- As insurgents tighten grip on Gwoza
From Femi Oyelola, Kaduna & Mustapha Isah Kwaru in Maiduguri
The yet to be declared re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan was challenged yesterday following an ultimatum slammed on the president by Northern Elders Forum (NEF) to address the Boko Haram menace or forget re-election in 2015.
The forum in a statement released in Kaduna yesterday and co-signed by Barrister Solomon Dalung and Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed called on President Jonathan to address the problem of insurgencies and general insecurity bedevilling the nation in three months or be ready to forfeit his 2015 presidential ambition.
The forum said it has the conviction that the insurgency and related security challenges pose threats to the 2015 elections and the survival of the nation.
They strongly advised President Jonathan to bring an end to insurgency in all its manifestations and produce the Chibok girls before the end of October 2014.
According to the statement, “The circumstance under which our fellow citizens in and around Gwoza, in Borno state, in particular live and die will not be tolerated by any people who have a government and a leader sworn to defend them, and they must be reversed immediately.
“In the event that President Jonathan fails to do this, Nigerians will be left with the only conclusion that he has forfeited his right to ask for our mandate beyond 2015,” the statement said.
While expressing dismay over the state of the nation’s security, the forum noted that the economic activities in the North are deteriorating on daily basis.
They also blamed former leaders from the zone, whom they said should be held responsible for the present state of the region for refusing to bring relief to them while in power.
“It is no secret that the vast majority of northerners lament their marginalization, insecurity and poverty, and blames it in large part on the inability or unwillingness of its past and present leaders to utilize all access to power which they enjoyed to bring us redress and relief.
“The NEF joins millions of northerners in appealing to these leaders: General Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), General Abdulsalami Abubakar(rtd), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Architect Namadi Sambo and all retired Chief Justices of Nigeria from the North to raise their level of involvement in the fortunes of our region.
“If these leaders cannot visibly help to transform the fortunes of the North in the next few months, they will leave northerners with the damaging impression that they have abandoned the region and the people to its seemingly irreversible decline and ultimate destruction,” they said.
Meanwhile, members of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents, who seized Gwoza town in Borno state and remained under their total control six days ago, have now turned the area into ‘Islamic Republic’, fleeing residents said.
It was gathered that since dislodging security forces from the town and killing of hundreds of civilians, the insurgents removed Nigerian flags and all symbols of state or Federal authorities placed on all public buildings as well as structures and replaced same with their black-coloured flags with Arabic inscriptions written in white colours, bearing Allahu Akbar (God is Great).
Sources said the Nigerian flags hoisted at the local government secretariat, Borno state Government Lodge, palace of the missing Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Mohammed Idrissa Timta, and schools were all removed and replaced with theirs.
Other public buildings which suffered similar fate comprised of the burnt Divisional Police office and the prison yard, after releasing all the inmates. Others were office of the Fire Brigade, Gwoza military base, General Hospital of the area, and Area Court among others.
Sources from the area also indicated that since the capture of the area, the militants had burnt all relaxation centres which they believed contradicted Islamic legal code.
Presently, they are forcing everyone to come out and observe the five daily prayers inside various mosques; whoever came out late for any reason is liable to 10 lashes”, he added.
However, the wives and children of soldiers at the Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, have maintained their blockade of the barracks 48 hours since they started, in a bid to prevent their husbands and fathers from going to the front.
It was reported that dozens of women and children have since Saturday forcefully stopped military trucks from transporting their husbands and fathers to Gwoza.
The protesters blocked the gates of the barracks that houses the 21 Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian army. They demanded quality fighting equipment for the soldiers. By Monday morning, the protesters were still at the gates, ensuring that no vehicle moves in or outside the barracks. They were said to have taken a short break during the nights, but resumed before dawn.
Peoples Daily could not independently ascertain the veracity of the claim as at the time of filing this report and the army spokesperson, who is the Director, Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, could not be reached for comments.
In a related development, the senator representing Borno-South, Ali Ndume informed that the Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Mohammed Idrissa Timta, who was presumed missing since last week’s attack in his domain, is alive.
The tension over the fate of the monarch was further heightened when Borno state government, at the weekend, said that it had not been able to establish contact with him.