Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State has confirmed reports that several residents, including women and children fleeing from gunmen, drowned in the Guni-Zumba River. The victims were inhabitants of Guni and Kurgbaku communities in Munya Local Government Area (LGA). The governor’s media aide, Mary Noel-Berje, in a statement on Thursday described the incident as painful and disturbing. He condoled with the family members of the deceased and the entire people of Munya Local Government Area. “The attacks which were said to be simultaneous forced the people to flee in an overloaded boat which later capsized killing all on board as no one was said to be rescued,” the official said. The governor has directed the state emergency agency to immediately commence search and rescue operations as well as provide succour to people in the affected communities. Residents said they fled to Zuma, a neighbouring community when they got a hint of the mass movement of gunmen towards their community. They hastily gathered some of their belongings into wooden boats to cross to the relatively safe Zuma community. Many others reportedly arrived at Zuma on Wednesday morning. Gunmen are active in Shiroro, Munya, Paikoro and Gurara and have invaded several communities in the areas with several residents reportedly killed or kidnapped. In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom told the state’s residents to defend themselves after his government said ‘several people’ were killed by suspected herders who attacked farming communities in three local governments in the state. “There were coordinated attacks on Guma, Kwande, and Gwer West LGAs of the state on Tuesday, March 29th,” a statement from the governor’s office read. “The team of Agro Rangers who were on patrol in the area tried to rescue the situation but unfortunately many had already been killed. Their corpses were taken and deposited at a hospital in Gbajimba, Guma local government area of the state,” it added. Benue, an agrarian state, has been a hotbed of clashes between pastoralists and farmers for decades with hundreds of lives lost and several communities and farmland destroyed. In 2017, Mr Ortom signed anti-open grazing law which is aimed at putting a stop to the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the state but clashes persist. Just south of Benue, a security guard was killed when gunmen razed the headquarters of Nnewi South LGA in the early hours of Thursday. State police spokesperson Tochukwu Ikenga confirmed the attack which took place in Ukpor community, saying the attack was a suspected case of arson. He said the command had deployed police operatives to restore normalcy in the area.

Alhassan Ado Doguwa, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, says Nigerians should be allowed to take up arms and defend themselves against terrorist attacks. The All Progressives Congress (APC) member from Kano state spoke during the plenary session on Thursday. Contributing to a motion sponsored by Shehu Balarabe, a Kaduna lawmaker, over killings in his state, Doguwa said there is a “monumental failure” in the security architecture in the country. “Mr Speaker, I arise to speak in the capacity of the majority leader who of course is the ambassador of government on this floor,” he said. “When you have a government in place, the major responsibility of that government, especially a democratic one that was elected by the people, is to ensure the safety of lives and property of the innocent citizens. “Mr Speaker, when things like this continue on a daily basis, those of us who are representatives of the government become speechless. We become speechless here to defend actions by the government. This is an elected government, under a popular democracy but day in, day out, there are killings, massacres, armed robberies all over. Left, right and centre. This is a report from just one local government out of the 774 — Giwa local government and the case of Giwa is not just a new case. He (mover of the motion) is only giving us the most recent happening. Giwa has been engulfed by banditry and killings in the last two to three years. Giwa has fallen coincidentally in a state (Kaduna) where you have the representation of the Nigerian military and other security agencies. Why should this thing continue to happen? The government in this case has to rise up to its responsibility. Call a spade, a spade. If it is about funding, each of us here knows we have never had any cause to contemplate funding our security agencies. I believe our relevant committees are following up in terms of implementation of such funding through our budget, their oversight processes. Why should things continue this way? We are here for the Nigerian people and we must speak for Nigerian people. We can not sit down here and fold our arms; see our electorate being killed by the day.” The lawmaker said on account of the “institutional and regimental failure on the part of our security agencies”, Nigerians must be allowed to defend themselves.

The FG has extended the deadline for the ongoing national identification number (NIN) and subscriber identity module (SIM) integration exercise by “a few days”. Following the last extension, the exercise was meant to end on 31 March. In a statement announcing the latest extension, Communications and Digital Economy Minister Isa Pantami urged citizens and legal residents to use the next few days to ensure that they complete the linkage. To this end, the minister further directed that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) should offer enrolment services round-the-clock for the next few days. The statement was jointly signed by Ikechukwu Adinde, director of public affairs at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and Kayode Adegoke, head of corporate communications at the NIMC. “On behalf of the Honourable Minister, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the Director-General/CEO of NIMC, Engr. Aliyu Aziz, urges citizens and legal residents to take advantage of the window to complete the process of enrolment and verification within the next few days,” the statement reads. The NIN-SIM linkage exercise has been extended ten times. The deadline, which was first set for 19 January 2021 has now been pushed forward for an unspecified number of days.

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on Thursday opened a consulate in Western Sahara, joining African and Arab countries that have established diplomatic missions there in a sign of support for Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory. The Dominican Republic’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he opened the consulate in Dakhla on behalf of Eastern Caribbean member states, a joint statement from the Dominican Republic and Morroco said. The Algeria-backed Polisario front seeks to establish an independent state in the vast and sparsely populated desert region, considered by Morocco as its own land. Gaining international recognition for its rule over Western Sahara has long been Morocco’s prime diplomatic ambition. Rabat has said the most it can offer as a political solution to the dispute is an autonomy under its sovereignty. The Polisario and its ally Algeria reject this and say they want an independence referendum. Algeria and the Polisario have also denounced the opening of consulates in the territory. Skerrit said his country backed Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory and its autonomy plan. Major powers including France, Germany, and the United States and this month Spain and Israel have also supported Rabat’s proposal to end the conflict. For years most countries had backed the idea of a referendum to resolve the issue – which was agreed as part of the 1991 ceasefire. However, there was never agreement on how the vote would take place and in recent years even the U.N. has stopped referring to the idea of a vote, speaking instead of seeking a realistic, mutually acceptable solution based on compromise.