Barely 24 hours after 200 school children were abducted by bandits in Niger, gunmen again attacked another community killing 15 villagers in Beri town in Bobi district of Mariga local government of the state Monday morning.
It was learnt that one mobile policeman was also killed by the bandits during the attack.
It was however gathered that the local vigilantes were able to kill 5 of the bandits in a gun duel.
An eye witness account recounted thus: “The Beri Police Station was burnt by the bandits with several people reported to have been injured during the stampede that accompanied the arson on the police station.”
And while the attack was on, another group of bandits were reported to have stormed yet another village, Garin-Gabas of the same local government of the state but were successfully repelled by the youths.
Also this Monday, some bandits reportedly raided Ungwan Bako in the Kotonkoro district of Mariga local government, abducting many people, mostly women and children.
However, casualty figures and number of people kidnapped in these two other incidents could not be ascertained as at the time of writing this report
The Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) confirmed the incidents but did not give details.
Police Public Relations Officer of the state Police Command, DSP Wasiu Abiodun, did not respond to calls made to his cell phones for comments on the developments.
Gov Bello jets out for solution
To address the lingering banditry in the state, Governor Sani Bello – a few hours after the kidnap of about 200 students from Saliu Tanko Islamic School on Sunday – left Nigeria in search of solution.
The governor’s media aide, Mary Noel-Berje said: “The governor, who had left the country to explore all possibilities of strengthening the state’s security architecture before the incident happened, is expected back soon.”
She further stated that the governor had given directives to the security operatives and state government officials to do all they can towards ensuring the safe return of the abducted Tegina Islamiyya children and others.
“The governor is expected back in the country within the shortest period of time and has assured the rescue and safe return of the children.
“Governor Sani Bello also assured all Nigerlites that the government will continue to do all it can to protect the lives and property of its citizens while guaranteeing the continued peace and stability of the state.
“While assuring the parents of the abducted children of their safe return as the security agencies have been directed to do all it can to bring back the children as soon as possible, the governor also urged the citizens to cooperate and share intelligence and information that will help in the quick rescue of the children,” Berje further said.
How the bandits abducted the school children
The bandits reportedly seized the police station in the town and went round the town shooting sporadically into the air to scare residents before breaking into a private school where they abducted children attending Islamic lectures.
The school, which consists of nursery and primary schools, also hosts Islamiyya students in the evening and at weekends.
The mass abduction of the Islamic school students was the second in Rafi local government area in six months.
Dozens of students were earlier in the year kidnapped at Government Science College (GSC) Kagara but were later released after negotiation with the state government.
Asides from the attack on schools, several residents across different local government areas of the state have been displaced after the invasion of bandits.
Death toll rises in Ebonyi
In a related development, the death toll in the three communities of Ebonyi -Benue borders attacked by suspected herders had risen to 42.
The suspected armed herders had Saturday morning invaded Odoke Ishieke, Obakota Ishieke and Ndiobasi Ishieke communities all in Ebonyi local government area of Ebonyi state and killed over 30 persons not leaving behind pregnant women and nursing mothers.
The communities has common boundaries with Ardo local government area of Benue state and since the invasion, security agents have been recovering dead bodies from bushes in the affected areas.
A resident of one of the area who simply gave his name as Nwegede told Blueprint that 31 bodies were recovered in Ndiobasi Ishieke, 6 in Odoke Ishieke and 15 bodies in Obakota Ishieke.
He said: “Herdsmen butchered Izzi people like this at Nwori Ndiobashi side. Most of the victims are at Sudan Hospital Onuenyimu right now battling machetes and gunshot injuries.”
Meanwhile, many victims of the attack are still receiving treatment at the Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki 2 (FETHA2) and AMURT-a health centre close to the scene of the incidents.
A stakeholder from the affected communities and Commissioner for Capital City Development, Chief Onyekachi Nwebonyi said over 30 bodies were evcuated from bushes around the affected communities while soldiers were still recovering more bodies.
“It is a very unfortunate situation. We got a very sad news yesterday morning that armed herdsmen invaded Izzi land particularly in a place called Ndiobashi and killed so many of our people. We quickly alerted the security agencies to come to their aid but unfortunately, the Benue state government who claimed ownership of the area could not respond positively.
“But we commend the Governor of Ebonyi state who upon hearing the incident, swung into action even though the land is in dispute and sent the security agencies to repel the attacks. As I speak to you, over 30 bodies have been evacuated and as I talk, the soldiers are still evacuating more dead bodies in the bush.
“I visited there yesterday and the victims narrated their ordeals but of a truth, the area is in disarray. People are panicking but we have been able to encourage them to complement the efforts of the security agencies to beef up security in the area so that the ugly incident doesn’t reoccur,” he said.
One killed in Gombe
Similarly, the Gombe state government has confirmed the attack that left one dead and over 50 houses burnt in parts of Shongom and Filiya District in Shongom local government area of the state.
Addressing newsmen Monday shortly after an emergency security meeting by the State Security Council, the state Commissioner of Information, Mr Julius Ishaya, confirmed the attack and assured the council was working to restore peace in the affected area.
While noting the extent of damage by the attackers, the commissioner said, “based on security report, over 50 houses were burnt, including food and other essential items of the people.”
The commissioner revealed that while condemning the carnage, the council called for the immediate engagement of stakeholders from the affected area under the chairmanship of the paramount ruler of the Kaltungo chiefdom, Alhaji Sale Muhammad to find solution and restore peace to the area.
“The council reiterated that the banning of militia or hunter groups still stands. The security agents have been alerted on that, so anybody who behaves like a militia or a hunter will be handled appropriately by the security agents”.
On his part, the state’s Commissioner of Internal Security and Ethical Orientation, Adamu Dishi Kupto, directed security agencies in the state to investigate the attack and ensure perpetrators were brought to justice.
While urging residents in Gombe to break off from the act of taking laws into their hands Mr Kupto said: “God has created us to be and live together so we don’t have to question him on why are we are living together despite our differences.”
Also, the Mai of Kaltungo, Engr. Sale Muhammad, assured that the chiefdom would continue to sensitise its people to embrace and live peacefully with one another.
I fear for Nigeria – Cleric
Meanwhile, the Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rt. Rev. Msgr. John Asuquo Aniagwu has expressed worry over the wanton destruction of lives and properties in different parts of Nigeria.
He urged the federal government to urgently address the various agitations across the country in order to save the country from being plunged into a civil war.
The Catholic priest said the palpable apprehensions in the different parts of the country were dangerous signal to its political, social and economic stability.
Msgr Aniagwu, who is the Parish Priest of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Ikeja, Lagos, told journalists that the National Assembly needed not to embark on consultations across the geopolitical zones for inputs on a new constitution, describing it as an exercise in futility.
The Vicar General said: “I feel apprehension, I don’t know where we are going and I fear that the worst may happen still with those who should do something fails to do what we should do. Every day, we see agitation here and there and one doesn’t know where the next bad news is going to come from? Every day we are hearing of killing here and there, initially it was in the north east, we were all concerned, praying for them there, the crisis moved to the North West and now it is all over the country.
“So I have great apprehension and fear about what may befall this nation and I am praying that the worst should not happen because the way it is going, it tell me that there will be escalation of all types of tension in the country, the violence in the different parts of the country simultaneously does not speak well for the country.”
He said the federal government should visit reports of the constitution conferences of 2005 and 2014 and implement parts of the recommendations in the two documents as part of solutions to address the current unrest.
“There are so many voices clamouring for change in this country. In 2005, President Obasanjo convoked a national conference in Abuja, I was a delegate to that conference, we spent 5 months in Abuja during the conference, we produced copious reports and some of the things they are talking about now, restructuring, dissolution of power, a new constitution, reform of the electoral processes, and we discussed all those things.
“The National Assembly at that time said we have no locus standi and our reports were never looked at, it’s there gathering dusk wherever it is.
“In 2014, there was another conference by the Jonathan administration that came out with far reaching recommendations which the government of the day again refused to take onboard. So it is not as if people are not talking but of course the ruling government has to at least agree to look at these things on their merit. Whatever is good take it, whatever is not good put it aside but to completely rubbish it and said we don’t want to see it I think is the act of arrogance as if they have the monopoly of wisdom.”