A combined team of soldiers, operatives of the Department of State Services and the police have been deployed in Kaduna to locate and possibly rescue passengers abducted by terrorists, who attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train on Monday.
It was learnt that the Federal Government had given the Nigerian Air Force express approval to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft in the North-West albeit with conditions that collateral damage be minimised.
It was gathered that the special team was given express orders to locate the abductors’ camp and do “everything operationally possible” to rescue the hostages with minimal losses.
About eight persons were killed during Monday’s attack, while an unknown number of victims were abducted by the attackers, who caused the train to derail after blowing off the rail tracks.
Over 390 persons were onboard the train, which was Kaduna bound.
The PUNCH gathered that the Super Tucano aircraft, which was being used against Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province fighters in the North-East, would soon be deployed against the terrorists in Kaduna and surrounding states.
A security source said the military had decided to use the Tucano fighter jets against the terrorists hibernating in Kaduna forests.
“The decision to redeploy the Super Tucano jets to Kaduna has been taken, but the decision may not be implemented immediately because of the individuals abducted from the Kaduna-Abuja train on Monday evening. Using the aircraft against the terrorists in Kaduna might endanger the kidnapped victims and the military will always want to minimise the collateral damage as much as possible,” a source explained.
But the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria flayed the military over its failure to deploy the 12 Super Tucano fighter jets against terrorists turning the North-West zone into another killing field.
HURIWA also reminded the Federal Government that the daredevil terrorists were fast approaching the Federal Capital Territory and had struck many times very close to the nation’s capital.
It was also learnt that the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, had deployed some riot policemen to protect engineers repairing the destroyed rail tracks.
The acting Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, who confirmed this to one of our correspondents on Thursday, also said the police had commenced an investigation into Monday’s incident.
“We are working with all relevant ministries, departments and agencies, as well as security agencies to investigate and forestall any further attack. The IG has ordered the deployment of half a unit of PMF men, one Armoured Personnel Carrier, one lorry and so on, to provide adequate security for the engineers, who are carrying out repairs on the rail line,” Adejobi stated.
‘My husband’s abductors haven’t contacted me’
A Kubwa resident, Mrs Margaret Osaluwe, whose husband, Kelvin, was on the train, said she had not been contacted by anyone since the incident.
Margaret told The PUNCH over the telephone on Thursday that the gunmen had not called her about the abduction of her husband.
“The government should help in rescuing my husband and others who were abducted by the bandits,” she pleaded.
Seven soldiers killed, Air Force bombs terrorists
Meanwhile, The PUNCH confirmed that seven soldiers were ambushed and killed by terrorists on the dreaded Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
It was learnt that the attack happened close to the Zuma barracks along the road in the Suleja area of Niger State in the early hours of Wednesday.
A military source said the commanding officer had received a distress call and sent his men to the scene.
The source said contrary to the speculation that the barracks was overrun and some soldiers killed, it was an ambush close to the facility.
The source said, “The commanding officer received a distress call on the activities of bandits around the Diko area, which is not far from the Zuma barracks. He deployed men but unfortunately, they were ambushed and seven soldiers died in that ambush. There was, however, no attack on the barracks as speculated. The incident happened between 4am and 5am on Wednesday.”
Efforts to get the reaction of the Director, Media Operations, Nigerian Army, Major General Bernard Onyeuko, were not successful. Calls to his line were not answered and he had yet to respond to a message sent to him on the matter as of the time of filing this report.
In a related development, the Air Component of the Operation Thunder Strike bombed some terrorist hideouts around 2pm on Wednesday. The number of terrorists killed in the operation could, however, not be ascertained.
A situation report obtained by The PUNCH read, “Upon receiving credible information that at about 2pm on March 30, 2022, about 70 terrorists on 40 motorcycles and some on foot were sighted moving towards the Akilibu-Sarkin Pawa Road, near Mangoro village, the air component of Operation Thunder Strike swiftly scrambled an aircraft to intercept and neutralise the terrorists.
“The terrorists were subsequently engaged in different waves with rockets, while those fleeing were mopped up with canons decisively.”
It is unclear if the terrorists were part of those who attacked and killed eight passengers on board the Kaduna-bound train on Monday.
Reps threaten shutdown of N’Assembly
Meanwhile, some members of the House of Representatives have proposed that the National Assembly be shut down to force the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to wake up to his responsibility of ensuring the protection of life and property.
This is just as a lawmaker called for the resignation or sacking of the National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd.), saying he should have been sacked along with the last set of service chiefs.
The House cut short its plenary on Thursday following an extended debate on the growing insecurity in the country, during which emotions ran high in the chamber.
Items on the Order Paper for the day, which contains the agenda for each plenary, were stepped down after the lawmakers, mostly members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, spent over one hour to criticise the Buhari regime and the security agencies.
A member of the House, Shehu Balarabe, had moved a motion of urgent public importance on the killings in Kaduna.
The Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, noted that he would use his “emotion-laden voice” to speak in his capacity as leader of the House and the “ambassador of the government on this floor.”
Ado-Doguwa said, “You can see how this chamber is thrown into disquiet and in an emotionally-disturbed manner. When you have a government in place, the major responsibility of that government, especially a democratic one, which was elected by the people, is to ensure safety of lives and properties of innocent citizens.
“When things like this continue on a daily basis, those of us who are representatives of the government will become speechless. I have to repeat: we become speechless in the discharge of our duties here to defend actions of the government.
“This is an elected government under a popular democracy but we continue, day in day out…killings, massacre, banditry and armed robbery left, right and centre. This is just a report of one local government area out of the 774 in the federation.”
The Majority Leader asked why several parts of Kaduna State had been under attack despite the existence of several military and paramilitary institutions and bases in the state, “the highest number you can count in the northern part of the country.”
Ado-Doguwa pointed out that the National Assembly had always appropriated more funds for the security agencies, while relevant committees had been following up on the use of the funds in the implementation of the budget.
He recommended that Nigerians be allowed to arm themselves since the security agencies had failed.
“Let Nigerians organise themselves in the name of civil defence. Let them organise and arrange the defence of their own innocent souls. If the responsibility of the government and the security agencies cannot be carried out democratically, everyone has cause to defend themselves,” he added.
Also, Chike Okafor said the country had not fared better under Buhari since he took over power in 2015.
Okafor stated, “I want to align with the last speaker that we have to go beyond just speaking from this place and do something drastic; something more revolutionary. I think that if we wake up one day and say we are not opening the doors of this chamber until something drastic is done, Nigerians will not take us seriously.”
In his contribution, Nasir Ahmed noted that Buhari had replaced several service chiefs since 2015 and “only one person has not been changed and that is the National Security Adviser.What is the job of the National Security Adviser? Do we have a National Security Adviser?
“Are we saying that the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air Force, the Nigeria Police and the DSS, with all the trainings that they have had; with all the international trainings that they have gone for and peacekeeping missions, that a ragtag army of 16, 17, 18-year-old boys ise more powerful than them?
“This madness has to stop. You travel by road, you are kidnapped. You go by train, you are kidnapped. Last week, an airport was attacked by bandits. You sit at home, you are kidnapped. You send your children to school, they are kidnapped. A few weeks ago, somebody was kidnapped in a hospital. You can be kidnapped right in this chamber.”
While the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the session, called for calm, the lawmaker noted that Monguno had been the NSA for seven years and wondered why he remained in office despite the removal of the last set of service chiefs.
“The only thing that I will say is that if service chiefs could be changed at will, I see no reason why the person that they report to and that is supposed to oversee them…I see no reason why he cannot be replaced. Nobody is indispensable,” Ahmed stated.
A member from Borno State, Haruna Mshelia, disclosed that Boko Haram was still unleashing terror on the state and called for drastic action by the government.
“In fact, there is a local government (area) called Guzamala in Borno State; up till now, there is not a single soul living there. And in my constituency, which is in the southern part, recently, three communities were attacked. This problem is all over Nigeria but let us not forget the initial epicentre of insurgency, which is the North-East,” Mshelia said.
Another member from Borno, Ahmed Jaha, decried that he had been a lone voice on the security crisis in the North-East and recalled that the Nigerian Army got N420bn in the 2020 budget, with only N16bn for capital expenditure, and another N100bn allocated to it for Operation Lafiya Dole.
The lawmaker said in 2021, N460bn was budgeted for the Army, with only N29bn going to capital projects. He added that the Army had a budget of N571bn for 2022, while capital expenditure was N37bn.
The lawmaker also stated that the office of the NSA should not be occupied by someone with a rank lower than a General, noting that a Major General would find it hard to issue orders to a Lieutenant General.
Soldiers working with bandits, lawmaker alleges
Speaking separately on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme, which was monitored by The PUNCH, a federal lawmaker, Yakubu Barde, who represents the Chikun/Kajuru Federal Constituency of Kaduna State, said the military was working with the terrorists.
Barde, whose constituency has been the epicentre of the attacks in recent days, said, “There are incidences where particular intelligent reports are given to the military and the next moment, the bandits get the information.
“So, the confidence in the military by the locals will be eroded. Most times, anyone in the village that takes a report to the military, the next moment, the bandits or the terrorists will hear about it and they will know who made the report and the family is dealt with or wiped out. We have incidents like that. Until we remove the moles among the military, the confidence of the locals in the military will continue to be eroded.”
El-Rufai to meet Buhari
Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, on Thursday, reiterated his earlier call for the massive bombardment of terrorists’ hideouts in forests in the state even as he revealed his plan to meet with the President.
El-Rufai noted that terrorists deserved not to live, saying it was time for the Nigerian Air Force to bomb terrorists out of existence.
According to the governor, that’s the only way to end the current disturbing insecurity across the North-West and the entire country.
He stated this at a stakeholders’ meeting at the Giwa Local Government Area of the state, where terrorists killed over 50 in nine villages last Friday.
The governor said, “We have been pressing for the past two years for the military from the air and the ground to bomb these forests, while soldiers on the ground kill all those that escape the bombs. I do not believe that there is any innocent person in the forest.
“It is my intention to see Mr President to reiterate this and to also ask that a military theatre command headquarters be established for the North-West geo-political zone.”
“With the declaration by the Federal High Court that these bandits are terrorists, there is a need for security agencies to take extreme actions to terminate these bandits.”
El-Rufai, Amaechi exposing APC – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, on Thursday, said a “public confession” by El-Rufai authenticated its position that the All Progressives Congress government knew the whereabouts and plans of the terrorists, but failed to act.
The main opposition party also alleged that Amaechi said his request to install security surveillance equipment to avert terrorist attacks on the Kaduna-Abuja rail was not honoured by the Federal Government.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP quoted the Kaduna State governor as saying, “We know where their camps are; we know where they are; the SSS has their phone numbers; they listen to them and they give me reports…”
In the statement titled, ‘Terrorism: El-Rufai, Amaechi’s confessions confirm complicity by APC govt’, the PDP accused the Buhari regime of “refusing to act despite having full intelligence on the whereabouts, as well as the plans of the terrorists, confirms grave complicity and conspiracy.”
“It is clear that the APC is complicit in the many acts of terrorism in our country. Nigerians should therefore be united in ensuring that the APC is voted out of power in 2023 so that our nation can breathe a new lease of life,” it added.
However, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix
Morka, lambasted the PDP for politicising the security situation.