Insecurity: Defend yourselves, Catholic bishops tell Nigerians

Catholic Bishops have asked Nigerians to rise and defend themselves against attacks by bandits, herdsmen, kidnappers and other violent criminals across the country. The bishops spoke as North-East governors yesterday, for the second time in four days, told President Muhammadu Buhari that there was the need to address the root causes of Boko Haram insurgency in the zone.

This came as the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, maintaining peace in Plateau and parts of Southern Kaduna and Bauchi states, has arrested eight suspects in connection with recent killings in Southern Kaduna. This is even as gunmen shot a man, kidnapped a girl in Katsina State on Sunday night, while bandits killed a school proprietor who was on his way to Taraba from Abuja same Sunday. He was killed a few kilometres to Taraba State. Rising from the second plenary meeting of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province at Bishop’s House, Okigwe, the Catholic Bishops in a communique issued at the end of the meeting, expressed concern over growing insecurity in the country and asked Nigerians to be vigilant and be ready to defend themselves. ‘Defend yourselves, pray’ In the communiqué, signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Archbishop Anthony J.V. Obinna and Most Rev. Augustine T. Ukwuoma, respectively, the Bishops said: “Bearing in mind that no economic or educational endeavour can thrive in a volatile and unsafe environment, the security and safety of the nation at large and Igboland in particular, deserve special attention. “Kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, incessant killings, which have continued unabated, cast serious doubts on the willingness and capability of our security outfits to rise up to their constitutional responsibilities. “Rise up in prayer to God in vigilance and in legitimate self-defence, for the right to life, to our homes and to our lands that is God-given.” The bishops also called on governors, as chief security officers of their states, to protect their people’s lives, homes and their lands, appealing specially to Imo and Abia state governors to protect their domains against marauding herdsmen, kidnappers and other violent criminals terrorizing the people. On COVID-19, the Bishops noted that nothing had shaken the world to its foundations as coronavirus, saying “amid the unprecedented panic, tension and confusion provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the face of the resurgent insecurity in our land and across the nation, we have every reason to thank God, who has kept us alive by His mercy.” Reaffirming that COVID-19 is real, the Bishops stressed the need for governments at all levels to rise to their responsibility of ensuring adequate provisions of basic amenities, such as running water. “Particular attention should be paid to improving our poor healthcare facilities, making provision for more testing centres with affordable services and enough personal protective equipment for our healthcare workers,’’ the Bishops pleaded. On the effect of the pandemic on education, the Bishop’s said: “The pandemic has also impacted negatively on our educational system. Our schools at all levels have been closed for months. With everybody at home, there has been an increase in domestic violence, abuses and all sorts of crimes. “The inadequacy of our educational system and formation have been laid bare. Some climes have tried to bridge the gap through online education. Unfortunately, we lack the basic infrastructure to cue in, except in a handful of places and schools. “But this is too few, too selective and too expensive to provide for an integral human forum, which is the goal of education. “This is a challenge for all stakeholders in education. The billions of Naira embezzled regularly could be gainfully used in meeting these challenges.” Tackle B-Haram from the roots, N-East govs tell Buhari In a similar development, North-East governors yesterday rose from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the President Villa, Abuja, asking the President to address the root cause of Boko Haram insurgency in the zone. The governors had, at a meeting in Maiduguri last weekend, also pleaded with President Buhari to adequately equip both the military and Police with heavy hardware to be able to defeat the insurgents. Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting with the President, Chairman of the North-East Governors Forum and governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, who was flanked by his Adamawa State counterpart, Governor Ahmadu Fintri, said one of the root causes of insurgency was access to farm lands, adding that people of the zone need to go back to their farmlands. He said displaced people should be resettled in their original homes, so they could restart their means of livelihood and go about their normal duties. “Arising from the North-East Governors Forum meeting held in Maiduguri on Saturday, we met the President, with a view to highlighting the key challenges in the region, especially issues of security, decaying infrastructure, especially projects, issues of oil exploration in the region, issues of enhancing river basin development in the region, among others. That is the main reason we met Mr. President,” Governor Zulum said. Asked what they discussed on insecurity, he said: “The governments of the region have commended the efforts of the Federal Government in securing the region. However, we told Mr. President that there is need for the Nigerian government to address the root causes of insurgency, which are not limited to the endemic poverty, hunger, among others. “One of the root causes is that of access to farm lands. People need to go back to their farmlands, people need to be resettled in their original homes so that they can start their means of livelihood. This is one of the reasons the insurgents are recruiting more into the sect. “Therefore, creating enabling environment for the population to go about their normal duties will no doubt reduce cases of insurgency. We also recommended that police should be empowered, to be provided with certain state-of-the-art equipment, armoured personnel carriers and so on, with a view to bridging the manpower gap that we are having in the Nigerian military.” On his recent altercation with the military, which had suggested that he was ungrateful as well as his suspicion that there was a deliberate attempt to prolong the insurgency, Governor Zulum called for co-operation among all tiers of government to end the menace. ‘Need for synergy’ He said: “We have had series of consultations after the attack and I think security is not only about federal government, there is need for the federal as well as states and local governments to come together to provide solutions that will end this crisis in the region. “But most importantly,  there is war economy in the region and I think that is why we are here. So I think the government is taking a bold step to ensure speedy resolution of some of the grey areas that we have in the region.” Buhari reassures on security Earlier in his opening remarks, President Buhari gave strong assurances that security will be restored to Borno State, the North-East and the nation at large, following the recent adoption of new strategies, and the acquisition of modern military equipment. A statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted the President as saying: “Things will improve very soon. We are acquiring modern equipment; some are here, some are being cleared, and others still coming. “We need patience with acquisition of equipment. You need to train the trainers for their usage, ahead of their deployment to the field. “I have listened to your presentation, I assure you, the North East governors, especially that of Borno, that we go to bed and wake up thinking about you, how to secure our country, that is the responsibility of every government. “Our party campaigned in 2015 on three major objectives, among which is security. We said the same thing in 2019 and Nigerians believed us. We are doing our best and we will continue to do even better.” Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, the Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, National Security Adviser, NSA, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd, and all service chiefs who spoke in support of the President, assured that things would get better soon. “They made a strong case for strengthening ties among the military, state governments, traditional institutions and all communities and the residents of the region,’’ Garba Shehu said. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, gave an assessment of the current efforts, stressing that Boko Haram terrorists had been flushed out of all the states in the region, leaving Borno State as the last stop. B-Haram flushed out except in Borno — Buratai Buratai said: “There are no Boko Haram terrorists in neighbouring states. They have been pushed out, and now cornered in Borno State. We are coordinating with civil and traditional authorities, mobilizing and reinforcing and all we need is patience. We will not relent.” On his part, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar briefed the meeting on the acquisition of military aircraft, stressing that the imminent arrival of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, UAVs, known as drones with more than 10 hours of flying time, will strongly reinforce the battle front. Briefs were also received on equipment needs of the Police as well as the changing alliances between criminal gangs and terrorist groups in the region from the intelligence community. Op Safe Haven nabs 8 suspects Similarly, the Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, maintaining peace in Plateau and part of Southern Kaduna and Bauchi states, has arrested eight suspects in connection with the recent killings in Southern Kaduna. They include Abubakar Ali, Ali Amadu, Bawa Idi, Umar Dikko, Garba Damon, Mohammed Ibrahim, Adamu Joseph and William Barnabas. Parading the suspects before journalists yesterday in Kafanchan, commander of the task force, Maj-Gen Chukwuemeka Okonkwo said the arrest is part of the outfit’s efforts to curtail the killings. Represented by Col. David Nwakonobi, Commander, Sector 7 of the operation, Okonkwo, said six of the suspects were arrested on August 5 in Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna State. According to him, the other two were arrested at Chawai, a village on the fringes of Kauru and Zangon-Kataf Local Government Areas. He explained that the arrest was based on credible intelligence reports made available to the operation. “In a bid to curb the recent attacks and isolated killings in southern Kaduna, our troops have continued to intensify efforts aimed at curtailing the menace and ensuring peace in the general area. “On August 5, our troops, acting on credible intelligence, apprehended six suspected militias at Lere.  One locally fabricated pump action gun, two locally made pistols, one 9mm ammunition, four machetes and two motorcycles were found in their possession. “In a related development our troops in conjunction with members of vigilante group, apprehended two suspects at Chawai, a village between Kauru and Zango Kataf. “One locally-made pump action gun, three cartridges, two mobile phones and a dagger were recovered from them,” he said. The commander said the suspects had been profiled and preliminary investigation conducted, adding that they would be handed over to Police for further investigation and prosecution, noting that one of the militias who was involved in the recent attacks in the area was killed, Okonkwo said: “His dead body was discovered at Kibori village during rescue operation by our troops. “We also have information on the identity of some of the hoodlums that carried out the last attack; we are on their trail and by the grace of God, we will soon get them.” He urged residents of the affected areas to be calm, law abiding and support the military in their bid to restore lasting peace to Southern Kaduna and environs. Gunmen abduct teenage girl in Katsina Meanwhile, gunmen on Sunday evening caused pandemonium in Kurfi, Katsina State, when they shot  resident and abducted a teenage girl. The incident, which occurred at about 9.30pm on Sunday, caused residents, passers-by and motorists to flee in confusion. An eyewitness told Vanguard that the armed men, who disguised as residents, began shooting sporadically after mingling with the residents. The source said the prompt deployment of team of Operation Puff Adder from neighboring Dutsin-ma averted what could have led to abduction or loss of several lives and destruction of property to the unfortunate attack. The bandits were said to launched the attack from the mountains surrounding Kurfi Local Government Headquarters, shooting a 30-year-old man, identified as Ibrahim Yar’Garshe, and kidnapped one Khadijat Mutaka, 13, before escaping into the mountains and shrubs. Confirming the incident, Katsina State police command spokesman, Gambo Isah, said security teams, including Operations Puff Adder and Saharan Dani, were on the trails of the suspected bandits to rescue the abducted girl. He disclosed that the  male victim was rushed to the hospital for treatment, adding that normalcy had since been restored in the town. School owner shot dead in Taraba Similarly, gunmen suspected to be bandits  Sunday shot dead a school proprietor at Dan-Anacha community, a suburb of Gassol Local Government Area of Taraba State. It was learned that the victim, Danlami Shamaki, was returning from  a meeting in Abuja when he ran into ambushed alongside his driver and aide. He was the proprietor of New Edition Nursery and primary school as well as Winners Comprehensive High School in Jalingo, the state capital. A family source said when the victims got to Dan-Anacha, the hoodlums used a water truck to block the road, which forced the proprietor’s  driver to maneuver past it. It was gathered that the deceased, however, ordered his driver to stop in order to show sympathy to owner of the water truck. Vanguard gathered that when they stopped to check if the truck pusher was hurt, the hoodlums opened fire, targeting the proprietor only. The remains of the proprietor have been deposited at the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo. When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, David Misal, said the incident has not been reported to his desk, adding, however, that all hands would be on deck to fish out the perpetrators.

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