Ben Agande, Kingsley Omonobi, Ndahi Marama, Tony Nwankwo. VANGUARD .May 19, 2013
*Residents flee air raids *Northern govs plead: Avoid civilian casualty
The military, yesterday, extended the curfew in some parts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, to 24 hours, in continuation of the emergency rule imposed on the state alongside Yobe and Adamawa States, on Tuesday, to curb Boko Haram insurgent activities.
The curfew extension came on a day President Goodluck Jonathan told the insurgents to surrender and embrace the amnesty proposed for them by the Federal Government.
Northern governors also warned against civilian casualty in the implementation of the emergency rule in the three north-eastern states.
Reports, yesterday, said residents of a community in Borno State, Marte, were fleeing air strikes by the Nigerian Airforce jets and helicopter gunships on suspected Boko Haram camps.
The spokesman for the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, listed 12 neighbourhoods in Maiduguri where a 24-hour curfew was being imposed.
The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) also said troops arrested 65 suspected Boko Haram members trying to enter the Borno State capital after fleeing aerial bombardment elsewhere.
The DHQ insinuated that the insurgents were trying to infiltrate Maiduguri.
The imposition of the curfew in the Borno State capital was said to pave the way for the troops deployed to the state to embark on a house- to- house search, as well as face insurgents still residing within the metropolis and Jere council area.
A press release by the JTF spokesman, Musa, said, “In order to sustain the ongoing Special Operations in the face of recent Boko Haram attacks in some areas within Maiduguri metropolis, the JTF is imposing 24hours curfew with effect from today (Saturday), 18 May, 2013”..
He stated that the areas/wards include Gamboru-Customs Area, Mari Kuwait Area of University of Maiduguri, Bakin Kogi Area and Kasuwan Shanu-Kofar Biyu Area.
Other areas under the 24hours curfew are Rawan Zafi-Customs Area, 202 Housing Estate, Bama Road, 303 Housing Estate Bama Road, Dakiwa Lowcost Housing Estate.
Also affected are Simari-Zannari-Kwanan Yobe Area, 505 Abba Gana Terab Housing Estate, Muna Garage Road, Chad Basin Muna Garage Road, Baga Road Federal Lowcost Area, Bolori, Jajeri and Umamari Area.
The JTF appealed to the public to continue to cooperate with security agencies by providing credible and timely information which will assist the troops in carrying out their assignment.
The statement said JTF operatives could be reached on phone numbers 08064174066, 07085464012, 08154429346 and 08142333138 to pass on information on terror activities.
`LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS’ Hinting that the option of dialogue was still open to the Boko Haram insurgents, President Jonathan asked them, yesterday, to surrender.
“Those (insurgents) who are willing to dialogue and lay down their weapons can approach the National Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution on the Security Challenges in Northern Nigeria. The work of that Committee remains significant and relevant, and it is bound to be impactful”, the president, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Mr Reuben Abati, in an interview with Sunday Vanguard, said.
He declared that “there can be no illusion of simplicity where the fight against terrorism is involved.”
Jonathan noted that “terrorists strike at will with deadly cruelty”, adding, “The overriding consideration (in imposing emergency rule) is the peace, security and stability of Nigeria. While the option of dialogue and peaceful resolution is being pursued, government will also not condone impunity of any sort, or the obvious attempt by terrorists to create and run an enclave within the Nigerian state. “If anyone is in doubt, the Commander in Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces has made it clear: this government will not tolerate any attempt to violate the sovereignty of Nigeria. Those who are willing to dialogue and lay down their weapons can approach the National Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution on the Security Challenges in Northern Nigeria. The work of that Committee remains significant and relevant, and it is bound to be impactful.”
`OPERATE BY THE RULES’
In the meantime, the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) has advised the military to respect the sanctity of human lives, especially civilians who are not involved in the crisis in the three states where emergency rule has been imposed.
According to the Chairman of the Forum, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, who is also the governor of Niger State, in a press statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Danladi Ndayebo, yesterday, in Minna, security agencies deployed to the affected states should operate by their rules of engagement.
The Forum expressed support for the emergency rule while believing the dispensation will complement the offer of amnesty made to Boko Haram to restore peace to the North.
The statement called on the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to cooperate with the military personnel in enforcing the emergency rule to avoid unnecessary loss of lives.
The governors, while commending Jonathan for taking the action, appealed to members of Boko Haram to accept government’s gesture of amnesty so that lasting peace could return to the North and Nigeria in general.
The NSGF commiserated with the families of those who lost their lives in an attack by gunmen in Daura, Katsina State, on Thursday, and advised citizens to remain vigilant and report any suspicious movement or persons to the police or other security agencies.
A regular meeting of the Forum, scheduled to hold in Kaduna on Tuesday, has been shifted to Tuesday, May 28, 2013 to allow governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states monitor the take off of the emergency rule in their domains.
Top on the agenda of the meeting is deliberation on the report of the Committee on Reconciliation, Healing and security submitted to the governors in Abuja last month. The meeting will also discuss the proclamation of emergency rule on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
In a statement on the arrest of 65 suspected insurgents, yesterday, the DHQ, in a statement, said, “In continuation of the mission to rid the nation’s territories of all insurgents’ activities, the Special Forces have apprehended 65 persons confirmed to be terrorists as they made attempt to infiltrate Maiduguri while fleeing from various camps now under attack.
“A total of 11 vehicles, 4 tricycles and 24 handsets were also seized in the process. All the suspects are in custody of Joint Task Force and are currently being interrogated.
“Meanwhile, the camps of the terrorists have been found deserted by fleeing insurgents when troops of the Special Task Force stormed the localities. The facilities have been occupied by troops”.
In another development, the statement said, “Troops have engaged and dislodged elements of insurgents groups who carried out attacks on citizens in localities such as Gamboru ward yesterday (Friday).
“At the end of the encounter, a total of 10 suspected terrorists were confirmed dead while weapons such as Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, assorted ammunition and rifle magazines were recovered. The area is being combed to fish out any of the surviving insurgents.
“Also, some of the fleeing insurgents from various camps have been noted to be in search of fuel from neighboring communities.
“Citizens are advised to report to JTF, any group of persons roaming around the local communities with large quantities of containers in search of fuel. The advance of troops is continuing in all fronts as scheduled.
“The Defence Headquarters has further enjoined the troops to sustain the intensity of the operations”
FLEEING RESIDENTS In the Marte district of Borno State, yesterday, some residents were fleeing east, towards a town on the Cameroon border, 42 kilometres away (26 miles). “It has been scary in the past three days,” said Buba Yawuri, whose home is in the town of Kwalaram in Marte but who has fled to the border town Gomboru Ngala. “Fighter jets and helicopters kept hovering in the sky and we kept hearing huge explosions from afar,” he said.
He said that as the air assaults began, security forces told residents to stay indoors, cutting off his family’s access to food and water. “I couldn’t hold on any longer. I took the bush path and reached Gomboru Ngala early today (yesterday)”, he said.
Shafi’u Breima, a resident of Gomboru Ngala, said the border town was receiving a continuous flow of people arriving from Marte and neighbouring areas. The phone network in Borno State has all but collapsed since the emergency measures were imposed but residents in Gomboru Ngala use phone services from Cameroon and have been sporadically reachable.
The remote, thinly populated region has porous borders where criminal groups and weapons have flowed freely for years. The military has sealed previously unguarded crossings to block Boko Haram fighters from fleeing during the offensive.
The military campaign could prove to be the biggest ever against Boko Haram and is believed to be the first time Nigeria has carried out air strikes within its own territory in more than 25 years. Aerial support was believed to have been used against rioters in the North in the early 1980s. Many have warned that there is a risk of high civilian deaths and Nigeria’s military has been accused of massive rights violations in the past, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said, on Friday, that he was “deeply concerned about the fighting in northeastern Nigeria” and urged the security forces to “apply disciplined use of force in all operations.”
There are also doubts as to whether the insurgency can be crushed by force, amid concerns that the militants will scatter and re-emerge when the offensive eases,.Nigeria has been urged by various camps to tackle the root social causes of the conflict, including acute poverty and government corruption which has helped radicalise many young Muslims in the North.
The conflict is estimated to have cost 3,600 lives since 2009, including killings by security forces.