The year 2018 could aptly be described as a year of tears and sorrows. It remains the most challenging year in Nigeria’s history, particularly in the area of security. The level of insecurity was so alarming, such that terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping and herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, among others, became part of the system.
On the political scene, it seemed as if the police drew a battle line with lawmakers with the likes of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Professor Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Hamman Misau coming under police ‘heat.’
On April 5, armed robbers attacked some banks in Offa, Kwara State. The incident led to the death of over 30 persons, including a pregnant woman, as well as nine policemen. The killing shocked the nation and police launched a high-powered investigation. Preliminary investigative reports by the police became controversial following allegations that the mastermind of the robbery operation had was linked to the Senate President, Saraki, former governor of Kwara State.
From the alleged confessional statement of the suspects, Saraki or someone close to him, was the backbone of the robbery gang. That led to a court in Abuja summoning Saraki to appear before it to explain what he knew about the suspects, who were linked to the Offa robbery.
Justice Abdullahi Garuba Ogbede of the Grade 1 Area Court, ACO Estate, Lugbe, FCT, Abuja, issued a criminal summons and ordered its service on Saraki, following a criminal complaint against him by an Abuja-based lawyer and rights activist, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, acting under Section 89(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
When the case was called, the complainant’s lawyer, E.S. Marcus, told the court that the defendant was absent in court, despite efforts made by an official of the court to serve him with summons issued on July 31.
Following Marcus’s complaint, Justice Ogbede invited the court’s official, Abdullahi Umar Kutigi, who informed the court that he was prevented by security personnel at the National Assembly from serving the defendant when he visited the place. The judge said, since there was no evidence that the defendant had been properly served, it was difficult for the court to take any further step on the case. Consequently, the matter was adjourned to September 10 for mention.
Ojaomo’s contention, in the complaint marked CR/196/2018, was that Saraki’s alleged refusal to honour an invitation purportedly sent to him by the police, in relation to the Offa robbery investigation, amounted to “obstructing a criminal investigation and disobeying a public officer carrying out a lawful responsibility.”
For Senator Melaye, he was arrested for alleged murder, among other charges. Melaye was alleged to have been involved in a murder case and provision of support for criminal elements in his home state of Kogi, as a result of which he was declared wanted. He was picked up at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
“I have just been arrested at the international wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport on my way to Morocco for an official engagement, sponsored by the Federal Government after checking in,” Melaye said on his official Twitter handle.
He said he was told that the police had placed him on its ‘no-fly’ list and that he was, therefore, barred from travelling out of the airport. The senator had similarly told the press that he escaped from kidnappers, whom he suspected were policemen in mufti, and ran into the bush, where he hid on tree branches for over 10 hours.
At the airport, Melaye said he “snatched back” his passport from the official who confiscated it and made to proceed to board his flight: “But I was then circled by police officers trying to hold me and saying I am on Interpol’s wanted list. We have called Interpol and they said it is a lie. Someone has also mentioned to me that my name was placed at the airport by a police commissioner. So, here we are; a standoff at a public place at our international airport. We are here,” he said.
The spokesperson of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Sunday James, said the senator was with immigration officials at the airport but could not immediately confirm whether it was based on a request by the police.
Melaye had on March 1, 2018, held himself up at a federal court in Abuja as the anti-robbery squad of the police made to arrest him. The stand-off came hours after the senator secured bail on perjury charges. He was arraigned on allegations that he provided false information to the police in an attempt to indict a senior official of the Kogi State government. He was granted N100,000 bail.
However, he stayed back inside the court to avoid arrest. Statutorily, a suspect who has been granted bail by a court and met the conditions cannot be arrested within the court premises by security personnel. The police team later left the court that night after Melaye escaped through a back channel. The police have since then craved for an opportunity to take the senator in.
As a climax to months of hide-and-seek and court maneuvers between Melaye and the police, the year ended on a tense note for the senator. On December 30, the police again asked Melaye to surrender himself for arrest and investigation for attempted culpable homicide. Police authorities followed the directive with a declaration that Melaye would be arrested to face the law. His house was surrounded by police to ensure he did not get away. The police stated that the operatives deployed to his house with an arrest warrant would not leave his Abuja residence until they apprehended him.
The police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, said in a statement on Monday, January 1, that Melaye had repeatedly spurned invitations asking him to report for an investigation into the alleged shooting of Sgt. Danjuma Saliu, attached to 37 Police Mobile Force, while on stop-and-search duty along Aiyetoro Gbede, Mopa Road, in Kogi State. He alleged that Melaye and his “armed thugs” shot and injured Saliu, who is now on admission at the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja.
On the terrorism front, the counter-terrorism war in the North-East made many gains but suffered heavy setbacks in the last weeks of 2018, with the resurgence of Boko Haram attacks through full-frontal war with troops. It started in the Lake Chad region and later spread to other areas, with the most pronounced being the attack on Metele village in Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State, where the Nigerian Army confirmed that some soldiers were killed when the terrorists attacked troops stationed at a military base in the area.
Unofficial reports put the casualty figure on the part of the army at 118 soldiers, while an anonymous source in the Nigerian Army said that 153 others were yet to be accounted for. According to a police source, many soldiers who were wounded during the attack have also been evacuated to Borno for treatment.
According to the Nigerian Army, such reports of large-scale losses in the attack were unfounded. The army insisted that the number of casualties being bandied in most mass media was false: “It is important for the public to note that the Nigerian Army has laid-down procedures for reporting incidents that involve its personnel who fall casualty in action. Out of respect for the families of our gallant troops, the NOKs (next of kin) are first notified before any form of public information, so as to avoid exacerbating the grief family members would bear were they to discover such from unofficial sources,” a statement from the Army said.
On September 3, in Zari area of northern Borno State, the death toll from a Boko Haram attack on a Nigerian Army post on the border with Niger Republic was put at 48. Military sources told our reporter that scores of Boko Haram fighters stormed the post in trucks and briefly seized it after a fierce battle.
On December 4, in Buni Gari, Yobe State, Boko Haram attacked troops of Operation Lafiya Dole.
“Six soldiers were brought in on Sunday. We have another two soldiers that were brought in yesterday from the attack, making a total of eight soldiers,” a hospital source said.
On December 5, the Nigerian Army confirmed that eight soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram attack. The Army said eight soldiers were confirmed dead in an attack on a military base believed to have been carried out by the self-styled Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction of Boko Haram. Military sources initially said two soldiers and six terrorists were killed, but later told AFP the figure had risen to eight.
On November 24, Boko Haram kidnapped 15 girls from a village near Toumour in Niger’s south-eastern region. According to a military source, the incident was confirmed by the mayor of the town, Boukar Mani Orthe, who said: “About 50 unidentified armed men seized the girls in a village about nine kilometres away from the town centre.”
On May 1, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a mosque and a market in the town of Mubi, Adamawa State, killing at least 86 people and injuring 58 others. The blasts were carried out by young boys. Although no group claimed responsibility for the attack, it was attributed to the Boko Haram extremist group.
According to a United Nations report, 43 children were used by Boko Haram terrorists as bombers between January and June 2018. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) condemned the continuous use of children for suicide bombings by Boko Haram terrorists.
However, the story is still the same in the south. On December 18, the Lagos State Police Command shocked Nigerians with the discovery of a fake wine factory in Ikorodu area of the state.
Another illegal brewery was uncovered in an uncompleted one-storey building in Aboru, Oke-Odo, where fake wine and assorted beverages were brewed.
Recovered from the factory were 4,000 bottles of adulterated wine of different brands, and 1,000 empty bottles of popular wines. The police promptly arrested the producer, 48-year-old Uju Daniel Ughanze, an indigene of Anambra State. Similarly, the police uncovered a fake drug factory in Lagos, and arrested four suspects.
In Benue State, North Central Nigeria, New Year’s Day 2018 was a bloody day as some suspected Fulani herdsmen unleashed mayhem in some communities, burning farms and villages and killing over 73 persons.
The state had witnessed several clashes between farmers and herdsmen over grazing rights and the “deliberate” destruction of farmlands by cattle. This led to the enactment of the Benue State Anti-grazing Law, prohibiting open grazing in the state. However, the herdsmen, under the umbrella of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, rejected the law. Soon after, attacks on farming villages became more frequent in the state.
The victims who died during the New Year’s Day attack on villagers and farmers in Guma and Logo local government areas of the state were given a mass burial on a site at the Industrial Layout, along Naka Road, Makurdi.
Since then, hardly would a week pass without attacks, killings and sacking of communities in the state by suspected herdsmen, especially in localities where the people are known for their prowess in agricultural production. The attacks have also left in their wake a huge humanitarian crisis, with close to 500,000 local farmers and their families living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps created by the state government in eight locations in Guma and Logo LGAs.
On May 22, relatives wailed ceaselessly during the burial of 17 worshippers and two Catholic priests, who were allegedly killed by Fulani herdsmen in Ayati-Ikpayongo in Gwer East District of the state.
The Catholic Diocese of Makurdi confirmed the killing of two of its priests, Rev. Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, in an early-morning attack on St. Ignatius Quasi Parish, Ukpor, Mbalom, in Gwer West LGA of the state. A statement by its director of communications, Rev. Fr. Moses Iorapuu, said that the attacks were perpetrated by herdsmen who stormed the Mbalom community and killed the two priests during the morning mass at the church.
The year 2018 also witnessed high incidence of kidnapping-for-ransom, which took even more frightening dimension and became the order of the day, especially along Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
The activities of bandits along the Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna road, where scores had been killed and many abducted, hogged the news headlines. Travellers identified three major spots on the Kaduna-Abuja highway as the most deadly. They were the portions of the road that border Kakau, Rijanah and Jere communities.
Four persons, including a professor, were killed by bandits along the volatile Abuja-Kaduna highway. One of the victims, a former commissioner of education in Katsina State, Professor Halima Idris, was killed while travelling to Abuja, between Jere and Kateri, about 85 kilometres from Kaduna. She was buried in Kaduna.
The Kaduna State police public relations officer, DSP Mukhtar Aliyu, confirmed the killing but added that no military officer or policeman was involved in the incident. In a statement he later issued, the police image maker said four persons were killed in the attack, while five others were injured.
On July 18, 2018, police gunned down one of the most wanted robbers in Ondo State. Bukola Adeoye, notoriously known as Agbara, meaning ‘power’, was killed in a gun duel with the police during a robbery in Ore, Ondo State.
Adeoye was one of the suspects who escaped from the custody of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Ondo State Police Command weeks before his end.
Six people, including three armed robbers, were killed when gunmen attacked a commercial bank and a police station in Igara, headquarters of Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State.
Edo State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Johnson Kokumo, said the robbers were killed in a gun battle with the police guarding the bank and another one nearby.
Also in 2018, there were several seizures of firearms that shocked the nation on account of their number and the violence they could have caused if they had found way into the Nigerian market.
At Tin-Can Island Port, Lagos, the Nigerian Customs Service intercepted a container-load of firearms, mostly rifles and ammunition. The container was discovered at the ports and cargo terminal of Tin-Can Island Port.
A Turkey-based Nigerian businessman, Ifeuwa Moses, and a Lagos-based clearing agent, Umeh Festus Emeka, allegedly tried to ship into Nigeria a consignment from Turkey, but customs officers at Tin-Can Island command discovered that the 1×20 container was loaded with firearms. The officers, during examination, found 2,671 pump-action rifles carefully concealed behind steel doors.
In 2016, the United Nations raised the alarm that over 350 million small arms and light weapons (SALWs), about 70 per cent of the estimated 500 million of such weapons circulating in West Africa, were domiciled in Nigeria.
Director, UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), Mr. Anselm Yabouri, who released the figures, expressed concern that Nigeria was being flooded with illicit weapons. He lamented that such weapons have found their way into unauthorised hands, which he said posed a great threat to the country’s existence as well as to the lives and property of Nigerians.
But, as the 2019 general election draws nearer, eminent Nigerians have renewed their call on the leadership of the Nigeria Customs and other agencies that man the borders and ports to take very urgent steps to address the problem.
The call became extremely necessary following the renewed attacks by terrorists in the North East and the bloodletting which engulfed Kaduna metropolis after the body of a first class monarch was found.
Gunmen had in October kidnapped Maiwada Galadima, the paramount chief of Adara Chiefdom in Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State. The gunmen also abducted his wife along the Kaduna/Kachia road. The body of the monarch was found a few days later.
In October, the police in Kano State said they recovered 47 firearms with 819 rounds of ammunition and 1,117 cartridges between January and August 2018, in line with the IGP’s directive on retrieving unauthorised firearms in the possession of Nigerians nationwide. Similar recoveries were made in other states.
A military officer attached to Operation Lafiya Dole in the North-East, who preferred anonymity, said that the seizure of guns at Tin-Can Island was just another scratch on the surface. According to him, smugglers move large quantities of arms in sacks of onions into the country through the land borders.
He revealed that thousands of trucks cross into Nigeria using Jibia in Katsina, a border town with Niger Republic, to transport goods and services. The development makes it hard for the security agents to know which ones have guns and ammunition in their cargo.
He said that while he was serving in Jibia, his team once recovered more than 1,135 guns and several thousand rounds of ammunition being transported into the country hidden inside sacks of onions.
A senior army officer serving in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said that 99 per cent of firearms smuggled into Nigeria end up in Onitsha, Anambra State, from where the guns are redistributed for sale, depending on the crisis region.
He said that Onitsha was the hub of illegal firearms and ammunition and criminals go there from far and near to buy weapons. The senior army officer, a serving Colonel, revealed that guns were also smuggled into Nigeria in bags of yam flour.
Nigerians from all walks of life have condemned the spate of killings and bloodletting that characterised the year 2018, and called on government at all levels, particularly the Federal Government, to ensure that 2019 does now witness such ugly security lapses.