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Gunmen kill 31 as Buhari tasks military, security chiefs to be proactive

  • 27 killed in reprisal attack by Fulani herdsmen in Ebonyi, 4 in Benue

Thirty-one persons have been killed by bandits and other criminals in Ebonyi and Benue States, between Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday night, 27 persons reportedly killed when Fulani herdsmen attacked the people of Nkalaha, Obegu, Amaezu and Umuhuali communities in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State in a reprisal attack.

And in Benue State, a Catholic priest, Reverend Father Ferdinand Fanen Ngugban, and three others were allegedly killed by bandits in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area.

The killings occurred as President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs heads of the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Nigeria Police to be proactive in addressing the security challenges, tasking them to identify and expose those behind heinous acts in different parts of the country and deal with them.

Experts opined that many attacks by criminals, including insurgents and bandits, could have been avoided if security operatives had been proactive in identifying and stopping such threats rather than waiting for the attacks to be carried out before acting.

Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, and some local officials said the killing of the 27 indigenes was a reprisal attack for the killing of two Fulani herdsmen by the locals about a year ago.

He said those behind the killing of the herdsmen had been arrested and wondered on the real reason behind the latest sporadic attacks on villages.

However, Fulani leaders in Ebonyi have denied the attacks insisting that they were not aware of what happened.

The locals said most of those killed during the night raid were farmers, motorcyclist operators and travellers.

Although the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, Mr Aliyu Garba, was yet to make an official statement on the incident, it was learnt that the deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations had been dispatched to the area.

Governor Umahi, after visiting the affected areas, said he was shocked and devastated.

“I got the shocking news this afternoon about the attack on four communities of Nkalaha, Obegu, Amaezu and Umuhuali  by AK-47 wielding herdsmen. I remember that about a year ago, we had the incident of killing of two herdsmen within this same location and immediately after the incident, security agencies,  local government chairman and the community leaders all came together and condemned the attack and the killing. We immediately asked the security agencies to fish out the people behind the attack.

“As we speak, they are standing trial in Ebonyi State and the community and security agencies appeased the herdsmen and made peace with them. So, it is very shocking that overnight, all the herdsmen in Ishielu vacated the council, which means that the local herdsmen in Ishielu are part of the conspiracy in killing our people.

“They vacated despite all efforts of my government, the Governors of the South East and security agencies in giving them full protection not only in the State but in the entire region,” he said.

Umahi said they were tracing the attackers and would be apprehended.

“I will not disclose it but I am going to escalate the identities of the people to the highest authorities and we wait to see what they will do; but we condemn this attack. It is not only happening in Ebonyi…If it is allowed to go this way, it is capable of generating a serious civil war.

“I want to demand from the security chiefs to fish out these people because they are well known; they should fish them out to face the wrath of the law,” he said.

Sources said that in Benue State, the Catholic priest, Reverend Father Ngugban of St. Augustine Aye Twar Parish was shot to death in the early hours of Tuesday by the bandits who also burnt some houses in the area.

The Chairman of Katsina-Ala LGA, Alfred Atera, said: Atera said: “Between 7 and 8am on Tuesday,  unknown gunmen came and burnt a village called Agu Centre in Mbatyula/Mberev council ward in Katsina-Ala and killed Rev. Fr. Moses Ngugban, Mfave Tumachihi, Mbangohor Tsebo and Orlukaa Ulu.”

But the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Benue Command, DSP Catherine Anene, said only the priest was killed.

Meanwhile, President Buhari directed the security chiefs to fish out bandits, kidnappers and their sponsors, a same directive he weeks ago during the decoration of the CDS and Service Chiefs. He told them to go after terrorists and other criminals instead of repelling them.

The National Security Adviser, retired Major-General Babagana Monguno, who briefed State House reporters at the end of the meeting with security chiefs, said President Buhari had warned that a situation whereby bandits and kidnappers continued to dictate the pace in the fight against insecurity would no longer be tolerated.

Monguno said the president expected the armed forces to be proactive instead of being reactionary. Munguno said: “After meetings with governors of the North-West and North- Central zones, Mr President decided to call for an emergency meeting with heads of defence and security organisations.

“Prior to this meeting, he had also met with the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum on issues directly linked to the state of insecurity in the nation.

“Today’s meeting was not a very long meeting, but the president looked at certain issues that were presented to him in the last one week.

“Mr President, in particular, emphasised that the comprehensive reports he received from the Chief of Defence Staff and the service chiefs, following their recent appointment, has illuminated the need for him to look deeper into certain aspects that need to be taken care of.

“He is particularly inspired and impressed by the way the new service chiefs have started their assignment, with all the operational visits they have made to the theatre, where they have been able to address the troops, look into their immediate needs and come up with immediate, medium and long-term proposals.

“Mr President is going to look into these things with the urgency they require, but he is particularly delighted that from what he has received from the Chief of Defence Staff, there is now a renewed vigour, there is now a willingness on the part of all the operational elements to work together, as well as also working hand in hand with the intelligence organisations.”

The NSA added that: “On the issue of kidnapping and banditry, this menace still persists, especially in the North-West and the North-Central zones. Mr President has been very emphatic, he has stated very clearly that this problem must be brought to an end, but using the traditional methods that the armed forces have been trained to deploy.

“Mr President has made it very clear to both the intelligence and operational elements that the first assignment will be to identify the leaders of these bandits, kidnappers and take them out in order to restore confidence in those areas,” he said.

The meeting, held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd); Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd).

Service chiefs in attendance included the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Awwal Zubairu; the Chief of Air Staff, Air-Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amoo; the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; the Director-General of the Department of State Service, Yusuf Magaji Bichi.

First appeared in Daily Trust

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