Nigeria: Security chief 'worried' about Boko Haram terrorists

Nigerian Christian wounded by Islamist terrorist attack on Christmas Day 2011.

There are reports that explosions rocked a mosque in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, even while local authorities claim that there were no explosions. Authorities did however report that there was a robbery that caused the deaths of at least three people, possibly attributable to the violent Boko Haram Islamic religious sect. The report stunned the already jangled nerves of Nigeria that is still reeling after the fatal Christmas Day bombings that killed scores. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has summoned the Service Chiefs and other heads of the country’s security agencies to an emergency meeting at the State House in Abuja.
 

According to Air Chief Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin said that the president had been key decisions about national security. Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim said the security chiefs and President Johnson reviewed the current security challenges and the way forward. Ringim said the security agencies were worried about the terrorist attacks in the county, “Well, we are all worried. Terrorism is not an easy matter at all.” He added, in a reference to deadly firefights between security forces and Boko Haram, “If we had not done what we did in Yobe, if we had not done what we did in Kaduna, indeed if the Nigerian Police Force had not done what we did in Kano, and the recovery of the primed up suicide bombing vehicles, the story would have been a different one.” Hundreds of arrests have been made.

Nigeria’s security agencies have come under intense pressure to stop attacks by Boko Haram. There are reports that President Johnson may reshuffle his national security team amid the criticism.  The president met with security chiefs for second time in as many days on December 30. Thousands have fled Maiduguri fearing further attacks by Boko Haram and heavy-handed military raids, with soldiers accused of killing civilians and burning their homes after bomb blasts. An emergency official has said an estimated 90,000 people have been displaced in Damaturu.

Another attack hit the northeast on the night of December 28,  when gunmen opened fire and threw explosives at a hotel and open-air bar in the city of Gombe, wounding 15 people. It is not clear whether Boko Haram is responsible, but it has often targeted bars and liquor stores in the past. For strict Muslims, alcohol is anathema. In Damaturu before Christmas, Boko Haram carried out attacks followed by a military crackdown that led to clashes. A rights group and police source said up to 100 people were feared dead in the violence.

Christian leaders have expressed mounting frustration over the Nigerian authorities’ apparent inability to stop attacks that have killed hundreds of people this year. They have said they may be forced to defend themselves if  authorities do not address the problem. Indeed, there is concern that tit-for-tat attacks on Muslim schools and places of worship are emerging. On December 27, there was a bomb attack on an Islamic school in Delta State. Several children and an adult were wounded, but not fatally.

In 2010, also at Christmas, Boko Haram made fatal attacks on Christians. Christians are now not taking any chances now since attacks have re-emerged. Catholic Bishop Martin Uzoukwu, for example, has directed that all parishes in Kwanmba Deaconry not to hold the traditional midnight Mass to herald the new year. The parishes include St Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, which was bombed on Christmas Day by Boko Haram. Declared the bishop, “On December 31, Mass should hold from 4p.m to 6p.m to thank God for the out-going year and everybody will observe the Passover night with their families.” The bishop urged all Nigerians to pray for peace in the country, by setting aside one hour of their time for prayers, irrespective of their faith, to seek the face of the Lord over the challenges facing the nation, stressing that with prayers, God will ”heal our land.’’
 

There are reports that there have been 200 victims, among people who died or are missing, due to the attacks directed at Christian churches this Christmas. Catholic Archbishop  Ade Job Ibadan expressed sadness, saying  in a statement, "The death toll of people considered either dead or missing from the very unfortunate tragedy, is today feared to be about 200 people. Many of the wounded have now been hospitalized, while the Church edifice and other buildings around are in ruins."

The Catholic bishops of Nigeria, along with other Christians, appealed to the country's Islamic leadership, "Members of the Boko Haram sect  have claimed responsibility for this shameful crime against God and humanity. We use this opportunity to call on our peace loving Muslims especially their leaders from the political, economic, social and religious spectrums not only to publicly denounce these acts, but for their own good and good of Nigeria to be pro actives; and to do everything positive to end this movement."

The statement continued, "This group has apparently declared war on Nigeria and at times of war, nations are calling on their reserves. It is apparent that, if we depend only on our available active security agents, we shall not make much progress, I therefore, call on Mr. President to recall the retired experts in criminology and employ foreign experts in this field to assist the active security agents to put an immediate end to threat Boko Haram menace."
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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