The Christmas festivity has taken off on a tragic note at Nindem village in Godogodo district of Jema’a Local Government Area, Southern Kaduna, with the murder of four persons at a Christmas carol in the village.
A lone gunman stormed the village square on Friday night as residents gathered for their annual carol and unexpectedly started shooting sporadically, felling all victims. Eight others were wounded, sources said yesterday.
The village has been in a mourning mood since. The spokesman for Operation Safe Haven, the military task force charged with the responsibility of keeping the peace of the area, Colonel I. K. Ekpeyong confirmed the development.
He said the bodies of the dead people had been deposited in a mortuary while the wounded persons were taken to the Kafanchan General Hospital for treatment. Some people suspected to be “masterminds of the attack “have been arrested for interrogation,” he said. More troops have been deployed to the area to avert a fresh attack or reprisal.
The state government has condemned the attack and asked communities in the area to stand firm against any threat to peace. It urged them to reject those who might want to reprise the events of December 2016, a reference to a similar attack by gunmen on Goska village in the same Jema’a local government area.
Scores of people were killed in that attack. Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, in a statement through his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan, said: “the hard won peace in the area must be sustained and the culprits brought to book.
“Security forces have informed the Kaduna State Government that there was an attack in Nimdem village on the night of Friday, 22nd December 2017. The government was further briefed, that arrests have been made and investigation is ongoing.
“The government condemns this incident, and calls on all stakeholders to help uphold peace by working to avoid escalation and by supporting the security forces.
“Government commiserates with the families of the victims in this sad moment. The grief and pain these acts of violence leave in their wake can be devastating. It is important that all communities stand firm against any threat to peace, and reject those who might want to reprise the terrible events of December 2016.
“Government appeals for calm as security forces take action to restore peace and stability. Nobody should be allowed to truncate the right of citizens to live in peace and enjoy safety, or thwart their legitimate expectations of celebrating Christmas and the New Year in peace.”
Southern Kaduna has over the years come under incessant attacks by gunmen who routinely invade villages killing and maiming residents.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, in February, laid the foundation stone of the Forward Operation Base (FOB) of 2 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of the state as part of the effort to stem the incessant threat to peace in that part of the country.
Commenting on the crisis at the time, Buratai had said: “There is need for understanding. It is a family issue that can be resolved amicably,” although he warned that those responsible for killings and violence would not go unpunished.
“We will deal with anyone that foments trouble,” he said. The attack also came in the wake of security alert across the country by the police and allied agencies ahead of Christmas, especially in view of recent warnings by the USA and UK of possible terror attacks in parts of the country.
The police leadership and that of the Department of State Security (DSS) have ordered all their personnel to be on active duty during the festivity. The two countries specifically asked their citizens to avoid the Northeast.
In the case of the USA, it warned its citizens of the risks of travel to the Northeast which it claimed remains fluid and unpredictable while the risk of kidnappings, robberies, and other armed attacks are real in various parts of the country.
“U.S. citizens should be vigilant at public gatherings and locations frequented by foreigners; markets, hotels, restaurants, bars, and places of worship may become targets for terrorist attacks,” it warned.
Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris met with Commanders of Police Mobile Force (PMF) and Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) and gave stern directives on prevailing security situation and what to look out for, over the next few months.
He told them to get fully prepared to “provide security for this country” especially this month and January. At the DSS, a source disclosed that operatives are not going on leave during the yuletide season to enable the organization sustain the gains made over the last few months.
The Adamawa State Police Command says it has, in collaboration with sister agencies, put in place adequate security measures to ensure hitch-free celebrations. No fewer than 6000 police personnel are being deployed to provide security in Akwa Ibom State during and after the yuletide.
The Public Relations Officer of the Command, DSP Bala Elkana, said in Uyo that the action was to forestall any breach of peace and order during the celebrations. The personnel are being deployed to churches, relaxation centres, financial institutions as well as markets and public buildings.
Elkana urged the people to be security conscious yuletide and charged them to also adhere to simple security tips during this period. The Ogun State Police Command is also deploying tactical and covert policemen across the 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas in the state to ensure safety of residents and visitors during the period.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ogun State Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, assured residents of the determination of the force to provide adequate security and ensure that they enjoy a hitch – free yuletide and New Year.
Abimbola, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), appealed to the Public to be vigilant and alert the Police if they noticed any strange or suspicious faces, gathering or movement in their domain to enable the security agencies address the situation promptly.
He said the police personnel so deployed “have a clear mandate of ensuring crime free Xmas and New Year celebration. A-24hour surveillance patrols have also been ordered around the various worship as well as event/recreation centres across the state,” Abimbola stated.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) will have 45,000 of its personnel on special duty during the Christmas, according to Commandant General Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu. He directed all State Commandants to ensure all black spots, shopping malls, recreation centres, markets square worship centres, hotels and critical Infrastructure and assets are well manned and secured.
He cancelled the leave of all senior officers and directed that those on leave be recalled during this yuletide season. Residents of Borno and Yobe States are banking on the alertness of the security agents and their own security awareness to see them through the festivity. They try to avoid crowded places.
For instance, many families have ruled out taking their children to relaxation centres for fear of attack by suicide bombers. Musa Ndjavara, a journalist said “I cannot even allow my children to go close to an amusement park much more allowing them to roam about for Christmas dances and fun like we used to do years back.”
Baba Mshelia said: “we have seen it all in this crisis. Both Christians and Muslims have been affected. For now we are more conscious of what happens around us and our environment. We are more security trained by ourselves now more than ever before.”
Chinedu Obina, a motor spare parts dealer in Maiduguri said: “The way we had a peaceful Sallah when Muslims and Christians came together to rejoice, that is how the Christmas will be. “For close to seven years now I have not been celebrating Christmas in Borno State because of fear of insurgency. But this time around I will celebrate my Christmas here with members of my family.”
A Damaturu, Yobe State based trader, Emeka said: “I see no need why I should be moving with my family up and down because of insecurity in this place. “Tell me: which part of the country is safe now? We have spoilt everywhere with all sorts of criminal activities and we are blaming government for it. I am not going anywhere for the Christmas. I will celebrate it here.
“If I say I will go to the East for Christmas and I run into kidnappers or armed robbers, I do not have N10 million to pay as ransom and free myself. When you succeed and enter the village, hired assassins are waiting. Different village meetings will also be waiting for you to pay them money. Even the village elders will be expecting money from you. All the burials they did in your absence, you must pay your dues.”
A Kaduna resident, Mr. Ben Kemje, said he has resolved to avoid crowded places. He said, “The alert should not be taken lightly as most of the previous alerts almost came to pass. It is therefore, in my personal opinion, a wake-up call to all stakeholders particularly security agencies to put in place proactive measures that will see to it that the threat alert does not see the light of the day.
“As an individual and my family, we have decided to avoid crowded environments, avoid walking in lonely areas, and praying regularly for God’s protection and guidance.” Mr. Olusegun Abayomi said:”Yes, we are aware of the warnings by the UK and US.
“We have been warned to avoid crowded places which is practically impossible especially during the end of the year, the government and the security agencies should step up their game and use technology to intensify security now and always.”
Another resident, Jacob Dickson said:”One important precaution from me would be to avoid places with large crowds, which would naturally be targeted because the terrorists would want maximum impact and casualties.
“It is also important to be cautious when boarding public transportation, to avoid suspicious vehicles that may be laden with explosives. “Prayer is also very important, for God to protect me and prevent me from going to where there is danger even against my wish.”
An Abuja resident, Mrs. Helen Fafore, said: “I love being in church with family and friends but this year, we have decided that not even New Year’s eve will be done in church; a lot is going to be done to create a happy Christmas at home, especially as my two children living abroad have compelling reasons not to come home till early next year,” she explained.
Her friend, Deaconess Ronke Oyetola who was among those disappointed by an airline whose staff went on strike stated that she has seen countless signs that God wants people to have a low-profile yuletide season this time around.
“True, the very bad economic situation, fuel scarcity and other issues are compelling people to have a rethink about how they enjoy the yuletide season but I believe that God wants us all to pause and ponder, having time for sober meditation and family togetherness instead of the usual frivolities,” she said.
The Army, on Thursday, advised people in the Northeast to be vigilant and to guard against suicide bomb attack by Boko Haram insurgents during the yuletide. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, said that it was imperative for the people to be vigilant and monitor suspicious persons in their communities, places of worship and other public places during the festive season.
He said that the insurgents were taking advantage of the relaxed vigilance and security measures in the society to attack soft targets.
His words:”Additionally, an assessment of recent trend of Boko Haram insurgents Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) campaign indicated a deliberate targeting of places of worships as witnessed in the disheartening incident of the suicide bombings. “One of the reasons adduced for easy infiltration by suicide bombers is the absence of measures to scrutinize and identify persons accessing these facilities.
“Most places of worship have been found to exhibit similar deficiency and have lowered their guards, thereby exposing themselves to preventable attacks.” He asked community and religious leaders to sensitize and mobilize their people to be security conscious to prevent insurgents’ attack. Nwachukwu said the troops had sustained onslaught against the Boko Haram insurgents in the ongoing clearance operations at the fringes of northern Borno.Click Here to Join Newsnow Nigeria WhatsApp Group for Breaking News Alerts More News