Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas, Ahmed Zannah Khalifa, has alleged that over 1,000 people have been killed by the Boko Haram insurgents in the last one week in the North East region of the country.
Khalifa, who is representing Borno Central in the Senate, spoke on Sunday in an interview with the Daily Independent in Abuja.
He lamented that the casualties in various killings were high due to the inability of the armed forces operating in the area to contain the insurgency.
Khalifa, also a member of the Senate Committee on Industries, accused the Federal Government of not equipping the soldiers enough to be able to surmount the insurgents that have been terrorising the region in the last three years.
He insisted that the terrorist sect was still in full grip of Borno and Yobe states, pointing out that over 20 villages in the areas were under the control of the insurgents.
“Since there are no schools, no markets functioning in those villages, it shows that the Boko Haram are still in total control of the area,” Khalifa said.
Reacting to insinuations that most of the bombings were carried out by the security operatives, Khalifa, a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said: “We are still investigating whether the security personnel were responsible for the bombings. We are not sure yet. But after our investigation, we will be able to say whether there are complexities in the military operations or not”.
He, however, regretted that he had not been able to have access to President Goodluck Jonathan to narrate his ordeals to him in the midst of the crisis, adding that he has been under serious threat because of his position on the crisis in his area.
“I have no access to the President to tell him my ordeals. I have made effort several times to see him, but I could not. He is supposed to look for me as a sitting Senator, not me looking for him,” Khalifa lamented.
On the threat by the Northern elders to take former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, a retired General, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his alleged role in the crisis in the North East, the Senator said: “We are still gathering evidences against him. We have enough, but we are still gathering more. At the right time, we will come up with our position”.
Khalifa implored Jonathan to be more serious in the efforts towards eliminating the insurgents.
He reminded the President that he (President) was elected by the people of Nigeria without a drop of blood, urging him to do everything within his powers to stop the on-going bloodbath in the country.
Meanwhile, residents of Borno State are primed for a three-day fast beginning today and ending on Thursday to seek divine intervention in the resurgence of killings by members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.
According to Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn-Garbai, who issued the directive on Monday in Maiduguri, the fast is to ask for Allah’s help in restoring peace to the state.
“I am appealing to all residents of the state to observe a three-day fasting to seek Allah’s mercy towards ending the crisis facing us”, he said.
“I believe we should continue to seek for Allah’s help toward restoring peace in the state.”
Ibn-Garbai bemoaned the human and material devastation caused by the renewed killings by the terrorists, saying there can be no other time to seek God’s intervention.
Although he said special prayers would be held in mosques and churches during the period, he further implored residents to remain relentless in their prayers afterwards.
Ibn-Garbal’s prayer-and-fasting directive came on the same day the Borno State Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) pleaded for the material and financial support of the Federal Government to bolster the contribution of its members to maintenance of peace in the state.
Spokesman of the group, Iliasu Saidu, said while vehicles would aid the movement of the 2,500-plus youths, an allowance would serve as a steady source of livelihood while also motivating them for the challenge.
“Borno is Nigeria and the people fomenting violence and the killings are Nigerians”, said Saidu, who revealed plans of the state government to recruit another 1,500 youths to the civilian group.
“If we can have assistance from the Federal Government, it will help us to achieve peace. Borno is a beautiful state that must not be taken over by hoodlums.”
Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) again on Monday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to “take time off his premature electioneering campaign” to visit Yobe State to commiserate with the bereaved families of the school children who were brutally murdered by terrorists last month.
Fifty-nine students of the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State, were massacre by the Boko Haram insurgents on March 25.
In a statement in Lagos by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, APC said it is inconceivable that about two weeks after the “heart-wrenching killings of more than 29 schoolchildren, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not deemed it fit to visit the state”.
It said far from being a mere formality, such a visit will provide great succour to the families of the victims, reassure them and other residents of the state that their government has not abandoned them to their fate, and also serve as a morale booster for the troops who are battling the terrorists, against all odds.
‘’There is no other democracy in the world in which that number of schoolchildren will be killed and the head of government will carry on with business as usual.
“Since the killings, President Jonathan has made a national broadcast in which he mentioned the killings only as a footnote, instead of making it the central point of the broadcast.
‘’Since the killings, the President has presided over a wasteful national celebration, in which the drums were rolled out to mark the country’s centenary even as devastated families were still mourning and those injured were reeling from their pains.
‘’Since the killings, President Jonathan has been gallivanting across the country, surreptitiously kick-starting his electioneering campaign for 2015 under the guise of receiving some inconsequential political jobbers now wearing the tag of defectors.
“This junketing has taken the President everywhere, including Sokoto, Minna, Ilorin and Onitsha. But he has pointedly avoided Yobe.
“To put it mildly, the father of the nation has been practically dancing on the graves of those innocent souls. This is not the stuff of leadership and the President must make amends by visiting Yobe today,’’ APC said.
The party said Jonathan should take a cue to what obtains in other lands, especially in the U.S after which Nigeria has modelled its democracy.
‘’In January 2014, U.S President Barack Obama flew to Tennessee, where he spoke at a high school where students were still reeling from the shooting death of just one of their classmates; In 2012, President Obama paid a similar visit to Newtown in Connecticut, where he met relatives of the 20 schoolchildren and eight adults who were shot. These are examples worthy of emulation by President Jonathan,’’ APC said.
It challenged the President to tell Nigerians why he has not or why he would not visit the scene of the gruesome murders.
‘’Whatever his reasons are, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces must not give the impression that there is any part of the country he cannot visit for any reason whatsoever, otherwise he would only have succeeded in handing some sort of victory to the terrorists who have continued to kill and plunder in the North-east,’’ the party added.
In a related development, the United Nations Education and Children Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concerns on the killing of children by the Boko Haram sect.
The Fund said it will, in collaboration with other stakeholders, carry out a verification exercise of the North East region of Nigeria to access the situation on ground.
This is coming jus as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also expressed concern on the human rights and humanitarian condition of women and children especially in the North East following the instability in the region.
To this end, the commission said it was committed to lead the UNICEF and other stakeholders in the campaign against child rights violations in Nigeria, particularly in the North East where insecurity has greatly affected the vulnerable group.
According to a statement by Chief Press Officer in the NHCR, Fatimah Agwai Mohammed, “the Executive Secretary of the Commission Prof. Ben Angwe, gave the assurance when he received a delegation from the UNICEF led by its Country Representative, Jane Gough, who paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja”.
Earlier, Gough had expressed worries over the difficult challenges being faced by children in the North Eastern part of the country, saying most of them are afraid to go to school for fear of being killed or bombed by members of the Boko Haram sect.
Also on Monday, an angry Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology queried the Federal Ministry of Environment for paying N21 million to a contractor who claimed that his firm was currently executing a construction project in the troubled Bama community of Borno State.
The committee has, therefore, directed senior officials of the ministry to institute a probe into the issue and forward their findings to it before their 2014 budget could be approved.
Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Taiye Haruna, had listed the Bama road construction, which also include drainage work and erosion control, as one of the 20 other constituency/intervention projects at different stages of execution and on which N1.4 billion had been paid.
He stated this when he stood in for the Minister, Lawrencia Labaran-Mallam, when the Senate committee led by the Chairman, Bukola Saraki, visited the ministry headquarters in Abuja on oversight functions.
Haruna had drawn the anger of members of the committee when he claimed that his ministry had effectively implemented all the 20 constituency/intervention projects under its supervision and reeled out the details.
Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, a member of the committee, immediately drew the attention of the Perm Sec to the fact that there was no way any contractor could execute any project in Bama between July 2013 and now when the area had been fully occupied by the Boko Haram insurgents.
Kunlere, also a member of the Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence, believes that the claims of the contractors were fraudulent because it was difficult for even his team led by heavily armed military personnel, to gain access to the area when they went there on oversight functions within the same period.
The Perm Sec, however, referred the issue to a director in charge of the project who justified the N21 million paid to the contractors when he said convincing evidences, including documents and pictures, were presented to him.
He told the committee that the N1.4 billion appropriated to the ministry for constituency projects had been fully disbursed to the various contractors that handled them.
(From Biafra Galaxy)