The Nigerian Red Cross Society and other rescue workers yesterday struggled to reach the remote town of Baga in Borno State where the military was restricting access after fierce clashes that killed 187 people, as the State Governor, Kashim Shettima, ordered a massive relief effort following the ‘barbaric’ violence.
The bloodshed in Baga on Lake Chad in Borno could mark the deadliest episode in the insurgency of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group blamed for scores of attacks since 2009.
Gun battles between troops and Islamist fighters caused a “barbaric destruction of lives and properties,” Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, said in a statement.
Baga residents have accused the military of firing indiscriminately on civilians and setting fire to much of the fishing town.
In addition to the 187 people killed, 77 others were injured while more than 300 homes were destroyed, according to the Red Cross.
The military has disputed those figures, while President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a probe into reports of widespread civilian deaths.
Red Cross disaster management coordinator, Umar Abdul Mairiga, told newsmen that relief workers had struggled to reach Baga because the military had not been able to guarantee their safety amid continuing tension.
“Now, they have given us permission to move,” he said, adding that a full team was expected to deploy early Wednesday.
Much of the town remains deserted after the fighting on Friday, which forced thousands of people to flee, saying that a resident who asked that his name be withheld.
“Baga is still under military siege,” he said. “The town is at a standstill with little food and water, which has forced even those of us that stayed behind to start leaving.”
The governor, who toured Baga on Sunday, called for emergency funds to rebuild the destroyed homes as well as the immediate provision of food and clothes to the survivors.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was “shocked and saddened at the reports of high numbers of civilians killed”.
Washington also condemned the violence and the deaths of many civilians.
The details of the alleged military atrocities in Baga are still emerging, but it could mark a major setback in Nigeria’s effort to end the insurgency.
Baga’s location near Chad and Niger is problematic for Nigeria’s security forces as people from all three countries move freely through porous borders, said Shehu Sani, an expert on religious violence in Nigeria.
The security forces struggle to identify the insurgent and criminal groups migrating in the region, a confusing and lawless environment that has led to the reckless targeting of innocent civilians, said Sani.
A multi-national security force involving Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria is officially responsible for the border region, including Baga.
There have been conflicting reports as to whether any foreign soldiers were involved in the violence on Friday, but the area commander, Brigadier General Austin Edokpaye is a Nigerian.
Meanwhile, there was public outcry yesterday over the killings of 187 people in Baga, Borno State, during a clash between the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram and the Joint Task Force.
Groups that condemned the killings included, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Senate and the House of Representatives, among others.
The Senate said it would investigate the alleged killings.
It decided to probe the killings following a motion brought by Senator Maina Lawan, (Borno North Senatorial District).
President of the Senate, David Mark, asked the Committees on Defence, Police and National Security and Intelligence to probe the allegations and report in two weeks.
Mark said, “There are standard rules of engagement and that do not include mass killing and extrajudicial killing. The level of death is just too high and we cannot accept that.”
Mark did not allow the matter to be debated citing security implications and the sensitive nature of the matter.
Maina, in his submission, said Baga, which is his hometown, was in ruins following the rampage by the military.
He said, “My hometown of Baga is today in ruins, with 180-200 human lives lost and numerous others unaccounted, 2000 homes, 62 cars and 284 motor cycles and tons and tons of food stuff destroyed.”
However, the North yesterday condemned the killing of over 187 people and the destruction of over 2,000 houses at Baga in Borno State during a clash between soldiers and the Boko Haram. It called for a commission of inquiry instead of probe as promised by President Goodluck Jonathan.
NCWS Hails RSG’s Steps Against Illegal Refining
The President of the Rivers State Branch of the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Princess Mariam Tolofari, has commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for taking decisive steps against illegal oil refining, air pollution and environmental degradation in the state.
Speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt, state president of NCWS maintained that Wike’s physical visit to some sites of the illegal refineries, mandating and supporting the state security agencies, local government chairmen and chiefs to swiftly end illegal refining has significantly reduced the menace of soot and its attendant environmental degradation and health hazard in the state.
Tolofari said that the governor’s resolve to end the soot in the state was heroic and valiant, while also backing the governor’s call on the Federal Government to respond to the issues giving rise to the soot epidemic in the state.
“We appreciate the governor for taking the bold initiative against operators of illegal refineries and the hydra-headed monster of black soot in Rivers State. We pledge to sustain and support a Green State that is healthy and beneficial to us all”, she said.
She further urged women to restrain their children and wards from joining persons engaged in ‘Kpo fire’ activities and ensure they stay focused in the pursuit of academic excellence and genuine business goals not associated to crime.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
Join War Against ‘Kpo Fire’, Monarchs Tell Rivers People
Some traditional rulers in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area have called on Rivers people to support the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on the war against illegal oil bunkering.
The traditional rulers include the Paramount Ruler of Woji community, Eze Emeka Ihunwo, the EzeRisi/Ohia Mbam Abali, Eze Christopher Wonodi, and the Paramount Ruler of Iriebe community, Eze Jeremiah Worenwu.
The monarchs, who spoke in their palaces on the issue, said the war against ‘Kpofire’was a collective one as the situation has reached a dangerous point.
They also dismissed the claim that unemployment was responsible for the menace, adding that there was no society in the world where government employs everybody.
They also noted that the stealing of crude oil did not start today.
Speaking, Paramount Ruler of Woji community, Eze Emeka Ihunwo, said the situation has taken a serious pitch, adding that a lot of lives were being lost as a result of the soot.
Ihunwo also described the action of the governor as timely.
According to the Woji monarch, those in the business of illegal oil bunkering do not know the health hazard they were causing to the people.
Ihunwo said that, in 2018,he invited the youths to his palace and mobilise them against operators of illegal refineries using Woji as conduit channel for evacuation of illegally refined products, and stressed that because of the collective understanding and collaboration of all stakeholders, Woji has not recorded any such criminal act within the community.
He, therefore, challenged other monarchs to emulate the Woji example.
The monarch also acknowledged a reduction in soot in the atmosphere in the state capital, while the amount of oil spill on surfaces of water has also reduced.
Also speaking, the Eze Risi/Ohia Mbam Abali, Eze Christopher Wonodi, said the intervention of the governor has saved the people of the state from series of health challenges.
Wonodi said it behooves the people of Rivers State to give their maximum support to the governor to succeed in eliminating the scourge of the soot pandemic in the state.
He also advised the youths to desist from the nefarious act and find other legitimate means of eking out aliving.
Wonodi also said that his kingdom has started sensitising the people against involvement in illegal oil bunkering.
On his part, the Paramount Ruler of Iriebe community, Eze Jeremiah Worenwu said Wike has shown that he has the capacity to solve societal problems.
Worenwu said that Iriebe community would comply fully with the governor’s directive to stop illegal oil bunkering, and warned those who may want to delve into the illegal business to stay away from the community.
While describing the governor’s action as welcome, the Iriebe monarch said the war against ‘Kpo fire’ needs the support of all members of the society, including the security agencies.
By: John Bibor, Oribim Ibama
ABOLGA Boss Declares Zero Tolerance On Oil Bunkering Activities
The Chairman of Abua/Odual Local Government Area, Hon. Daniel Daniel has thrown his weight behind the ongoing war against soot in Rivers State, assuring that his administration would do everything humanly possible to smoke out the criminal cartels involved in the illicit business.
The chairman, who declared that his administration would not condone activities of artisanal crude oil refineries in Abua/Odual, said he would demolish all illegal oil refining sites in the LGA, as directed by the state governor.
Speaking after visiting one of the uncovered artisanal crude oil bunkering sites in Odau Community, Daniel commended the efforts of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his relentless pursuit towards bringing to an end the menace called soot, which was threatening the very existence of the people in Rivers State.
He added that the practical steps taken by the governor within the last few weeks was yielding results.
Daniel used the opportunity to caution those who play politics with the fight against soot in the state to desist forthwith.
He further added that it was not proper to politicise this all important issue, which was causing harm to the environment and killing the people slowly.
The chairman called on all indigenes and residents of Abua/Odual Local Government Area to join forces to nip the danger posed by the soot the bud.
The ABOLGA chief executive alsosaid that anyone with useful information onthe locationsof the sites and names of operators where illegal oil bunkering activities are taking place within the area should report with immediate effect, to him or the DPO of the Abua/Odual Divisional Police Command for necessary action.
He disclosed that as the chairman of council, he has knowledge of all forests/communities in the LGA, adding that his administration would leave no stone unturned in implementing the directives of the state governor.
The site visited in Odau Community has over 15 boiling pots and occupies an estimated geographical area of over one hectare of land.
The Tide learnt that the site is bounded by communities from Ahoada-West LGA of Rivers State and Ogbia LGA in Bayelsa State.
Those who accompanied the chairman on the enforcement visit are the DPO of the Divisional Police Command and his men; the C4i LGA commander and his team of gallant men.
Others are the Chief of Staff to the Chairman, Hon. Okpokipoiy Peters; Supervisor for Environment, Hon Vincent Reuben Obu; and his works counterpart, Hon. Zinami Fyneroad Iwariso; Special Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs to the Chairman, Hon Alex Walters who is an indigene of the Odau Community, among others.
By: Nelson Chukwudi
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