Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Lucky Irabor has said the masterminds of the June 5 massacre in Owo, Ondo state, have been captured by security operatives.
The CDS also assured that despite the spate of insecurity, the 2023 general elections would hold as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Some 40 worshippers were massacred at the St. Francis Catholic Church Owo, in an incident which the federal government said was the handiwork of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Speaking Tuesday during a session with media executives at the Defence Headquarters Abuja, General Irabor said the terrorists were captured at different locations across the country.
Irabor also announced that the terror suspects, most of whom were arrested in various communities in Kogi state, would be paraded before the public in no distant time.
He said: “We had wanted to present the suspects to the public immediately but couldn’t because certain investigations are still being carried out.”
The defence chief further told the media managers that the suspects, along others involved in high-profile killings in the past few months would be presented to the public.
He said, “Within the last time we met, we have recorded remarkable achievements. Let me bring it to your notice that within the same period, there have been ignoble actions of men of the underworld that have impinged on our collective well-being, namely the unfortunate train attack, the attack on Kuje correctional center as well as what has been reported in the past the attack on the presidential convoy.
“Also, the Owo incident which was intended to bring man and women of the armed forces to present them in a form and shape that make it to look as if the nation is on a siege, we have arrested those behind the dastardly act in Owo.”
Irabor said: “Starting with the Owo church attack, it is my pleasure to let you know that we have arrested those behind that dastardly act.
“On August 7, one Idris Ojo (37) was apprehended at Aiyetorosi in Ondo State. He was one of the high-profile Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) members that escaped from Kuje Prison. He was arrested along with one Jimoh Ibrahim, a 39-year-old criminal.
“Ojo was not done with all the criminal activities which he undertook in the past, he was also planning other deadly attacks and he was perfecting those plans along with his cronies before he was captured.
“Again, on August 4, the military in a combined operation with the Department of State Service (DSS) arrested four terrorists at Eika in Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State.
“Others are Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza, otherwise known as Ibn Malik; Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa and Auwal Onimisi.
“Now, Omeiza is one of the masterminds of the June 5 Catholic Church attack in Owo as well as the attack on the police station in Adavi also in Kogi state that led to the killing of a policeman as well as weapons being carried away.
“It was my intention to present them to the public, but because of the investigation still going on, I had to change my mind. I will like to say that in due course, the world will see them and others who are behind other daring attacks in the country,” Irabor added.
Kaduna train attack
On the fate of the victims of Abuja-Kaduna train attack, the CDS, while acknowledging that some of them had been released, said President Muhammadu Buhari had given them an order to ensure the safe rescue of others still in captivity.
While soliciting the support of the media, the defence chief said to the media executives that “it is not about you helping us, but joining us because we are all involved.”
He said the military was carrying out intense air and ground operations to smoke out the hoodlums from their hideouts.
Giving a graphic picture of how one Alhaji Abdulkareen, a notorious bandits’ leader was killed August 6, alongside his fighters in the northwestern part of the country, he said: “By the deeds of the surgical air operations that we have conducted, many of the bandits’ leaders have been killed.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the CDS said the essence of the parley was to solicit understanding and support from the media in the fight against the security challenges bedeviling the nation.
He, however, called for greater cooperation between the military and the media with a view to finding solution to the security challenges and disallow enemies from stoking fears in the minds of the public.
The defence chief also urged Nigerians and political leaders to understand the distinction between military operations and politics, adding that the military remained undaunted in ensuring a safe and secured nation.
On the 2023 polls, CDS Irabor also assured Nigerians that the exercise would hold as scheduled, saying this is covenant the military has with the nation’s democratic process. He made the position know amid growing concerns that the polls may not hold owing to increasing security concerns.
He said: “On whether the 2023 general elections will hold, all I can tell you is that as a military institution, we have a covenant with the democratic process and I want you to promote that narrative. Every meeting I have been part of is tailored towards ensuring the right environment is created and that no one is disenfranchised.”
Buhar’s ‘full freedom’ order
On the recent President Muhammadu Buhari’s full freedom order to the military, he said the president was only reechoing his earlier directive.
“The president’s order giving full freedom to service chiefs is only reechoing his past orders. There was no half order before now,” Irabor said.
Earlier, Director Defence Information Major-General Jimmy Akpor said the essence of the parley was to build a sustainable trust between the media and members of the armed forces.
Akpor said the meeting was in line with the leadership focus of Irabor toward fostering professional armed forces capable of meeting constitutional imperatives.
In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer The Media Today Charles Odenigbo said the military and media must be frank and open to each other in ensuring peace and security in the country.
Odenigbo, the facilitator of the event, said although military operations could not be discussed in the open, there was need to see how the media could fit into the activities of the military.
NSCDC warns zonal commandants
In a related development, following incessant attacks on public infrastructures across the country by gunmen and terrorists, Commandant General Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) Ahmed Abubabar Audi has directed the zonal and state commandants to be on top of their game.
Speaking at a meeting with the NSCDC top echelons, the CG said henceforth, both state Commandants and Zonal Commanders would be liable for attack on the government facilities in their domains.
Addressing a gathering of senior officers, zonal and state leaders of the Corps Tuesday at the strategic meeting on how to end attacks, Audi warned the state and zonal commandants to ensure government assets in their area of responsibilities were secured.
He said: “The kind of conflict we are facing is the one that has held countries to ransom. You must brace up and live up to expectation, especially considering our core mandate.
“We all know that the NSCDC is the lead agency in the area of protection of critical national assets. You are charged to ensure the protection of these assets.
“Henceforth, any Commandants who are not doing would be sanctioned. You are to liaise with the Controllers of Correctional Services. Zonal Commandants should ensure they coordinate operations, they would be answerable to when there’s any attack on the facilities. I have called you to this meeting to read the riot act to you. The Nigerian citizens are putting high hope on us to collaborate with other security agencies to find a lasting solution to insecurity in the country.
“Those of you serving in the South-south where we have our oil facilities and companies, you must ensure you henceforth fight oil thieves to a standstill. We have seen that overtime, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy is the crude oil.
“Henceforth, we are going to hold Commandants responsible if there is an attack on any critical national assets within your domain. You would answer for it. You must be up and doing. You must deploy your personnel to all critical national assets and infrastructures sites like Railways, Airports and pipelines.
“Also our Correctional facilities must be secured. One of the strategies applied by these hoodlums is to unleash mayhem to cause devastating effect by attacking our Correctional facilities because they have their members held there. As directed by the Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, we must help beef up security at Correctional facilities in the country.”
Earlier, the Commandant General presented about N20million to various next of kins of some officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Speaking earlier, the Head of Insurance department of the Corps, CSC Jimoh Abiola, said the Commandant General was working to ensure that backlogs are paid to families that are yet to receive their payment.
Abiola said: “I am happy to inform you that another Nineteen Million, One Hundred and Ninety Five Thousand, Five Hundred and Seven Naira; Seventy-Eight Kobo only (N19, 195,507.78) will be distributed in Cheques to Eighteen (18) Next of kin of our fallen heroes as part payment of their insurance benefits of which they have been credited directly with the balance.
“Today being 9th day of August, 2022 marks another indelible milestone in the history of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps with the presentation of cheques to families of our fallen heroes.
Following the commitment of the CG to take as priority the welfare of personnel of the Corps, the Commandant General graciously approved the disbursement of over Twenty Million Naira (N20, 000,000.00) in March 2022 as burial benefits.
“In July 2022, he also disbursed above Two Hundred Million Naira (N200, 000,000.00) being backlog insurance benefit to over Sixty (60) beneficiaries.”