Ten policemen who survived Tuesday’s onslaught from the Ombatse militia group in Nasarawa State have attributed their survival to luck.
Narrating their escape, one of the police officers who spoke on behalf of nine other survivors (names withheld) said their survival was only by the grace of God as they were outnumbered and overpowered by the militiamen. He also disclosed that the militiamen had prior knowledge of their coming and laid siege on the narrow road leading to the village, Alakyo, where they were supposed to effect the arrest of their leader and recover arms said to be in his possession.
He said, “The road is narrow and they allowed us into their midst before opening fire on us at close range.” Efforts to return fire and scare them into hiding ware futile as bullets were not penetrating them, he said.
The police officer, who spoke exclusively to LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity, added that the militiamen, dressed in black shirts and caps, kept approaching amidst heavy gunfire, which forced their Hilux van, the last van on the convoy, to turn back. “Due to the nature of the road and ensuing gun duel, our men could not turn back and 10 of us in our van were able to manoeuvre our way out but not without suffering bullet wounds,” he said.
The recuperating officer added that the driver of their van was shot on the leg but, luckily enough, one of them with him in front could drive and immediately took over. Many of the officers took to the bush but hugely outnumbered by the militiamen who knew the terrain better, they were pursued and killed.
“As soon as they killed an officer, his rifle was taken off him.”
Meanwhile, the pervading atmosphere in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, is that of fear, anxiety and hope as the families of the slain policemen converged on the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) to identify their loved ones most of whom had been burnt beyond recognition.
Also speaking on condition of anonymity, an official of the Red Cross Society, who went to evacuate the remains of the victims, said the militiamen, who gave the condition that no armed security officer should accompany the Red Cross officials, were still keeping close guard in the village, seized their phones on entry and returned them after the evacuation.
He, however, noted that the villagers were going about their businesses, saying they did not know those who carried out the dastardly act since they were not members of their community. He further claimed that the slain police officers were gathered in heaps and set ablaze by the militiamen.
Jonathan aborts visit to Namibia over killings
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday cut short his visit to South Africa, aborted his state visit to Namibia billed to commence yesterday and returned to Nigeria following news of the wanton killings of Nigerians by insurgents across the country.
He was billed to meet with security chiefs in the country as soon as he arrived in Abuja.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the president developed goose pimples when he received report of the spate of killings and attacks by the Boko Haram groups on military installations including Bama in Borno State, the ambush on mobile policemen in Nasarawa State by the Ombatse cult group which led to the death of over 90 mobile policemen, and the onslaught on Agatu villagers by the Fulani herdsmen in Benue State that led to several deaths.
The president had on Wednesday warned the Boko Haram sect not to look at the federal government’s call for dialogue with its members as a sign of weakness or cowardice.
According to him, dialogue as an option for addressing the security challenge in the country does not mean government was incapacitated in its resolve to apply all the security forces in its arsenal to crush what he described as “all brazen affronts to the powers and sovereignty of the Nigerian nation”.
Special adviser to the president on media and publicity Dr Reuben Abati noted in a statement on Thursday that Jonathan was “returning to Abuja immediately to personally oversee efforts by national security agencies to contain the fresh challenges to national security which have emerged this week in Borno, Plateau and Nassarawa states”.
He said, “President Jonathan will, on arrival, meet with the chief of defence staff, the service chiefs, the inspector-general of police and heads of national security services to review the security situation in the country.”
Also, a tweet by Abati yesterday afternoon to this effect noted that President Jonathan had cut short his official trip to South Africa and had also aborted a similar trip to Namibia.
Perpetrators must pay – Al-Makura
Nasarawa State governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura on Thursday vowed to bring to justice all the perpetrators of this Tuesday’s mindless killing of security operatives by an ethnic militia. Addressing newsmen shortly after an emergency security meeting held at Lafia Government House, Governor Al-Makura, in an emotion-laden voice, disclosed that his administration would not fold its arms to see innocent souls being wasted without modicum of human feeling.
Al-Makura refuted insinuations being peddled by people with accusing his administration of nepotism, saying his government has no bias against any ethnic group.
Also, the assistant inspector-general of police (AIG), Zone 4, Michael Zuokumor, lamented how the members of the outlawed Ombatse militia group would go that so low to kill security operatives who were trained to protect lives and property.
The AIG further berated a culture where the police are given negative connotation even when they put their lives on the line for the protection of lives and property of the citizenry.
The meeting was attended by all the security chiefs in the state, traditional rulers and opinion and community leaders and top government functionaries.
Don’t turn Nasarawa to Baga, Ewuga pleads
The senator representing Nasarawa North, Solomon Ewuga (CPC), has pleaded that Nasarawa State must not be given the Baga treatment after the killings of scores of policemen and other law enforcement officers in Alakyo village of Lafia East development area of the state on Tuesday.
Ewuga condemned the incident even as he described the casualty figure as “not in good taste”. He said at a time they thought 95 per cent of the problems in Eggon land had been solved, this unfortunate incident has set the community back several years.
“I feel personally disgusted and sad about this grief and unnecessary loss of lives in one fell swoop,” Ewuga said. He added that there must be respect for public order while calling on the authorities to involve community and opinion leaders in the dispute resolution process because they are in a better position to enthrone peace in their communities.
The senator blamed the killings on rogue members of the original militia group in the area, which works for safety of lives and properties of the locals.
Death toll rises to 30 – CP
The Nasarawa State commissioner of police, Mr Abayomi Akeremale, has confirmed that the bodies of 30 policemen killed on Tuesday by a militia group at Alakyo village in Lafia had been recovered.
Akeremale told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday in Lafia that nine police patrol vehicles were also burnt, while some officers on the patrol team were yet to be found.
Governor Umaru Al-Makura had told State House Correspondents on Wednesday that 20 policemen were killed in the attack.
Akeremale said that investigation was still ongoing to ascertain the whereabouts of other officers, who went on a rescue operation and were ambushed by the militia.
He said that no arrests had been made, adding that “efforts are being made to bring the perpetrators of this dastardly act to book”.
“We believe that members of the group are still in the bush around the area, and we would do all we can to smoke them out,” the CP added.
Police officers’ wives protest killing of spouses
Also wives of policemen killed in Nasarawa State by the militia group yesterday took to the streets to protest the murder of their spouses.
The Nasarawa State police public relations officer (PPRO), DSP Michael Ada, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the protesting women had blocked the Akwanga–Lafia federal highway at the Squadron 38 Mopol base axis in Akwanga.
According to him, the women were demanding to know what actually happened to their spouses and had called on the government to ensure that justice was done and the killers arrested and brought to book.
Adah said the commissioner of police, Mr Abayomi Akeremale, had directed the Akwanga area commander to appeal to the women to be calm.
He said the death of the officers was a big blow not just to the police but the country at large and assured their spouses that the police would do all within its power to ensure that the death of the gallant officers was not in vain.
According to eyewitnesses held in traffic as a result of the protest, the women, who came out in large numbers, set fire along the highway with many of them wailing uncontrollably and raining curses.
Northern youth condemns killing of policemen by Ombatse cult group
A group under the auspices of Northern Youths for the Advancement of Peace and Development has condemned the rising wave of insecurity in the country, particularly the killings of over 90 security agents by men suspected to be members of the Ombatse cult in Nasarrawa State.
The youth in a statement made available to journalists in Jos yesterday and signed by its national president Melvin Ejeh said this act is callous and totally unacceptable at a time when peace is about to be achieved.
Insecurity: Resign if you can’t lead, NLC tells Jonathan
Apparently disturbed by the increasing level of insecurity in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday told President Jonathan to show Nigerians that he is in charge or take the honourable way of resigning.
Vice president of the NLC Comrade Issa Aremu, who stated this at a rally organised by Labour in Kaduna, also called on Jonathan and all state governors, regardless of party affiliation, to come together and solve the problem of insecurity in the country.
He said, “There cannot be sustainable development without peace; the president must sit up. Today governors are fighting the president and the president is also fighting the governors.
“Have you ever heard them fighting over closed industries? See what is happening in Bama and Baga. Jonathan needs to go to the National Assembly and address us on the state of the nation. He was in South Africa where he addressed them without letting us know what is happening at home. The President must show us that he is in charge, otherwise he should resign.”
Aremu added that the president must also assure Nigerians that he was fully in charge of affairs In Nigeria and bring the like of Asari Dokubo and others whose comments could incite and cause problem in the country to order.
HURIWA seeks judicial inquisition over killing
A non-governmental organization, the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has condemned as primitive and deplorable the recent massacre of policemen by suspected militiamen in Nassarawa State.
The group also condemned the killing of scores of prison officials and other security operatives in Bama, Borno State.
In a statement cosigned by the national coordinator and national director of media affairs of the group, Mr Emmanuel Onwubiko and Miss. Zainab Yusuf, respectively, HURIWA called for a judicial probe over what it calls “unwholesome and atrocious criminal acts” of systematic decimation and killing of Police operatives.
They further restated their demand for the immediate re-invigoration and implementation of effective Police reforms to equip and train police operatives to competently face the law enforcement challenges of the contemporary times.