The Senator representing Borno Central in the National Assembly, Ahmed Zannah, on Wednesday raised the alarm that Boko Haram had started massacring teenage and adult males in its drive to expand its caliphate in the North –East.
Zannah, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, also insisted that the insurgents had taken over Bama, a town less than 78 kilomitres from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
The Senator, who is a native of Bama, spoke just as Reuters news agency reported that the Islamist fundamentalist sect seized Bara, a community in Yobe State.
Recounting how he lost two of his nephews to the Monday/Tuesday attacks on Bama, Zannah said, “As I am speaking to you, Bama has been captured and the insurgents are on the prowl for any male on sight.
“Everyone is a target as long as you are a male but for now, women and children are being spared.”
He challenged the military authorities and the Borno State Government to take the media to Bama to cross-check his claims on Tuesday that Bama had been captured by Boko Haram.
The lawmaker said, “Both the military and Borno State Government are lying to Nigerians. To prove that I am the one misinforming the public, they should take journalists to the town to cross-check the fact.”
We’re in control of Bama –Military source
Efforts by The PUNCH to speak with the Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, on Zannah’s claim yielded no results as calls to his mobile telephone did not connect.
But a top military officer told one of our correspondents that the troops were as of Tuesday night still in firm control of Bama.
He said the insurgents were repelled from Bama with fighter jets and ground troops of the Nigerian Army.
The officer, who did not want to be named because he was not permitted to speak on the matter, added that the military had since deployed more men and weapons in Bama.
He said, “The soldiers are in control of Bama and they are in the barracks now. Even the soldiers that came to Maiduguri from Bama who were at Sector 9 and Sector 10 are back there.
“The commanders have also deployed more men; more arms and ammunition have also arrived so the soldiers are in the barracks now.
“Last night, two Air Force fighter jets and ground troops were used for the operation which led to their being dislodged from the town.
“It is not correct to say that only soldiers are there; Not all the residents fled to Maiduguri, some that relocated temporarily are back to their houses.
“The air strike affected only military and security formations where the insurgents launched attacks.”
The officer threw Zannah’s challenge back at him to take journalists to the town to verify his claims.
He said that in a situation like this, it was easy for politicians to be involved in all “manner of cheap talks.”
Another security source said that some soldiers who retreated from Bama when they ran out of ammunition and were quartered at sectors 9 and 10 had all gone back on Wednesday.
The source said that the soldiers were in control of the Bama barracks and other security formations within the troubled town.
The PUNCH gathered that tension was very high in Bama and Maiduguri when rumours filtered in that the insurgents sent a message that they would launch an attack on Maiduguri.
Bama attacks force Shettima back from Sudan, UK
The battle for Bama made Governor Kashim Shettima to cut short his official visit to Sudan and the United Kingdom.
Shettima, who left the state late last week was expected to visit some school authorities and over 70 students recently sponsored by his administration to study Medicine and Petroleum Geo-Sciences in UK and Sudan.
It was gathered that the governor, on returning to the country, held crucial meetings in Abuja with appropriate authorities over the happenings in Bama and the rest of the state.
He was also said to have approved the formation of a committee to coordinate the distribution of relief materials to the victims of attacks in the state.
According to sources, the governor was scheduled to leave Abuja for Maiduguri on Wednesday evening .
A former media aide to the governor, Mallam Isa Gusau, said, “Shettima returned mainly to provide needed leadership, be with his people, build public confidence, coordinate relief for victims, step up co-funding and provide psychological support to the military.”
Shehu of Borno calls for three-day fasting
Also on Wednesday, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar El-Kanemi, called on all Muslims faithful in the troubled state to immediately commence a three-day fasting and prayers for the return of peace to the state.
El-Kanemi also urged Christians in the state not to relent in their prayers so that the insurgents who invaded Bama could be warded off.
A statement by the Secretary of the Borno Emirate Council, Alhaji Zanna Laisu Kazalma, quoted the monarch, who is also the Chairman of the state Traditional Rulers Association, as advising that the fasting and prayers should start on Thursday (today) and end on Saturday .
The statement read in part, “The Umma is equally urged to offer special prayers in all mosques and recitation of Khalimat Shahada ‘La Ilaha Illallah’ continuously during the fasting period. It is also urged that each and every Muslim individually and collectively offer Sadaqat to the needy and the underprivileged, especially to those internally displaced persons in various camps.
“In the same vein, the Royal Father also urged the Christian community in the state not to relent in their continuous prayers for peace and security to prevail in Borno State and Nigeria as a whole.”
Boko Haram takes over two Yobe villages
In Yobe State, the insurgents seized Bara and Gulani, two communities without noticeable presence of the military.
They also killed two policemen after an attack on Toro Local Government Area. The policemen were reportedly shot and killed and their guns stolen by the attackers at a mining station in Magama Gumau.
“The militants went preaching in the whole town asking people to leave government work and join them to do the work of Allah,” Musa Abdullahi, a trader who escaped from Bara told Reuters.
In Gulani, the insurgents allegedly occupied the local council secretariat complex and the lodge on Tuesday night.
According to residents of the community, the attack recorded no death in the town as the insurgents claimed they came to preach Islam.
Gulani is a border town with Buni/Yadi, which is believed to have already been captured by the insurgents. It is about 164 kilometres west of Damaturu, the state capital.
A resident, Bukar Isa, told journalists on the telephone on Wednesday that “no one of us was killed during the Tuesday invasion.
“The insurgents have taken over our secretariat complex and lodge by noon, before telling us that they stormed the town not to kill, but preach and do the work of Allah (God), according to the Quran,” he said.
246 Nigerian soldiers, customs officers flee to Cameroon
The Cameroon Radio Television however reported on Wednesday that 246 Nigerian soldiers and customs officers fled to the far north region of Cameroon during a gun battle with Boko Haram insurgents.
About 480 Nigerian soldiers fighting the sect members had on August 25 ran into Cameroon in what Nigerian military authorities described as “tactical manoeuvre”
Although the radio/tv station did not name the Nigerian border town where the battle started, it reported that 40 insurgents who also fled to Fotokol, the Cameroonian side of the border, were killed when they also engaged the gendarmes in combat.
Two vehicles belonging to the militants were destroyed while a gendarme was injured during the three-hour battle which took place on Monday.
It said the 246 Nigerian soldiers and customs officers had been officially handed over to the commander of the Nigerian military operations in the area.
The radio/ tv station quoted official sources as having said the clash was a fallout of the fighting between Nigerian forces and the insurgents at Bama.
The fighting, according to the report, has led to the influx of refugees into the far North region of Cameroon.
Nigeria, others want Boko Haram’s funding sources blocked
Earlier on Wednesday, foreign ministers of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic as well as representatives of the United States, Britain, France, Canada and China met in Abuja over strategies to curtail Boko Haram.
The meeting also had officials of the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, ECOWAS and the Organisation of Islamic Countries in attendance.
It resolved at the end of the talks that Nigeria, its neigbours and other partners should ensure that arms supply and funding to Boko Haram were cut off.
It also regretted that in spite of efforts by the Federal Government and its international partners, the over 200 schoolgirls abducted since April by the sect were still in captivity.
Nigeria and its neighbours had agreed during a recent Paris mini-summit on a regional plan of action to combat Boko Haram to find the schoolgirls.
Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Aminu Wali, who briefed journalists, said the parley underscored the need to effectively address the sources of funding for and the supply of weapons to Boko Haram.
“The meeting called for greater cooperation of the international community to assist in tracking these sources with a view to putting an end to these practices and all forms of illegal transfer of arms and ammunition,” he said.
According to him, the participants also called for strict implementation of relevant UN and other international sanctions against terrorist groups, especially Boko Haram.
It also called for a redoubling of efforts on the part of all concerned given the critical importance of intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism.
The minister said the participants urged support for the implementation of multi-dimensional measures adopted by the Nigerian government to combat terrorism and called on regional governments and multilateral development institutions to intensify socio-economic cooperation aimed at poverty eradication, economic upliftment and inclusive development.
On the Chibok girls, the meeting reiterated the need to mobilise support to end their captivity and called for support to end sexual violence.Wali had in his address at the event called on the international community not to allow Boko Haram to establish fresh links with another terror group called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He described Boko Haram’s claim of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in a few parts of the North as ludicrous and untenable. The minister stressed that the Federal Government would never surrender to any terror group. He said, “As the Nigerian government confronts this challenge, what bothers us most at this time can be reflected in a number of posers that I will like to share with this meeting: Who are the sponsors of Boko Haram terrorist campaigns? Who are those funding the insurgency? Where are the sources of the sophisticated arms and ammunition being used by the terrorists? Who are those seeking to re-define the territory of Nigeria and Africa in the 21st century?” I’m ready for any panel –Ex-Borno governor A former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has described as unfounded, the accusation by an Australian hostage negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis, that he was a sponsor of Boko Haram. Sheriff, at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, also denied that a political group he founded metamorphosed into the militant Islamic sect. He said that he was ready to face any panel over the issue, adding that he would sue the Australian negotiator. Davis was reported to be involved in a negotiation between Boko Haram and the Federal Government for the release of the Chibok girls. The Australian, in an interview last Thursday, said he had been informed by Boko Haram commanders that there were prominent politicians who had been sources of funding to Boko Haram. Davis had said, “First thing to do is to arrest the former Governor Sheriff. Former Governor Sheriff has been funding this for years. He is satisfied that he will be picked up and he has now switched to the ruling party (Peoples Democratic Party) in the hope this will give him protection. “That guy is really a bad guy and he is known to be corrupt and why the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) has not picked him up is anybody’s guess.” Denying the allegation, the former governor said, “I have already instructed my lawyers to sue the Australian. We will track him anywhere he is so that our lawyers will get to him.” Sheriff also described as false, an allegation that a group, ECOMOG, he founded, when he was governor, metamorphosed into Boko Haram He said that a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Gen. Jeremiah Useni (retd.), who was reported to have made the statement, had denied it.