Under 24 hours: Gunmen attack Senator twice on Lokoja-Abuja road

Some 24 hours after the Nigerian Senate bemoaned the security situation in the country, a lawmaker from Edo state,  Senator Clifford Ordia,  Wednesday recalled  how suspected  bandits Monday attacked his convoy twice under 24 hours  at different locations on the Okene-Lokoja and Lokoja-Abaji axis.

Ordia, a PDP lawmaker who heads the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, said he   escaped death by whiskers as the criminals opened fire on his convoy while returning to Abuja from his hometown in Edo state.

Senate at plenary

At Tuesday plenary, the Senate blasted the executive arm of government for its inability to tackle head-on the security challenge facing the country.

Some of the lawmakers who spoke during the debate, agreed that the country was on fire and that the entire security system had collapsed.

To this end, they asked President  Muhammadu Buhari to seek foreign help and also forward to the legislature a supplementary appropriation for the recruitment of young Nigerians into the Nigerian Army and the Police.  

Ordia narrates ordeal

And barely 24 hours after the lawmakers’ bombshell, an Edo lawmaker, Senator Ordia narrated his ordeal on the Lokoja/Abuja road.   

He said during the exchange of fire between the criminals and security officers attached to him, three policemen sustained wounds from gunshots.

The lawmaker also said one of the wounded policemen was in a critical condition, but responding to treatment in one of the hospitals in Abuja.

Though lucky to have escaped unhurt, Ordia said his vehicle was riddled with bullets.

“I’m seriously traumatised by the horrible experience,” he said.

“We were coming from Edo state, somewhere between Okene and Lokoja, when we met these suspected bandits, they opened fire on my convoy. The gallant policemen had to immediately return fire.

“The other security vehicle behind had to immediately join them and they were able to repel the suspected bandits. During the exchange, three of the policemen sustained gunshot wounds. One of them was critically injured. We had to immediately rush them to a Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja, Kogi State.

“They did their best and were able to stabilise them. I’d to immediately put a call across the Federal Medical Centre in Abuja to be on standby. One of the policemen had a bullet lodged close to his liver.

“We met another setback around Abaji. There was traffic because of the incidence and because we had to save the lives of the wounded policemen, we decided to make a move. They opened fire on us. Some vigilantes had to join the policemen and they were chased into the bush.

“That was how I survived that attack. If you see all my vehicles, you’ll see how the bullets damaged them. But I’m glad that we all survived. I must salute the gallantry of our policemen. If given the right equipment, they can do a lot and protect Nigerians.”

The lawmaker therefore called on the federal government to immediately initiate moves to restructure the security architecture of the country, warning that no one is safe anymore. 

Something urgent, he stressed,  must be done to restore order to every part of the country and protect the lives of every Nigerian.

Dahiru Bauchi

Also speaking on the security challenge,  popular Islamic scholar, Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi, has asked the federal government to end the menace as no one is safe any longer.

The renowned scholar said government has the responsibilities to protect its citizens from bandits and other criminal elements threatening the nation’s peace.

He spoke at his residence Tuesday when he received in audience a Christian group  led by a former sports minister, Mr Solomon Dalung, and Peace Revival and Reconciliation of Nigeria, led by Pastor Yohana Buru.

Describing the level of insecurity as worrisome, he said: “What we expect from all the three levels of government, be it Federal, State and Local government, is to get us out of this problem because nobody is safe.

“You are not safe at home, you are not safe on the street and yet the government didn’t free us from this phobia. We didn’t vote for them to be in this situation, we didn’t vote for them to be sold like animals or to be treated anyhow when we have a government in place. What is happening is worrisome.

“We know the government is aware of the happening in the country, we also know the governors too are aware and the local government authority. Therefore, they should all listen to us because people cannot go to farms for fear of being killed. The government must do the needful by protecting its citizens both Muslims and Christians from these criminal elements.”

CSOs, others react

Reacting to the spate of security challenges, Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head Transparency International Nigeria and Board of Trustees Chairman, Amnesty International, Nigeria, Mr Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), said the recent attack on Senator Ordia and others is a demonstration that the nation’s security sector has gone down. 

He said the non- state armed groups’ menace has worsened in the face of overwhelmed security operatives and porous border challenges, adding that the new vistas of violence have also emerged to exacerbate the security crisis.

“For instance, unknown gunmen have continuously attacked security posts in the southeast and south- south zones, freeing detained suspects, razing security infrastructures, and killing police officers.

“The biggest challenge of this trend is that the gunmen are still largely unknown; their string of attacks is unending. In the latest incident, gunmen on Wednesday attacked a police station in Enugu, killed two police officers and burnt down the station.”

The CISLAC boss said: “Available data on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) shows that out of the 640 million circulating globally, it is estimated that 100 million are found in Africa, about 30 million in sub- Saharan Africa and eight million in West Africa. 70% of the 8million find their ways into Nigeria.”

Nigeria is rated high in the regional debate for the control of small arms and light weapons and illegal trade. Yet the country lacks a legislative direction in dealing with such menace. This concern was recently highlighted by the former head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar. Tiptoeing into these massive attacks and looting armouries is a danger that is waiting to happen until and unless we find the whole of society solution to our problems.

“The high rate accumulation of SALWs in Nigeria is a product of the interplay of several interrelated factors. In the first place, there is a general lack of transparency around the arms trade. Nigeria considers its arms policy to be secret, which makes it hard to access. 

“Similarly, arms dealers promote corruption by involving some countries in illegal activity. Insecurity in Nigeria also makes it easy for small arms to enter illicit circulation through theft, leakage or re-sale. Secondly, SALWs by virtue of their several characteristics make them very attractive to paramilitary and irregular forces and even untrained civilians thereby aiding in their proliferation.

“Nigerian security agencies must improve their intelligence-gathering capabilities. Nigerian police force must rise to the occasion and stop the attacks on its personnel and infrastructure,” Rafsanjani further said.

On the way forward, he said among others:  “There is the need for concerted and collective efforts among stakeholders at all levels of the society to curtail illicit SALWs proliferation. 

“Hence, capacities of stakeholders should be enhanced for an effective implementation of result-oriented programs and formulation of evidence-based policies.

“There is a need for interventions at the national, state and local levels to be strengthened and promote peaceful coexistence amongst the diverse ethno-religious and political groups in Nigeria. There is need for an improved border management mechanism using modern and sophisticated detection equipment to discourage arms trafficking through the borders. Also, effective strategies should be deployed to numerous police forces/stations.”

Lakemfa blames corruption

Similarly, a former Secretary General of the Organisation African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), Mr Owei Lakemfa, said “the country is at war and the government does not seem to know or understand this. Hence, it does not place the country under a war footing that would necessitate the mobilisation of the entire populace. 

“It does not make sense to me that a government that knows the present security forces cannot contain the banditry and insurgency in the country is not allowing self-defence. The result is that the armed bandits freely roam the country maiming, raping, kidnapping, collecting ransom and killing Nigerians. There is no reason students in tertiary institutions should not be trained and armed to defend their campuses or territories rather than just be carted away like cattle.

“It does not make sense that our populations simply flee each time these hoodlums shoot in the air.  There is no reason why residents whether in villages, towns or cities should not be trained and armed to withstand  the few bandits and terrorists roaming around the country. 

“There is no reason why each state, assisted by the centre, cannot maintain security by having its state police and armed volunteer force to protect lives and property. 

“The only societies that can withstand barbarity are the people on whom it is visited.  Now is the time to call all the willing and able to arms and save our country,” he said. 

In his view,  Executive Director, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), Ezenwa Nwagwu said “the challenge of insecurity has been with us. We are reaping the consequences of our corruption. We destroyed the fabrics of discipline and order in the security agencies when we subverted equal opportunity recruitment through cronyism and patronage.”

He said the politicians collectively brought us to this sorry pass. Hardly has anyone joined the armed forces , the police service without a letter from a senator or House member, minister or someone high up there , even the Generals are replacing themselves with their children.

“So we must address what confronts us from the fundamental. Many today who are in command positions are products of political expediency. The increase in crime requires a multi-stakeholder response. Lagos addressed the challenge by bringing in the private sector and pulled in resources they needed.

“ We all need to come together and think through the challenge. The governor must free the security vote mobilize their communities to stamp out crime in their states,” he said. 

But Programs Director Yiaga Africa Cynthia Mbamalu believed “the spate of insecurity, violence and kidnapping is a question on the capacity on our Commander-in-Chief to truly address the insecurity. The service chiefs are accountable to the citizens.

“Nigeria has a budget increasing with every appropriation of act but we can’t justify the budget. It hasn’t translated to a better and efficient security of lives and properties. The security architecture is obviously faulty and flawed and we need to review our security architecture,” she said. 

FG lobbies China

Meanwhile, Minister of Police Affairs Mohammad Dingyadi has assured Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria of the federal government’s willingness to partner China to enhance security in the country.

He stated this during a courtesy visit by the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun to the Ministry’s Headquarters in Abuja.

The position was coming a day after President Muhammadu Buhari called on the United States of America to relocate AFRICOM headquarters to Africa to boost the insurgency fight.

Reiterating the position in a statement  by the ministry’s press unit Wednesday, Bolaji Kazeem, the minister expressed optimism on the partnership with China.

“The entire world is much aware that Nigeria is facing serious security roblems and there is the need to work together to improve the security situation in the country,” the minister was quoted as saying.

He said: “As you are aware of terrorism and banditry in the North East, Northwest, North Central, and a secessionist movement in the South East, kidnapping and other criminal activities going on, unfortunately, Nigeria is not the only country facing these problems in Africa, our neighboring countries also share in these problems with us”.

Dingyadi also noted that with the support of the international communities, Nigeria should be able to solve these problems and extend solutions to neigbouring sister countries, adding that the most important thing is to succeed in the security reforms agenda set for the country by Mr. President.

Dingyadi also reiterated that the issue of security cannot be separated from poverty and unemployment, noting that the federal government’s effort to reduce the situation through poverty alleviation programmes and the creation of opportunities for youths in the various sectors of the economy would curb a drift to criminal activities.

The minister said government was making efforts to boost and motivate the morale of the security personnel to actualise their responsibility to the citizens as they have sworn to maintain peace, protect and secure the country despite the recent activities that tend to lower their morale in discharging their duties.

He said government had started the process of reactivating the CCTV project based on Public-Private Partnership through the selection of concessioner among the private organisations that bided for the project and that 0the concessioner had started resuscitating the project.

In his remarks, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun,  said China and Nigeria have a long history of diplomatic relationship spanning  50 years and therefore called for  the need to work together to improve bilateral relations and intelligence sharing.

“I want to emphasize priority areas, the first is infrastructure, how can we improve the infrastructure of the country? The second is about Information and Communication Technology (ICT), China is taking the lead in 5G technology and really has a great impact in every way of life and industries as well as value-added industries. I think both countries can work together to bring more investment,” he said.

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