A petition seeking a state of emergency in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and other states in the North-West had garnered 28,000 signatures on Change.Org on Wednesday evening even as the insecurity in the region continued to escalate.
The petition, which was started by one Alhanislam Alhanislam on Monday, called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to secure northern lives with the #SecureNorth and #NorthisBleeding.
As more people signed the petition, groups and individuals including Amnesty International, the Middle Belt Forum and a human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, berated the Federal Government as the Department of State Services and the police dispersed in Kano. In Abuja, the protesters were not only dispersed, some of them were arrested.
The petition for a state of emergency read in part, “We’re calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately declare a state of emergency in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and other states in the North-West that have been besieged by armed violence and militant attacks to secure the lives and properties of millions of Nigerians, who fear for their lives.
“Alarming violence and unabated killings by armed groups in northern Nigeria have spawned the region into a full-blown humanitarian crisis and a national embarrassment. More than 30 people, including women and children, were burned to death in a recent attack in Sokoto State after a group of gunmen opened fire on a bus loaded with passengers, according to eyewitnesses.”
The petition further stated that more than 80 people were killed in another attack after gunmen descended on eight villages in Kebbi State this year while thousands of Nigerians have fled from their homes and farms in Zamfara state, where armed assault and hostage-taking is the business of the day.
The petitioners lamented that the North had become a war zone, adding that the United Nations had revealed earlier in the year that 2.9 million people are displaced in the region due to insecurity.
Apart from declaring a state of emergency, the petitioners are seeking a public pronouncement from northern Leaders and emirs condemning all forms of violence.
They also want the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, to prioritise and deploy military troops across these states.
Checks by one of our correspondents at 8pm on Change.Org showed that 28,000 people had signed the petition.
Meanwhile, armed security personnel on Wednesday arrested protesters in Abuja while others were dispersed in Kano State.
Police disperse protesters in FCT, arrest seven
In Abuja, policemen from the Federal Capital Territory command disrupted a protest by some Northern youths in the territory, arresting seven persons including two journalists. The two journalists were later released.
The protesters had converged at the Nigerian Labour House popularly known as Ayuba Wabba House, Central Area, demanding an end to the insecurity in the North.
Armed with placards bearing arms with various inscriptions like “Buhari is a weak Army General”; “Northern region is bleeding”, “Buhari is sleeping; “How many have to die in the north before Buhari is asked to resign?” , among others, the protesters marched under the bridge in Garki Area 1 where some policemen emerged and arrested them.
One of the journalists, Busayo Tosin, who was released, said, “Some police officers approached me to ask those who were protesting. I told them I am a journalist. I came here to work, and they arrested about five protesters. They walked up to me and asked me to get into their vehicle, I did. They checked my camera to see what I had recorded.
“I was then driven to the Gudu police station and we were being questioned. We were about to write a statement when we were later informed that we would be transferred to the command. We were later released after the intervention of a DCP.’’
When contacted the FCT command Spokesperson, Josephine Adeh, said policemen were deployed to restore normalcy following information that there was a “civil disturbance” in the area.
Adeh said, “Following the receipt of information on December 15 2021 that a civil disturbance at Area 1 Garki, resulting from an ensued clash between hoodlums and the self acclaimed Revolutionist Sowore and his hired thugs, bearing placards with all forms of inciting inscription.
“A team of operational assets attached to the FCT police command were drafted swiftly to the scene to forestall further outbreak of violence and disintegration of law and order.
“Consequent upon the above, the team upon arrival, took control of the situation, dispersed the assembly and restored normalcy to the area.”
Earlier, human rights activist Omoyele Sowore, who also joined the protest, called on the President to end the insecurity in the country or resign.
“He came in with the promise that as a retired Army General he would protect Nigerians, today he has failed to do so. A lot of people are being killed between Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamafra every night. Our prayers are with those who are living in the North,” Sowore said.
In Kano State, security officials, consisting of policemen and the DSS operatives, barricaded the gate of the Nigeria Union of Journalists to stop youths protesting against insecurity in the North from entering the premises.
Several security vehicles with personnel dressed in anti-riot outfits took over the NUJ Secretariat main gate and the road leading to the secretariat as the protesters assembled at a distance.
Following an agreement with the security personnel, the protesters marched to the gate of the NUJ but were not allowed in as the gate was locked.
The officer in charge, who did not identify himself, advised the protesters to adopt due processes whenever they want to stage peaceful protests to avoid thugs taking over the protest.
But delivering his address at the gate of the NUJ, one of the leaders of the protesting groups, Jamilu Charanchi, North West Coordinator, Coalition of Northern Groups read a communiqué.
They called on the Nigerian government to avoid increasing the price of fuel, address insecurity and resolve the problem of inflation in the country.
It read in part, “The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and all the 36 governors have failed totally in the major areas of providing security of lives and properties of citizens and ensuring a secure economic environment in the North in particular.”
Speaking on the insecurity, one of the organisers of the protest, Abba Hikima, called for a stop to the bloodletting in the North while insisting that security personnel be properly armed to face the bandits who he insisted are more armed than the state’s security agents.
The PUNCH had reported on Tuesday that over 3,125, were killed and 2, 703 abducted in the North in the last 11 months.
But Amnesty International on Wednesday called on security agencies including the Nigeria Police Force and the DSS to stop harassing and arresting youths protesting insecurity in northern Nigeria.
In a series of tweets, Amnesty demanded the release of the young protesters.
The rights group said, “Amnesty International received disturbing reports from Bauchi, Katsina, Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto on arrests and crackdown by the police and the DSS on peaceful protests against rampant insecurity in northern Nigeria.
“We call on Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested for exercising the right to freedom of assembly. The DSS must stop using ‘invitations’ to threaten and intimidate protest organisers.”
DSS not going after killers, but peaceful protesters – Aisha Yesufu
In an interview with The PUNCH, activist Aisha Yesufu, who is also a Co-Convener of the #BringBackOurGirls group, said it was unfortunate that the DSS which could not forestall attacks could quell protests. She said the right to protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and no one should be intimidated.
Yesufu wondered why pro-government demonstrations were never hijacked even as she alleged that it is the government that hires thugs to hijack protests.
She said, “Nigerians have a constitutional right to come out to protest. It is quite shameful that the DSS are not going after killers. They are only going after protesters.
“It is the government that hires hoodlums to hijack protests. They use security operatives to ferry hoodlums to protests. We saw this during #EndSARS when military and police vehicles were used in ferrying hoodlums.
“I can tell you categorically that 99.9 per cent of protests that end up in violence are usually manipulated by security agents and the government. They are the ones that hijack protests when they should go against the bandits.
“When they say hoodlums will hijack, it is the government that is behind it. They do it to prevent protests. What is a hoodlum’s business with protests? It is when the government pays them that hoodlums go to attack protesters so when the DSS foolishly tells protesters that there will be a hijack, you wonder what their job is. Is it not to protect protesters?”
Buhari’s regime becoming more undemocratic, totalitarian, says MBF
The Middle Belt Forum, on its part, condemned the use of security agents by the government to stifle protest against insecurity in the North.
The National President of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, who stated this in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Wednesday, said the action of government confirmed that the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was fast becoming totally undemocratic and totalitarian .
He said it was wrong for the security agents to stop the people from protesting against unpleasant situations in the country when it was the only weapon they had to express themselves in a democracy.
No President has funded security agencies like Buhari – Lai Mohammed
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says despite the security challenge, no President in the history of Nigeria has funded security agencies like the current Buhari
Mohammed said this during a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday.
The minister argued that no President had funded security agencies like Buhari despite the economic challenges.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had said Buhari had done his best to proffer solutions to the security challenges confronting the nation, adding that Nigerians should not expect more from him as this would be tantamount to whipping a dead horse.
But Mohammed said no administration in Nigeria’s recent history had provided the security agencies with the hardware needed to tackle insecurity as that of Buhari.
The minister said, “Yes, banditry and kidnapping have added to the state of insecurity, President Buhari has also continued to provide quality leadership in order to ensure that our security agencies decisively tackle the cankerworm of insecurity of any hue.
“No administration in Nigeria’s recent history has provided the security agencies with the hardware needed to tackle insecurity as that of President Buhari, in addition to raising the morale of our security men and women. Only last week, Mr President inaugurated an armada of naval boats and ships in the latest effort to enhance our nation’s maritime security.
“The Nigerian Army, the air force and the police, among others, have also been receiving modern hardware to strengthen their arsenal.”
According to him, Buhari has done so much, under very difficult economic and social conditions, to tackle insecurity in the country.
“To say he has nothing more to offer is untrue, fallacious and smacks of dirty politicking. By boosting the number and capacity of our fighting forces, Mr President is putting them in good stead to tackle insecurity not just during the life of his administration but long after he would have left office,” the minister stated.
Efforts to get reactions of the Katsina State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Sirika Abdulkarim, on the demand for state of emergency did not succeed as he did not pick calls to his phone. He had not also responded to the SMS sent to him on t
But Mohammed Bello, the Special Adviser on Media to the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, said was at the forefront for the call of declaration of a full scale state of emergency in all areas prone to banditry. prevails.
Bello, quoting his boss said, “These operations, once conceived and ready for execution, should be carried out simultaneously in the states where the terrorists have strongholds, such as Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger and Kebbi, as well as elsewhere, where the criminals have hideouts.”