From PAUL ORUDE, Bauchi
A sense of uneasy calm still pervades Bauchi despite the arrest of an alleged Boko Haram commander, who has been on the Most Wanted List, by the Bauchi State Police Command last week. The news which should have been cheery rather caused mixed feelings among the residents.
While some commended the security agencies for the action, many others urged them not to rest on their oars, and thereby let down their guard. The uneasy feeling of the residents is driven by the strong belief that dangerous remnants of the murderous terror group might still be lurking around in the state and could seize any opportunity to attack soft targets.
Police arrested the wanted Boko Haram suspect, Muhammad Adamu Nafiu, at Tama village in Toro Local Government Area of the state. Nafiu’s confession that he had killed over 150 people shocked Nigerians. In the wake of the confession, Bauchi residents implored the security agencies to sustain the current heat on fleeing insurgents.
The people’s fear has been heightened by recent suicide bombing incidents in parts of the northeast, particularly in the Ground Zero states of Borno and Yobe. There were strong indications too that Boko Haram suspects that feld from Sambisa forest might have taken refuge in Burra forest in Toro Local Government Area with intent to launch attacks from there against targets in the state.
“Other Boko Haram members could still be in Burra forest but they may not be coordinated yet. I think the security agencies must continue to work hard to ensure that they don’t regroup,” said a concerned resident who pleaded for anonymity.
Another resident, who also requested not to be mentioned suggested that extra care must be taken by both security agencies and residents because, as he said, “from the arrest of Nafiu it is possible that if a commander who has been wanted was hiding somewhere in Bauchi then it is possible that they are around and know themselves.”
Nafiu, 25, a native of Ballanga in Gombe State, relocated to Tama village in order to evade arrest after the deadly sect was dislodged from Sambisa forest by troops under the Operation Lafiya Dole, which is ongoing in the northeast.
“If you can see a kingpin in Bauchi then his accomplices and their foot soldiers may also be around,” a security expert who asked not to be named opined.
When he addressed the media following the arrest of the Boko Haram commander, the Commissioner of Police, Bauchi State Command, Garba Baba Umar, disclosed that preliminary investigation showed that Nafiu was among those declared wanted by the Nigerian Army, with serial number 176 on the Most Wanted List. He added that Nafiu voluntarily confessed to have killed over 150 people in Baga Local Government Area of Borno State.
“The case is under investigation after which the suspect would be handed over to the appropriate authority for action,” he said.
Bauchi residents commended the police on the arrest of Nafiu and appealed to all and sundry to assist security agencies to win the war against the Boko Haram sect.
They particularly recalled that Boko Haram almost overran Bauchi State in July 2009 during the tenure of former governor Isa Yuguda, but for the timely intervention of security agencies and the Yuguda administration which took proactive steps to turn back the tide. Members of the sect had attacked the Dutse Tanshi police station and targeted the armoury before they were repelled by the gallant policemen on duty.
“It was a day I would never forget,” recalled Julie (surname withheld). “We heard gunshots all through the night. Little did we know that they had a camp around the Federal Lowcost Housing Area, which was not too far from our house.”
Most residents attributed the relative peace enjoyed in Bauchi while the northeast was engulfed by Boko Haram activities to the proactive steps by the security agencies, which went a long way in neutralizing the sect’s activities in the state as they unleashed mayhem in Borno Yobe, Adamawa and neighboring Gombe states.
Residents now say that the arrest of Nafiu much as it is celebrated should be a pointer to the feelings that more vigilance must be observed among citizens and security agencies alike.
Residents recalled that although the magnitude of Boko Haram attacks on Bauchi was to some extent curtailed, the deadly sect nevertheless attacked worship centres, markets, schools and other public places and killed several innocent citizens.
“Who can forget the suicide bombers that hit St John Catholic Church and Living Faith Church, both in Bauchi? Or the attack in Government Girls Secondary School, Shira, where they wanted to abduct school girls but for the muster plan that halted it?” recalled other residents.
Sunday Sun investigation also showed that police stations and banks were attacked in Alkaleri, Misau towns, and suspected Boko Haram attacks were also recorded in Azare and Central Market Bauchi
These attacks seriously affected social and economic lives in the state and forced security agencies to take drastic security measures and in some cases, curfew imposed to forestall attacks.
Of recent, news of criminal activities such as kidnappings in Balmo, Lame Burra forests in the state have surfaced.
While security agencies including the police and soldiers of 33 Artillery Brigade are working hard, trying to flush them out and keeping the forests safe, could there be other wanted Boko haram members beating security and public and planning to puncture the relative peace being enjoyed? The answer to that question is still in the womb of time.