By Kingsley Omonobi, Dayo Johnson, Chidi Nkwopara, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke
•Briefs Buhari, laments shortage of Policemen in Zamfara
•2 pilots, 3 others die as helicopter crashes in fight against B-Haram—NAF
•Let’s confront Boko Haram more vigorously — Archbishop Obinna
ABUJA—AS bandits continue to wreak havoc in Zamfara State, Governor Abdulaziz Yari said, yesterday, that he is ready to quit as governor if a state of emergency is declared to solve the security problem in the state.
This came as the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, revealed also yesterday that all five of its personnel, including the pilot, co-pilot and three crew members died in Wednesday’s helicopter which crashed in fight against Boko Haram in Borno State.
Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State briefing journalists after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu BUhari on the security situation in his state at the State House, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida
NAF’s revelation came on a day Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, urged the Federal Government to tackle more vigorously, the Boko Haram insurgency and growing menace of armed herdsmen across the country this year.
Governor Yari, who is the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, also lamented the shortage of police personnel in the state, stressing that with the presence of securitymen, banditry, kidnapping and insurgency which had become the order of the day in the state would become a thing of the past.
Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the governor explained that his readiness to vacate his position, if President Buhari should declare a state of emergency in the state, is the culmination of the value and importance he attaches to human lives, adding that without the people, he would not be governor.
The governor had less than two weeks ago, declared that he would support imposition of a state of emergency on the state, if that would help resolve the insecurity in the state which has claimed hundreds of lives.
Why I met Buhari — Yari
Fielding question on why he met the President, Governor Yari said: “You are aware of what is happening in Zamfara State and some parts of neighbouring states on the issue of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency.
“So, it is necessary for me to come forward and brief the President as the Commander-in-Chief. We sat down as head of security in the state and all other stakeholders and looked at the situation and came with a report that we think would help heads of security agencies here, through Mr. President, to strategize so that they can know what actually the problem is.”
On the present situation in the state, Yari said it was calm, adding that with the encouragement of the President and deployment of more security agents in the state, the situation would improve.
“The situation on ground now is calm and as a state, we are putting all our best to ensure that normalcy returns and we have started getting results.
“We believe strongly that with what we have on ground, with the number of securitymen, if they take their jobs seriously, within a short period of time, we can get out of where we are.
“We hope with the encouragement from the President and the encouragement from the service chiefs, the issue will become something of the past in a short time,” he said.
Why I’m ready to quit
On whether he was prepared to leave office if a state of emergency was declared in the state, Governor Yari said he valued the lives of human beings more than the position he occupied, noting that without the people, he would not be in the office as governor.
He said: “Actually, it is the life of people we are talking about and not the position. We are there because lives are there, if there are no lives there, what is the essence of leadership?
“Therefore, I did not call for declaration of state of emergency in the state out of politics, I am serious about it.
“The way some people are talking about it politically, I am not looking at it that way. Since I assumed office, I have never looked at insecurity as being political but I am looking at it as criminality and I approach it in a way it could be solved.
“Some politicians for about three years, have been calling for a state of emergency and I said if the declaration of state of emergency will solve the problem, I am ready.”
The governor, however, said he did not discuss declaration of emergency in Zamfara with the President in his meeting with him.
Asked if he was overwhelmed by activities of the bandits, Governor Yari said he is not but was quick to add that as a leader, he was worried about the incessant attacks and killings.
He said: “There is no territory the bandits occupied, they are there in the forests but the problem I shared with the President is that there was instruction given by the President that any policeman who has stayed more than three years should be transferred.
“Unfortunately, those that were transferred have not been replaced. So out of 230 districts and 147 electoral wards with over 20, 000 people, it is only in 23 (wards) that we have Police presence. So, you can understand a number of places that there is no presence of security and these people are aware and those are the places they (the bandits) hit most.
“They hardly go to any area there is police or security presence because they know that the security men will attack them. I told the President that we need attention of the Inspector-General of Police so that the police officers transferred could be replaced.”
On elections in Zamfara
On whether election would take place in the state, in view of the security challenges on ground, Yari said election would take place in the state, stressing that people have also exaggerated the situation in the state.
“There is no place occupied by bandits, they live in the forest where they operate on hit-and-run basis. They take advantage of the terrain because they rear their cattle there and they know the terrain more than the security agencies.
“Security agents find it difficult to trace the terrain. Sometimes, they go to where people are mining. Therefore, aircraft for surveillance or reconnaissance cannot find out anything at all. The bandits hit and run and don’t occupy any territory, the governor said.
5 die in NAF helicopter crash
Also yesterday, the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, said five of its personnel died in Wednesday’s helicopter which crashed in combat against Boko Haram in Borno State.
There was no survivor in the crash as the pilot, co-pilot and three crew members all died.
A statement by Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force, yesterday, confirmed the development.
NAF said bodies of the deceased had been recovered and taken to Maiduguri, the state capital.
Following the development, Chief of Air Staff, Air Mashal Sadique Abubakar, who flew to Maiduguri early yesterday, has commiserated with the families of the five fallen heroes and prayed that the “Almighty grants their souls peaceful repose.”
According to NAF, the helicopter, an Mi-35M, crashed in combat while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak, in Borno State.
The NAF statement read: “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the death of the five crew members who were on board the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, Mi-35M helicopter which crashed in combat yesterday, (Wednesday), January 2, 2019, while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion, Damasak in Borno State.
“The deceased personnel, whose remains have been recovered to Maiduguri, are Flight Lieutenant Perowei Jacob – Pilot in Command,Flight Lieutenant Kaltho Paul Kilyofas – Co-Pilot,Sergeant Auwal Ibrahim – Flight Technician, Lance Corporal Adamu Nura – Gunner,Aircraftman Meshack Ishmael – Gunner.
“These gallant fallen heroes made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our Fatherland, for which the NAF, and, indeed, the entire nation owe them an unending debt of gratitude.
“The Chief of the Air Staff, CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, on behalf all officers, airmen, airwomen and civilian staff of the NAF commiserates with the families of the five fallen heroes and pray that the Almighty grants their souls peaceful repose.
“The Chief of Air Staff was in Maiduguri today (yesterday), January 3, 2019, to convey the condolences of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammed Buhari, to personnel of the Air Task Force Operation Lafiya Dole over the unfortunate loss.
“While in Maiduguri, the CAS also received a condolence visit from the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai.
“NAF appreciates the overwhelming support shown by the general public to the Service over the sad incident.
“We continue to solicit your understanding and support as we daily strive to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Buhari condoles with NAF
Meanwhile, President Buhari has condoled with the Nigerian Air Force, and relations of the five people who lost their lives in Wednesday’s military helicopter crash in Damasak, Borno State.
The President in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Femi Adesina, in Abuja, yesterday, specifically mourned the helicopter crew that died in the mishap.
Commiserating with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, President Buhari said it was sad that the fine officers and men lost their lives in the bid to guarantee the safety and protection of their countrymen.
He said rather than dampen the morale of troops fighting insurgency in the North-east, the unfortunate development would rather bolster their resolve to completely eliminate all evildoers within the shortest possible time.
FG must fight B-Haram more vigorously — Archbishop Obinna
Meanwhile, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, has urged the Federal Government to tackle more vigorously Boko Haram insurgency and growing menace of armed herdsmen across the country this year.
Archbishop Obinna, who gave the charge in his New Year Message, also expressed regret over what he described as lack of spirit of peace and mutual understanding in Nigeria.
“It is my sincere prayer that this year, Boko Haram would be more vigorously confronted and those who have been pushed into kidnapping through dangers of thuggery during election, would repent,” Obinna said.
While appealing to politicians to see politics more as a fair competition rather than a deadly engagement, the cleric prayed for citizens who had been unduly deprived of their dignity.
“The year 2019 that we have waited for with great expectation is here with us. We must thank God for making it possible for us to enter the year. We pray for all people in business, school children, all the youths, men and women.
“We pray for the elderly in our society. We pray for those who are deprived of their dignity, those deprived of their wages, and pensions. We pray that this year would be a better year,” Archbishop Obinna prayed.
He also gave a thought to the forthcoming general elections in the country and hoped that it would usher in a turnaround for the citizenry, so they would have cause to thank God after the exercise.
Buratai warns politicians
In a similar development, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, yesterday, vowed to deal with politicians arming youths ahead of this year’s general elections, even as he frowned on the alarming rate youths were being armed for the purpose of elections.
Buratai, who vowed that the military was ready to flush out political thugs ahead of the elections, said this at the flag-off of Operation Egwu Eke III at Owo in Ondo State.
The flag-off was attended by the Brigade Commander of 32 Artillery, Brigadier General James Ataguba and other heads of other security agencies in the state, among others.
Speaking through the General Officer Commanding, 2 Division of Nigerian Army, Major. Gen. Okwudili Azinta, Buratai assured that the military and other security agencies would ensure adequate security of lives and property before, during and after the February elections.
He said the exercise was “aimed at checkmating the threat that may arise before, during and after the 2019 elections and the activities of kidnappers in the state.”
The Chief of Army Staff noted that troops would be deployed to flash points across the state, adding that the exercise would be carried out both on land and water.
He said: “This exercise, which will be on from today till February 24, is to checkmate the activities of criminals before, during and after the coming elections.
“Our men will be everywhere in the state, both on land and water, to check the threat of criminals who might want to take advantage of on the current security situation in the country and Ondo State to cause trouble.
“Let me also assure the people of the state that there will be no hiding place for kidnappers in the state.”
Observe rules of engagement —Akeredolu
Flagging off the exercise in Owo, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu urged the officers and men of the Nigeria Army that will participate in the exercise to observe the rules of engagement and code of conduct to avoid any action that might infringe on the rights of the public, especially the host communities.
Akeredolu said: “It is my pleasure again to witness another important effort of the Nigerian Army in ensuring the security of lives and property in Ondo State with the flag off ceremony of Exercise Egwu Eke III.
“I am made to understand that this is an internal security exercise that will be conducted on both land and water with a view to checkmating the diverse security challenges prevalent in the Southern region of the country including militancy, vandalism of oil and gas infrastructure, piracy, kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and illegal bunkering, among others.
“I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the Nigerian Army is capable of flushing out the criminal elements among us, with the recent achievement in the ongoing internal security operations in the State embarked upon by the officers and men of the 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure.
“We, therefore, attach a great importance to the issue of security in all parts of the State. We have of recent, witnessed an upsurge in criminalities especially kidnapping, cultism and army robbery.
“However, I am happy to state that with the combined efforts of all the security agencies in the state, substantial arrests have been made.
“All those found culpable will be charged to court and prosecuted accordingly to serve as deterrent to others. We are not going to relent until the state is rid of people with criminal tendencies.”