The Chairman of Ardo-Kola Local Government Area of Taraba state, Salihu Dovo was killed by gunmen who kidnapped him early Sunday morning. Residents said the kidnappers called a local government official to inform them of the murder and where to recover Mr Dovo’s corpse. Some community members suspect his abductors were hired assassins. “They called an official of the Council to inform him of the killing, telling them to go and search for his corpse in the bush. Members of the community went into the bush and started looking for his body and it was found not long ago. The body is being taken to town now,” an unnamed source told Premium Times. The gunmen had entered Mr Dovo’s residence in Sabon Gari, Jalingo at about 1 a.m and took him away. The state police spokesperson, David Misal confirmed the incident, saying a suspect had been arrested. In Edo, the state spokesperson of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Mrs Bridget Esene was kidnapped by gunmen on her way to church on Sunday morning. According to the Vanguard, the gunmen trailed her while she was going to church around the Iqueniro area, off Agbor Road, accosted her and took her out of her car. As of Monday morning, no ransom demand had been made. The Edo police command could not immediately confirm the incident. On Saturday, gunmen invaded Rachael’s Orphanage Home opposite the UBE Junior Secondary School in Naharati, Abaji Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory and abducted seven orphans and a security guard. The Daily Trust reported that three more persons, including two housewives, who reside behind the orphanage home were also abducted. The council chairman, Alhaji Abdulrahman Ajiya, confirmed the incident, saying he had alerted the relevant security agents about the incident. Local police confirmed the incident, saying only six persons were kidnapped while one person has been rescued. Meanwhile, pirates off Nigeria’s coast kidnapped 15 sailors from a Turkish container ship in the Gulf of Guinea on Saturday in a brazen and violent attack that was farther from shore than usual. The Mozart, which was headed from Lagos to Cape Town, was boarded 160km from Sao Tome. An Azerbaijani sailor was killed, while most of the kidnapped sailors are from Turkey. Three sailors remain on the Mozart, which by Sunday evening was receiving assistance in Gabonese waters.

Governors of Nigeria’s South-West on Monday banned all forms of open grazing in the region following a string of clashes between herders and farming communities in the region. The decision was taken today when the governors met with the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria as well as security chiefs. Some of the governors in attendance included Ondo’s Rotimi Akeredolu, Osun’s Gboyega Oyetola, Ekiti’s Kayode Fayemi, Oyo’s Seyi Makinde, Jigawa’s Mohammed Abubakar and Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi. Giving a report after the meeting, Makinde said, “Today, the South West governors held a security stakeholders’ meeting in Ondo State. The meeting was attended by our brother governors from Kebbi and Jigawa states; security chiefs, the police of the South-West zone led by the Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Zone 11 and leaders from the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria. Collectively, we resolved to ban open grazing in all parts of the South-West. In Oyo State, we already have a law against open grazing which will continue to be implemented by our security agencies. I restated that we will not permit criminality as a response to criminal actions. Instead, we will continue to support our security agencies to do their duties. Also, we will work with our people to face our common enemies – the criminals; kidnappers, armed robbers and bandits.” Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu had issued an ultimatum on 18 January, asked unregistered herdsmen to vacate state government reserves within seven days, following incidents of kidnapping attributed to Fulani herders. He also banned underage grazing, night grazing as well as the movement of cattle within cities, towns and highways. The Presidency called for restraint on the matter by both the state government and the Fulani communities, adding that Akeredolu should not act outside his constitutional powers. In response, the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere condemned the Presidency position, saying Abuja had again shown its non-pretence as representing the Fulani interest above other ethnic groups in the country.

Imo Governor, Hope Uzodinma, has condemned the attack by gunmen in Orlu Area of the state which led to the killing and maiming of innocent citizens on Monday. In a statement, Uzodinma said he has ordered security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book. He said, “This afternoon, I received a very disturbing report on the activities of a group of Militants who unleashed a shooting spree in the Orlu area of the state, killing and maiming innocent citizens in the process “I am totally appalled by this sad report which appears to paint a picture of the near breakdown of law and order in the Orlu area. “This is completely unacceptable to this administration. Those behind this callous barbarism will surely regret their actions. “Consequently, I have directed the security agencies to fish out without fail, all those behind the carnage and immediately bring them to book. Let no one be in any doubt that the perpetrators of this dastardly act will ever escape justice. I assure them that they will pay for their cruelty against peace-loving and innocent people. “As an interim measure to immediately restore the peace in Orlu zone, a dusk to dawn curfew (6 pm to 6 am) is hereby imposed in the following Local Government Areas of Orlu zone; namely; Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ideato South, Njaba, Isu, Nwangele and Nkwerre. “All law-abiding citizens are advised to comply strictly with the curfew as announced. Anyone caught violating the curfew will be treated as a suspect. “The government wants to assure all Imo people that the situation in the Orlu area is under control. Security operatives have been deployed on a 24-hour patrol of the zone. Equally, every security measure necessary has been put in place to ensure that law-abiding citizens can go about their businesses in the affected areas without any fear of molestation.”

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday finally appointed new service chiefs for the country. The new service chiefs are Major-General Lucky Irabor as Chief of Defence Staff; Major-General Ibrahim Attahiru as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral A.Z Gambo as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air-Vice Marshal I.O Amao as Chief of Air Staff. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘President Buhari appoints new service chiefs’. It read, “President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the immediate resignation of the Service Chiefs, and their retirement from service. “Those involved are the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas; and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar. President Buhari thanks the outgoing Service Chiefs for what he calls their ‘overwhelming achievements in our efforts at bringing enduring peace to our dear country,’ wishing them well in their future endeavours. The President congratulates the new Service Chiefs, and urges them to be loyal and dedicated in the discharge of their responsibilities.” There has been a clamour for the President to replace the service chiefs who he appointed in 2015 in order to inject fresh blood into the system.

Commentary

  • The spate of kidnappings across Nigeria is a frightening indicator of the state of insecurity in the country largely as a result of the proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons, an ineffective security architecture, and economic factors such as a high unemployment rate, which makes the availability of willing criminals plentiful. Although all the attacks are unlikely to be “mere” acts of ransom kidnappings, they create an excellent cover for criminals to perpetrate their activity, such as in the killing of Mr Dovo, the Taraba LG chair. It is important to note that the solution in tackling this insecurity falls squarely on the police and the DSS, which are charged with internal security, rather than the military that is not trained for such situations, and yet has received the bulk of attention in terms of criticism and funding. This is not to say the military does not have a role to play, as it has been active in the North-East and in fighting banditry in the North-West. On its part, the Navy needs to intensify its patrols of Nigerian waters which continue to be dangerous and high-risk for ships, as evidenced by the attack on the Turkish container ship. Although there was a 24% decline in the number of ship attacks and a 16% decline in the number of hijackings and kidnappings in 2020 compared to 2019, the Gulf of Guinea remains the most dangerous maritime area in the world, with half of the attacks taking place off Nigeria’s coast. A failure to tackle this could lead to merchant ships avoiding Nigeria, thus increasing shipping costs for trade to and from the country.
  • The ban on open grazing in the South-West brings to eight the number of states that have banned open grazing (Benue being the first), and nine that have banned night grazing (including Kwara). While this is a necessary step, it avoids the main issue – property rights, the enforcement of property rights and the prosecution of criminality. A question to ask will be how open grazing is defined. Does a herder going into an enclosed farm to graze their cattle on another person’s farm qualify as open grazing? This is open to interpretation, and that is the main complaint most of the farmers have raised, not just in the South-West, but across the country. In the various parts of the country where they have happened, the bans were intended to prevent clashes that arise from a competition for resources between nomadic herders and farmers, which have been bloody, and led to the deaths of hundreds of people particularly in the Middle Belt states of Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau, as well as the southern part of Kaduna. In the South-West, a growing pastoral problem in the region is coming to a head. In addition to Ondo, Oyo has been in a state of political tension after the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu ordered the arrest of Sunday Igboho, over the quit notice he issued to herdsmen in his home community. Last week, traditional rulers in some communities in Ogun petitioned the Nigerian Army over the alleged connivance of its officers with herdsmen to harass villagers in the state. Regional leaders were forced to act. Surprisingly, there have yet to be complaints from any of the herdsmen groupings such as MACBAN and Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which suggests they may have accepted the ban as tensions between Fulani and Yoruba ethnic communities rose in the past few weeks. It is important to note that the ban on open grazing was a recommendation adopted by the National Economic Council as far back as 2018, but only about a sixth of the states have made moves towards implementation. It remains to be seen how enforceable it is, considering that the effects of climate change, cattle rustling and insecurity continue to drive herders further south where there is more intense competition for land and water. It is also important to juxtapose these events against the FG’s policy on animal husbandry and farming. After ill-fated attempts to create herder settlements called ruga two years ago, there have been no new policy announcements to drive herders towards commercial ranching models that will enable Nigeria meet its meat and animal products requirements, while de-escalating tension across the country as a result of herder-farmer clashes (which keep assuming ethnic and religious dimensions), secure Nigeria’s borders and tackle cattle rustling which is a key financial driver of insurgent groups such as Boko Haram. Before all of that, the basics have to be addressed; the most impactful way to show that criminality is not permitted is the prosecution and punishment of crime. It remains to be seen if past crimes will be punished under existing laws. That will need to change if any sort of permanent resolution to this conflict is to be realised.
  • The spate of violence in Orlu and how quickly it escalated points to a troubling but likely possibility – that the Eastern Security Network set up by the IPOB secessionist group has become an armed militia. This is a trend we predicted in a report several years ago as part of a larger militarising effort by secessionist and subversive groups across the country. What is even more troubling is that, as we pointed out in that report all those years back, continued heavy handed behaviour by Nigerian state actors will increase the support base of IPOB and other similar secessionist groups. It did not have to be this way. Abuja’s implacable commitment to the indivisibility of the Nigerian state has made it averse to the kind of political outreach or compromise that is necessary to firmly delegitimise the separatist threat that IPOB embodies. Rather, it has chosen the hard, military option, ensuring that a critical mass of sympathisers will always exist in the region that is amenable to IPOB’s appeal. Far from the group which we described in 2017 as ‘patient and strategic,’ IPOB seems to have made the calculation, given the escalatory tendencies of the Nigerian security forces, that the time to act is now. Orlu represents the third such attack on security agents in the last six months that has been claimed by the group, so the risk of continued confrontations snowballing into a low-level insurgency is real. Such an outcome will further stretch Nigeria’s security infrastructure and could put the country at an inflection point when taken together with other internal security challenges it currently confronts. The calculus on peace in the South-East, which has held true in relative terms since 1970 has changed.
  • The change of service chiefs, while long clamoured for, still came as a surprise as it appeared that the President was adamant on sticking with them long past their tenures of service, ensuring they set a record as the longest-serving service chiefs in the country’s history; albeit with a quite dismal record considering the rise in insecurity in the country and their inability to completely eliminate Boko Haram. However, Mr Buhari’s appointments may be in breach of both the Armed Forces Act and an unchallenged 2013 Federal High Court judgement which say appointments to those roles require legislative confirmation, raising important legal and governance concerns. In appointing two former theatre commanders from the war against Boko Haram as the CDS and COAS respectively, President Buhari seems to be indicating that the 12-year old insurgency occupies a higher priority on the security agenda. It is pertinent to point out that the new COAS was removed from the North-East by his immediate predecessor for a disappointing performance as his tenure coincided with a recalibration of Boko Haram’s strategy as well as an inability to capture or kill Abubakar Shekau as demanded by General Buratai. The service chiefs have their work cut out for them: ending the insurgency in the North-East, and ensuring that the insecurity in the North-West does not deteriorate further. Although the military ought to be focused on external threats, years of underfunding the police (a trend which ironically dates to the era of military dictatorship) has sucked them into resolving internal security challenges, and this has put the spotlight on them. It has also created a need to increase the professionalism of the armed forces, especially of its largest branch, the army, which is the most involved in internal security operations and is the primary culprit of human rights abuses. Army reform is the most critical to the military’s effectiveness and in enabling them to deal with security challenges in the country. This is the challenge facing the new COAS. The new CAS and CNS have the benefit of managing smaller forces with less politicisation, more professionalism and coming on the back of their predecessors – particularly of the Air Force – a massive boost in equipment purchases and capacity building. Nonetheless, the stakes are high and the armed services can ill afford any more slip-ups. Whether this new crop of service chiefs are up to the task remains to be seen.