By Christopher Oji
The year 2022 ended well for some people but it also ended badly for many others who would not forget in a hurry the turbulence they went through. For many Nigerians, the sour taste of the year would remain indelible, especially those who experienced one attack or the other.
There was fear everywhere such that life became short and brutish; no one was safe. Today, Nigerians are on edge. Commuting on roads and the railways has become dangerous, as these have been turned to kidnappers and robbers’ hunting grounds. It seems only the airspace is safe. But due to high airfare, travellers have resorted to road travel.
In 2022, there was hardly a day that passed without one gory tale of travellers being killed or abducted by kidnappers or bandits.
Farmers have abandoned their farms for fear of bandits, who kill them or abduct them for ransom. Those who summon courage to go to the farm pay tolls to bandits before they are allowed to plant or harvest their produce.
The security agencies were overwhelmed and over-stretched. In some cases, law enforcement agents were behind the tragedies and there seemed to be no end in sight.
For instance, on December 25, Christmas Day, a trigger-happy policeman, ASP Drambi Vendi, serving in the Lagos State Police Command, spoiled the fun of the day for Lagos residents as he shot and killed a female lawyer, Mrs. Bolanle Raheem, without provocation. The killing of Mrs. Raheem threw the state into mourning, to the extent that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu travelled to Abuja to discuss with the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, on how justice would be done and the culprit brought to book. The suspect has been charged to court and remanded in a correctional centre pending the determination of the case.
Terrorists and bandits grew wings in 2022. Last week, during a visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Kogi State, an explosion rocked the city of Okene, venue of the meeting. The state government linked the explosion to enemies who decided to strike during President Buhari’s visit.
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello’s security adviser, Jerry Omodara, said the explosion occurred around 9 a.m., close to the old palace of the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, and four people died. Omodara confirmed that the state government received intelligence about the incident.
The retired commodore said there was enough deployment of security personnel to frustrate the sinister efforts.
“The enemies of progress tried to distract President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Kogi by setting off that explosion,” he said.
A few months earlier, an audacious attack was carried out on the advance convoy of the President in Katsina State. Terrorists also threatened to kidnap the President.
As the year 2022 came to an end, road users expressed mixed reactions over incessant attacks and abduction on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
While some of those who spoke to Daily Sun enjoined the police and other security agencies to beef up security along the road, others were of the opinion that the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), also known as Amotekun, vigilance groups and other local security outfits should be involved in tackling the menace.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which starts at Berger in Lagos and ends at Iwo Road in Ibadan, is about 120 kilometres long. The expressway, which links Oyo, Ogun and Lagos states, and other parts of the country, is one of the busiest roads in the country.
It is the gateway for travellers from most parts of the country to Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria.
Several attacks were recorded along the expressway last year. The gunmen, who usually dressed in military fatigues, often abducted travellers after stopping their vehicles.
In January 2022, a number of kidnappings were recorded along the road. The gunmen, during one of the operations in January at Abule Onigari, killed a commercial bus driver identified as Oluwatosin Aruwajoye.
Also, on Saturday, January 8, they abducted five passengers, while another person, Ibrahim Tiamiyu, was shot in the thigh. Actress Bimpe Akintunde, and her daughter escaped from being kidnapped at the same location on Sunday, January 9, 2022.The incessant attacks and abduction on the road last year attracted the attention of security agencies to move to the area. This brought some sense of relief for travellers plying the road between January and October last year.
On February 14, the Nigeria Police Force threw citizens into confusion with the announcement of the arrest of celebrated super cop, Deputy Commissioner of Police Abba Kyari, over his alleged involvement in drug trafficking. Police spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, confirmed that Kyari was arrested alongside four other persons. The embattled cop was arrested a few hours after the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) declared him wanted.
The NDLEA, at a press briefing in Abuja by its spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, said Kyari was wanted for aiding and abetting drug pushing and running his own international cartel. The arrest and arraignment of Kyari caused controversy in various quarters. He has been remanded at Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, ever since.
Terrorists attacked an Abuja-Kaduna passenger train on March 28, 2022. Fourteen persons were killed and 63 abducted. This came days after an attack on Kaduna Airport, which reports said the army thwarted. The Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna, also came under gun attack by bandits.
The train attack forced the Nigeria Railway Corporation to suspend rail activities, and President Muhammadu Buhari directed security agencies to rescue the victims.
After months in captivity, the bandits released the last batch of the abducted victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, with allegations in the public sphere that over N6 billion had been paid to the terrorists to set the captives free.
On May 12, the killing of Deborah Samuel, a 19-year-old Christian from Tungan-Magajiya, in Rijau Local Government Area of Niger State, jolted the country. She was stoned to death for alleged blasphemy. She was in her second year studying home economics at Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto.
Deborah was killed by a mob of her Muslim classmates and other students who claimed she had blasphemed against Prophet Muhammed. A video of the murder circulated online and sparked debates across the country on the limits of religious expression and why the murder was not being called a murder.
In June 2022, in Kogi State, a police inspector identified as Jubril was killed during an attack by suspected terrorists.
On June 5, gunmen stormed St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, and killed no fewer than 40 worshippers, injuring at least 80 others. The Owo massacre drew the attention of the world, including the Vatican. The gory photographs of the slain worshipers drew outrage from all and sundry. Since the attack, Nigerian churches have become more security-conscious, while the police high command has ordered commissioners of police to supervise security during church services and programmes.
Nigeria also experienced mind-boggling financial crime in 2022, even as corruption continued to ‘fight back.’ In July 2022, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it was set to arraign the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and others over a N109 billion fraud.
A statement by EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said the commission would arraign Idris at the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, presided by Justice A.O. Adeyemi Ajayi. Apart from Idris, three others, Godfrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited, were also charged on 14 counts of stealing and criminal breach of trust to the tune of N109,485,572,691.09.
The Federal Government suspended Idris without pay from office as the Accountant-General of the Federation after his arrest in Kano. Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, informed Idris of his suspension in a letter dated May 18.
On Tuesday, July 26, a bank cash officer and an armed robber were killed in a bullion van attack, police authorities in Abia State said.
The incident occurred at about 1:13pm at Ntigha Junction, along the Port Harcourt-Enugu highway in Isiala Ngwa North LGA of the state.
Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna, the police public relations officer in the state, confirmed the incident in a statement in Umuahia, the state capital. The bullion van, which was escorted by six policemen, was conveying cash from a commercial bank in Aba to Umuahia when it ran into an ambush by armed robbers.
The operatives providing security for the vehicle were “attached to 28 PMF, Umuahia, and Counter Terrorist Unit Base,” Ogbonna said.
The armed robbers opened fire on the van and the driver swerved into the bush. The gunmen later shot and killed the banker, although the driver fled the scene.
The police escorts engaged the armed robbers in a shootout, leading to the death of one of the criminals, while his AK47 rifle and three magazines were recovered.
Ogbonna disclosed that three of the policemen were injured and taken to hospital for treatment, adding that the bodies of the banker and the armed robber were deposited at a morgue.
In August, a suspected member of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who allegedly killed three policemen, was neutralized during a gun duel with policemen in Delta State.
The suspect was gunned down at Ogbada Quarters, along the Illah–Akwukwu-Igbo Road, in Oshimili North LGA of the state. Delta State Commissioner of Police, Ari Mohammed Ali, claimed the suspect and two other gunmen, said to be members of IPOB, attacked a police patrol team attached to Illah Division during stop-and-search duties along the Illah-Akwukwu-Igbo road.
Among the security challenges that Nigerians were faced in 2022, there were arson attacks by hoodlums on offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in some states, especially in the South East. So far, INEC recorded 50 attacks on its facilities across 15 states in the last four years.
According to data made available to our correspondent, Imo had the highest number of attacks on INEC facilities, with 11 incidents, followed by Osun, seven; Akwa Ibom, five; Enugu, five; Ebonyi, four; Cross River, four; Abia, four; Anambra, two; Taraba, two; Borno, one; Ogun, one; Lagos, one; Bayelsa, one; Ondo one; and Kaduna one.
The breakdown showed that, in 2019, INEC recorded eight attacks, 22 in 2020, 12 in 2021, and eight in 2022.
The incidents occurred in Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Borno and Taraba states. The Nigeria Police have not relented in their efforts to fish out the perpetrators. The IGP has on many occasions warned against such attacks.
In the night of October 9, well-armed jihadists struck at the Kuje custodial facility in Abuja, freeing about 800 inmates, including jailed Boko Haram terrorists and other high-profile inmates. The freeing of the terrorists caused panic in and around Abuja. There was also an ambush of a patrol of the elite Presidential Guards Brigade in Abuja and some casualties were recorded.
Shortly after, the embassy of the United States of America in Nigeria issued a terror warning to American citizens to be wary of where they visited. The embassy also started evacuating its staff and other U.S. citizens out of the country on the grounds that intelligence reports indicated an imminent attack and Abuja “would fall” in a matter of days. Other countries followed suit, including the United Kingdom and Canada. The Kuje Prisons jail-break left lasting security challenges, especially for residents of the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Abuja, who have been living in fear. The Department of State Service (DSS), the Nigeria Police and other sister agencies have not relented since the jailbreak, as they have been placed on red alert by the government to re-arrest the escapees and thwart any security breach. The DSS has been able to capture a few fugitives from the prison attack, who are facing interrogation.
On October 19, a raid by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State reportedly left dozens of Christian villagers dead. Police and clergy agreed that it was a reprisal for the killing of four Fulani herdsmen earlier in the week in a clash between herdsmen and farmers defending their crops. Accounts differ as to the exact number killed in the October 19 raid.
A council chairman, Kartyo Tyoumbur, said at least 71 residents of Gbeji, virtually all of who were worshippers at a parish branch of St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, were killed in the attack. He said at least 35 bodies were found after the raid and 36 more bodies were recovered later in adjoining fields. The dead included women and children, along with two policemen, he said.
On Friday, October 21, gunmen attacked the convoy of popular Nigerian cleric, Apostle Johnson Suleman, killing seven people, counting three police officers. Suleman’s lawyer, Samuel Amune, said the cleric escaped death by a whisker. The attack occurred in Auchi, Edo State, hours after Suleman returned from a trip to Tanzania.
Police spokesperson in Edo State, Chidi Nwabuzor, confirmed the killing of some persons in Suleman’s convoy, including drivers and police orderlies.
In a similar attack on September 12, gunmen killed five aides, including security agents, during an attack on the convoy of Senator Andy Ubah, representing Anambra South senatorial zone of Anambra State.
Ubah’s convoy was ambushed in Enugwu-Ukwu, a community in Njikoka LGA of the state, but he escaped without injuries because he was travelling in a bulletproof vehicle, his spokesman, Kameh Ogbonna, confirmed.
On Friday, November 4, 2022, another herdsmen’s attack reportedly claimed 366 persons, including children, in Ukohol and three other villages in Guma LGA of Benue State. The marauders, who were said to have invaded the communities from neighbouring Nasarawa State by 4pm on Thursday, killed several of the victims who were trading at the village market at the time of the attack.
In Kogi State, there was an attack on a prison, where four inmates and a security official were killed during the attack, according to an official. At least 443 inmates are still at large, but many others have been recaptured, a spokesperson said.
About 63 of the inmates at large were members of the terror group, Boko Haram. Again, at least 114 of the 240 correctional centre’s inmates who escaped from a prison facility in Kabba, Kogi State, have been recaptured, Francis Enobore, spokesperson for the service, said.
On December 22, the Kaduna State government said troops of the Nigerian Army killed “several bandits” in Giwa LGA of the state.
Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna State commissioner for internal security and home affairs, announced the development in a statement.
He said the “bandits” were killed during clearance operations on hideouts.
“According to the report, many bandits have been confirmed neutralized so far, while others fled with gunshot injuries to the Hayin Siddi area around the interstate boundaries,” the statement read.
At least 7,222 Nigerians were killed and 3,823 abducted as the country witnessed 2,840 incidents of insecurity between January 1 and July 29, 2022.
Also, no fewer than 1,499 people were injured during various attacks witnessed in 505 local government areas in the country.
These were contained in data obtained from the Nigeria Security Incidents Tracker by Beacon Consulting.
According to the data, 605 abductions took place in January; 1,202 fatalities were recorded while 62 persons sustained injuries. In February, there were 887 deaths, 501 abductions and 82 injuries.
In March, 1,497 deaths, 702 abductions and 209 sustained injuries were recorded from violent attacks. Also, in April, 633 persons were kidnapped, 1,434 were killed and 358 were injured.
In the South-East, ‘unknown gunmen’, herdsmen and other non-state actors increased their attacks on residents, government assets, security agents and civilians, in their bid to enforce the sit-at-home order declared in the zone, as well as in confrontations against Nigerian security officers. Prominent people were killed or abducted, such as Dr. Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, who was waylaid and gunned down on his way back from a function, and Bishop Samuel Uche, Prelate of the Methodist Church, who was kidnapped in Abia State and forced to pay N100 million before he and others in his travel party were released.
In Niger, Plateau and other states of the North-Central and North-West, bandits unleashed terror on residents, even as they had a running battle with the Nigerian Army, police and other services of the armed forces.
More than 100 people, including women and children, were abducted when gunmen raided four villages in Zamfara State on one occasion, the information commissioner and residents said.
Kidnapping became endemic in the North-West as roving gangs of armed men seized people from villages, highways and farms and demanded ransom money from their relatives.
More than 40 people were taken from Kanwa village in the Zurmi LGA of Zamfara State, the information commissioner, Ibrahim Dosara, and one local resident said.