Saturday, January 21, 2012

The butchers of Nigeria

How a corrupt nation bred Boko Haram, the Islamic sect terrorizing the country’s Christians.

Cars in smoke: Scene of bombed police station in Kano
Over the past year, Nigeria’s homegrown terror group Boko Haram has escalated its deadly attacks against Christian and government targets, with the aim of establishing a Sharia state in the country’s north.
Nearly 30 years ago, in the largely Christian heartland of a multireligious Nigerian nation, and at that nation’s pioneer institution—the University of Ibadan—a minister of education summoned the vice chancellor and ordered him to remove a cross from a site dedicated to religious worship. Some Muslims had complained, he claimed, that the cross offended their sight when they turned east to pray.
The don’s response was: “Mr. Minister, it would be much easier to remove me as vice chancellor than to have me remove that cross.” Christians mobilized. A religious war was barely averted on campus. Today the Christian cross occupies that same spot, with the Islamic star and crescent raised only a few meters away. As I observed at a lecture several years later, there has been no earthquake beneath, no convulsions of the firmament above that space, no blight traceable to the cohabitation of that spot by Christian and Muslim symbols.
I evoked that occurrence when the latest torch bearers of fanaticism—a group called Boko Haram—emerged. I did so to draw attention to the fact that religious zealotry is not new in the nation, nor is it limited to the “unwashed masses” who have been programmed into killing, at the slightest provocation or none, in the name of faith. Unfortunately, far too many have succumbed to the belligerent face of fanaticism, believing that any form of excess is divinely sanctioned and nationally privileged.
Sectarian killings—numbered in the thousands—preceded Boko Haram, much organized butch-ery, sometimes announced in advance, always tacitly endorsed by silence and inaction, escalating in intensity and impunity. 
It was consciousness of the geographical expansion and the increasingly organized nature of the fanatic surge and its international linkages that compelled me to warn on three public occasions since 2009 that “the agencies of Boko Haram, its promulgators both in evangelical and violent forms, are everywhere. Even here, right here in this throbbing commercial city of Lagos, there are, in all probability, what are known as ‘sleepers’ waiting for the word to be given. If that word were given this moment, those sleepers would swarm over the walls of this college compound and inundate us.”
People run for safety as more bombs explode
Much play is given, and rightly so, to economic factors—unemployment, misgovernment, wasted resources, social marginalization, massive corruption—in the nurturing of the current season of violent discontent. To limit oneself to these factors alone is, however, an evasion, no less than intellectual and moral cowardice, a fear of offending the ruthless caucuses that have unleashed terror on society, a refusal to stare the irrational in the face and give it its proper name—and response. That minister was not one of the “unwashed masses.” He was, quite simply, the polished face of fanaticism. His prolonged career as secretary of the Universities Commission and minister of education inflicted on the nation a number of other policies of educational separatism that left a huge swath of Nigeria open to fanatic indoctrination.
Yes, indeed, economic factors have facilitated the mass production of these foot soldiers, but they have been deliberately bred, nurtured, sheltered, rendered pliant, obedient to only one line of command, ready to be unleashed at the rest of society. They were bred in madrassas and are generally known as the almajiris. 
From knives and machetes, bows and poisoned arrows they have graduated to AK-47s, homemade bombs, and explosive-packed vehicles. Only the mechanism of inflicting death has changed, nothing else.
This horde has remained available to political opportunists and criminal leaders desperate to stave off the day of reckoning. Most are highly placed, highly disgruntled, and thus highly motivated individuals who, having lost out in the power stakes, resort to the manipulation of these products of warped fervor. 
Their aim is to bring society to its knees, to create a situation of total anarchy that will either break up the nation or bring back the military, which ruled Nigeria in a succession of coups between the mid-1960s and the late ’90s. Again and again they have declared their blunt manifesto—not merely to Islamize the nation but to bring it under a specific kind of fundamentalist strain. 
Rather than act in defense of Nigeria’s Constitution, past rulers have cosseted the aggressors for short-term political gains. However, those who have tweaked the religious chord are discovering that they have conjured up a Frankenstein. Arrogance has given way to fear. The former governors of the northern states of Gombe and Borno wasted no time in issuing full-page advertorials in the media, apologizing to Boko Haram when the latter issued threats against them for their alleged role in the deaths of the group’s members at the hands of security forces in 2009.
A troubled president
They had precedent. It was in Nigeria, after all, that a deputy governor, later backed by his superior, pronounced a fatwa on a Nigerian citizen in 2002: “Like Salman Rushdie, [her blood] can be shed. It is binding on all Muslims, wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty.”
That was the fallout from a beauty contest in Abuja that drew the ire of some Islamic extremists. Reacting to the mayhem, a female journalist had speculated that, were the Prophet Muhammad alive, he might have selected one of the contestants for wife. For that alleged blasphemy, hundreds, guilty only of innocently pursuing a living, were massacred by hordes of fanatics, who were mostly bused into the capital for organized violence. The president went groveling before the presumably offended elite.
It was the same governor of an impoverished state called Zamfara who unilaterally commenced the separatist agenda that turned parts of Nigeria into theocracies under a supposed secular Constitution. His whim was indulged, his political support was courted by the then-sitting president, obsessed with prolonging his tenure. The governor, now turned senator, was also caught as a serial pedophile. Challenged in the media, he boasted that the Quran was above the Constitution, and thus he was not subject to laws that criminalized copulation with underage children or, indeed, cross-border sex trafficking, of which he was equally accused. He was neither censured by his fellow senators nor placed on trial. His followers have taken their cue from his declaration, convinced that the greater the crime, the greater its deserving of immunity.
Enenche Akogwu, the slain Channels TV reporter
How many of the hundreds of cases of impunity need one cite, with their corresponding gestures of appeasement? Where does one begin? Can the Nigerian police or judicial records reveal how many were prosecuted when a man called Gideon Akaluka was beheaded, his head paraded on a stake through the streets of Kano in northern Nigeria, for allegedly desecrating the Quran? It turned out no such offense had been committed. Nor has there been a single arrest in the secondary school where an invigilating teacher, a Mrs. Oluwasesin, was stripped naked, beaten, and then “necklaced”—set on fire by students for allegedly “treating the Quran with disrespect.” Her real crime? She had confiscated a Quran—and, incidentally, a Bible as well—from cheating students during a paper on religious studies. How does one convey scenes where killers perform ritual recitations before or after the meticulous throat-slitting of schoolchildren, in the conviction that this carries the same potency of immunity as papal indulgences once did in the decadent era of Christianity? For decades, leaders of those communities remained mute or uttered pietisms. Now the foot soldiers have matured on the taste of blood. They understand the essence of power. Some have come to realize they have been programmed, used, abused, and discarded. Now they seek to exercise power and have turned on all, mentors and appeasers alike.
Nigeria is at war. The Somalia scenario nibbles at her cohesion. When we insisted that the nation had become a prime target of al Qaeda, the reply was that Boko Haram was a homegrown phenomenon—as if this were ever the question! 
The reality is that it has, inevitably, developed ties with al Qaeda and its borderless company of religious insurgency. Only a few have sown the wind, but that wind was fanned by the breath of appeasement. Only one choice remains: to ride, or else reap, the whirlwind.

By Wole Soyinka, Nigerian poet/writer and Nobel Laureate 

At least 120 dead in blasts in Kano

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kano rocked by Boko Haram bombs

At least seven people were killed as explosions and gunfire rocked the biggest city in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north after Friday prayers. The radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Eyewitnesses described panic and pandemonium on the streets of Kano as residents ran for cover and plumes of smoke rose into the sky.

One explosion ripped through the city's police headquarters soon after 5pm, causing an unknown number of casualties. Police kept reporters away from the building, which had its roof torn off and windows blown out.

Witnesses said a bomber had pulled up to the building on a motorbike before getting off and running at it, holding a bag. "We tried to stop him, but he ran in forcefully with his bag," said a policeman at the scene. "All of a sudden there was a blast. You can see for yourself the building is damaged."

An Associated Press reporter said the explosion had been powerful enough to shake his car, which was several miles away.

Two other police stations and an immigration office in Kano, Nigeria's second-biggest city, were also hit, according to a BBC report. The explosions were followed by the sound of gunshots.

Officials could not be immediately reached for comment to say what had caused the blast or whether there had been any injuries. A spokesman for the Nigeria immigration service in the capital, Abuja, said officials in Kano had told him the blast shook their nearby office and was caused by a bomb.

Secondhand accounts quickly emerged on Twitter. Alkasim Abdulkadir, whose profile describes him as a freelance journalist, tweeted: "Got off the phone with a journo in Kano, as he was racing to safety, a bomb exploded in the area he was heading to."

Jeremy Weate, who blogs about Nigeria, posted: "My friend in Kano reports: 'It's bloody serious. The city is closed down with shooting now going on in all parts of Kano.'"

The chaos erupted as Nigeria faces a growing threat from Boko Haram. It has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in a campaign to implement strict sharia law across Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, roughly equally split between Muslims and Christians.

Courtesy: Guardian UK

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Boko Haram dividing Nigeria, not addressing grievances

Mrs Chioma Dike (2nd right) who lost her 3 children in the Xmas bombing
and another victim weeping during President Jonathan's visit to
Madalla. Credit: NAN

Violence has flared again in northern Nigeria, where attacks attributed to the group known as Boko Haram have several areas in a state of emergency. More than 80 people have been killed by extremist and criminal groups in recent weeks, adding to the more than 500 violently killed in the region in the past year.

As a long-time friend of the people of Nigeria, the United States condemns the ongoing acts of violence and offers our sincere condolences to the families of the victims. We urge the Nigerian government to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks, while also protecting innocent civilians as they enforce the law.

Groups that use violence against innocents can never be considered legitimate spokesmen of people seeking justice or those trying to build a better future for their children. Instead, we applaud those civil society groups who take tangible steps to deliver government accountability and inclusive, lasting economic growth to the region.

The most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria derives enormous strength from its religious and ethnic diversity.  We call on Christians and Muslims all over the country to defend the nation’s unity by protecting vulnerable minorities within their own communities.

Voice of America (VOA) Editorial

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Madalla blast: Detained suspect escapes

A man arrested at the Borno State Governor’s Lodge over the deadly Madalla Christmas Day bombing escaped from police custody on Sunday while he was being conveyed to a location in Abaji area of Abuja, Daily Trust learnt yesterday.

Boko Haram suspect Kabiru Sokoto was arrested at the weekend during a police raid on the lodge, where he sneaked in through a friend who was given accommodation to stay overnight. He was said to be taken along with a Flight Lieutenant of the Nigerian Air Force to the Zone 7 Headquarters of the Police in Abuja.

Sources told Daily Trust yesterday that Kabiru was taken to Abaji on Sunday, where he is said to own a house, to allow police conduct a search but he escaped at about 5.30pm at Abaji.

Police went on a pursuit, firing shots and in the process a stray bullet hit and killed a 28-year-old man named Awwal Inuwa Ashafa, according to residents of the area.

Pandemonium ensued as people ran for cover. Ashafa, who had an HND in Building Engineering from Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa, was shot in the chest.

A witness said trouble started in the area when policemen from Abuja city brought Kabiru Sokoto in a Toyota Hilux van. A gang of youths flagged down the vehicle as it was heading for the Ona of Abaji’s Palace, creating a chaos during which the suspect escaped.

The police had earlier taken the suspect to a house he owned at Abaji to conduct search and were on their way to the traditional head’s palace when the youths saw him in handcuffs and then blocked the road, the witness said.

Kabiru seized the opportunity created by the youths and escaped. Meanwhile, the police fired shots in the air to disperse the youths.

Our reporter observed soldiers, riot police and men of the FCT Special Anti-Robbery Squad positioned at various junctions in Abaji, while a police armoured vehicle was also seen stationed in the town.

Abaji DPO, Superintendent Mathew Chukwkuma Okafor, was not available for comments. A senior police officer said four persons have been arrested over the incident.

But spokesman for the FCT police command Moshood Jimoh said no suspect escaped custody from either the Abaji divisional police or from any other police unit there.

Courtesy: Daily Trust

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Boko Haram threat to the nation of Nigeria

THE revelation by President Goodluck Jonathan that  Boko  Haram sect members have infiltrated  the executive, the parliamentary,  and the judicial arms  as well as the  armed forces, the police  and other security  agencies is  most  disturbing.  There can be little doubt now that this religious group constitutes a clear and present threat to the corporate existence of our country. Shortly after it claimed responsibility for the bombing of murdered Christians in a Christmas Day church service, the Boko Haram sect (Muslims, including the Sultan of Sokoto, have denounced it as anti-Islamic) gave Christians as well as Southerners who reside in the Northern part of the country  three days to quit or be killed. And the group has indeed made good its threat with further attack on churches, banks, town halls, police posts and homes of their perceived enemies - including   members of state security forces. Put simply, Boko Haram is fully and unrepentantly engaged in heinous criminality.

In the face of these incidents of outrage by a more or less nihilistic group, the government appears — at least from  its ineffectual response  to date — to be at a loss  on what  to do; some would even say  powerless, to live up to  a  fundamental  objective  and principle of  state policy that ‘the  security  and welfare of  the people  shall be the primary  purpose of  government’.  Now, citizens are being driven to secure themselves. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, has warned that his religious constituency may have to begin to ‘respond appropriately ‘to future acts of violence, and Living Faith Church leader, Bishop David Oyedepo has threatened to personally lead the battle if any other church is attacked by the Islamic group. Groups in the southern part of the country have either threatened or actually carried out acts of retaliation. Ogbunigwe Igbo has threatened ‘extreme violence’ in retaliation for the killing of Igbo  people while the Gani Adams faction of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) has  urged  Yoruba people in the North to return home. On the other hand, northerners are fleeing some states in the south. Alas, the practice of ‘an eye for an eye’ will leave every one blind and devastate the country.

Our country is threatened by ethnic and religious conflict provoked by a relatively small but apparently well-funded, well managed group that is increasingly confident in its capability to dictate the pace of engagement with constituted authority. But government carries on as if there is no big deal to it. This indeed, is part of the problem, unless there is something the people in government know about the Boko Haram that other Nigerians do not, and which informs their somewhat lackadaisical attitude. But that will be deceitful because Nigerians have a right to full disclosure on a matter that touches their lives. That is one of the pillars of democracy.

Who is the Boko Haram and what do its adherents really want?  Some suspect that  it may be a phony group that is a diversionary religious cover for a well-planned strategy of murder, arson, and robbery to achieve a far more sinister goal than that of faith. Others view it as nominal cover for what may be termed ‘franchised criminality’. But the President seemed to have conceived the existence and ubiquity of the group. At times like these, no possibility can be ruled out. There are persons identified who have not denied their membership of the sect.  A high ranking member once claimed to have had a meeting with the Inspector- General of Police. Besides, intelligence report has extensively documented the activities and persons connected with the group.  Civil rights activist Shehu Sani has also written extensively on the origin, and formation and locations of the group, which is apparently out to Islamize  Nigeria as well as to avenge the killing  ( a dastardly act ) of their  leader  Mohammed Yusuf  and subsequent  deaths of their  members in the hands of  law enforcement agents. National Security Adviser Gen. Owoye Aziza has, in a piece for a foreign newspaper, written that the sect ‘sees itself as fulfilling part of a global mission’ (and) ‘is striving to spark a religious war’.

On the first point, it defies common sense to kill the very people you seek to convert to your faith. Who shall be left? Besides how does the group explain that Muslims are among its victims. On the second point, two wrongs do not make a right, and  because this  is still a  country under the rule of law,  it behoves the  aggrieved sect to  press for an impartial inquiry into the death of  its leader, in addition to  any other  lawful redress it  might want to seek. But this line of action may be out of consideration for a group that appears to not recognize the juridical authority of the extant system of government.

The Federal Government continues to respond with feeble, knee-jerk measures to the very real and present danger to the corporate existence of Nigeria. Since 2008 or thereabout, government has reportedly been intimated with detailed intelligence reports including 14 comprehensive security documents on the plans and modus operandi of the Boko Haram sect. Lately, it declared a state of emergency in selected local government areas in four severely affected states. But this has not at all reduced the criminality as the Boko Haram picks its targets with arrogance and disdain for the nation’s security apparatus – and by extension the government.

The root of the Boko Haram phenomenon lies substantially in the alienation of the governed by their governors. On the one hand, unemployment and poverty of able- bodied Nigerians supply ready hands and impressionable minds for religious and ethnic jingoists. On the other, a dysfunctional educational system and moral corruption in all facets of national life have enabled groups like Boko Haram to thrive. According to Shehu Sani, ‘the sect…took advantage of the poor  quality of our educational system, the incessant strikes, cult activities  and widespread malpractices and prostitution…to  lure youths to  abandon school and embrace Yusuf’s …promises to offer them better education’ as well as  a more   Godly leadership  than they could see around them. If government were to fight these social ills with as much resources  as  are devoted to  security — whatever that  means — surely this nation would not be in its present state because, in the words of the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, the Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, ‘security [also] has to do with  man’s ability to  meet his basic needs’.

People are dying and families are thrown into mourning by the day. The society is being destabilized as large numbers suddenly have to flee areas in which they have lived the better part of their lives. Even now, out of fear of Boko Haram, national youth corps members are reported to flee some states that should, in normal times, be regarded as a part of their fatherland. Surely, President Goodluck Jonathan would not want this nation to come to harm under his watch. The government has the means and the resources to stop this. It must discharge its responsibility to the people. No ‘transformation agenda’ can be implemented unless the state is secure.

The President must take another look at the security apparatus at his disposal to fight this threat. If necessary, he should set up new structures or shakeup both the existing apparatus and the strategic personnel in charge of them.

He should take a bearing from his predecessor, President Umaru Yar’Adua on how he tackled the Niger Delta crisis. And finally, he should remain less accident-prone as happened with the sneaky withdrawal of the fuel subsidy, which has thrown the country into a new crisis. He needs to focus on the security problem, which has serious implication for the survival of the country.

The Guardian

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Boko Haram vows to continue killing christians

Excerpts from a youtube message by Abubakar Shekau, acclaimed leader of Boko Haram.  Shekau spoke in Hausa language:

- "All these things you've been seeing happening, it's Allah who has been doing it because you refuse to believe in him and you misuse his religion and because of that, the thing is more than you, Jonathan."

"People are talking about us, that we are a disease, a cancer, to people in Nigeria. But we are not cancer and we are not a disease. And we are not wicked people with a bad habit. If people do not know us, Allah knows us."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Government talks, Boko Haram acts

Scene of the Christmas Day bombing
Believe it or not, the Boko Haram elements are gaining grounds with their jihadist agenda in northern Nigeria.   Many have blamed the insurgence in Nigeria’s north on poverty and underdevelopment.  While that sounds a convincing argument, it is only a small part of much deeper problem.

 What the group is doing in the north, is nothing short of jihad and unless the government rises to assert the fact that Nigeria is a secular state and must remain so, the situation might get out of hand.  Jihad is an objective clearly outlined in the original name of the group – ‘Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad’ which translates ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad’.

The Dictionary of Islam as quoted by Wikipedia, defines jihad as: "A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad ... enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims."  Some analysts have described the series of attacks by Boko Haram as ‘social protests’; I would prefer to call it a jihadi pogrom.

The insurgence in the north is political, economic and religious.  The economic reasons for the ‘war’ on Christians and southerners in the north, has been well espoused by many economic analysts.   I think the activities of Boko Haram is political because there are some political heavyweights in the region who feel delineated from the present scheme of things and who are therefore sponsoring the group to undermine the system.  It is religious because it thrives on religious indoctrination and dogma.

If you doubt that it is not just the economic factor alone that is at work in the fundamentalist manifestations we now see, consider the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber.  He is apparently from one of Nigeria’s wealthiest families and attended some of the best schools at home and abroad.  More than economic consideration (if any), it was religious indoctrination that drove his action.

One fact is obvious – poverty is a grim reality in most parts of northern Nigeria.  But in many respects, poverty is also prevalent in other parts of the country.  Besides, does poverty justify the killing of your fellow human being?  Coating the massacre of Christians and southerners in the north under the guise of poverty is only begging the question.  Poverty should not take humanity away from us.

Not less than 30 southerners have been killed in different parts of north, with over 50 others severally wounded since two days ago when the ultimatum given to Christians and southerners to vacate the region expired.  Only yesterday in Mubi, Adamawa state, over 20 Igbos traders were brutally murdered where they had gathered for a meeting.  An eyewitness said, while “everyone scampered for safety, the gunmen chanted ‘God is great, God is great’ while shooting at us”.

The latest attacks have been as vicious as the Christmas Day church bombing in Suleja. They are but the latest episode in what some media persist in characterizing as ‘social protest’, but which is in fact a systematic attempt by Islamic fundamentalists to murder and ethnically cleanse the Christian community in the north.

I think they have succeeded so far because while the government has been busy talking, they have been busy acting.  I have suffered personal loss from the bombings of Boko Haram in the last one month; loss that cannot in any way be replaced.  The attack on a church in Suleja on Christmas Day remains a dagger through my heart because of some siblings whose lives, families and dreams have been decimated in a most cruel way.

The more the government dilly-dallies over the situation in the north, the stronger the centrifugal forces wanting to tear us apart become.  One question that we must not fail to answer at the time is – Is Nigeria really one indivisible nation as the rulers in Abuja readily tell us?  I am not convinced; not with what is happening now in the northern part of the country.

How can we be one people when some people have acquired the licence to kill others and the state looks helpless? Like Ken Ugbechie, former editor of The Post Express and a renowned colleague asked recently in an article “Do I have a part in a country where my cousins and uncles are hacked to death in the north and all I get is a mocking ‘my men are on top of the situation’ mantra from those paid to protect their lives and property?

It started with some vagrants throwing bombs and killing others. We did nothing. The vile men graduated from throwing bombs in Borno State alone to doing same in Bauchi, Yobe, Abuja and elsewhere. Again, we did nothing, only a half-hearted condemnation of the act. Then they became emboldened by our collective helplessness and much more by the gross ineptitude of our national security that they even took their bomb-throwing pastime to the headquarters of national security, the head office of the Nigeria police.

They know we are powerless. They are right. Any optimism that the bombing of the police headquarters would compel the police to be more decisive was doused by the attitude of the top echelon of the Nigeria police. Till this day, they are yet to find the sponsors of Boko Haram, a group of vile men who almost killed the Inspector-General of Police.

Because national security apparatchik did nothing, the bombers stepped up their game, this time the United Nations building. Even this did not get Nero out of the palace; he simply continued to fiddle while the empire burns. All they tell us is that they know the bombers and those behind them. They do? The police say they know those behind Boko Haram, the SSS says they have evidence to prove they know the bombers; even the presidency never ceases to entertain us with the same ‘we know the bombers and their sponsors’ rhetoric.

Nigeria is on a brink, on the edge of a dangerous cliff. Let’s not pretend about it. And it is not about the rage over petrol subsidy. That in itself is a red-herring, a subterfuge, a needless distraction. There is a deadlier cancer eating up the nation. It is deadlier than the street rage and bonfires over fuel subsidy. It is the war declared on Christians by some Muslims to the delight of their promoters and sponsors. How can we justify the bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church on Christmas Day and the resultant death of over 40 people?

How do we explain to our children that there is no religious war when some armed men would head straight to a Church service and pump bullets into the heads and trunks of unarmed people worshipping their God. The shooting to death of worshippers at a Deeper Life Church in Gombe, a Christ Apostolic Church in Yola, and the mindless killing via the bullet of some Igbo sons at a town hall meeting in Adamawa State (unarmed people who were mourning the death of one of their own) do not convince me we are still one.

I have just evacuated a family member of mine doing her national service in Jigawa from her place of primary assignment.  She is due to round off her service next month, but with the spate of killings taking place since the expiration of Boko Haram’s 3-day ultimatum, I am not sure of her security.  In a system where the security services have consistently failed to protect lives and property, the best thing to do is to be as pro-active as one can possibly be.

Boko Haram kills Nigeria secret police officer

Police authorities say members of the Boko Haram sect has killed a secret police officer in northeast Nigeria as part of its widening sectarian battle against the oil-rich nation's weak central government.
Borno state police commissioner Simeon Midenda said the attack happened Monday in the town of Biu. Midenda said the gunmen from the sect known locally as Boko Haram attacked after the officer of the State Security Service left a mosque.
At least 53 people have been killed in recent days by Boko Haram, according to an Associated Press count. Boko Haram says it has started specifically targeting Christians, exploiting religious tension in the nation.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Christians flee attacks in northern Nigeria

Hundreds of Christians have begun to flee northern Nigeria after dozens were killed in a series of attacks by Islamist militants who issued an ultimatum to Christians to leave the mainly Muslim region or be killed, witnesses said Saturday.

A Nigerian newspaper Tuesday published a warning from Boko Haram, a movement styled on the Taliban, that Christians had three days to get out of northern Nigeria.

Since the expiry of that ultimatum, attacks in towns in four states in northeastern Nigeria have left at least 37 people dead and hundreds of Christians are fleeing to the south, according to residents and a Red Cross official.

Gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs have targeted church congregations and a group of mourners in a church hall.

Witnesses said some shops run by Christians from the Igbo ethnic group in towns hit by the violence, including Yola and Mubi, were closed Saturday and residents started to pack their belongings onto buses heading to southern regions.

There are fears of reprisal attacks on Muslims. Christian groups have asked their followers to remain peaceful but they concede that there is a risk of further violence.

"We are very worried by the persistent killings. We have asked youths to remain calm. We stand for a united Nigeria but there is a limit to human tolerance," a spokesman for the Christian Association of Nigeria told Reuters.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast and two other regions in Nigeria on December 31, in a bid to contain a growing insurgency by Boko Haram, which says it wants to apply Islamic sharia law across the country.

Heavily armed troops and tanks have been patrolling parts of northeast Nigeria since Jonathan made the announcement but it is a vast, remote region that has proven difficult to secure.


Gunmen opened fire in a hall in Mubi in Adamawa state on Friday where a group of Christians had gathered to mourn the deaths of those killed in an attack the previous day. The death toll in those attacks has reached 21, the Red Cross said on Saturday.

"Unknown gunmen in Mubi attacked and killed 3 people on Thursday night and Friday as people gathered to mourn the deaths, the gunmen believed to be the same attackers killed 18 people, totaling 21," said Red Cross spokesman Umar Mairiga.

Adamawa state is just south of Borno state, the homeland of Boko Haram, which has been behind almost daily attacks in recent months.

Local residents in the Adamawa state capital Yola said gunmen had fired on Christians leaving church Friday, killing eight people. The police confirmed the incident but were not able to give further comment or a death toll.

A spokesman for Boko Haram told reporters by phone that the sect was behind many of the attacks, including a shooting at a church service in northeast Gombe Thursday, which killed at least six people.

"The Gombe attack on the Deeper Life Church and the attack on Igbos in Mubi and that of Yola were all carried out by us," Abu Qaqa said by telephone to reporters.

Elsewhere, a Christian couple were shot dead Friday in the Mairi ward of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the nucleus of Boko Haram's violence since an uprising in 2009.

"A Christian husband and wife have been killed in the night (Friday) in Maiduguri," said Colonel Victor Ebhemele, operations officer in the Borno joint task force.

In Yobe state, which sits on borders with Borno state and neighboring Niger, police said it killed some members of Boko Haram in a gun battle Friday night.

The Red Cross official said members of the Igbo ethnic group, who are usually Christian and a minority in the mainly Muslim north were fleeing the northeast. Most of the people killed in Mubi were Igbo, local residents said.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden," claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks across Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one at a church near the capital Abuja that killed at least 37 people and wounded 57.

Nigeria's population of around 160 million is split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims. Most Christians live in the south and most Muslims in the north, but many communities are mixed, and the majority live side by side in peace.

 The persistent violence adds to growing problems for Jonathan, who has been criticised for not getting a grip on Boko Haram's insurgency. Nationwide strikes are planned Monday against the government's decision to end fuel subsidies from January 1, which caused the pump price to double.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Boko Haram and the Nigerian state

Since 2010, a wave of terror has been unleashed on the Nigerian state. The ongoing campaign of bloodletting by the Boko Haram sect has reopened the fissures in the fabric of the Nigerian nation. Unlike other countries confronted with terrorism, there is in Nigeria a glaring lack of consensus among the elite, leading to inertia and seeming helplessness in the face of a virulent terrorist threat. After the terror group’s Christmas Day bombing of a church near Abuja that killed at least 43 people and wounded 73, calls for a renegotiation of the State of the Union have resurfaced forcefully and can no longer be ignored. Our political future as a nation-state will depend on how stakeholders are able to tackle this menace.

Though President Goodluck Jonathan has taken the right step by declaring a state of emergency in Boko Haram’s areas of influence, the crackdown on the sect may no longer be enough to save the Nigerian state. The grim realities demand bolder initiatives. As the second decade of the 21st century gathers momentum, the stress, tensions and threats that crouch beneath the surface, ready to erupt at the slightest opportunity, demand that all stakeholders rally behind the imperative of political restructuring to save the union and fashion realistic rules of political, economic and social engagement.

Nigerians are often divided along religious, ethnic and regional lines despite a shared, albeit forced, union of almost a century. But, as Prof. Tam David-West has pointed out, the merger of Northern Nigeria, Southern Nigeria and the Colony of Lagos by the British in 1914 was an amalgamation: “…an amalgam is a mixture of different constituents; an alloy, easily resolvable into individual components or entities”. The challenge for successive Nigerian generations has been how to forge nationhood, an American-style melting pot. To forge that nationhood and disprove late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s 1947 assertion that Nigeria “is a mere geographical expression”, states have been created, while the federal character principle has been enshrined in the laws and used as a basis for recruitment in schools, the civil service, political offices and the security agencies. It has been a long, hard road for the country to get where it is today. Yet, the gradual dismantling of federalism in favour of unitary structures has exacerbated the divisive tendencies, which manifest during every national crisis.

The nation’s political structure remains fragile and democracy appears to be in jeopardy. Therefore, it is time to restructure to achieve, at the very least, a vibrant federal structure that will allow all the component units to control their own resources, foster healthy competition and allow effective local autonomy over security and religion. The country effectively became a dichotomy from 2000 when 12 states (contrary to 1999 Constitution) adopted the criminal aspects of the Islamic sharia law complete with the Hisbah (religious police) without any constitutional safeguards for non-adherents.

Just as religion has been stretching the fabric of the union since 1986, when the military junta of the day dragged Nigeria into the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, religious and sectional interests have curtailed the heavy-handed attrition that the maniacal Boko Haram sect deserves. The emergence in the South-East of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra; in the South-South, Niger Delta militant groups; in the South-West, the Oodua Peoples Congress and in the North-Central, increasingly radicalised youths, gives expression to entrenched divisive tendencies.

Former Defence Minister, Lt. Gen Theophillus Danjuma (retd), once warned that no country could survive two civil wars or a religious war. The experience of war, famine and dismemberment in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and former Yugoslavia compels a discussion of Nigeria’s continued existence on mutually acceptable terms by all the federating units. The explosive situation that exists today cannot be wished away. Condemnation is definitely not enough. Ultimately, it is Nigerians themselves that will have to decide the country’s future. And the time is now. At the very minimum, component units should have control over their own resources, run their police forces and have control over local governments. The Federal Government will be left with defence, immigration/emigration, customs and foreign affairs while other responsibilities can be negotiated. A true federal structure should follow from the 1963 republican constitution, which allowed considerable regional autonomy and delivered rapid development through competition among the defunct four regions.

The country today resembles a failing state with the Boko Haram menace as an ominous reminder of the United States’ State Department assessment of Nigeria as a “fragile state” that could disintegrate by 2015. Human Rights Watch 2011 report calculates that inter-communal, political, and sectarian violence has claimed the lives of more than 14,500 persons since the end of military rule in 1999. Without security, there will be no future for the union. The way out is for all stakeholders to quickly agree to a truly representative conference of all nationalities to renegotiate the terms of the union.

Courtesy: The Punch

Another Boko Haram killing claims 20 in Adamawa

Suspected gunmen from a radical Muslim sect attacked a town hall Friday in rural northeast Nigeria, killing at least 20 people who had gathered for a meeting of a Christian ethnic group, police said.
The attack at noon targeted a town hall where Christian Igbo people were holding a meeting, with gunmen chanting "God is great" as they fired Kalashnikov rifles.
The killings come after a spokesman for the sect known as Boko Haram threatened to begin specifically targeting Christians living in the country's Muslim north in its increasingly bloody sectarian fight with Nigeria's weak central government. That could further inflame religious tensions in an uneasy nation already gripped by civil unrest.
The attack occurred in Mubi in Adamawa state as Igbo traders held a meeting before opening up their shops for business, local police commissioner Ade T. Shinaba said. "We started hearing many gunshots through the windows," said Okey Raymond, 48, who attended the meeting. "Everyone scampered for safety, but the gunmen chanted: 'God is great God is great' while shooting at us."
Raymond said he hid under a table and escaped out a back door. The gunmen also carried knives and machetes, the police commissioner said. No arrests have been made in the attack, which left at least another 15 people wounded. Today's attack comes after gunmen attacked a church in the northeast Nigeria city of Gombe during a prayer service Thursday night, spraying the congregation with gunfire and killing at least six people including the pastor's wife.
No one has claimed responsibility for that attack, though Boko Haram has targeted churches in the past in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria. Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 510 killings last year alone, according to an Associated Press count.
The group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 42 people in a Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church near Abuja, as well as a suicide car bombing targeting the U.N. headquarters in the capital that killed 25 people and wounded more than 100. Nigeria's weak central government has been slow to respond to the sect.
On Dec. 31, President Goodluck Jonathan declared regions of Borno, Niger, Plateau and Yobe states to be under a state of emergency -- meaning authorities can make arrests without proof and conduct searches without warrants. He also ordered international borders near Borno and Yobe state to be closed. However, the areas where the recent church and town hall attacks happened are not in the areas marked by the president.
The attack also comes after a spokesman for Boko Haram told The Daily Trust newspaper, northern Nigeria's paper of record, that the group would begin targeting Christians living in Nigeria's Muslim north. Igbo traders, who belong to one of the country's three dominant ethnic groups, do business and live across Nigeria's north though the Igbo traditionally have lived in the country's southeast.

Associated Press

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Boko Haram attacks another church, kills six

A Deeper Life Christian Church in Gombe state was last night attacked by persons suspected to be members of the Boko Haram  Islamic sect, killing six worshippers.
Johnson Jauro, pastor of the church, said the killings took place when gunmen burst into the church.  He said his wife was among those killed. Ten other people were injured.
Nigeria has recently experienced a surge in ethnic and sectarian violence. The government declared a state of emergency in parts of the country.
"The attackers started shooting sporadically. They shot through the window of the church, and many people were killed including my wife,"  Jauro told Reuters news agency.
"Many members who attended the church service were also injured."
Reports say that gunmen attacked the church in the middle of the service, shooting indiscrimately as six people werey killed while other members of the congregation who sustained injuries were taken to  an undisclosed hospital .

Boko Haram resumes attack as ultimatum expires

Bomb blasts have rocked northeastern Nigerian cities under a state of emergency as an ultimatum from Islamists for Christians living in the area to leave expired, officials said on Thursday.
No casualties were reported after the attacks in Maiduguri and Damaturu late Wednesday, claimed by the same purported spokesman for Islamist group Boko Haram who on Sunday issued a three-day ultimatum for Christians living in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north to leave.
One of the bombs in Maiduguri, Boko Haram's stronghold, destroyed a house near a customs barracks, according to a customs source and resident. The Damaturu blast occurred at an open-air pub.
In a separate incident, two civilians were shot dead on the outskirts of Damaturu, a hospital source said.
The attacks were the first in the area since President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency last weekend in parts of the country hard hit by violence blamed on the Boko Haram, a nebulous and shadowy Islamist group.
Abul Qaqa, who claims to be a spokesman for the group in Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, said it was behind the latest bomb attacks, although his claims could not be independently verified.
"We are responsible for the bomb blasts in Damaturu and Maiduguri this evening," he said in a phone call to AFP. "This is a response to the expiration of the ultimatum we gave to southerners to leave."
Nigeria's population of 160 million is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south, but with each area having a millions-strong minority of the other faith.
The Boko Haram spokesman warned Sunday that in the wake of Jonathan's emergency decree, the group would confront soldiers and Christians who did not heed the warning to leave.
Nigeria's police chief Hafiz Ringim issued a statement calling on residents to ignore the ultimatum.
"Nigeria is one united and indivisible entity where citizens are at liberty to reside where they desire and practise whatever faith," he said.
A spokesman for a military task force in Maiduguri, Colonel Hassan Mohammed, told AFP that there were two explosions in the Mairi area of the city.
"The explosives were planted in a ditch and detonated when nobody was around," he said, adding that they occurred near a customs centre, but denying the establishment was the target.
A customs source and a resident however, said a customs officer's residence was destroyed in the attack.
"A bomb went off at the edge of the barracks," the customs source said. "The house of an officer close to the wall was destroyed in the blast. Fortunately, he was out on duty and nobody was home at the time."
In the first attack since the state of emergency was declared, but just outside the areas covered by the decree, gunmen attacked a police station in the northern Jigawa state Tuesday, killing a teenage girl and wounding an officer.
Jonathan's weekend declaration of a state of emergency in parts of four northern states came in response to a wave of attacks attributed to Boko Haram, particularly a series of Christmas Day bombings that killed 49 people.
While Boko Haram has been blamed for increasingly deadly attacks for months, including an August suicide bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja that left 25 dead, the Christmas violence sparked intense fear and outrage.
Muslims have frequently been victims of Boko Haram attacks, most of which have occurred in northeastern Nigeria, but the Christmas bombings targeted churches and raised rears of retaliation by Christians.
The spiralling violence is one of a number of concerns facing Nigeria, including increasingly volatile protests over a government move to end fuel subsidies on January 1, which has doubled petrol prices.
Police on Thursday fired tear gas and beat demonstrators who staged a protest in Nigeria's main northern city of Kano, an organiser of the rally said.
Separately, a group of about 30 lawyers marched in the latest protest in the economic capital Lagos.

Courtesy: AFP

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The killing of Mr. Innocent and his five children

Some broken hearts will never mend.
When the bombs exploded at St. Theresa Catholic Church last Christmas, at least 40 people died immediately while several others were injured. A safe haven became a crime scene.
Among the dead were Mr. Innocent, his three sons and three daughters.
Innocent was from Umukabia in Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. His wife did not die in the blast. She left the church earlier.
According to Okechukwu Okafor, a cousin of Innocent who spoke to me from his base in Germany, Innocent’s wife left the church earlier so she could prepare the food that the entire family will eat later that day.
They never did.  There would be no more family meals for Innocent and his household.  In his village, lips remained sealed as no one has told his mother about the tragic deaths in the family.
Who is going to let the cat out of the bag?  This man will be buried in his village. What are they going to tell his mum? What does she know about Boko Haram?
Who will be there to console Innocent’s mum? She has lost her dependable son.  Who is going to console Innocent’s wife? Her husband and five children are dead.
This is the greatest tragedy that can befall a woman, to lose her husband and her children in one swoop.
She will never understand why her loved ones were taken away from her forever. They paid the ultimate price. It’s a sad situation.
Before the dusts finally settle it will be a great service to country and humanity if the government of the day shows some compassion by visiting the families of the victims killed and the survivors of the senseless bomb blasts.
Maybe the Imo State Governor or the Local Government Chairman in Mbano should step forward to console the bereaved?
Families of victims and survivors have homes and they should be offered the best of psychological and moral supports by the church and the government.
It is hypocritical for Mr. Jonathan to shed tears at the crime scene 7 days after. What was he doing 5 minutes after the blast took place?
It is worrying that no one has been arrested or prosecuted for all the acts of murders that have been perpetrated in the name of terrorism in Nigeria.
Injured victim being evacuated
It is sad that simple techniques like Google maps and 3G technologies are not available to the Nigerian Security Operatives. That is probably one of the several reasons why terrorists in Nigeria can make phone calls to journalists and the police and still keep hold of their residential areas.
It’s an additional scandal on this lukewarm presidency.
It appears that Mr. Jonathan’s biggest task before the fuel subsidy scandal was how to keep Nigeria one. He lost the plot and presents a classical example of a scalar quantity.
Each day that passes under Mr. Jonathan gives strength to the argument to restructure Nigeria as a true federation. The recent threat from Boko Haram that all southerners should quit the northern region calls for an outright division of the country.
These two options cannot be ignored forever. Nigeria is now too fragile to sustain the present form of governance.
Further negligence of the wave of terrorism and general government lawlessness sustained by systemic corruption and impunity will result to anarchy and the consequences can be Nigeria’s second civil war.
Inscriptions were made on the blood stained walls of St. Theresa Church. One of them was REVOLUTION NOW and the other was NO MORE PEACE IN THE COUNTRY.
These inscriptions are perfect descriptions of the current situation in Nigeria. Who knows where we go from where?
Some tears will never dry.
May the souls of Innocent, his children and all those who paid the supreme price for Nigeria find peace.
May their families find the strength to move on.

By Adeola Aderounmu

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Boko Haram’s 3-day ultimatum

It is instructive that Boko Haram, the Islamic fundamentalist group, has finally declared war on Christians living in the northern part of Nigeria with yesterday’s ultimatum giving them and Southerners living in the north three days to quit the region.
Reacting to the declaration of emergency rule in parts of the north where their activities has been very catastrophic in the last months, Abdul Qaqa, a self-acclaimed spokesman of the group, said "…we are also giving a three-day ultimatum to the southerners living in the northern part of Nigeria to move away." 
Nigerian Police chief, Hafiz Ringim
"We wish to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the north because we have evidence that they would be attacked.” Apparently in the thinking of this group, the sizeable number of Christians of northern origin do not simply exist.  Every Christian is a southerner and every Muslim is a northerner. This, obviously, is unfortunate.
The new approach of Boko Haram is a tacit call for the dismemberment of the entity called Nigeria. Besides, it strikes a resemblance to the Nazi-style isolation strategy used against the Jews in the Hitler-era Germany.  During this time, Jews in Europe were subjected to progressively harsh persecution that ultimately led to the murder of six million Jews (1.5 million of these being children) and the destruction of 5,000 Jewish communities.
These deaths represented two-thirds of European Jewry and one-third of world Jewry. The Jews who died were not casualties of the fighting that ravaged Europe during World War II. Rather, they were the victims of Hitler's deliberate and systematic attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish population of Europe, a plan Hitler called the “Final Solution” (Endlosung).
Obviously, when you kill people who’ve done nothing to you, you naturally expect reprisal. Since it’s not coming, Boko Haram keeps doing more harm to call it forth. But there are questions: do we go so far with them; do we allow genocide, religious/ethnic cleansing? Do we fold our arms until it happens?
Like I stated in my last posting, one of the most crucial challenge confronting the government of Nigeria today is to fish out the elements behind the Boko Haram.  If the bomb throwers and suicide bombers as is widely held are a bunch of unemployed youths, then some financiers must be providing the financial and logistic support that enables them to operate.  Our military intelligence must fish these sponsors out and treat them as sponsors of terrorism.
The Nigerian Police authorities have as usual dismissed the Boko Haram threat as baseless and an act designed just to create panic.   The Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Yemi Ajayi, while describing the threat as “empty and calculated efforts to create fears into the people”, noted that “the Federal Government has done enough to protect the lives and properties of the people in this part of the country regardless of their tribe and religion.”
Governor Obi of Anambra (right) receiving the corpse of Agnes
Past experiences have made Nigerians cynical when they hear such statements from state agents, particularly the police.  During the last crisis in Bauchi, corps members who run into police stations to seek refuge were butchered by the hoodlums.  Agnes Ezennadozie, a pregnant corps member, who was one of those to run into a police station, was killed by the mobs with her unborn baby.
“She called me and said ‘Honey, it’s like a riot is taking place’,” recalled her husband, barely holding back tears. “I asked her how safe she was and she said they were at a police station. Later, she called to say the hoodlums were surrounding the station and I told her to run from there. As we were talking, I heard a scream and then nothing,” he added. (
As one conflict expert noted in an article on Boko Haram, those calling for government dialogue with the group, “don’t understand the techniques of timing in the management of conflicts.  You dialogue only when the ears are open.”
Suffice to conclude with the thoughts of this expert:  “Hope now is on what the Joint military Task Force (JTF) would do. If they succeed, Nigeria will manage on; if they fail, there’ll be no restraint to the killing of Christians in the north powered by frightened northern elite.”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Boko Haram: Beyond the presidential tears at Madalla

Finally the president is talking.  That is a very good way to start the New Year and I am happy President Goodluck Jonathan has finally realized that the ship of state is enormously threatened by the activities of the hoodlums called Boko Haram.  Continued presidential naivety and apathy would sink the entity called Nigeria.
President Jonathan
I was one of those embittered when the president decided to cancel Nigeria’s 51st Independence Anniversary celebration at the Eagle’s Square, Abuja last year because of the fear of Boko Haram.  That is not certainly how a Commander in Chief of a national armed forces ought to act.  The position of a military general is not for the lily-livered or chicken-hearted.  It is one that demands enormous courage, strength of character and audacity.
Crucial among his assignment as head of state and commander in chief is the protection of Nigeria’s territorial integrity from both external and internal centrifugal forces.  Boko Haram seeks to tear Nigeria apart.  It seeks to exacerbate the country’s poor economic situation and to rubbish the more the name of Nigeria in the comity of nations.  No president worth his sort would sit and watch a group damage his people’s psyche the way Boko Haram has done in the last few years.   
Clearing corpse from bomb site in Madalla
I commend Jonathan for visiting Madalla himself to meet with families of the victims of Boko Haram’s barbaric Christmas Day bombing. I learnt the president shed tears on seeing the agonizing faces of grieving family members of the victims.  Many of these families just don’t think there is anything to be happy about now even as others around them echo the traditional ‘Happy New Year’ greetings.
What is there to be happy for the 13-year old Nancy who lost her parents and three siblings in the Xmas bombing?  She is the only surviving member of her family and she survived only because she pleaded with her parents to allow her stay back at home and dress her hair for a later outing.
It is painful, really painful that some people who themselves are happy to see 2012, have through their wicked act stopped over 40 fellow Nigerians from seeing the New Year with only seven days to it.  50 other victims of their cruel act saw the new year with dismembered legs and hands with little or no chances of ever making use of those parts of their bodies again.
The only new year present President Jonathan can give to these grieving families and many like them in parts of Borno, Plateau, Bauchi, Niger, Yobe, Gombe states and Abuja, is to live true to his promise to fish out the Boko Haram elements and make them face the full wrath of the law. 
President Jonathan, you recent statement sounds reassuring - “This did not affect just the Catholic Church, but it affected all Nigerians irrespective of religious divide because terrorism attack anywhere is terrorism attack on the whole nation. These are evil men being propelled by evil thoughts and evil desires to create confusion in decent societies… As the President and Commander in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria I will take actions that this will come to an end very soon”.
Mr President, this is the time to consult with your security chiefs and give clear instructions.  I want to believe that like you stated ‘there will be no sacred cows’.  To do otherwise would be to risk turning Nigeria to a medieval settlement where ‘an eye for an eye’ is the order.   The Boko Haram terrorism is taking us back to ages the world long left.  Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism; and like a former US president would say, ‘we do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them’.

‘we do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them’.