Just few days after President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘full freedom’ order to security agencies, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Thursday announced troops of Operation HADIN KAI in the North-east have killed 29 terrorists, arrested 55 and rescued 52 civilians in the last two weeks.
The military high command also said airstrikes by Nigerian Air Force fighter jets neutralised a key Islamic State of West Africa Province Commander Alhaji Modu (aka Bem Bem) and 20 of his fighters at Degbawa near Mandara Mountains in Gwoza local government area of Borno state.
Buhari’s full order
Following the killing of innocent citizens by terrorists in Kaduna, Plateau and Sokoto in quick succession about a week ago, President Buhari had ordered the security forces to give the criminals a bloody nose.
“We have given security forces full freedom to deal with, and bring to end this madness. I condemn these barbaric attacks on the country. I wish to assure the states of all possible support from the government of the federation.
“My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly,” Buhari was quoted to have said in a statement by a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu.
But the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor told media executives Tuesday the order was only “reechoing the previous orders” of the president, adding the president never gave a half order before now.
Announcing the latest efforts at nipping the rising insecurity in the bud at a bi-weekly news briefing of the DHQ in Abuja, Director Defence Media Operations (DMO) Major-General Benard Onyeuko said a high-profile terrorist leader who had been on the wanted list of the military, Alhaji Abdulkareem Lawal (aka Abdulkareem Boss) and 27 of his foot soldiers, were also killed by another airstrikes at Rudu forest in Katsina state.
He said a total of One Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Five (1,755) Boko Haram terrorists’ members and their families comprising of 280 males, 523 females and 952 children surrendered to troops at different location within the week under review.
According to him, all surrendered terrorists and their families were profiled and handed over to relevant authority.
General Onyeuko also said troops of Operation HADARIN DAJI in the North West Zone on routine patrol, arrested 5 suspected foreign bandits named, Muritala Wada, Saminu Sani, Shamisu Adamu, Salisu Saadu and Usman Ibrahim at Jibia in Jibia local government area of Katsina state.
He said troops, in conjunction with the Civilian Joint Task Force, also arrested terrorist logistics suppliers on August 6, 2022 at Buni Yadi general area.
He gave the names as Hussain Dungus, Ali Bulama Jidda and Mallam Ali Abuna.
The items recovered from the suspects, according to the defence spokesman, include the sum of One Million Seven Hundred and Ninety-Three Thousand Seven Hundred naira (1,793,700.00) only, large quantity of assorted food stuffs, 3 handsets, 2 bicycles and other sundries.
“Furthermore, between 31 July and 2 August 2022, troops arrested one Mallam Yahaya a notorious bandit informant who has been on the tracking list of the Department of State Security for collaborating with bandits on the numerous attacks in Sabon Brini general area of Sokoto state,” he said.
Six killed in Benue attack
In a related security report, no fewer than six (6) persons were Wednesday killed by suspected herders who attacked Tse Ngojov and Tse Valem Yaweh in Mbagum community of Tombo council ward in Logo local government area of Benue state.
Locals said the herdsmen who were heavily armed with sophisticated weapons and machetes came in their numbers to carry out the attacks.
Names of those killed in the attack which took place at around 9pm were given by locals as Mr. Ander John, Mr. Vihior Mtomga, Mr. Morgan Varem, Mr. Saaior Uyoosu, Mr. Aondoyima Tarbo and Mr. Peter Asondo.
According to one of the locals, Mr. Joseph Anawah, persons injured included, Mrs Terngu Tyavkase Usue, Mr. Igbaule Valem and Mr. Chiater Tarbo (aka Ajimmy) among others are currently receiving treatment at Primary Health Care Ayilamo.
Logo chairperson, Mrs. Salome Tor, who confirmed the incident, also said six people were killed and 12 people badly injured.
She said the corpses of the deceased persons had been deposited at the Primary Health Care Center in Ayilamo.
“People are running helter-skelter, moving from the hinterlands to the Ayilamo town.
“I have reported the matter to the security Adviser to the Governor and sent him pictures of those killed including the injured.
“The attack was without provocation and it occurred at 9am on Wednesday”, she added.
The attack is coming exactly one week after Governor Samuel Ortom had inaugurated the Community Volunteer Guards that are expected to work with the conventional security agencies to stem the tide of incessant attacks by the herdsmen on local communities in the state.
Commissioner of Police Wale Abbas, who confirmed the attack, however, said they were yet to receive details on the incident.
El-Rufai raises the alarm
Meanwhile, Kaduna state Governor Nasir El-Rufai has said terrorists are consolidating their grip on communities in the state with a “parallel” government and “permanent operational base” in the North-western state near Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
The governor said this in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari exclusively obtained by Premium Times.
El-Rufai warned the president of the terrorists’ consolidation in a late July memo sighted by the medium.
The terrorists belonging to Ansaru al-Musulmina fi Bilad al-Sudan, or Ansaru for short, are believed to have moved to Birnin Gwari in Kaduna state in 2012 when they broke away from Boko Haram.
According to intelligence reports and human sources consulted in further reporting for this story, the terrorists that formed Ansaru were responsible for some of the high-profile attacks claimed by Boko Haram before the split.
Such attacks included the UN building bombing of August 2011 and the kidnap of some foreigners. According to the sources, Ansaru pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, in 2020, and is responsible for many of the high-profile abductions as well as armed attacks on the police in Kaduna State.
But researchers and negotiators with an understanding of the working of the terrorists told Premium Times that a collaboration of the terror groups, including the original Boko Haram – also called JAS -, ISWAP, Ansaru, and bandits, is evolving.
In 2021, 1,192 people lost their lives in Kaduna State due to banditry, terrorism, communal clashes, violent attacks, and reprisals. In the first six months of 2022, 645 people lost their lives in such circumstances across the state, the government said.
In Mr. El-Rufai’s late July memo, he lay bare how the terrorists have infiltrated and dominated communities and formed “a parallel governing authority,” exercising control over social and economic activities and dispensation of justice in the area.
He said the terrorists have advanced in their plans to make Kaduna forest areas their “permanent operational base” for the North-west region, citing a “series of intelligence reports.”
“Observed movement patterns and intercepted communications of migrating terrorists have shown a clear interest in setting up a base, with the stretches of forest area between Kaduna and Niger states strongly considered,” he wrote.
Law banning 2023 political activities
As the political activities towards the 2023 general elections pick up steam, the terrorists, El-Rufai told the president, have promulgated a law to ban residents from participating.
“The insurgents enacted a law in the District, banning all forms of political activity or campaign ahead of the 2023 elections, especially in Madobiya and Kazage villages,” the governor wrote.
The Ansaru terrorists are known to have an extremist ideological posture against democracy and secular authorities.
In 2021, the census enumeration exercise could only hold in two of the 11 wards that form Birnin Gwari due to the threat of armed banditry and terrorism, officials in both the Kaduna State Government and the population commission told the online platform.
The ban on political activities, the governor said, followed a recent wedding ceremony involving the terrorists.
“According to actionable intelligence, members of the Jama’atu Ansarul Musulmina Fi’biladis Sudan (aka Ansaru) hibernating in Kuyello district of Birnin Gwari LGA recently conducted a nuptial ceremony during which they married two yet-to-be-identified female residents of Kuyello village,” El-Rufai wrote.
“The ceremony was attended by various Ansaru members and witnessed by residents of the area. After the marital rites, insurgents in attendance reportedly conveyed the brides to the dreaded Kuduru forest, in the same District.”
In the area of adjudicating disputes, El-Rufai said the terrorists “fined one Mu’azu Ibrahim, a resident of Kuyello community, the sum of One Million Naira for selling plots of land without the consent of the owners.”
In addition, with the government becoming removed from rural communities, leaving them at the mercy of violent criminals, terrorists, Mr El-Rufai suggested, are manning the ungoverned space and extracting revenues from the people.
“Multiple reports also exist of bandits and terrorists exacting protection levies and similar taxes from farmers and communities, in return for permission to cultivate their fields,” the governor said.
Terrorism researchers say that revenues from taxes and levies forced on ungoverned spaces – created by the failure or limited capacity of the government – are a major source of financing and sustenance for terrorists.
Like the Kaduna situation described by the governor, ISWAP terrorists based on the Lake Chad islands are also extracting huge revenues from the fishing activities and pastoralists operating in the area.
When contacted by the medium, the governor said he would not comment on this story because his correspondence was supposed to be confidential communication to the president.
In 2016, he wrote a similar “confidential’ letter to the president, warning that the Buhari administration was losing momentum just about a year after coming to power.