Some Boko Haram terrorists have killed, at least, 30 people and abducted many women and children in a raid in Borno State, a government spokesman said, yesterday.
The attack Sunday evening targeted Auno village on a key highway linking the state capital, Maiduguri.
The jihadists stormed the village on trucks mounted with heavy weapons, killing, burning and looting before kidnapping women and children, the state government spokesman, Ahmad Abdurrahman Bundi said.
They aimed at travellers who had stopped for the night and torched vehicles.
The attackers “killed not less than 30 people who are mostly motorists and destroyed 18 vehicles,” Bundi said in a statement after visiting the scene.
The attack, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Maiduguri, occurred in an area where fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have been active, mounting roadblocks to target security forces and civilians.
Witnesses said jihadists set alight 30 vehicles in the raid, including trucks that had stopped overnight on their way to Maiduguri.
“Many of the drivers and their assistants who were sleeping in the vehicles were burnt alive,” civilian militia fighter, Babakura Kolo said.
The jihadists combed through the village, looting and burning shops and property before withdrawing, he said.
Auno lies on the 120-kilometre highway linking Maiduguri to Damaturu, a major regional city in neighbouring Yobe State.
The highway has been increasingly targeted by ISWAP militants in recent months.
The surge has followed the creation of so-called “super camps” by the Nigerian military in the North-East – a strategy under which small Army camps have withdrawn from several areas and combined into fewer, larger bases.
Last month, four Nigerian soldiers were killed and seven injured when the jihadists attacked troops positioned in Auno.
However, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) says it has neutralised some key Boko Haram terrorist leaders at Alafa Yagayaga on the fringes of the Sambisa Forest in Borno State.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, who made this known in a statement, yesterday, in Abuja, said the operation was conducted, last Saturday.
Daramola explained that this was achieved on February 8 when fighter jets dispatched by the Air Task Force of Operation Lafiya Dole obliterated a compound in the settlement where the leaders had assembled for a meeting.
“The airstrike was executed on the heels of credible intelligence reports indicating that the BHT leaders had converged at the target compound for a meeting over the weekend.
“Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions, which confirmed the meeting venue, also observed several BHTs in and around other buildings in the vicinity of the compound.
“Bombs from the detailed attack aircraft scored accurate hits on the target leading to the obliteration of the compound and surrounding structures as well as the neutralisation of their BHT occupants,” he said.
Daramola said NAF, operating in concert with surface forces, would sustain its air campaign to shape the battle space in the North-East for the effective conduct of further ground and air operations.
However, more facts have emerged from the Auno attack on Sunday along Maiduguri/Damaturu highway.
The Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj-Gen Olusegun Adeniyi, told journalists, yesterday, that only 10 people were killed in the incident.
But Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, who also visited the scene of the attack, said he was briefed by the villagers that about 30 people were roasted in the fire ignited by the insurgents at about 9.30pm on Sunday.
The villagers informed the governor that an unspecified number of women were abducted during the attack but the report has not been verified nor confirmed by any authority.
Another fact also emerged the devastating effect of the fire was aggravated by a military fuel tanker which stocked together with the travelling vehicles that were torched by the insurgents.
But the Theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole denied the report, stating: “I have no knowledge of a military tanker on that road at that time”.
The Theatre Commander told journalists that his men averted another tragedy that would have brought sadness by rescuing three school children briskly abducted by Boko Haram along Gubio road.
He noted that his men fought skillfully and rescued the three children (two girls and a boy) unhurt.
The children were handed over to their parents by the theatre commander.
Speaking further on the Auno attack, Adeniyi called on the general public to avoid been stuck at certain locations along Maiduguri road.
He stressed that people should plan their movement very well along the Damaturu/Maiduguri road so that they will not be stuck at some of these locations.
“We normally close the Damaturu road by 5.00pm and it is expected that you time your movement very well so that you get to Maiduguri by 5.0pm of Damaturu by 5pm because the soldiers cannot leave to fight Boko Haram and come back to protect people sleeping on the road who refuse to obey the law in the first place,” Adeniyi advised.
Adeniyi informed that the insurgents came on motor cycle and parked them from a distance and walked down to burn down vehicles of travellers.
“We will do more to ensure that incident like this does not happen again. I am calling on all stakeholders to make the Maiduguri/Damaturu road safe. Until the people realised that there is a counter insurgency going on throughout the northeast.
“As a result of the dastardly activities of the Boko Haram, certain measures have to be taken to safeguard lives and property and the military to conducting counter insurgency, especially on Maiduguri/Damaturu road.
Zulum sympathised with the people of the community and called on them to give the necessary cooperation to the military.
The residents accused soldiers of the town of locking up the town and leaving for Maiduguri and leaving them without protection.
Zulum also corroborated the accusations of the residents, saying that he has made several appeals for the military to establish a unit in Auno but to no avail.
“We have to be brutal in telling the truth. I am pushed to the wall to say the truth. Since I was inaugurated as governor of Borno State, Boko Haram has attacked Auno six times. Another thing is that the military have withdrawn from Auno town.
“I am not undermining the capacity of the military but we have made repeated appeal for the military to establish their unit in Auno. They are here but as soon as it is 5 pm, they close the gate and lock the people and go back to Maiduguri. This is not right,” Zulum raged with anger.
But the Garison Commander of 7 Division, Nigeria Army, Maiduguri, Brig-Gen Sunday Igbinomwanhia, refuted the allegations, saying the soldiers closed the roads and withdrew to the outskirts of the town to protect the villagers, as well as prevent and lunch ambushes on the insurgents.
Eyewitnesses disclosed that a large number of vehicles loaded with goods, shops and houses were set ablaze by the suspected insurgents, who sneaked into the town and launched attack on sleeping travellers at the town which is 24km to Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
A commercial driver, Adamu Tella who used the road told our correspondent that he saw three corpses been conveyed by Civilian JTF.
“I could not count the number of vehicles that were burnt. But I saw three burnt corpses in a vehicle of civilian JTF. I also saw many houses and shops burnt down to ashes,” Adamu informed.
Adamu also informed that his driver friend’s vehicle was also burnt in the incident.
Another eyewitness, Haruna Yunusa, a passenger, said he saw three burnt dead bodies and counted 21 vehicles including trailers, some of them still under fire as at the time he passed through the town on Monday morning.
Auno is one of the towns located along the Maiduguri/Damaturu road which has recently come under serious attacks by the Boko Haram insurgents.
In his reaction, yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari described the attack as ‘cowardly murderous.’
The terrorists sacked the village of Auno on a key highway, linking the capital, Maiduguri.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the ‘cowardly and murderous attack by Boko Haram.
He commiserated with family of victims of the attack, assuring them that his administration would continually frustrate the devilish operations of Boko Haram, and bring it to an end.
Buhari, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, condemned the “murderous and cowardly attack on innocent passengers by the Boko Haram terrorists near Maiduguri’’, adding: “this administration is ever determined to frustrate their goal to hold Nigeria to ransom.
“The commitment of this administration to protect the lives of Nigerians will not be derailed by the cowardly and indiscriminate violence against innocent people by Boko Haram terrorists,’’ he said, while reacting to recent attacks in Maiduguri.
Buhari, who also condoled with the government of the state, warns “that terrorists are clearly on a back foot and their days are numbered’’.
“As our armed forces continue to receive more hardware and intelligence to counter our current security challenges, the remnants of Boko Haram will ultimately be crushed. The peculiar challenges of asymmetric warfare notwithstanding, our armed forces are ever determined to defeat these enemies of humanity,’’ Buhari said.
The President promised, again, yesterday, that all children kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists would be set free during his regime.
He spoke at a breakfast dialogue on ‘‘Stop the War on Children Affected by Armed Conflicts, Dividend of Silencing the Guns’’, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, held on the margins of the ongoing 33rd African Union Summit.
Nigeria, Uganda, Norway, the AU Commission and Save the Children sponsored the dialogue.
Buhari said, “A number of schoolgirls from Chibok and Dapchi earlier abducted by Boko Haram have regained their freedom.
“We commend the gallant efforts of the Multi-National Joint Task Force and the partners in supporting the reintegration of the girls.
“Let me categorically reassure you of the steadfast commitment of the Government of Nigeria to ensure the freedom of all kidnapped children from the shackles of Boko Haram.
“We will not relent until every child, boy, or girl, every Nigerian adult in custody of Boko Haram, is freed.”
Among the children being held is Leah Sharibu, the Dapchi schoolgirl denied freedom on account of refusing to denounce Christianity.
It would be recalled that 276 girls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014, by Boko Haram but 57 of the girls escaped to safety almost immediately.
The insurgents eventually went away with 219 of them.
Over a number of years, 107 of the Chibok girls regained freedom but till date, 112 are missing.
A State House statement, yesterday, said Buhari urged African countries and stakeholders on the continent to strengthen the protection of children from the six grave violations during armed conflict.
He noted that the six grave violations were killing and maiming of children; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; abduction of children; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access for children.
Buhari added, “It is for this reason that the Nigerian government has severally condemned, and is combating frontally the dreadful activities of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State.
“Of course, the severity of these grave violations varies from country to country.
“The incidence of a single violation of children rights in any country is an indelible dent on the African consciousness and is to be deplored and condemned,” he said.
He told AU leaders that they must continue to protect children, taking time to brief the session on efforts Nigeria had made so far to do so.
“To stem the tide of out-of-school children, Nigeria embarked on an all-inclusive reconstruction of schools vandalised by the ravaging terrorist activities of Boko Haram, while returning children are rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
“Our nomadic education policy is also being implemented to reduce the number of out-of-school children. We have also prioritised de-radicalisation and de-mobilisation of ex-combatant children of Boko Haram insurgents”, his media aide, Mr Garba Shehu, quoted him as saying.
Buhari made a call on the AU Peace and Security Council to spearhead the strategy to stop the war on children and adopt the Child Protection Architecture within the African Peace and Security Architecture and the Roadmap on Silencing the Guns.
He added, “The call to action is now for accountability by all African states to the rights of the children caught up in wars.
“Let us stop the war on children. This is a wake-up call for us all to create the enabling environment for rooting out the impact of armed conflicts against our children across the continent”.
Meanwhile, former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, has charged the Federal Government to stop claiming that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated.”
Fani-Kayode gave the charge while condemning the latest Boko Haram attack that killed about 30 people in Maiduguri, Borno State, yesterday.
In a tweet, the former minister wondered when the Federal Government would live up to its responsibility of defending Nigerians.
Fani-Kayode tweeted: “30 people killed by Boko Haram & many abducted in Maiduguri, Borno state today. Is the Federal Government still claiming that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated?”
“How cruel and insensitive can they be and when will they live up to their duties and honour their obligation to defend our people?”
Wike Lifts Curfew On Parts Of Port Harcourt …Lifts Suspension Of Obio/Akpor LG Chairman, Deputy …As RSG Moves To Implement Palliatives
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has lifted the curfew imposed on Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction along Ikwerre Road, and Obiri-Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba, effective, today.
Wike also lifted the suspension of the chairman and deputy chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
He announced these decisions during a state broadcast, yesterday.
Wike said: “With effect from tomorrow, April 3, 2020, the 24 hours curfew imposed from Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction along Ikwerre Road and Obiri-Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba has been lifted.
“All borders and markets in the state remain closed.
“Following the interventions of some well-meaning citizens of the state, the suspension of the chairman and deputy chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area has been lifted.
“However, this should serve as a warning to local government chairmen and traditional rulers who will allow markets to be open in their areas.
“Residents of Mgbuosimini-Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area are hereby warned to desist from flouting government directive on closure of markets or be prepared to face unpleasant consequences.
“Commercial vehicle operators will soon get appropriate directives on their operations in order to maintain social distancing”, the governor said.
Wike explained that his administration was working out palliative measures to cushion the effects of the sit-at-home directive.
He said: “Implementation of palliatives to cushion the effects of recent directives on the citizens will soon take effect.
“International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the state should support government by donating towards the containment of the virus”, he appealed.
The governor thanked Rivers people for their cooperation, saying, “My Dear Good People of Rivers State, let me sincerely thank all of you for your patience and understanding all these days.
“The sacrifices we are all making have greatly helped us not to record any positive case since the index case was reported.
“As we continue to put in our best as human beings, we expect that the Almighty God will intervene on our behalf and wipe away this plague from our midst.
“May I, therefore, urge you all to continue to seek the face of God as we earnestly await His divine intervention,” he added.
US, UK Diaspora Groups Hail Wike’s Measures Against COVID-19 Spread
Two Rivers groups based in the United States of America, Ikwerre Peoples Forum, and Rivers Development Forum, have commended the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike for taking proactive measures to check the spread of Coronavirus in the state.
In separate press statements, yesterday, the two groups expressed satisfaction that the governor was committed to the protection of Rivers people through actions that have stopped the explosion of Coronavirus in the state.
The Chairman of Ikwerre Peoples Forum, USA, Mr Michael Ewule, said that after Lagos State, Rivers State was the next major hub in the country that can be accessed through air, land and sea.
He said that the determined efforts of Wike saved the state from the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus in the state.
The forum stated that: “We have watched closely what is happening all around Nigeria, and we are happy that our Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has worked hard to prevent Coronavirus from spreading.
“We support the measures that have been taken by Governor Nyesom Wike to stop Coronavirus from killing our people. Worldwide, such measures have been taken by governments to stop Coronavirus”, the forum noted.
The group urged the Rivers State Government to continue to review the measures in line with new developments.
The forum stated that it was working with non-governmental organisations and faith-based groups in Rivers State to reach out to Rivers people with donations of hand sanitizers and face masks.
The group also commended Governor Nyesom Wike for setting up a world-class treatment centre, which was handling the index case in the state.
The IPF further lauded the Rivers State governor for mobilising health professionals, facilities and drugs to tackle the disease.
Similarly, the Chairman of Rivers Development Forum, USA, Piegbara Baridoma, said the union was happy with Governor Nyesom Wike for working for the people at this tough time.
He called on Rivers people to support the governor to keep the state healthy through the right measures.
Baridoma noted that the sensitization process by the Rivers State Government since the index case of Coronavirus in Nigeria was reported has helped to create awareness of the disease in the state.
He explained that because the people are aware, it would be easier for health professionals in the state to contain the disease.
Meanwhile, Rivers United Front, a Coalition of Rivers State Indigenes based in the United Kingdom has commended Governor Nyesom Wike for displaying pragmatic leadership in the fight against coronavirus.
In a statement issued by the President and the Secretary of the Group, Dr.Tubotamuno Mpaka and Mr. Kingsley Chimzi respectively, they stated that the proactive approach employed by the Governor has helped to contain the virus.
Lockdown: Open Food Reserve Centres Now, PDP Tells Buhari
Federal lawmakers from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the House of Representatives have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately unlock the national food reserve agency and distribute items to Nigerians across the 774 local government areas.
This, they said, will curb the spate of hunger in the land amid the lockdown order to halt the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
In a statement issued by the parliamentarians under the umbrella name, “PDP House of Reps Caucus”, yesterday, signed by their leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers State, PDP) and made available to newsmen in Abuja, the members said that available records indicated that compliance to total lockdown has not always been 100 per cent successful if the food question was not addressed.
While commending Buhari for the directive during his state broadcast last Sunday, the caucus, in the statement titled, “COVID-19 Pandemic: A Call for Further and Decentralized Action”, also asked the National Assembly to immediately enact a law for national food prices control.
The caucus said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken our country on the emergency course, unexpected and unanticipated at the beginning of the year that strategic legal, policy and legislative responses have dovetailed into measures directed at curtailing or halting the pandemic.
“As members of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives, we have consistently called, and we still continue to call, for measured responses that take the poor economic conditions of Nigerians, the rights of citizens, the scaling up of the medicare framework, into account in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While many governors have stepped away from what Prof Wole Soyinka rightly described this week as an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic virus by constitutional piracy, we note that the absence of a structured federal response, based on the dictates of the law, may have led them to ramp up measures outside the remit of their constitutional powers.
“The rule of law has now prevailed, and it is in this light we welcome some of the measures outlined in the President’s belated broadcast and in the Regulation (COVID-19 Regulation 2020) made pursuant to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act; though the presidential broadcast and Regulation took a long time coming. Well, better late than never. While we find the measures largely satisfying, it is our considered view that the palliative measures outlined in the presidential broadcast and regulation are not far-reaching enough, while some are completely inapplicable.
“Experiences through history have shown that citizens’ rights to movement are often heavily implicated when measures directed at halting the spread of contagious diseases and restoring public safety do not address the food question behind the curtains, worsening food security conditions.
“During the Ebola outbreak a few years ago, citizens of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone openly defied the restrictions that were imposed on movement to limit the transmission of the disease, after staying indoors for a few days in hunger. We must learn quickly from these experiences by ensuring that immediate measures on food security are ramped up.
“One way of doing this is to open up our national food and grain reserves across the country and distribute food to the poorest of the poor in our country at the Local government level. The President should as a matter of utmost urgency issue an Executive Order, pursuant to his powers preserved by Section 5 of the Constitution 1999, directing the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, National Food Reserve Agency and National Emergency Management Authority to release and manage the distribution of food in our national reserves.
“The Executive Order must set out clear consequences for breach, particularly as they relate to public officials who seize on the times to make brisk businesses and gains from the miseries of the people.
“Other measures such as food prices control should be ramped up; though specific, targeted and temporary legislation on food prices control will be needed for enforcement. This is where the National Assembly comes in – by establishing a framework of teleconferencing and social media communication, where the current lockdown and the medical advisories that bar public gatherings make it impossible for the reconvening of the National Assembly, to deliberate and pass such bills, as the Food Prices Control, COVID-19 Containment, Emergency and Disaster Management, into law.”
Also commending the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and the House for the timely passage of an emergency bill to provide palliatives and the donation of members’ of March and April, 2020 salaries to fight the disease, the opposition lawmakers, however, asked that their deductions be transferred directly to their constituencies, saying they had no confidence in the sharing formula of the government.
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