Monday, April 29, 2013

Nigerian Military Denies Existence of Mass Grave, Detention of Soldiers Over Baga

Military denies existence of mass grave, detention of soldiers over Baga

SUNDAY, 28 APRIL 2013 20:58
Nigerian Guardian

• Gunmen kidnap Borno official, JTF alerts on new tactics

• Elders forum, Okoh, Ademowo task govt on insecurity

THE Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has denied the existence of a mass grave in Borno State and the detention of 15 soldiers as reported in some newspapers (Not The Guardian), saying the claims are aimed at discrediting the military and their operations.

Meanwhile, gunmen suspected of members of Boko Haram sect on Saturday morning kidnapped the general manager of Borno State Water Board (BOWB), Alhaji Baba Gujbawu at his residence while in Gashua, a border town with Niger Republic. The Joint Task Force (JTF), also recovered a snatched Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), arms and ammunition from fleeing Boko Haram terrorists.

Still, the JTF yesterday alerted on fresh moves by the Boko Haram sect to now concentrate on kidnapping than robbery. They alleged that kidnapping is more lucrative, less dangerous and requires short time to plan and execute.

Similarly, the Northern Elders Forum has warned against a situation where foreign phobia against Islam will be imported into the country, saying the consequences will be disastrous.

And the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh has charged the Amnesty Committee on Boko Haram not to limit its responsibility to the North alone but to take a more national approach to the issue.

Also, the Diocesan Bishop of Lagos and Dean Emeritus, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Adebola Ademowo has said that dialogue was a necessary prelude to the granting of amnesty to the Boko Haram members, adding that such a move would ascertain the actual motive behind the sect’s killings.

In a related development, the Sokoto State chairman of the Labour Party, Ahmad Muhammad Tangaza has described the emergence of Boko Haram in the country as the product of social injustice, which the ruling class is using to their advantage.

The Defence Headquarters had deployed a fact-finding team to Baga, led by the Chief of Training and Operations, Defence Headquarters, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Ngubane, who returned to present its report to the Chief of Defence Staff on the outcome of its three-day visit to Baga following last week’s clash between the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and Boko Haram terrorists in the town.

According to a statement from DHQ signed by the Director, Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the team’s mission was in “particular concern to ascertain the claims of massive loss of lives, the team was taken to cemeteries in the town as it tried to locate the reported large number of civilian casualties were buried. It, however, found no mass grave after nearly two days of search”.

Olukolade in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja said reports in some newspapers at the weekend that “some soldiers have been arrested and detained over the Baga killings…more than 15 of them have been implicated in the massacre” is a complete fabrication.

The APC, according to JTF sources in Damaturu yesterday, was recovered at Maluria village of Gashua council area of

Yobe State, along with other arms and ammunition used in attacking the Police station and the Police area commander’s office on Nguru road.

According to an eyewitness, Gujbawu was ambushed by the four–man gang abductors at gunpoint, while preparing to hold a meeting at the Water House, Maiduguri on Shehu Laminu Way at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

The recovery of APC, arms and ammunition, according to spokesman of JTF, Lt. Lazarus Eli, in a statement, were used in the Police station, bank and office of Police area commander attacks, where N9 million cash was also carted away by the gunmen in police and army uniforms.

The statement also reads in part: “Other arms and ammunition recovered include; a general purpose machine gun (GPMG), three K2 rifle, three pumps action rifle and a riot gun, two smoke pistols, four dane guns, two RPG bombs, 15 hand grenades and one air rifle.

“1,200 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunitions, three cartridges, several

police uniforms and accessories, 10 bullet proof metal plates and gas masks were also recovered.”

The Borno State Police Command spokesman, Gideon Jibrin confirmed Gujbawu’s abduction, adding that no arrests had been made over the incident.

A statement by the JTF said similarly, a special kidnapping squad has been earmarked and tasked by Boko Haram sect to kidnap persons who could be wealthy relation, politician, businessman/woman, traditional ruler, senior civil servants and foreigners alike.

The JTF urged all to be wary and continue to be security conscious at all time and to avoid or be very sensitive to strangers and friends that have not been in contact for long. Additionally, members of the public are also warned to avoid isolated areas and shun meetings or friendship organised through telephones or social media.

The public are reminded to give credible information to the JTF through the following Hot Lines that are operational 24/7;

080 – 64174066; 070 - 65464012

081 – 54429346; 081 - 42333138

A spokesman of the forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi explained that it would be extremely dangerous for Nigeria to allow itself to be aligned with any other country that appears to be fighting phobia against Islam.

Abdullahi was at the weekend in Bauchi reacting to a statement credited to military authorities that the recent tragedy in Baga that led to the killing of innocent citizens was a joint military operation involving Nigeria, Niger and Chad.

He said that citizens were suspicious that Nigeria was going into another multi-lateral or bilateral agreement with other countries concerning security situation in the country, querying, however, that at what forum, agency or level of discussions military troops should come from Niger and Chad and fire shots against Nigerians.

Okoh noted that the challenge of Boko Haram was a national one and not limited to the North alone hence the need to avoid a one-sided approach in tackling the problem.

Okoh spoke yesterday during the confirmation service and commissioning of elders at Christ Church, Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

“The committee is not an Islamic programme; it is not a northern problem; it is a Nigerian problem. So, that element must be conspicuous that it is a problem of Nigeria and there must be a national character in the formation of the committee”, he added.

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