, Ngala and host of others are becoming more peaceful than before, and this could be attributed to about 20,000 surrendered members of Boko Haram who are now in our custody.
“I want to use this opportunity to solicit for prayers from all and sundry for total restoration of peace not only in Borno State but also the country as a whole.’’
Ndume, earlier in his address, told the governor that they were in Borno to assess the security situation and thank the state government for its unflinching support towards restoration of peace and end of the carnage perpetrated by terrorists in the North-East.
18 killed in fresh Plateau attack
In another development, no fewer than 18 persons were on Tuesday night killed in fresh bandits’ attacks on Ancha village in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State. Property of the villagers were also razed in the incident.
Confirming the incident, the Operation SAFE Haven, OpSH, through the Military Information Officer, Major Ishaku Takwa, said, “In the late hours of Tuesday, January 11, 2022, troops of OPERATION SAFE HAVEN received a distress call of an attack on Ancha community in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau.
“The troops responded swiftly and mobilized to the village. On reaching the community, the attackers had fled the village. Houses were destroyed and some villagers lost their lives during the attack.
‘’Troops of Operation SAFE HAVEN are on the trail of the assailants and details of the pursuit would be made available later…”
However, Governor Simon Lalong described the incident as “another sad tale in the unending cycle of violent attacks in the area which has continued, despite several measures taken by government.” and
He ordered security agencies to ensure they fished out the attackers at all costs.
A statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Makut Macham, said, the governor “has again expressed deep sadness over another attack in Ancha village which left many dead and properties destroyed.
‘’The attack is another sad tale in the unending cycle of violent attacks in the area which has continued despite several measures taken by government.
“He ordered security agencies to ensure that they fish out the attackers at all costs, as bringing such perpetrators to justice is the only way to halt the barbaric killings.
“The governor asked the GOC 3rd Armoured Division and Commander, Operation Safe Haven; The Commissioner of Police; Department of State Services; Operation Rainbow and other security organs in the state to utilize intelligence available from survivors and other sources and ensure that the perpetrators of this and other attacks are apprehended and exposed.”
He directed Plateau State Emergency Management Agency and the Peace Building Agency to “move in and assess the damage as well as offer immediate humanitarian interventions.”
Meanwhile, the governor has praised security forces for burting a kidnap group and rescuing some victims in Barkin Ladi, describing the action as heartwarming and a proof that criminals would not be allowed to rest in Plateau State.
Also confirming the Ancha attack, the national leadership of Irigwe Development Association, IDA, said 18 persons were killed in the raid.
Giving details of the attack, shortly after returning from the affected community with other officials of the association, Davidson Malison, the National Publicity Secretary, Irigwe Development Association, said: “While other people celebrated the triumphant entry of year 2022, Irigwe people have been ushered into the year with a lot of unpleasantness and distastefulness.
‘Evil merchants having a field day’
“This can be likened to a scenario where evil merchants have been said to be having a field day in their attempt to achieve an agenda of annihilation of Irigwe ethnic nationality. The Irigwe Nation has been visited by yet another deadly and lethal attack by terrorists (as testified by victims that survived) in the early hours of 12 midnight of Tuesday January 11, 2022, at Ancha village of Miango District, Irigwe Chiefdom of Bassa LGA.
“The attack which lasted for over two hours (12:00-2:30) unchecked, led to the killing of 18 people, with six others injured, while over 24 households with over 100 residential rooms were razed down.
‘’Other properties like motor vehicles, motorcycles and harvested food crops were also destroyed with many valuables stolen and carted away. It is sad to note that among those killed and roasted is a three-month old baby.
“Prior to Ancha attack, three people were ambushed along Oureedam village of Kwali District on Christmas night where two people were killed instantly, while one sustained gunshot injuries.
“On the eve of New Year, five people were attacked and ambushed at Twin Hill where one was burnt to death, while four others were injured.
“On January 7,2022, a 49-year-old Timeh Evi was ambushed and killed on his irrigation farm in Nzhwerenvi. His body has not been recovered till date. His motorcycle and water pump machine were also carted away.
“On January 10, 2022, Ancha village was visited by another attack where a man and his wife were ambushed on their way to farm. The man died instantly, while the wife was severely injured and is currently receiving treatment at a hospital..
“The National Leadership of Irigwe Development Association, IDA, has lost words to convey the state of sadness and heartbreak the entire nation has been confined, courtesy of the acts of barbarism and callousness that has been done in the land.
“We have called on security agents and government on several occasions to devise means as well as grab the political will of ending the spate of carnage being unleashed on Irigwe people, yet no concrete and tangible efforts have been done to corroborate our calls.
‘We expect proactive, not reactive approach’
‘’But we want to reiterate that if we are part of this country and legitimate citizens, then we expect to see a proactive, not reactive approach, action not condemnation, arrest not mere investigation and justice not injustice.”
He gave the names of people killed as, Gideon Goh- 30 years old, Danladi James-26 years old, Yohanna Musa- 17 years old, Achi Alhaji -16 years old, Monday Abba- 52 years old, Musa Tegwi- 80 years old, Christiana Sunday -45;years old, Laraba Bitrus- 38 years old, Andrew Bitrus – 7 years old, Wiki Bitrus – 5 years old, Monday Bitrus- 3months old.
Others are, “Danjuma Rimbe -10 year old, Monday B Bitrus -19 years old, Moses Weyi – 21 years old, Mbe Weyi- 21 years old, Azumi Wreh, Danladi David Musa -28 years old and Garius Gado Sunday.”
Those injured are: “Danlami Adams Aged 21 years, Taji Bulus Daniel aged 30 years, Weyi Aged 42 years, Danladi James Aged 22 years, Ishya Danjuma Aged 36 years, Monday Amadu Aged 26 years.”
12 abducted by bandits in Zamfara
Meanwhile, bandits have again abducted 12 persons in fresh onslaught on Anka in Zamfara State.
Those kidnapped included a village head, two Burkina Faso nationals and nine others.
Though details of the attack in Yar Kuka are still sketchy, a resident of Anka said the village head, his wife and his brother, Sarki Musa, Hadiza Musa and Bawa Musa respectively, were abducted.
The bandits were said to have stormed the village Monday night and made straight for the monarch’s house.
Other people reportedly abducted were two Burkina Faso nationals who were engaged in mining activities in the village and another resident named Dahiru Umaru.
Three women and three teenage girls were also abducted in Kuzawa community of Kadauri village in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
Muhammadu Tasiu, a local trader, said his two wives and three daughters were abducted by the bandits.
A resident, who confirmed the attack, said the attackers stormed his house around 2:30 a.m.
“I was around but in my own part of the house when they came. They didn’t fire a single shot. Apart from my wives and daughters, they also took away all my money. The names of my wives are Zainab and Asmau,” he said.
The other woman, according to him, was a neighbour.
He added that the bandits had called twice but did not make any ‘meaningful negotiations with me.’
When contacted, the spokesperson of the police in Zamfara, Mohammed Shehu, said he did not have such information.
“To be honest with you, I don’t have any information on such attacks in the areas you mentioned,” he said.
FG won’t tolerate more attacks, says Magashi
Reacting to the killings in Zamfara yesterday, the Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi, retd, said killings of the magnitude like that of Anka and Bukkuyum in Zamfara State would never happen again.
He said the Federal Government would come to the aid of the victims of the attacks, adding that government was doing much better in order to secure the country.
He spoke when he led a Federal Government delegation to the state capital, Gusau, to commiserate with the people and government over the recent attacks on Anka and Bukkuyum communities by bandits.
Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle of Zamfara State, however, said in the aftermath of the recent attacks in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas, his administration had paid service hunters the sum of N53 million, and another N250 million to provide vehicles and allowances for both the Civilian JTF and the conventional security outfits.
The governor, however, regretted that banditry persists in the state because they were allegedly released without being charged.
Our troops lack modern equipment, Matawalle laments
Matawalle, who spoke when the delegation led by the Minister of Defence Major General Bashir Magashi visited him at Government House, Gusau, said: “Another problem we have noticed is that despite the remarkable zeal of our troops, they lack modern equipment with which to prosecute modern warfare.
“Modern warfare depends largely on modern war equipment and gadgets. It is very vital for these modern war instruments to be provided to our troops, if we are to win this fight against banditry in Zamfara and the North-West.
“It is evident that unless enough modern equipment is provided to our security forces to fight the war effectively, the country faces the danger of anarchy. This could be foreseen from the recent calls by some leaders for their people to take up arms to defend themselves. It is a recipe for lawlessness when the state loses its monopoly over the instruments of coercion.
“As a matter of urgency, the Federal Government should procure Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, and deploy them across all parts of the country. If 1,000 APCs could be made available, they would go a long way in turning the tide of the war against the bandits in a short period of time, Insha Allah.
“I want to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that the pockets of insurgencies in many parts of the north are inter-related. In some instances, evidence has been found of connection between Boko Haram and some of the bandit groups operating in the northwest.
“There should be a comprehensive review of our strategy of fighting insurgency. We need a more workable plan of action tailored explicitly in tune with the realities on the ground. This is a clarion call for us to step up efforts in this fight before the dreadful monster consumes our region and the country as a whole.”
“I would like to add that any strategy to be drawn for fighting banditry and all forms of insurgency should focus greater attention on Zamfara State. Our forests have become fortresses for bandits, from where they plan and launch attacks to other parts of the northwest,” he said.
“Part of the strategy should involve deployment of special forces to some black spots, particularly identified to be more dangerous centres of activities of the bandits.”
“In our search for peace, we built cooperation not just with the affected states but with the authorities of the Niger Republic. We have also employed service hunters and provided them with motorcycles and allowances.”
“We paid the service hunters the sum of N53 million, in addition to their full upkeep.
“In the aftermath of the recent attacks in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas, we’ve expended the sum of N250 million to provide vehicles, and allowances for both the Civilian JTF and the conventional security outfits, “ he said.
Minister Magashi in his remarks, told the people of Zamfara that the Federal Government was doing much better in order to secure the country.
“Killings of this magnitude would never happen again, the Federal Government will come to the aid of the victims of the attacks, “ he said.
We’ll continue to deal with terrorists — Buhari
Also speaking on the Zamfara attack yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari said his government would continue to deal with terrorists.
Buhari, who described the recent incident as a very sad one for the nation, reiterated his earlier commitment to tackle the monster of terrorism head on, giving assurances that the besieged communities and other Nigerians will not be abandoned to their fate.
In an address to the governor, commissioners, Emirs, the Chief Judge and Grand Khadi, legislators, council chairmen and political leaders, President Buhari, said: “There will be no let-up in the ongoing campaign to rid Zamfara and other affected states of the menace of these terrorists. Since they have no regard for the sanctity of life, so shall they be dealt with.
“The government is fully informed of what is going on and will do whatever it takes to end this. We are here to talk to the Governor and to assure the state that the administration is determined to do more to defend the life and property of the people.”
President Buhari condoled with the government and the people of the state over the losses of life and directed the military and other security agencies to intensify the ongoing campaign until everyone and everywhere is safe.