Updated: House of Reps summon Jonathan over Boko Haram

Following a debate on the spate of bombing incidents in the country, the House of Representatives on Tuesday resolved to invite President Goodluck Jonathan to appear before it to explain his efforts towards addressing the security situation in the country.

This resolution followed a motion moved by Yakubu Barde, who said the House need to take a deeper look at the security challenges facing the country, following the recent bomb attacks on three churches in Zaria and Kaduna towns and the gun battle in Damaturu, Yobe state.

While the house commiserated with the families of the victims, the lawmakers said it there appear to be no progress in addressing the security challenges facing the country.

The House of Representatives also summoned the National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi, Chief of Defence Staff, Oluseyi Petinrin, Director General of the State Security Service (SSS), Ita Ekpeyong, and other security chiefs.

No date has been fixed for the special session which is likely to be held behind closed doors.

Insecurity yet Jonathan travels

The minority leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, while contributing to the debate on the security of the country, expressed reservations over President Jonathan’s trip to Brazil for the Earth Summit when according to him, “the country is under siege”.

He said the current spate of bombings have infringed on the people’s “fundamental rights to religion, free association and to life.”

Mr Gbajabiamila who said that drastic situations like the one the country was facing at the moment require a drastic actions, expressed surprise that a pocket of gunmen could hold security agents to gun battle for over five hours on Monday in Damaturu, adding that if the situation had degenerated to such a level, it was “time to look elsewhere.”

The Chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Jerry Manwe who berated the inability of security agencies to pre-empt the incessant bombings said for those, including the president who had at one time or another stated that they know those behind the boko haram sect, it was time to get the culprits arrested.

“We approved almost a trillion naira for security alone in the 2012 budget, is this money meant to buy ak 47s alone, or to but bomb detectors for the villa, or the national assembly alone when our brothers and sisters out there continue to die? Is Mr president, or Azazi (the National Security Adviser) and the IG (Inspector General of Police) scared? We should tell ourselves the bitter truth now,” he said.

The chairman of the Committee on works, Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, who described the current security challenges as the second most serious crisis the nation has faced, beside the civil war, said Nigeria should draw lessons from the United States’ response to terrorism after the September 11, 2001, by creating the department of homeland security, a development he said had guarded against similar other threats.

Several other members, including Umar Bature, Godfrey Gaiya, Udoh Ibeji, Andrew Uchendu and Opeyemi Bamidele spoke in support of the motion to summon the president and security chiefs to brief the House on the increasing level of insecurity.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has cleared the air on his alleged comments over Sunday’s reprisal attacks that followed the bombing of churches in Kaduna.

The speaker was reported to have, through a statement issued by his special assistant on media, Imam Imam, condemned the reprisal attacks without recourse to the bomb attacks that sparked it off in the first place.

In a short speech to mark the clarification during Monday’s plenary of the House, Mr Tambuwal said, “in all my comments over these acts, I have continuously condemned the acts as inhuman and not to be supported by anyone. The statement was very clear,” he said.

 

 

 

Kaduna government relaxes curfew

The Kaduna State government on Monday relaxed the 24-hour curfew imposed on the state following Sunday’s bomb blast which rocked churches in both Zaria and Kaduna town.

The Kaduna State governor, Patrick Yakowa

The Special Assistant to Kaduna State governor on Media, Reuben Buhari who confirmed the decision in a press statement said that people can now move from 2pm to 6pm today.

A dusk to dawn curfew will come into place from Tuesday, restricting movement from 6am to 6pm.

According to him, the decision to relax the curfew came as a result of intelligence and security report from security agencies.

Mr Buhari advised residents of the state to remain calm, law abiding and cooperate with security agencies as the government is working hard to prevent any further breach of peace in the state.

The Kaduna State governor, Patrick Yakowa on Sunday imposed a 24 hour curfew in the state following bomb blasts and retaliatory violent protest in parts of the state.

Explosions at three churches in Kaduna state killed over 34 people on Sunday, leading to reprisal attacks which led to scores of death.

Two explosions rocked churches in the town of Zaria, moments from each other. A suicide bomber drove a blue Honda civic into a church, burning the front entrance and damaging the building.

Some militants also threw bombs at another church, killing four children who were playing on the streets, said resident Deborah Osagie, who lives opposite the church. She added that the militants were later caught by a mob and killed.

Another blast hit a third church in the state’s main city of Kaduna, causing unknown number of casualties, witnesses and the National Emergency Management Agency said.

US Justice department wants Boko Haram on international terrorist list

The Justice Department is pressing the State Department to designate Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant group alleged to be responsible for hundreds of deaths, as a “foreign terrorist organization,” according to a document obtained by Reuters.

Lisa Monaco, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, sent a letter in January to State Department counter-terrorism chief Daniel Benjamin requesting that Boko Haram, also know as the “Nigerian Taliban,” be put on the list.

A Congressional source said that in the last few days, State Department representatives have lobbied Congress to try to stop legislation which would force the administration to act against the group or explain why they had not done so.

On Thursday, Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican who chairs a House subcommittee on Homeland Security, introduced an amendment to a defense bill that does just that, after he said State officials inexplicably cancel led a briefing on Boko Haram.

In several recent cases, including that of the so-called underwear bomber, in which a Nigerian failed to blow up an airliner headed to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the United States has been handcuffed by waiting too long to designate a group as “terrorists,” Meehan said.

“Only later, after they’ve committed terrible acts have we put them on the list of foreign terrorists,” Meehan told Reuters. “To not have the capacity that it gives law enforcement to both monitor and to hold people who give material support to an organization like that, puts us at a disadvantage.”

Representative Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said: “Boko Haram claimed credit for the suicide bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, killing 23 people and injuring more than 80 others.

“That meets my definition of a terrorist group, but if the administration has a reason why they don’t want to designate them, I would like to hear it,” Rogers said.

A senior State Department official said the department was “very concerned about violence in Nigeria” and added that it was “looking at this very carefully.”

The official insisted the department was “not stalling or dragging our feet.” But he noted that adding a group to the sanctions list is a “rigorous process which has to stand up in a court of law.”

LINKED TO SERIES OF ATTACKS

Congress has recently been at odds with the Obama administration regarding demands that a Pakistan-based militant group linked to the Taliban known as the Haqqani Network also be added to the foreign terrorist organization list.

Some administration officials have hinted that they are resisting putting the Haqqani network on the list in the hope that not doing so might advance continuing, but patchy, peace negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

Assistant Attorney General Monaco’s letter said that in her view, Boko Haram meets the criteria for a foreign terrorist listing, in that it either engages in terrorism which threatens the United States or has a capability or intent to do so.

According to Monaco, since 2009 the group has targeted violent attacks against Nigeria’s “police, politicians, public institutions and civilian population.”

She said the group was responsible for an attack in December 2010 in which 80 were killed in a town called Jos; a June 2011 attack on Nigeria’s national police headquarters; an August 2011 attack on a U.N. compound in Nigerian capital Abuja; and multiple attacks in November and December 2011, including Christmas Day attacks on churches and other targets.

Monaco said that according to press reports, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for 510 victims in 2011, and also took credit for a Jan. 20 attack on government buildings in Kano in which more than 160 were killed.

Monaco said that although Boko Haram attacks until now have occurred only within Nigeria, the U.S. should not underestimate the threat the group poses to U.S. interests.

She claimed the group had forged links with “transnational terrorist groups,” including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a north African affiliate of al Qaeda’s Pakistan-based core group, and Boko Haram has “openly espoused violence against the West.”

In a March 30 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Meehan and House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King suggested some of Boko Haram’s most recent tactics have paralleled those of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan, both of which have been linked to attempted – though unsuccessful – attacks on the United States.

Administration officials have said that U.S. government representatives will hold high-level talks with Nigerian officials in Washington next month and the issue of Boko Haram is certain to come up.

REUTERS

JTF arrests suspected Boko Haram leader

Operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) arrested a man suspected to be a high-profile operational commander of the extremist group, Boko Haram, along with his wife and five children, during a raid at his residence in Farawa quarters, Kumbotso local Government area, Kano state.
The operation commander was identified by the JTF as Suleiman Mohammed, a Yoruba tribe member from Ogbomosho in Osun State, South West Nigeria.

Security sources said that the suspect and his entire family has been flown to Abuja for interrogation.

Sophisticated weapons were recovered during the raid, including a rifle, 10 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), three pistols, and 1,000 rounds of live ammunition.

No shots were fired during the raid.

The Kano Police Commissioner; Ibrahim Idris who confirmed the arrest told journalists that “details of the suspect were not for public consumption for now.”

The arrest of Mr. Mohammed coincided with the recovery of seven trucks of empty used soft drink cans from an uncompleted building in the Kano metropolis.

The Police Commissioner said that the cans were veritable components in making low calibre IED’s and enjoined the public to always endeavour to destroy such  cans to frustrate criminal elements from converting them into parts of making explosives.

Boko Haram, whose official name in Arabic translates as “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” is agitating for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law, at least in the Muslim areas of the north.

Recently, the islamic sect Boko Haram offered to open dialogue with President Goodluck Jonathan but gave little or no  room for compromise regarding its main mission.