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Sule, Mohammed differ on Boko Haram’s resurgence in Benue/Nasarawa

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Abdullahi Sule

Governor Abdullahi Sule’s visit to President Muhamadu Buhari last week is generating heated debate and has left the public, particularly citizens of Nasarawa State, in confusion over whether Boko Haram terrorists are operating and causing havoc or not in the state.

Sule, who addressed State House correspondents in Abuja after meeting Buhari, bared his mind without reservation on the havoc Boko Haram terrorists are wreaking in the border communities of Benue and Nasarawa. Sule specifically said he visited the president to seek his intervention because the state was currently witnessing security challenges.

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“The terrorists had been dislodged from Toto, where they initially camped, but have regrouped at the Nasarawa/Benue border from where they now launch attacks on residents,” Sule told journalists.

He reiterated that some of the Boko Haram elements active in the state belong to the Darus-Salam group that had been dislodged from Niger and Kogi States. The Darus-Salam sect, which shares a nearly similar belief with the Boko Haram, had regrouped in Nasarawa since 2014 but was hijacked by the second in command to Shekau about a year ago.

It could be recalled that in August 2020, the 4 Special Forces Command, Doma in Nasarawa State, arrested and handed over 778 captured Boko Haram terrorists to 17 states in the north to profile and integrate them into the society.

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At the handover of the captured terrorists’ wives and children, the commander, 4 Special Forces Doma, Major General Moundhey Gazama, said the Darus-Salam Islamic group was taken over by the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist with the aim of carrying out their operations, targeting the FCT, Abuja.

The army commander revealed that the group was responsible to unleashing mayhem on victims along Okene/Lokoja, Lokoja/Abuja, Toto/Umasha roads and have made economic activities unsafe for communities in and around these areas.

Sule recalled in his speech that a joint security operation led to the killing of several of the deadly group members while some escaped. The governor maintained, however, that his first meeting with Buhari in June 2020 received swift action, which led to the killing and arrests of some terrorists operating in Toto flank of the state.

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While commending the president and the security forces for dislodging the terrorists in the area earlier, Sule said, “now, they have gone back and gathered at our border with Benue. And they are causing a lot of havoc. I strongly believe that just like a decision was taken last time to take care of this issue, another decision will be taken.

“First and foremost, it was easy for us to know who these people are. If you remember, they used to gather at a place in Toto Local Government Area (LGA). I appealed to Mr. President. Then, the Department of State Services (DSS), the police, the Air Force and the Army had a joint operation. 

“They were able to dislodge them. A lot of them were killed, some ran away and left members of their families. We took hostage about 900 members of their families in Lafia, including children and wives. The Special Forces, which we have in Doma, Nasarawa State, took the hostages.

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“A lot of interrogations were done and most of them confirmed that they were indeed Boko Haram. In fact, they gave us the name of the person who was the second in command to Shekau. So, during the interrogation, they confirmed that they were indeed Boko Haram.  

“Some of them said they were remnants of Darus-Salam group that were dislodged from Niger. They came, merged and became Boko Haram. That is how we got our confirmation that they were indeed Boko Haram. They said it themselves.”
 
Sule examined that a lot of them were people that were kidnapped, noting: “In most cases when they kidnap women, they marry them off. We had a lot of kidnapped women that were married off. We released them back to their various states and families. We got people from about 17 states.

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“A few of them were from the Niger Republic. We handed over those from the Niger Republic to DSS. We handed over those from states to their various governments through DSS offices in their domains.”

Three days after governor Sule’s visit to the State House in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a press briefing countered the report published in various media on governor Sule’s statement on the regrouping of Boko Haram resurgence in the Nasarawa Benue border. Mohammed said governor Sule refuted the report while speaking with him over the issue.

Mohammed, who briefed the media on Monday in Abuja on the progress made by the Federal Government in the war against terrorism and banditry, said the governor claimed he was quoted out of context.

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“I was also concerned over this and I called the governor and asked him,” Mohammed said. “But he said it was a case of being quoted out of context. He said what he told the media was that he went to see the president, first, to wish him Happy New Year and to thank him for the Armed Forces he had sent to Nasarawa State to dislodge the bandits who were trying to behave like Boko Haram.

“Thirdly, to thank the President for providing an alternative route between Nasarawa State and Abuja. He said it was a clear case of being quoted out of context.”

On the contrary, governor Sule, while briefing newsmen after the state security meeting in Lafia last Wednesday, said President Buhari had responded to his demand by sending troops who were already in the state to flush out the regrouped terrorists in the border between Benue and Nasarawa.

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Earlier, the state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Dogo Shammah, affirmed that governor Sule was quoted verbatim and not quoted out of context as Mohammed had alleged.

According to Shammah; “What the governor told the journalists in Abuja is happening is in Nasarawa State. That was exactly what he said. But if for any reason the minister has anything contrary, we don’t know. But as a government, that was the position we took so that we can safeguard life and property. If there is a different meaning to it, we don’t know.”

Shammah said the security situation along the border between Benue and Nasawara was what took the governor to the presidency to solicit for assistance to get rid of the insecurity facing the state in recent times. The killing of seven soldiers of the 177 Battalion Brigade last week by gunmen, the commissioner said, was also a pointer to the activities of the deadly Boko Haram in the state.

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The 177 battalions has refused to brief journalists what led to the killing of seven soldiers in the state. The killing of one Army Captain and six other soldiers of the 177 battalions was what broke the camel’s back and which forced governor Sule to run to the president to seek help.

Some citizens of Nasarawa told The Guardian their confidence in the governor has been reaffirmed, with the reaction from the state commissioner for information, establishing the fact that Sule still stands by what he said at the State House, Abuja, last Friday. Hon. Adagadzu Joel told our reporter in Lafia that the reality of Boko Haram’s presence in the state is indisputable.

According to Adagadzu; “What we heard the governor say on the television broadcast from the State House is the true happenings in the state.”

Also, Abdullkareem Abdulmalik confirmed to our reporter that shortly after the governor’s broadcast last week Friday, the presence of troops was noticed in parts of Toto and Nasarawa local governments. With the presence of troops, the commissioner’s declaration clearly affirms the truth in governor Sule’s declaration of the presence of regrouped Boko Haram terrorists currently causing havoc in Nasarawa state, which the minister of information and Culture tried to manage to maintain a consistent but debatable narrative of degraded terrorists in the country.

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