Omololu Ogunmade, Paul Obi in Abuja, Segun James in Lagos and Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday appealed to Nigerians to be patient with him over the protracted killings ravaging different parts of the country, saying his security team was racking its brain on how to end the violence.
The president made the appeal in reaction to the killing of over 32 people in Gandi, Rabah Local Government Area of Sokoto State by bandits on Monday.
A grieving Governor Aminu Tambuwal in a statement Wednesday called for the overhauling of the country’s security architecture, saying it had become overwhelmed by the massive violence being perpetrated by non-state actors.
In a statement Wednesday night, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari warned that his administration would not allow any group of barbarians and criminals hold the country hostage and destroy life without consequences.
“I wish to assure all Nigerians that their security is receiving the greatest attention from this administration and there is no compromise in this commitment. I appeal for your patience while my security teams crack their brains to put an end to this horrendous violence,” he quoted the president as saying.
The statement added that Buhari condemned the killing of several people, including a district head, in and around the village of Gandi by bandits, threatening that the wanton violence against innocent people won’t be tolerated by his government.
“We are working round the clock to identify the people sponsoring these heartless attacks,” the president reportedly said, adding: “It is curious why any group of mass murderers would be targeting and killing innocent people for no just reason.”
He added: “Make no mistake about it, my administration remains committed to security as one of its core objectives, and any attempt to test our will by any group of anarchists and trouble makers will be met with equal force.”
According to the statement, Buhari assured Nigerians that, “Identifying and defeating these callous killers is receiving priority from this administration, and we shall spare no effort in tracing the root of this evil, especially their sources of funding and arms”.
It also said Buhari promised that although the hit and run gangs of mass murderers were using unconventional tactics, they would eventually be defeated, adding that the president extended his condolences to the government, families of the victims and the people of Sokoto State at large over what he called “this incredible losses of lives at the hands of these enemies of humanity”.
“He assured that the federal government will give all possible assistance to the state in dealing with the tragic incident,” the statement added.
Bandits Kill 32 in Sokoto, Zamfara
At least 32 people, including a village head, were killed by bandits in four villages of Sokoto and Zamfara States.
Although the killings occurred on Monday, they did not come to light till Wednesday because the villages attacked were in the remote parts of the states.
THISDAY checks revealed that the bandits invaded the villages in over 100 motorcycles, shooting people on sight.
The affected villages were Alliki, Dankilawa, Birwanga, Tabbannin Gera in Rabah Local Government Area of Sokoto State, and Kozi village in Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
Among the people killed by the attackers were the village head of Tabanni Gera, the chief Imam as well as women and children.
It was also gathered that 32 corpses were given mass burial at Tabbanni Gera in Gandi district of Rabah Local Government Area Wednesday with the governor in attendance.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Cordelia Nwawe, said the state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Murtala Mani, had gone to the area to assess the situation.
She said details would be made available as soon as possible.
A resident of Tabbani Gera, Malam Ali Na-Huro, said the gunmen attacked the community on Monday evening, killing people and also setting all the houses ablaze.
“I was in the farm working when the attack occurred. I counted more than 30 dead bodies while trying to escape. Many people were killed in my community including the village head,” he stated.
The Sarkin Rafin Dan Tassakko, a village in Goronyo Local Government Area, which is very close to the affected communities, Alhaji Muhammadu Aliyu, said hundreds of people had been displaced by the attack in the area.
Aliyu disclosed that over 200 farmers in his village had abandoned their farms this year because of the threat of bandits.
He said over 70 people had been kidnapped by bandits in the 17 villages under his district in the last two years.
Governor Tambuwal condoled with families of the victims who were taking refuge in a school in Gandi town in Rabah Local GovernmentArea.
Addressing the victims at Gandi Model Primary School, the governor described the situation as unfortunate, saying government would continue to support security agencies to tackle the situation.
“Government will continue to work with all security agencies to ensure the safety of the people especially at this difficult time,” he said, adding, “Our presence here is in order to sympathise with the victims of this unfortunate incident and give them the necessary relief materials in order to ease their suffering most especially at this difficult time.”
Tambuwal Calls for Overhauling of Security System
Later Wednesday, the governor in a statement called for the total overhauling of the nation’s security system, saying the spate of killings all over the country was becoming frightening.
He said the killings have remained persistent.
According to him, “The growing spate of mindless shedding of innocent blood, especially of policemen and other security personnel on their lawful duty posts, has brought a new dimension to the reprehensible state of insecurity in the country.”
He added: “Last May, three policemen were shot dead in Sokoto State by kidnappers, who abducted a Syrian national they were escorting. A few days later, four police officers were ambushed and killed in Benue State. Last week seven policemen were reportedly gunned down in cold blood in Abuja, and their arms and ammunition taken, by unknown persons.”
He said the question from every law abiding citizen today was, “Who will protect us, when even those constitutionally charged with the responsibility of protecting our lives and property have, themselves, become vulnerable targets of criminals?”
CAN Holds National Prayers Session
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Wednesday held national prayers session to express anger against the barbaric killing of Christians in the Middle Belt and other parts of the country by suspected herdsmen.
The prayers came after CAN was believed to have come under undue pressure from powerful quarters to stop a proposed nationwide protest against the killings.
The prayer session, which attracted Christian leaders across the country witnessed outpouring of prayers and emotions over the killing of Christians in Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Taraba States and some states in the south.
Speaking at the event, CAN President, Rev. Supo Ayokunle, said the increasing cases of killings in the country had almost made Nigeria a deserted land, adding that they were already becoming an embarrassment to the country.
“The church is one and wants the carnage to stop,” Ayokunle said.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Metropolitan See, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said despite the divisions, there was need for the unity of Christians in the country, particularly, as it concerns the killings by suspected herdsmen and other socio-political issues.
According to Onaiyekan, “There is no need to allow divisions to make it difficult for us to work together for things that are good.
“At the higher level, efforts are been made for Christians to come together and unite with one voice.”
Also speaking, the Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Ministry, Dr Paul Enenche, said expectations were high for the federal government to live up to its responsibility, stressing: “The primary objective of government is the protection of lives and property, and all we can say is that the leadership of the country should do more in securing lives and property.”