THE Senate, yesterday, raised the alarm that following the Army’s involvement in internal security operations across the country, it has become overwhelmed and overstretched.

According to the Senate, the Army is facing its own challenges and by the nation’s constitution, ought not to be involved in civil security arrangements.

The Senate spoke as the bad wind of insecurity continued to blow across the country, yesterday with a driver shot, and nine persons, including a mother and three children kidnapped in multiple attacks in Ondo State.

This is even as Kaduna State government and the Army yesterday dismissed reports that 15 persons were killed by bandits on Abuja-Kaduna highway, saying only two persons were killed in the attack on motorists on Sunday.

Also, three persons were feared dead in clashes in Lagos of which the police said 12 suspects have been arrested

Meanwhile, the leadership of the House of Representatives yesterday met with the heads of security agencies in the country behind closed doors over the recent nationwide protests against police brutality and human rights abuses, tagged #EndSARS.

Speaking yesterday in Kaduna during a visit to various Army formations in the state, as part of the annual oversight obligations of the Upper Chamber, Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, All Progressives Congress, APC, Borno South, said the Army was overstretched providing internal security in 34 states of the country.

Ndume, who was accompanied by four other senators at a meeting with the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Major General Usman Mohammed, said the Army must be supported to enable it succeed.

Army’s overwhelmed

Ndume said: “The Army is overwhelmed. Imagine, they operate in about 33 to 34 states across Nigeria. They’re very overstretched. They don’t have the number. The Army we used to know is very different from the Army of today. But we are hoping that things will get better.

“We are delighted to be here. We insisted on this oversight visit for some reasons. The Army is facing its own challenges. By our constitution, the Army isn’t supposed to be involved in civil security.

“But we have security challenges across every part of the country. The Army had to be drafted to provide internal security. Right now, the Army provides internal security in about 33 states in the country. We can’t sit in Abuja and talk.

“We need to see for ourselves. We are hoping that the Army will get back to its feet. As a country, we are known to have a formidable Army. But these days, we are worried.”

On the recent kidnappings along Kaduna-Abuja road, Chairman, Ndume, who urged the Army to go after bandits and kidnappers in their various hideouts, said: “In the last few months, we have had peace along the Kaduna-Abuja road. But on Sunday, what happened is worrisome. Along Birni Gwari, the security situation is also alarming. Unfortunately, the Army doesn’t have the number needed to provide security.”

Earlier in his remarks, the GOC, General Mohammed, told the lawmakers that contrary to media reports, only two persons were killed along Kaduna-Abuja road on Sunday and not 15, adding that the two victims were a driver and a woman.

The GOC said nine persons who were kidnapped by the bandits were freed on Sunday by soldiers who immediately swung into action as soon as the attack happened.

He promised to go after the armed bandits and kidnappers during the Christmas period, adding that more camps belonging to bandits would be located and destroyed in the coming days.

General Mohammed continued: “We want to appreciate the support of your committee. We are succeeding because of your support. We need your support to keep succeeding. We are not unmindful of the security challenges.

“Right now, we have three operations going. There is one along the Kaduna-Abuja road. We are going after bandits during this Christmas period. We will flush them out. We have been seeing their recent activities along that road. We will keep doing our best.

“We always go after the bandits in their camps. We have dislodged them from their camps. On Sunday, only two persons were killed. Nine persons were kidnapped. We went after them and the kidnappers left their victims and ran away.

“It is false to say that 15 people were killed. That’s not true. We will keep dislodging them. We will redouble our efforts and ensure that they don’t have their way.”

A member of the Senate Committee on Army, a retired Army Colonel, Senator Bulus Amos, APC, Gombe South, noted that many villagers and peasants in areas where bandits operate, often serve as informants, and urged the Division to be more tactical in its operations.

His words: “Most people who are farmers, bike riders and villagers are informants. These bandits have informants everywhere. Soldiers need to go after them. If they meet them face-to-face, soldiers will finish them.

‘’Soldiers need to disguise and find a way to get the people to cooperate with them. These bandits live with us. They’re part of us and they live in communities. We need to do more.”

Driver shot, mother, three children, five others abducted in Ondo

A 45 year-old mother, her three children and five others were abducted by gunmen over the weekend in Ondo State.

Vanguard gathered that the mother and her children were travelling along the Owo-lfon highway in Ose Local Council on Friday when they were abducted.

Also, five indigenes of the local council, who were on their way to Lagos on Sunday were ambushed and kidnapped at Ago Asabia, before Elegbaka.

The driver of one of the vehicles conveying the victims was said to have been shot by the kidnappers while trying to escape from them.

Vanguard gathered that the mother and her children were heading to lmoru for an annual age group festival when the unfortunate incident occurred.

The gunmen reportedly emerged from a nearby bush, brandishing dangerous weapons and took the victims away to an unknown destination.

Kidnappers demand N50m ransom for the three children

Hours later, the middle aged mother was released by the kidnappers who held on to her children.

Sources within the victims’ family said the kidnappers have contacted them to pay a ransom of N50m for the release of the three children.

The family is said to be pleading with the kidnappers that it cannot raise such a huge amount of money.

Police not aware

Contacted, the state police command image maker, Tee Leo lkoro, said none of the incidents was reported to the police command.

Ikoro said he had spoken with the Divisional Police Officers, DPOs, in charge of the areas and that they had claimed ignorance of the reports.

Last week, 16 market women leaders, including the lyaloja of lsua Akoko, Chief Mrs Hellen Edward, the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Akoko Southeast and the council’s Director of Budget and others, were abducted along Akure/Owo highway.

While the police and other security personnel were able to rescue 10 of them, the families of the remaining six had to pay N5m ransom before they were released by their captors.

Also, the Bursar of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, in Owo, Mr. Adejuwon Matthew, last week narrowly escaped being abducted by a gang of hoodlums along Akungba/Ikare road.

Adejuwon escaped being abducted when kidnappers struck at Waterworks/Upenmen Road, in Owo town.

He reportedly left the campus after working hours and while heading for Akungba-Akoko, ran into some herdsmen crossing the highway with their cattle apparently to stop vehicles on the highway.

While his driver was trying to cross the highway before cattle could cover the entire highway, the kidnappers riddled his vehicle with bullets.

The bursar and the driver managed to escape, despite several gunshot at their vehicle.

Bandits killed 2 not many along Kaduna-Abuja Road – Govt

Contrary to claims that many were killed by bandits in the attack along Kaduna-Abuja road, the state government has said two persons were killed in the attack.

The Kaduna State Government, however, said it was grateful for the operational feedback it received from the military on the successful rescue of nine persons on Sunday after being kidnapped on the Akilubu-Gidan Busa axis of Kaduna-Abuja Road.

Samuel Aruwan, Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs,in a statement, yesterday, explained that the government had also received feedback from a citizen who listed five relations as being kidnapped, details of which had been submitted for immediate security action.

“On the other hand, the government is appealing to the media to be conscious and circumspect, and aid security efforts towards containing banditry, rather than unwittingly giving more life to the criminal activities of the bandits.

“As at this moment, the Doka General Hospital, Military, Police and Federal Road Safety Corps have separately confirmed that two persons lost their lives, contrary to the reports being circulated which claim that many were killed.

“The state government is open for inquiries and feedback from all and sundry, including the media, for sound documentation and resolution.

“Furthermore, while not holding brief for security agencies, the Kaduna State government wishes to strongly debunk the reports that the Military and other security operatives have abandoned the route.

“To uphold such a narrative would amount to a denial of the huge sacrifices being made by security personnel, with several paying the supreme price while patrolling the route.

“There is, indeed, presence of troops at strategic locations on the route, comprising Operation Thunder Strike (OPTS), a response of the Defence Headquarters with both ground and air components, having operational headquarters (with a functional helipad) at Kateri town.

“There is also a team from the Inspector General of Police (Operation Puff Adder) with two outfits (Special Tactical Squad and Intelligence Response Team) complementing operations with technical support.

“Despite yesterday’s setback, Kaduna State government will continue to support and encourage security operatives on the frontlines as they work to protect citizens and their right to live and travel in peace.

“The governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, appreciates the security personnel who have continued to show deep patriotism and uncommon bravery in tackling security challenges in the state.

“Malam Nasir El-Rufai also commends communities and critical stakeholders that have been supportive in this challenging time. The state government will continue to provide citizens with updates on the security situation.”

Three feared dead, 150 vehicles, 50 shops destroyed as hoodlums clash in Lagos

What started as a mere fight between two hoodlums in Mushin area of Lagos, has degenerated and resulted in violence which has left three people dead with others in critical conditions while about 120 vehicles were destroyed and 50 shops vandalised, yesterday.

The fight which reportedly started on Sunday night, during a social function organised at Alaafia street was said to have degenerated till Monday and extended to Daniel street, Idi-Araba and Idi-Oro areas where the violence was at its peak.

Due to the incident, Lagos State government has imposed a curfew on Mushin effective from 9pm of Monday.

According to eye witnesses’ account, the victims of the violence involved a grandmother who was ganged raped.

The hoodlums were said to have gone berserk, looting about 50 shops and carting away the items just as a about 150 vehicles were destroyed as the hoodlums embarked on door to door attack on residents.

An eye witness Mr Ganiyu Olalekan said scores of vehicles were vandalised saying, “ without exaggerating, I counted about 150 vehicles and 50 shops which were destroyed and looted by the hoodlums.”

Another eye witness Madam Bewaji Tolani corroborated Ganiyu saying she had to run for her dear life when the situation almost got out of hand. “Thank God for the Nigeria Police which restored calmness to the area,”

The Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command were said to have moved to the scene to douse the tension.

As at the time of this report, the affected areas were almost deserted as commercial and vehicular movements were paralyzed.

On ground were nine Police patrol vans, Zone D Police Command as well as the personnel from Itire, Aguda and Suruiere Divisions.

Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Muyiwa Adejobi said no casaulty was recorded.

Newsmen learned that trouble started Friday night after some members of a rival cult group invaded the venue where another group was performing initiation for new members.

The invasion led to hot exchange of fire, resulting in a crisis that spilled over to many streets in the area.

It was gathered that dangerous weapons such as cutlasses, guns, broken bottles, and sticks were freely used by the warring cultists, leading to pandemonium as motorists, passers-by and residents ran for safety during the mayhem that lasted for hours.

The story, however, took a new twist after a heavily armed detachment of both mobile policemen and men of the OP Messa arrived the scene and the warring cultists engaged them in exchange of fire.

It was learned that the police team succeeded in dislodging the cultists, arresting no fewer than 12 of their members with dangerous weapons.

Reps in closed-door meeting with service chiefs

Meanwhile, the leadership of the House of Representatives yesterday met with the heads of security agencies in the country behind closed doors over the recent nationwide protests against police brutality and human rights abuses, tagged #EndSARS.

The meeting, which began at about 2:15 pm, was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase.

The Defence Headquarters, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, among others, were represented by top officers.

The House had on October 20, 2020, considered and adopted a motion on #EndSARS, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an Executive Order to address some of the broader issues on police brutality.

In the motion, titled ‘Need to Address the Possible Breach of National Security under the Peaceful Protests Across the Country’, the House had also appealed to protesters to have faith in the National Assembly and the Executive, “in our collective efforts towards finding a lasting solution to the lingering issues of general police misconduct.”

The lawmakers had also resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to be chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, the membership of which should comprise the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; the Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, and three members each from the Committees on Defence, Police Affairs, Army, Air Force, Navy, Interior, National Security and Intelligence, and Human Rights.

The panel is to interface with security agencies, other relevant agencies and interest groups to “ensure a peaceful end to the protests.”

Wase, in his brief remark before the meeting began yesterday, said: “The essence of the committee is to address, towards a peace exit and ensuring that we have a harmonious nation.

‘’This is the essence of the committee. This is our first meeting and we are going to take input from the various services. This is a matter that concerns security and no nation discusses its security situation on camera. With this, I want to beg the press to kindly excuse us so that we can have a very robust discussion”

Heads of security agencies physically present at the meeting were the Comptroller-General of NCS, Ja’afaru Ahmed; Comptroller-General of NSCDC, Abdullahi Mohammed; Director-General, Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi; Comptroller General of NIS, Mohammed Babandede.

Others include the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, who was represented by Coordinator, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. John Enenche; Chief of Defence Training and Operations, Maj.-Gen. C. Udeh; Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, who was represented by Acting Director of Operations, Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. B. R Sinjen; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, represented by Chief of Training and Operations, Naval Headquarters, Rear Admiral I. T. Olaiya; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, represented by Chief of Policy and Planning, NAF, Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Idris; and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, represented by Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Logistics and Supply, Aminchi Baraya.

Aminu Masari, governor of Katsina, has alleged that 99 per cent of bandits terrorising the state are from Zamfara.

Several communities in some states across the north, including Zamfara, have come under attacks by bandits and kidnappers.

Speaking with journalists at his home in Kafur area of the state, Masari said three local governments that share boundary with Zamfara have become “danger zones”, adding that the activities of the bandits are truncating his administration’s effort to restore normalcy in Katsina.

The governor said bandits from Zamfara must be dealt with in order to restore peace in Katsina.

“The nefarious activities of bandits from Zamfara had truncated the efforts of my administration in restoring normalcy in the state,” he said.

“The only places that we are having problems are Faskari, Sabwa, and Dandume local governments, but all other local governments in the state, especially Jibia, Batsari, Safana and Danmusa there is relative peace.

“From the reports I receive every morning, if you find any case of rustling or kidnapping, it is mostly around Faskari, Sabwa, and Dandume. We have been complaining to the military authority to take full control of Gurbi-Gidan, Jaja-Kaura, Namoda areas of Zamfara state.

“Unless security is fully reinforced in these areas, being the danger zone where most of the bandits live and move freely, we cannot secure Katsina without security in Zamfara, because 99 percent of all the attacks and kidnappings happening in Katsina were from Zamfara.”

The governor’s statement comes days after 26 girls, who were kidnapped from their homes in Katsina, were rescued in Zamfara state.

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