Terror war: Holding down liberated territories – Punch

Terror war: Holding down liberated territories – Punch

Carnage by Boko Haram Islamists since their campaign to enthrone a caliphate in the country started 10 years ago has been horrifying. In the three North-East states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, which are the epicentre of this malevolence, towns and villages have been burnt and have become largely desolate. Many of the about 1.9 million victims and survivors in internally displaced persons camps are living in privation. Ending the terrorists’ orgy of bloodletting demands a new approach. Securing liberated territories permanently against Boko Haram’s counter-attacks should be part of this strategy.
To date, the jihadists continue to make territorial gains and occasionally recapture strategic border villages. This is why the country seems to be experiencing a reversal of fortunes in the war on terror. Evidence abounds where the IDPs returned to their villages but were wiped out sooner than later. As a result, Dambazao, Gwazo, Damask, Nganzi, Gamboru-Ngala, Buni Yadi, Mungono, Mafa, Dikwa, and Damaturu-Maiduguri Highway, among others, are always in the news for the wrong reasons.
The Islamists had been routed in many of these places by the Nigerian military whose onslaughts against them, led to their ejection from the 27 Local Government Areas they had once occupied in the three states. Sadly, recent developments indicate their resurgence, buoyed by the support or involvement of ISIS’ franchisee, the Islamic State in West Africa Province. When the fundamentalists are not retaking some liberated areas, they are being repelled by the military through a combined air and land mauling.
Earlier gains by the military misled the Federal Government to believe that “Boko Haram has been technically defeated.” The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), therefore, often indulged in the triumphalism, echoing that no Nigerian territory was under the jihadists’ control. Many Nigerians never shared this seemingly cheery mood. In fact, present evidence shows that the so-called degraded rogue army is still very active.
A defeated Boko Haram cannot routinely attack military fortresses or invade villages to slaughter defenceless citizens the way it did July last year when it murdered 65 people during a funeral ceremony in the Nganza district, near the Borno State capital, Maiduguri. Just last Sunday, the jihadists killed 30 travellers, abducted others and burnt vehicles in Auno village close to a military checkpoint, on the Maiduguri-Damaturu Highway.
The Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, revealed in December that three LGAs – Marte, Kukawa and Abadam – were under Boko Haram control. Many displaced persons could not return to their bases owing to the fear of Boko Haram attacks. A former Commissioner for Local Government and Emirate Affairs, Usman Zannah, noted that despite the fact that many communities had been liberated, over 350,000 displaced persons were still holed up in resettlement camps. The then Kashim Shettima-led government had appealed to the National Orientation Agency and Nigerian Peace Corps to sensitise them to the need to possibly return to their homes to re-launch their lives. Under the Kampala Convention, IDPs are not forced to return home.
Nigeria should go back to its security drawing board. It is clear that the scorched-earth military approach alone is not enough to defeat jihadists anywhere in the world. It took five years of being ahead of them in strategy, intelligence and equipment for the United States-backed Syria Democratic Front to announce in March 2019 that ISIS had been ousted from Iraq and Syria. The then United Kingdom Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, was spot on with the response that “… we cannot be complacent. They’ve dispersed, and they’ll continue to pose a threat… and that is why we will always remain vigilant.” About 5,200 US soldiers are still in Iraq as part of the agreement to maintain the peace or keep ISIS in check.
Defeating jihadists does not come easy. Forming a broad international coalition will not be out of place. On December 3, 2014, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, diplomats and foreign ministers from 59 countries gathered to plot a way forward against the threat of ISIS. The Buhari regime should acknowledge that the Boko Haram terror campaign has become a global challenge. Nigeria should, therefore, request foreign assistance from friendly partners to improve its military campaign, block the flow of foreign fighters, stop the jihadist financing and funding and address humanitarian crises in the region.
Across the expansive landscapes of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, ravaged by these wanton killings, this tragic scenario is not likely to change until the brutal reality that states should be involved in the security of lives and property is implemented.
To defeat jihadists permanently requires all hands on deck. The present strength of the Nigeria Police Force is grossly inadequate to complement the military’s efforts in defeating the terror groups. Well-trained and well-equipped state security personnel, with knowledge of the environment, culture and language can hold the fort, pending the arrival of soldiers in dire situations.
Nigeria cannot ignore this anymore. This void in the strategy to defeat Boko Haram is basic and Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states should take the bull by the horns by introducing homegrown security initiatives to secure their people. The performance of the Civilian Joint Task Force in this regard, which received the approval of the Federal Government to the extent that 400 of them were formally integrated into the Nigerian Army, underscores this fact.
Fidelity Bank, Gazelle Academy train 200 Sokoto varsity students in skill acquisition

Fidelity Bank, Gazelle Academy train 200 Sokoto varsity students in skill acquisition

Fidelity Bank Plc and Gazelle Academy have trained 200 undergraduates of Sokoto State University (SSU) in the acquisition of skills in fashion design, handsets repair, cocktail and make up.
Speaking at an event in Sokoto Monday, the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Nwankwo, represented by the bank’s Head of Recruitment, Chris Nnawe, said the programme under Fidelity Youth Empowerment Academy Stream 7 (YEa7) is part of the bank’s cooperate social responsibility.
“We in Fidelity bank have targeted programmes on education, environment and youth empowerment. This one you are witnessing today is part of fulfilling our promises to the society,” he said.
Nwankwo said that the programme started in 2016 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, stressing that since then the bank and its partner, Gazelle Academy, have visited more than five higher institutions in the country, as this one is stream 7 of the programme.
According to him, youths were trained to acquire some skills to enable them to be self reliant and also make them to be employers of labour even while in school.
He disclosed that at the end of the training, start packs will be given to each participant to aid him/her to start something of their own, adding that after the undergraduates’ education, they can seek for soft loans from the Small, Medium Enterprise (SMEs) Department of the bank.
On her part, the founder of Gazelle Academy, Mrs Muna Unuozo, said the programme was aimed at equipping the students with skills that they could use while still in school or after graduation.
She said that with the knowledge of the skill acquired, they could fend for themselves even while in school.
Speaking at the event, the Governor of Sokoto State Aminu Waziri Tambuwal thanked Fidelity Bank and Gazelle Academy for chosing the school for the programme.
Tambuwal said that as a responsible government, his administration have prioritized the welfare of the youths in the state.
He enjoined the participants to be focused and concentrate in order to benefit from the training.
Earlier, the Vice-chancellor of the university, Prof. Sani Dangogo, thanked Fidelity Bank and Gazelle Academy for the benevolent gesture, saying the training will go a long way in alleviating the financial burden of the students.
Buhari endangering Nigeria with clannish nepotism – Bishop Kukah

Buhari endangering Nigeria with clannish nepotism – Bishop Kukah

The Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has castigated President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of bringing Nigeria to the brink, with his nepotism and clannishness, supremacist and divisive policies.
The outspoken bishop, famous for saying truth to power from the pulpit, spoke in Kaduna on Tuesday, at the funeral mass of slain Seminarian Michael Nnadi at Good Shepherd Seminary, Kaduna.
Bishop Kukah told the congregation: “We have gathered around the remains of Michael in supplication but also as solemn witnesses to the penetrating darkness that hovers over our country”.
“The immediate family of Michael and the Church lived through the torments of the brutal, harsh and senseless haranguing of the kidnappers who are totally empty of any show of human emotions.
“This is a solemn moment for the body of Christ. This is for us the moment of decision. This is the moment that separates darkness from light, good from evil”.
Kukah’s message reverberated in Aso Rock Abuja, where President Buhari runs the affairs of the nation. The Sokoto bishop is not impressed by the retired general’s stewardship, after almost five years.
“Nigeria is on the crossroads and its future hangs precariously in a balance. It is time to confront and dispel the clouds of evil that hover over us,” Kukah said as he moaned over the insecurity that confronts Nigeria.
Kukah recalled that Buhari was voted into office in 2015 on the grounds of his promises to rout Boko Haram.
“In an address at the prestigious Policy Think Tank, Chatham House in London, just before the elections, Buhari told his audience: ‘I as a retired General and a former Head of State have always known about our soldiers. They are capable and they are well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty.
‘If I am elected President, the world will have no reason to worry about Nigeria. Nigeria will return to its stabilizing role in West Africa. We will pay sufficient attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service. We will develop adequate and modern arms and ammunition.
‘We will improve intelligence gathering and border patrols to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels. We will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development and promoting infrastructural development …we will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester. And I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front”.
Kukah said: “There is no need to make any further comments on this claim. No one in that hall or anywhere in Nigeria doubted the President who ran his campaign on a tank supposedly full of the fuel of integrity and moral probity.
“This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian”.
But the Sokoto Bishop lamented what Buhari has been doing as Nigeria’s leader.
“No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink.
“This President has displayed the greatest degree of insensitivity in managing our country’s rich diversity. He has subordinated the larger interests of the country to the hegemonic interests of his co-religionists and clansmen and women. The impression created now is that, to hold a key and strategic position in Nigeria today, it is more important to be a northern Muslim than a Nigerian Nigerian”.
“No one could have imagined that in winning the Presidency, General Buhari would bring nepotism and clannishness into the military and the ancillary security agencies, that his government would be marked by supremacist and divisive policies that would push our country to the brink.
“Today, in Nigeria, the noble religion of Islam has convulsed. It has become associated with some of worst fears among our people. Muslim scholars, traditional rulers and intellectuals have continued to cry out helplessly, asking for their religion and region to be freed from this chokehold.
“This is because, in all of this, neither Islam nor the north can identify any real benefits from these years that have been consumed by the locusts that this government has unleashed on our country. The Fulani, his innocent kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy. His north has become one large grave yard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.
“Why have the gods rejected this offering? Despite running the most nepotistic and narcissistic government in known history, there are no answers to the millions of young children on the streets in northern Nigeria, the north still has the worst indices of poverty, insecurity, stunting, squalor and destitution”.
Bishop Kukah noted that the Sultan of Sokoto, and the Emir of Kano are the two most powerful traditional and moral leaders in Islam today.
The Fulani, his innocent kinsmen, have become the subject of opprobrium, ridicule, defamation, calumny and obloquy. His north has become one large grave yard, a valley of dry bones, the nastiest and the most brutish part of our dear country.
“None of them is happy and they have said so loud and clear. The Sultan recently lamented the tragic consequences of power being in the wrong hands. Every day, Muslim clerics are posting tales of lamentation about their fate. Now, the Northern Elders, who in 2015 believed that General Buhari had come to redeem the north have now turned against the President,” he added.
He lamented that citizens of some countries were willing to risk their lives for their nations but such is not the case in Nigeria.
“Nigeria is at a point where we must call for a verdict. There must be something that a man, nay, a nation should be ready to die for.
“Sadly, or even tragically, today, Nigeria, does not possess that set of goals or values for which any sane citizen is prepared to die for her.
“Perhaps, I should correct myself and say that the average officeholder is ready to die to protect his office but not for the nation that has given him or her that office”.
He decried that consistent efforts to build Nigeria had failed.
“The Yorubas say that if it takes you 25 years to practice madness, how much time would you have to put it into real life? We have practised madness for too long.
“Our attempt to build a nation has become like the agony of Sisyphus who angered the gods and had to endure the frustration of rolling a stone up the mountain. Each time he got near the top, the gods would tip the stone back and he would go back to start all over again. What has befallen our nation?”
On the persecution of Christians in the north, Bishop Kukah explained, “The persecution of Christians in northern Nigeria is as old as the modern Nigerian state. Their experiences and fears of northern, Islamic domination are documented in the Willinks Commission Report way back in 1956.
“It was also the reason they formed a political platform called, the Non-Muslim League. All of us must confess in all honesty that in the years that have passed, the northern Muslim elite has not developed a moral basis for adequate power sharing with their Christian co-regionalists.
“We deny at our own expense. By denying Christians lands for places of worship across most of the northern states, ignoring the systematic destruction of churches all these years, denying Christians adequate recruitment, representation and promotions in the State civil services, denying their indigenous children scholarships, marrying Christian women or converting Christians while threatening Muslim women and prospective converts with death, they make building a harmonious community impossible.

“Nation building cannot happen without adequate representation and a deliberate effort at creating for all members a sense, a feeling, of belonging, and freedom to make their contributions. This is the window that the killers of Boko Haram have exploited and turned into a door to death. It is why killing Christians and destroying Christianity is seen as one of their key missions”.

Aba Diocese: Episcopal consecration of Monsignor Augustine NdubuezeEchemaholds on Thursday, February 13, 2020

Aba Diocese: Episcopal consecration of Monsignor Augustine NdubuezeEchemaholds on Thursday, February 13, 2020

Arrangements have been concluded for the episcopal consecration of the bishop-elect of Aba Diocese, Monsignor Augustine Ndubueze Echema on Thursday, February 13, 2020.

A release by the organizing committee said the Episcopal consecration and installation starts at 10am at Christ the King Cathedral Aba, while reception takes place immediately after Mass.

The Principal Consecrator is the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, His Excellency Antonio Guido Filipazzi, while His Grace Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri and His Grace Most Rev. Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Apostolic Nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, will be the 1st and 2nd Co-consecrators respectively.

The Abia State Governor, Dr.Okezie Victor Ekpeazu is the special guest of honour while Chief Sir Leo Okoye is the Chairman of the reception.

NCR Aba news correspondent reports that Christ the King Cathedral Aba, venue of the consecration is already wearing a new look, while the faithful are looking forward to the occasion with enthusiasm.

The bishop’s first Episcopal Mass holds on Sunday, February 16 at CKC, Aba at 11am.

The appointment of Msgr. Echema came four years after the death of the former Bishop of Aba Diocese, His Lordship, Most Rev. Vincent Valentine Ezeonyia who died in Febtuary 2015 after a brief illness. He was consecrated bishop in 1990.

Aba Catholics have continued to hail the appointment of Msgr. Echema as a wise decision taken by Pope Francis.

Born on December 28, 1958 in Ohuhu Nsulu, then Diocese of Umuahia and now of Aba, Msgr. Echema was ordained a priest on August 16, 1986 for Owerri Diocese.

Until his appointment as bishop-elect of Aba, on December 28, 2019, Msgr. Echema was a Professor of Theology at CIWA and Chaplain, Laity Council, Owerri Province.

There’s still darkness in Igboland – Archbishop Obinna

There’s still darkness in Igboland – Archbishop Obinna

By Emeka Ani

It was a double celebration at Maria Assumpta Cathedral Owerri on Sunday February 2, as the Archdiocese celebrated the “Word of God Sunday” and “Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.”

Pope Francis’ Apostolic letter, MotuProprio, “AperuitIllis,” issued on September 30, 2019, established that “the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God.”

The MotuProprio coincided with the 1,600th anniversary of St. Jerome’s death and his feast day.

The Apostolic Letter underscored the significance of the Bible, the practice of Reading the Bible and witnessing its teachings in our lives.

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Anthony Obinna explained that the two celebrations were being marked on the same day, February 2, because of pastoral reasons, which prevented the celebration of the Word of God Sunday on the Third Sunday, January 26.
On the presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Archbishop said, the Lord is not just entering into the temple, “he wants to enter into your life, your family, your community, Imo State and Nigeria.”

Later in his homily, the local ordinary said before the Word of God reached this part of the world, Igboland was in total darkness, as almost everything was deified, including forests, water etc, turning them into small gods (agbara), mysterious and frightening deities.

“It was this darkness that was responsible for the killing of twins, which was prevalent uptill 1940s in some parts of Igboland and other outrageous practices.”

“He said the word of God has come into the world, into our lives and families, seeking to enter places where there are still darkness.

Enthronement of the World of God at Assumpta Cathedral last Sunday.

Photo: Enthronement of the World of God at Assumpta Cathedral last Sunday.

Archbishop Obinna regretted that some people in Igboland still prefer darkness to the Light of salvation.

He observed with regret that ndigbo, blessed both by nature and exposure and favoured with the light of faith, light of business and light of education, have slipped into darkness so much so that other nations are now pitying them.

“God blessed us in so many ways but pride, arrogance, greed and hatred even among ourselves have become a major problem,” he noted and pleaded with ndigbo to allow the light of Christ to return to their land so that our younger generation will not have a bleak future.

On politics, Archbishop Obinna condemned a situation where politicians abandon their political parties and switch over to the party in power.

According to him, “we now have “Ogbanje” politicians, Any Government in Power (AGIP) politicians,” adding that under this development ndigbo have no more position in Nigeria and we can no longer be trusted neither do we trust ourselves.

Worried by the political development in Imo State and Nigeria, Archbishop Obinna said he had hoped that things would get better and that he would retire quietly with joy but as things stand now, “I’ve been left in a state of ambiguity and uncertainty.”

He expressed optimism that the mess we’ve made of Imo State and Nigeria will one day be cleansed. “With men this is impossible, but with God it is. However, it has to come through submission to the truth and not through institutionalized corruption.”

Quoting Pope Francis, Archbishop Obinna said the Word of God “challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion,” adding that His Word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light.”

The high point of the Candle Mass was the enthronement of the Word of God in the Cathedral.