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Security alert: Delta faults inclusion in UK’s travel advisory to 12 states

By Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan) Monday Osayande (Asaba) and Nnamdi Akpa (Abakaliki)
19 October 2021   |   3:45 am
Gunmen have killed at least 30 people in an attack in Sokoto State, Governor Aminu Tambuwal confirmed yesterday. The assault began at a weekly market in Goronyo on Sunday and continued into Monday morning...

As gunmen kill 30 in Sokoto market
• 10 soldiers, 21 others killed by gunmen across Nigeria last week
• Gunmen attack police station in Ebonyi, kill a cop
• Report insecurity as declining, not rising, Buhari begs
media
• Asking journalists not to report insecurity as rising amounts to gagging the press, says Farounbi

Gunmen have killed at least 30 people in an attack in Sokoto State, Governor Aminu Tambuwal confirmed yesterday. The assault began at a weekly market in Goronyo on Sunday and continued into Monday morning.

This is coming as the United Kingdom (UK), at the weekend, advised its citizens in Nigeria to steer clear of 12 states, saying Boko Haram insurgents were likely to kidnap foreign nationals.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which announced this in a travel advisory for its nationals, said there was a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria for ideological, financial or political gain. The states include Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

The bandits, according to locals, came in their large numbers using motorcycles and opened fire at any object on sight in the market on Sunday evening. “This happened when people were already preparing to return to their homes,” a source said.

The event occurred barely 10 days after bandits had killed dozens of people in a similar attack on Unguwar Lalle Market in Sabon Birni Council of the state. Goronyo, Isa, Sabon Birni and Raba are local councils in Sokoto in the frontline of banditry.

Iliyasu Abba, a local resident and trader, told newsmen that there were 60 bodies at Goronyo General Hospital mortuary, with many others sustaining injuries while escaping.

“The gunmen stormed the market as it was crowded with shoppers and traders,” he said. “The men were shooting sporadically at us after they surrounded the market firing at every direction, killing people.”

Gunmen across the Northwest have killed scores of people and kidnapped hundreds more for ransom over the past year in a security crisis that the government is trying to tackle via communications blackouts, military operations and stepped up policing.

The government ordered shut all telephone and Internet services in the whole of Zamfara State in early September, the blackout was later extended to parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states as military operations intensified.

Confirming the incident when the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, paid a courtesy call on the Sokoto Government House, Governor Tambuwal said the army operation in Zamfara State has worsened the security situation in Sokoto lately.

Tambuwal, who noted that people were killed in their tens when bandits struck on Sunday, appealed to the COAS to reinforce security presence in the state and deploy more resources.

One of the locals, who claimed to have lost four relatives, said it was not only a gory sight but was also disturbing.

“As I am talking to you now, most of our people have run away from Goronyo to take refuge in the metropolis. All our villages are not safe. We have been living in perpetual fear. These brutal bandits come at will, kill our loved ones, rustle our cows, cart away our foodstuffs, rape and whisk away our women and girls uninterrupted,” he said.

Last month, 17 security personnel were killed when gunmen attacked their base in Sabon Birni’s Dama village, an assault the military blamed on Islamic State-aligned jihadists.

THE UK advisory had read: “The groups have previously shown intent and capability to conduct kidnaps in Nigeria. Foreign nationals, including humanitarian workers, are likely targets for kidnap. “There’s a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria. Kidnaps can be motivated by criminality or terrorism and could be carried out for ideological, financial or political gain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the risk of kidnap increases after dark.

“The security environment in the Northeast has deteriorated since 2018 and there is a heightened risk of kidnap. There are also reports that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) are continuing to actively plan to kidnap foreigners.  

“In Northeast Nigeria, extremist groups operate in some northern and middle belt states, including Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Adamawa states. If you’re working or travelling in these states then you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping.”

The UK government also advised its citizens to be careful as events to mark the one year anniversary of #EndSARS protests might lead to additional protests in Lagos and Abuja, adding also that the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), scheduled for October 21, might lead to protests and heightened security presence in Abuja and the Southeast.

REACTING, Delta State Government, yesterday, expressed dismay over the travel advisory. Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration in the state put a high premium on the security of life and property of citizens because it was the primary purpose of government.

He, therefore, urged the public and the international community to disregard the advisory report because it was not in tandem with the situation in the state.

“We were taken aback as to why the FCDO in their latest travel advisory report included Delta in the list of 12 states where they are asking their citizens not to visit on account of possible attack by Boko Haram. We want to believe that it was an error because just last month, precisely on September 21, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, was here in Delta.

“She lauded the state government in what we are doing and appreciated the fact that she was warmly welcomed and even visited some communities without any hitch. For the records, Delta is very safe; Delta is welcoming and we are available for both local and foreign investors. Delta is much more conducive for anybody to operate whether in terms of business, leisure or work.”

AMID unending wave of insecurity in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, advised the media to address the tone, content, and standards of reporting security and safety measures.

In a statement signed by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, President Buhari said the term rising insecurity should be replaced with the “reality of declining insecurity.”

The statement, titled ‘President Buhari felicitates with Muslims on Eid-el-Maulud, reassures that significant gains are being made in combating insecurity,’ partly read: “The President urges Muslims to strive for forgiveness and closeness to the noble life and teachings of the Prophet (SAW), whose birthday is being marked on this blessed day. On this auspicious occasion, I wish you all the blessings of today.

“The President uses the occasion to give a snapshot of the increased activities the armed forces, police force, and intelligence agencies have embarked upon to effectively respond to the security challenges in the nation.

“He says the government fully expects and intends for these trends to continue, and calls on the media to address the tone, content, and standards of reporting into security and safety measures. Time has come to revise the prefixes ‘rising insecurity’ with ‘declining insecurity.’

“The President adds that increased cooperation and collaboration from the citizenry, coupled with reinvigorated, dynamic, and energised police, security and military leadership is helping the administration score more victories against terror, criminality, and economic sabotage. The reality of declining insecurity should replace the inaccurate narrative of rising insecurity in the country.”

HOWEVER, an ace broadcaster and former Nigerian Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, yesterday, faulted President Buhari, who asked journalists not to report insecurity as rising. Speaking with The Guardian in Ibadan, Dr. Farounbi said such request amounts to gagging the press.

He, however, urged journalists to be professional, bearing in mind the growth of the society and the security of the country. “That amounts to gagging the press. However, the media need to be thoroughly professional. It is equally important that journalists are well trained.”

AS insecurity persists, no fewer than 31 persons were killed by gunmen in various attacks across the country last week. The breakdown shows that 10 military personnel and 21 civilians were the victims of the attacks by non-state actors. The figures were collated from media reports and do not include incidents that were not reported.

The total number of people killed shows a slight decline from that of the previous week when at least 41 persons were killed. It, however, shows an increase in the casualties on the side of security personnel. Only one security official, an officer of the Department of State Services (DSS), was reported killed in the previous week.

Most of the killings last week were carried out by bandits in the Northwest zone. While no killings were reported in the South-south and Southwest, all other geopolitical zones recorded at least one case.
JUST yesterday, a policeman attached to the Ohaukwu Divisional Police Headquarters was killed as hoodlums attacked the police station in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

The attackers, it was learnt, also burnt two vehicles at the police station and set ablaze some of its sections.

Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Council, Chief Clement Odah, said a police officer died in the attack. According to Odah, “I got news of the attack around 12 midnight and I called the DPO, who confirmed the incident. I was told the hoodlums used locally made dynamites to attack the place, and from the report of the police, an officer died during the attack. They were, however, repelled by the combined effort of security agencies.”