By Henry Umahi, [email protected]
On November 28, 2020, the Boko Haram insurgents massacred scores of farmers at Zabarmani and Koshebe communities in Borno State. They tied the farmers’ hands behind their backs before slitting their throats. In fact, when the insurgents got tired of slitting throats, they told the lucky farmers to go home and narrate their experiences to their people. The terror group said the killings were carried out to teach the farmers a lesson for cooperating with soldiers.
President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the massacre, saying: “The entire country is hurt.”
Reflecting on the development, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State said the locals were contending with desperate choices. He said: “On one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation. On the other hand, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents.”
On December 11, 2020, gunmen attacked Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State and abducted 333 students. Buhari, who hails from the state, was in his country home in Daura when the gang struck. The boys were, however, released after one week. It is not clear if ransom was paid or how much was paid, if any.
Landmines planted by Boko Haram insurgents in Kayamla village, outside Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, killed 11 security personnel on December 28. The victims were four soldiers and seven hunters recruited to help the military in the war against insurgents in the North East.
Seven hunters died in the explosion and nine others were badly injured. Their vehicle hit a landmine as they were pursuing Boko Haram insurgents.
The four soldiers were killed a day earlier by landmines in Logomani village near the border with Cameroon.
Eleven people were killed on Christmas eve by Boko Haram fighters, who also burnt a church and abducted a priest in a village near Chibok, were more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped six years ago.
In November 2020, seven soldiers and two civilians were killed when Boko Haram fighters attacked Zulum’s convoy on Gajiram-Monguno Road.
It was the third time Zulum was attacked in three months by Boko Haram terrorists last year.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Boko Haram and a splinter group known as ISWAP have killed 36,000 people in the North East and forced nearly three million others to flee in a decade of the insurgents’ violence.
It could, indeed, be said that Nigeria’s cancer of crime metastasized last year. The country was buffeted by endless bloodletting, kidnappings and armed robberies.
Kidnappers and robbers practically took over the nation’s highways, maiming and killing commuters with reckless abandon.
Niger, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states were attacked relentlessly by bandits last year. Intermittently, gunmen swooped on Niger State communities where they abducted residents and collected ransom before releasing them. Few days after 333 Kankara schoolboys were abducted, gunmen kidnapped no fewer than 22 persons in Ogu and Tegina communities in Niger State. The gunmen also ransacked houses and took away valuables.
A witness said: “The gunmen in their large numbers arrived Ogu on motorcycles and before we knew what was happening, they started shooting into the air.
“They ransacked people’s houses and whatever valuable they could lay their hands on, they carted away.”
According to the source, four of the people the bandits went away with “were members of one family while the other two were visitors to the community.”
Sani Gamachindo, a resident of Tegina community, told a television station: “The gunmen entered the room of my daughter that night, but she hid under the bed while her husband went up the ceiling.
“When the gunmen entered their room, they spent like 30 minutes and ate almost all the food in the kitchen. Thank God they were not abducted, but 16 persons were kidnapped.”
Gunmen kidnapped an Imam and 19 others in Niger State in February.
In September, at least 20 people were abducted in Adagbi village in Shiroro district, Niger. Seventeen people were also killed by gunmen on motorcycles in an attack in Rijau. Many also sustained injuries.
On November 19, gunmen kidnapped 14 people in Niger State, killed a mobile policeman and injured another in Mariga Local Government Area of the state. Few hours later, seven people were abducted in Shamuyanbu village in Kusheriki District of Rafi Local Government Area of the state.
The mother of all protests, #ENDSARS to demand the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) notorious for extrajudicial killings, kidnapping, human rights abuses and extortion, held in many cities in the country in October.
For days, Nigerians, particularly youths, trooped out and occupied major roads in protest. There were also protests in foreign countries in solidarity with the demonstrations in the country. On October 11, 2020, government dissolved the SARS unit.
However, hoodlums hijacked the protests, leading to massive looting and destruction of public and private property. At the end of the day, 51 civilians and 22 policemen were killed. Two policemen, Ajibola Adegoke and Rotimi Oladele, were roasted and their flesh eaten in Ibadan, Oyo State during the #EndSARS protest. The skulls of the policemen were allegedly sold for N1000 to a herbalist.
About 1, 993 inmates escaped from Benin and Oko prisons in Edo State during the protest. Edo State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Kokumo, said: “One of them (inmates), after having escaped from Oko correctional centre, ran back to his village on the same day, to kill the person who stood as a prosecution witness in the case that took him to the correctional centre. He has been arrested and he is among the suspects.”
Hoodlums sacked the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, from his palace and desecrated the place. They also took away his staff of office and took pictures with his customized shoes. The monarch returned home two months later.
According to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, 71 public warehouses and 248 privately owned stores were looted during the protests in 13 states and the FCT. He added that 205 critical national security assets, corporate facilities and private property were attacked, burnt or vandalised.
The shooting of civilians by soldiers at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos on October 20, 2020 promptly ended the #EndSARS protest. The casualty figure is being disputed.
Kidnapping and robbery increased remarkably in the Edo – Delta axis. Many attribute it to the huge number of criminals on the prowl.
In November 2020, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, said the level of insecurity in the North was such that “people leave foodstuff in their houses for bandits.” He added that people are now scared to travel.
And while commiserating with Zulum over the killing of rice farmers in his state, the monarch lamented that bloodletting had become “a new normal.”
The Auxiliary Bishop of Owerri Archdiocese, Moses Chikwe, and his driver, Robert Ndubuisi, were abducted on December 27, 2020. They were released on January 1, 2021.
Cult related killings were on the rise in 2020 in parts of the country. Take this: In the second week of November, no fewer than 30 people were killed in Benin City.
Amnesty International reported that there was rise in cult related violence in Niger Delta region in 2020.
Some notorious cultists in Lagos, Ondo and elsewhere met their waterloo. Most wanted outlaw in Benue State, Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana, was killed on September 8 by soldiers.
Nigeria also recorded many deaths in auto crashes across the country last year. One of the worst incidents took place on October 29 when 21 school school children perished in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. Many were also injured.
On September 23, at least 28 people were killed after a fuel tanker crashed in Kogi State.
On December 28, at least 23 people were confirmed dead while 22 others were injured in a trailer accident, which occurred at Masha village along the Makera – Mokwa Roiad in Niger State.
On March 9, at least 23 persons were confirmed dead in a ghastly auto accident involving a bus on Jahun-Kiyawa Road, Jahun Local Government Area of Jigawa State. Police public relations officer in the state, Abdu Jinjiri, confirmed the accident in Dutse, capital of the state.
Similarly, on December 23, at least 12 people were killed and 25 others injured in an auto crash along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway.
According to the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), poor maintenance of articulated vehicles and inadequate drivers’ training were among reasons responsible for increase in truck-related accidents.
According to the FRSC, at least 1,076 people were killed in road accidents in Nigeria in the third quarter of 2020.
Mr Samuel Obayemi, Zonal Commanding Officer, RS2 Command comprising Lagos and Ogun states, said: “We have noticed that some of these articulated vehicles are not properly maintained because more than 70 per cent of those accidents occur as a result of brake on the part of the trucks. On the part of the owners, one will expect that proper maintenance will be done.”
Military killed 2, 403 criminals in 10 months
However, the military said it neutralised 2,403 suspected criminals in various operations across the country between March 18 and December 30, 2020.
Major Geneneral John Enenche, coordinator, Defence Media Operations, gave the figure in December when he gave update on operations conducted to check criminality in the country during the period.
Enenche added that this is in addition to scores of other terrorists and armed bandits killed during air strikes.
He also said that during the period under review, troops rescued 864 kidnapped victims across the country.
The coordinator said 9, 684,797 litres of stolen AGO (diesel) and 33,516,000 litres of DPK (kerosene) were recovered.
He said: “Equally, 1, 910 criminal elements were arrested and large cache of arms, ammunition and equipment were recovered during the period.
“Furthermore, a total of 46, 581.8 barrels of stolen crude oil and 22, 881, 257 litres of stolen PMS (petrol) were recovered by the troops of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.’’