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THE death toll in Friday’s attack by terror sect, Boko Haram, on the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State was on Saturday put at 30.
Sources in Maiduguri said the casualties from the attack on Zulum on a highway had doubled, following the recovery of more bodies.
The victims included policemen and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force.
The police and the governor, however, said 11 people died in the attack.
The police gave the breakdown as eight policemen and three members of the Civilian Joint Task Force.
A sad Zulum consoled the bereaved families and described the victims as priceless heroes.
President Muhammadu Buhari sympathised with the governor and charged security agencies to intensify efforts in the Northeast to rid security in the area of sabotage.
Chief spokesman to Governor Zulum, Isa Gusau, said in a statement yesterday that his principal was “saddened by this unfortunate carnage.”
He added: “He shares the grief of families of these 11 priceless heroes to whom Borno shall remain grateful.
“The governor prays for the repose of their souls and urges all stakeholders to remain committed to ongoing peace building efforts.
“Zulum is of the opinion that we must continue to keep hope alive even in the face of tribulations, and believe that with sustained efforts and prayers, Borno will eventually regain peace.
“The situation facing us is a tough one but we must choose between doing something which gives us some hope and doing nothing which will leave us more vulnerable to Boko Haram’s ultimate wish to take over Borno and bring it under their sovereign brutal administration.”
The governor’s convoy had earlier in July been attacked by the sect members in Kukawa Local Government Area of the state, but no one was killed in that attack.
The State Police Command, in a statement by its spokesman, Edet Okon, said: “Eight policemen and three members of the Civilian Joint Task Force paid the supreme price.
“Thirteen other persons sustained various degrees of injuries and were rushed to the hospital for treatment.”
Okon reiterated the commitment of the Police to the protection of the lives and property of the residents of the state.
He said the Force “will not relent in providing the needed security for the good citizens of Borno State at all times.”
The governor’s convoy came under attack as it approached Baga to join Zulum who had been flown into town in an Airforce chopper to Baga to receive returning Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The attack came a few days after the death of a major actor in the war against Boko Haram in the state, Colonel Dahiru Bako.
Bako and three other soldiers died from gunshot injuries they received when he was ambushed by the terrorists.
They were laid to rest in Maiduguri on Saturday.
Buhari charges security, intelligence agencies on sabotage, sympathises with Zulum
President Muhmmadu Buhari yesterday charged security and intelligence agencies to intensify efforts in the Northeast to rid security in the area of sabotage.
The President, who sympathised with Governor Zulum and the families of the security operatives killed in the attack, ordered security agencies to sanitise roads and venues ahead of the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, on Saturday, the President commended Prof. Zulum for his resolute stance against the terrorists and charged him to remain unbroken in the fight to sanitise the state.
He also commended the courage and gallantry of the security operatives who stood to repel the ambush on the governor’s convoy, asking both the state government and security agencies to continue in the collaboration to free the state and the affected areas of the Northeast of terrorism.
“President Muhammadu Buhari condemns the ambush on entourage of Governor Umar Babagana Zulum of Borno State, which led to the death of security men and some operatives of Civilian-JTF.
“The President described the attack, on Maiduguri-Baga route, as an orchestrated sabotage against long planned return of displaced persons to their local communities.
“President Buhari notes, with deep sympathy, the loss of lives of security men on the convoy, ahead of the return of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, commiserating with their families and loved ones.
“The President advises the government of Borno State, working with security and intelligence agencies, to remain firm in their determination to restore normalcy to all communities liberated from Boko Haram terrorists.
“President Buhari urges security and intelligence agencies to intensify efforts to check sabotage, sanitize the roads, venues and locations well in advance of returning IDPs, while working closely with local communities.
“The President commends the gallantry of service personnel who repelled the deadly ambush, as well the sincere determination of Governor Zulum, who has been working with armed forces to end the menace of terrorists, rebuild homes and return IDPs to regular life.
“He prayed that God will grant the souls of the departed security men and operatives of Civilian-JTF eternal rest and comfort their families,” the statement said.
Nobody is safe anymore, North-East elders tell Buhari
Reacting to the latest attack yesterday, elders from the North East asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rejig the security apparatus in the country.
They noted that events of the last few weeks in the zone have shown that there is no other way of getting out of the security situation in the country than to immediately rejig the security apparatus.
The elders said they are worried at the ceaseless and relentless attacks on troops and civilian population resulting in heavy casualties in the North East despite repeated assurances from the Service Chiefs that the region has not only been cleared of insurgents and terrorists but also made safe for those displaced from their original communities to return.
Besides, they sounded the alarm that the country may face a food crisis next year if the security situation in the zone continues.
The northern elders said the Nigerian military has come to what they called “breaking point” and needed reactivation for better and more positive results in line with President Buhari’s vision of leaving Nigeria better than his administration met it.
The Coalition for North East Elders for Peace and Development (CNEEPD), in a statement entitled “Military Now At Breaking Point: It’s Time For Change of Guard”, called for the sack of service chiefs.
Chairman of the group, Engr Zana Goni, and Secretary, Dr Muhammed Misua, who signed the statement, said: “As elders in the North East, we are worried over the state of insecurity which is not getting better in spite of the relentless efforts of the President to that effect.
“We had chosen to remain silent in the past even when there were compelling needs to speak out because of our conviction that the insecurity especially in the North East would get better. But events in recent weeks coupled with the brutal killings of some troops, including a commander, have forced us to open our lips once again.
“We believe at this point that the military, which is at the forefront of prosecuting the war against the adversaries in the two regions of the country, has come to a breaking point.”
The elders added: “We are worried at the ceaseless and relentless attacks on troops and civilian population resulting in heavy casualties in the North East despite repeated assurances from the service chiefs that the region has not only been cleared of insurgents and terrorists but also made safe for those displaced from their original communities to return.
“The attack on the convoy of the governor of Borno State, His Excellency, Babagana Zulum on Friday, which left some soldiers and police officers dead with unspecified number of people injured, is most disturbing, especially coming just barely two months after the convoy of the governor suffered similar fate in the state.
“These developments have further given credence to the belief we have long held that nobody is safe anymore in the country. Besides, this ugly security situation may not guarantee food security in the country before the next year.
“The continuous daily loss of lives of both security and civilians either by terrorists or bandits in spite of repeated assurances by the Service Chiefs has no doubt convinced us as close watchers of security situation in the North West and North East regions of the country that the military has come to a breaking point in the fight against insecurity in the region.
“This could be as a result of low morale occasioned by fighting equipment and the long overdue retirement of those heading various branches of our armed forces. We strongly believe that the security heads are now bereft of ideas and need to go so that the younger and experienced officers can come on board with fresh ideas.
“To the best of our understanding, the unchangeable activation of same strategies in the prosecution of the war by our Service Chiefs coupled with career stagnation in the military thus weakening morale among officers and men in the services are contributory factors to delay in ending the war against insecurity in the whole country.
“To this end, we wish to hereby passionately appeal without bias or sentiment to President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the service chiefs of their positions. We believe strongly that it has reached a point for him to carry out the action to save the country of what has become embarrassment of his administration.
“We are not unmindful of the sacrifices the Service Chiefs have so far made to get this country to this point. No doubt,they have recorded some successes in the security circles, especially by pushing insurgency to the fringes of the North East, stopping suicide bombings in the country and bringing some reforms to the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
“The unabated insecurity situation resulting in daily loss of lives in the known regions has left us with no option than to join right thinking persons out there that since the nation’s security heads are not indispensable, our president should without any further delay, rejig the security architecture with a view to getting another and better result.
“We appeal to the President to at this time listen to the voice of majority that with the view that new hands are needed to pilot the affairs of the country’s security architecture.”