Many people around the world woke up in the morning of the first day of 2020 and thanked God that they were alive to see the new year. Many made new vows, pledging to abrogate their old ways for new ones. Some modified their old habits to fit into their newly found moods. Many also thought they should carry on with whatever they were doing from the previous year. But in all of that, two things stood out clearly: two things nearly all of them had in common. They shared the faith and the hope that 2020 would usher in peace and prosperity into their lives and into the lives of their family members and their friends. It was a desire that crisscrossed many territories, many countries.
But it didn’t take long for those aspirations to be thwarted by the horrendous activities of terrorists. In Nigeria, the entire first month of the year was more or less a festival of deaths. A catalogue of the number of deaths was computed by Charles Kumolu, the deputy editor of Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper. Kumolu contended that a better way of realizing the real danger posed by insecurity in Nigeria was through perusing the number and intervals of violent deaths. In the first month of the year alone, no less than 320 citizens were killed violently according to his revelations. He estimated that at least 10 people were killed daily in January alone, mostly by Boko Haram insurgents, suspected herdsmen, kidnappers and other criminals.
On 2 January, Nigerian soldiers killed eight Boko Haram terrorists when the sect members tried to infiltrate Michika in Adamawa State. On 4 January, twenty-three persons were killed as gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, invaded Tawari community in Kogi Local Government Area of Kogi State. On 6 January, at least 30 people were killed in Borno after an improvised explosive device detonated on a bridge in Gamboru. On the same 6 January, suspected pirates killed four Nigerian navy operatives and abducted three foreign sailors in an attack on a dredging ship. Armed assailants raided the oil dredger MV Ambika as it worked in the waterways of the Niger Delta Area. Again on that 6 January, an army officer and three soldiers were reportedly killed by bandits in Gwarm village, Munya Local Government Area of Niger State. According to reports from the area, the soldiers who were on routine patrol ran into an ambush laid by the bandits and all of them lost their lives. The same 6 January, two unidentified middle-aged men were set ablaze by an irate mob for robbing a barber’s shop along Akai Effa Road opposite Orange Resorts in Calabar Municipality during the early morning hours.
On 7 January, Agence France-Presse (AFP), an international news agency with its headquarters in Paris, France, founded in 1835 and reputed as the world's oldest news agency reported that at least three soldiers were killed in intense fighting between soldiers and Islamist militants around a key garrison town in the Lake Chad area. The soldiers died when their army vehicle burst into flames after a car filled with explosives rammed into their convoy. On 7 January again, armed bandits killed one man, Yasir Usman, in an attack in Katsina.
On 9 January, Plateau State Police Command said gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, killed 12 persons and injured one in Kulben village, Kombun District of Mangu Local Government Area of the state. On 11 January, four air force officers were shot dead by bandits in Kaduna. On 14 January, farmers and herdsmen clash claimed two in Sobe, Owan Local Government Area of Edo State. On that same 14 January, four naval ratings were killed in Gbagira village, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State while rescuing three foreigners from pirates.
On 16 January, bandits killed 29 people in Babban Rafi village in Gummi Local Government Area of Zamfara state. They stormed the village in a commando-style, shot sporadically and killed many people while residents scampered for safety. That same 16 January, bandits attacked the convoy of Alhaji Umaru Bubaram, Emir of Postikum, and killed six people.
On 18 January, one soldier and four Boko Haram militants were killed during an attack on an aid facility in Ngala, Borno state. On that same 18 January, sectarian violence led to four deaths in Igalamela-Odolu in Kogi State. On 18 January again, Boko Haram killed four soldiers and kidnapped scores in Bama, Borno state. The same 18 January, suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked United Nations’ facility housing several aid groups in Ngala, Borno state. At least 20 internally displaced persons waiting for assistance at the facility were killed.
On 19 January, vandals tampered with a pipeline and caused an explosion that killed five in Alimosho, Lagos state. That same 19 January, the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), an armed group formerly part of Boko Haram, released the video of a boy executing a man identified as a Christian hostage.
On 20 January, no fewer than 17 soldiers were reportedly killed while many others were abducted in two confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents on Bama-Gwoza highway. The number of casualties on the Boko Haram side was said to be high. The same 20 January, seven persons, including the village head of Tundun Doki in Gwadabawa Local Government Area, Alhaji Hayatu Ardo, were killed by terrorists.
On 21 January, Boko Haram terrorists reportedly killed eight soldiers during a battle in Mainok, about 60 kilometers west of Maiduguri. The insurgents camouflaged in a police vehicle and approached a military base, a military source in Maiduguri said. They then opened fire on unsuspecting soldiers near their trench. On the same 21 January, eight soldiers and several Boko Haram militants were killed during a battle in Kaga, Borno state. Yet on 21 January, gunmen killed four in Keana, Nasarawa state. Again on 21 January, Boko Haram insurgents killed Rev Lawal Andimi who was the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State. They refused a ransom offered for his release. Still on that same 21 January, gunmen killed one and kidnapped fourteen in Batsari, Katsina state.
On 23 January, Boko Haram killed 10 loggers in Dikwa, Borno state and on 24 January, a mob set ablaze two suspected robbers at the Biogbolo suburb of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. On 25 January, twin suicide bombers linked to the Boko Haram sect attacked a mosque in Gwoza, Borno State, killing a 12 year-old child and leaving many people injured. That same day, gunmen killed 13 people, including two women at Kwatas village in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State. The same 25 January, armed bandits who were on rampage in some communities in Niger state killed 11 people, kidnapped tens, and raped their women. The incident was said to have taken place at about 6 am at Kudodo, Galapai, Dnakpala, Makera and Dnalgwa villages of Shiroro Local Government Area.
On 27 January, a man stabbed his girlfriend to death for receiving a phone call from a male friend in Bauchi. On 28 January, a fighter aircraft of the Nigerian Air force, NAF destroyed an elite squad of the Islamic State of West Africa Province and killed many terrorists. On 29 January, tragedy struck at Etitiama Nkporo community in Ohafia council area of Abia State when a man, identified as Kalu Ilum, allegedly shot his wife dead. He was set ablaze by an irate mob as a result of his action. On that same 29 January, suspected herdsmen killed a farmer and a policeman in Owan community in Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State.
On 30 January, a serving member of National Youth Service Corps in Osun State, Adebayo Mukaila, was reportedly killed by a two-man armed robbery gang. That same 30 January, a housewife Rabi, allegedly set herself ablaze. She was said to be jealous of a rival in Gayawa village, Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State.
But the activities of these terrorists were not limited to Nigeria. On Thursday, 30 January, three Chadian troops and a female civilian were killed when the jihadists attacked a military post on an island in Chad. Chadian Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Taher Erda told journalists afterwards that he suspected the attack was from the Nigerian-based Boko Haram. He said Chadian forces were deployed to mop up the area in search of Boko Haram militiamen who fled the area. The attack was part of a campaign by jihadists in the vast, marshy Lake Chad area bordering Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria which gained momentum at the start of the year.
Relating to the development, Ameh Ebute, Nigeria’s senate president by 1993 during the Third Republic wrote to the current senate president, Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan, to intimate him with the fact that the Jihadists had launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009 before they began their incursions into neighbouring countries. A group called ISWAP which had split from Boko Haram in 2016 and was affiliated to the Islamic State was notoriously active in the Lake Chad area.
Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria set up a multinational joint task force committed to stultifying jihadist attacks in the region with the assistance of local militia. But early January, the entire 1, 200 Chadian forces deployed in Nigeria were withdrawn to the Chadian side of the lake. Despite that move, on Monday 27 January, six troops were killed in an ambush on the island of Tetewa on Lake Chad. The previous week, a suicide bomber had killed nine civilians in a village in the same province. On Wednesday the 29 January, five civilians had been killed in a village in northern Cameroon in a suspected Boko Haram attack.
Even Britain and Belgium also shared in the disconcerting alert to an uncertain future. On Sunday, 2 February 2020, armed policemen shot dead a suspected terrorist who, it was feared wore a suicide vest after he grabbed a knife from a shop and stabbed a man and a woman during a brutal high-street rampage in South London. The attack happened just three months after the London Bridge attack where Usman Khan was shot dead by armed police after he killed two people and injured three others, wearing a fake suicide vest.
Police believed that the South London incident in Streatham was part of a proactive counter-terrorism operation that was Islamist-related. A man was fighting for his life in hospital while a woman had non-life threatening injuries following the attack. Scotland Yard said the broad daylight carnage was a terror-related incident around an hour after first reports from the scene. The area remained on emergency police shutdown for several days after the incident.
The police deputy assistant commissioner, Lucy D’Orsi, said: “At approximately 2pm on Sunday two people were stabbed in Streatham High Road, Lambeth. As part of a proactive counter terrorism operation, armed officers were in immediate attendance and shot a male suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene. My thoughts are with the victims and their loved-ones at this time.”
Just minutes after the attack in London, Belgian police also shot a knifeman who, it was believed, stabbed two people on a busy high street in Ghent. The suspect was reportedly injured by officers in Ghent during the incident, according to agency reports.
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, tweeted about the attack. He said: “Thank you to all emergency services responding to the incident in Streatham which the police have now declared as terrorism-related. My thoughts are with the injured and all those affected.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn posted his thanks to those who dealt with the terror-related incident in London on Sunday. “My thoughts go out to those injured and affected by the incident in Streatham," he tweeted. The leader of Britain’s Shadow Government also thanked the police and emergency services for their dedication and quick response.
Labour leadership favourite Sir Keir Starmer added his voice: “Shocking reports from Streatham. My thoughts are with everyone affected. Huge thanks to our emergency services for everything they do to keep us safe.”
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wrote a statement which read: “A man has been shot dead by armed police in Streatham following an incident that is being treated as terrorism-related. A number of people are believed to have been stabbed. I am in close contact with the Met Commissioner and local representatives and wanted to thank our police, security and emergency services staff for their swift and courageous response. They truly are the best of us. Terrorists seek to divide us and to destroy our way of life. Here in London, we will never let them succeed.”
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, wrote: “I am being kept updated by @metpoliceuk on this afternoon's incident in Streatham, which has been declared terrorist-related. My first thoughts are with the victims, our brave police and emergency services and their families.”
In the same vein, Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote: 'All our gratitude goes to the NHS paramedics and emergency services who responded so rapidly to today's incident in Streatham. Thinking of everyone involved. We must never be divided by terrorism.”
Following incessant killings in Nigeria in the first month of 2020, on Sunday, 2 February, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) publicly denounced Boko Haram as the country’s common enemy that was blind to religion, politics and tribe. In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party said the terror group was scheming to stoke tribe-related religious crisis in the country.
Public commentaries on the nefarious activities of Boko Haram, kidnappers and other criminals in the country gathered momentum at the beginning of February. They summed the fact that these attacks were beginning to assume a dangerous tribal and religious slant and must not be allowed to go on.
“True to form, violent extremists and terrorists all over the world would adopt desperate tactics by selecting soft targets for their barbaric and opportunistic attacks. In Nigeria, these godless people are attempting to stoke religious sensitivities by pitching Christians and Muslims against one another through their recent pattern of cowardly attacks. This demonstrates how debased and degraded Boko Haram and those who sponsor it have become. We must not fall for this divisive ploy. In our respective spaces, we should understand that these violent extremists are our common enemies, and are blind to religious and political affiliation and socio-economic status. Our leaders – religious, political, traditional and all others in positions of influence and authority, must now show leadership and temperance in their utterances and actions. Doing otherwise will be acting the scripts and playing into the hands of these fanatics seeking to divide us and pitch us against each other”, the APC said.
Despite measures put in place by government to checkmate insurgency in Nigeria, kidnappers have continued with making the highways most unsafe for commuters. Some unfortunate victims didn’t just live to recount their ordeal because they possibly didn’t meet up with the millions of naira the kidnappers usually demanded. Insurgents have become even more daring while citizens have become more vulnerable than at any other time in the country’s chequered history. No one seems to care about who is funding terrorism in the land. The north-east and middle belt states continue to trail the blaze, suffering the highest number of casualties in the first month of the year.
From the look of things, it would appear that the spate of terrorist activities this year is going to be one massive challenge to law enforcement agencies world-wide. But the battle must not be left for the various affected governments to fight alone. All citizens and in fact all residents must join forces with the government, especially in areas of information gathering and exchange, to ensure that these depraved perpetrators of evil in our society are not given any space to ruin the future of our children and our children’s children for us. That is what happens when you have a common enemy.
By Emeka Asinugo, KSC