• Taraba village alarmed over ‘helicopter loaded with arms’
• Herdsmen raze Falae’s farm in Ondo State
• Fayose threatens leader of Ekiti cattlemen
A group, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), is operational in North Central and South South Nigeria. It deploys foreign terrorists that unleash mayhem on communities, with a view to exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions.
This disclosure was made in a report presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The report was described as the result of findings by security operatives, including the Department of State Services (DSS).
A presidency source, at the weekend, said the discovery of the ISWA network followed the arrest of suspected attackers consisting of Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in Benue State.
The source noted that many of the persons in custody spoke only the French language, unable to communicate in any of the Nigerian dialects.
This is the first time security officials have confirmed the activities of ISWA.
The source disclosed that a “good number” of the terrorists have been arrested, not only in the Benue valley, but also in towns in Edo State, specifically Akoko-Edo, Okpella and Benin, and Okene, in Kogi State.
“It is understood that the cell, which has members in different parts of the country, concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing cold-blooded murder on innocent citizens.
“There was intelligence that they planned several attacks, here, before and during Christmas and New Year. Their bombing targets included fuel depots, foreign missions, police and military establishments.
“Their network is very wide. So much was achieved by the DSS, which made a significant number of arrests in the last two months that helped preempt the attacks. This saved Nigeria from the spate of major terrorist attacks witnessed elsewhere, syndicated by ISIS worldwide,” the source said.
The source added: “We are learning more and more about this complex and sophisticated network. This is the main reason the secret service is not parading those suspects so far arrested. It has become clear to us now that the challenge facing this country is a serious one.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed that Buhari has been receiving “report upon report on the situation in Benue and other states”.
He, however, said he had not been briefed on any of the reports.
This is coming barely three days after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday, inaugurated the Sanctions Committee charged with tracking and freezing funds for terrorist groups in Nigeria.
The committee, headed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, consists of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunu; Director-General of DSS, Lawan Daura; and Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.
Also included are Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai; Director General of the National Intelligence Agency; and the Director General, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit.
In Taraba State, meanwhile, a helicopter allegedly packed with arms and ammunition was said to have made a stop at Jibu village, Ibi Local Government Area.
In a statement, yesterday, spokesman for the state governor, Bala Dan-Abu, said the incident might be a plot to arm a militia preparing to attack communities in the state.
He said a similar sighting preceded an attack in Agatu last year and called on security agencies to unravel the mystery behind the craft.
Member representing the area in the state House of Assembly, Josiah Aji, said he was notified of the development, adding that the council chairman and relevant agencies have been alerted.
Some residents of the area told The Guardian via phone that armed security operatives have been deployed to investigate the matter.
Police spokesman, David Misal, however, described the report as a mere rumour.
But it was real in Ondo State yesterday when suspected herdsmen burnt down the farm of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae. And in neighbouring Ekiti, Governor Ayodele Fayose, warned the leader of Fulani herdsmen, Muhammed Abashe, that he would be held responsible for any further attack in the state.
The governor was reacting to the recent killing by suspected herders of a Tiv woman at Orin Ekiti.
Fayose said Abashe failed to provide leadership by not stopping his kinsmen from destroying farms and attacking residents at the slightest provocation.
“If you still want to stay among us, you must accept the responsibility of ensuring that none of our peoples’ farms is destroyed by herdsmen any longer. None of our people must be killed by your men. If any killing or destruction of the farms of our people occurs again in that area, I will ensure that I use the law to fight you. This is the last warning I am giving you,” said Fayose.