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In line with the decisions reached at the Paris summit on security last month, the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroun, Chad and the Benin Republic will be meeting in London on June 12 on the Boko Haram insurgency that has ravaged North-eastern Nigeria and has spilt over to the country’s neighbours in the north.
The African ministers will also meet with their counterparts from the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), France, Canada and the European Union (EU) on the sidelines of the World Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.
According to a statement made available by the British High Commission in Abuja yesterday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague would host the London Ministerial Meeting on Security in Northern Nigeria, which would consider what more could be done both to improve regional coordination, and on economic and social development to counter the threat of Boko Haram.
“Since the appalling abductions of over 200 school girls in Chibok by Boko Haram, the international community has worked together closely to support Nigeria in the fight against terrorism,” Hague said.
He added that all countries involved in the plan to rescue the girls had already reached agreements on intelligence sharing; coordinated border patrols; developing a regional counter-terrorism strategy; and wider action, including supporting the victims of sexual violence and the empowerment of women and girls.
This coordinated action has sent a powerful message of intent, Hague said, adding that the meeting would build on the agreements and consider further options to combat terrorism in northern Nigeria.
“This shows the determination of those in the region, with the support of the international community, to defeat Boko Haram. We continue to work through our close international coordination on the ground in Nigeria to help secure the release of the abducted school girls,” he added.
The UK foreign minister described as appropriate the meeting that would be taking place within the Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, as the abduction of the Chibok girls underlines the dreadful risk posed to women and girls in conflict and why the UK is mobilising the world to tackle sexual violence during conflicts.
The statement also quoted Prime Minister David Cameron as expressing readiness to provide more assistance to Nigeria.
Speaking at the G7 meeting in Brussels, Cameron said: “In the longer term, we stand ready to provide more practical assistance to help Nigeria and the region to strengthen their defence and security institutions and to develop the expertise needed to counter these barbaric extremists.”
More People Killed in Borno, Adamawa
But as the foreign ministers prepare to strategise on how to stop Boko Haram, its members continued their killing spree in the North-east, slaughtering 47 people in attacks in Borno and Adamawa States.
In Bargari village in Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, 45 persons were reportedly killed, while several others sustained gunshot injuries during an attack by suspected members of the sect on the community on Wednesday night.
Bargari is on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, and about 30 kilometres south east of Giwa Barracks, which came under attack on March 14, this year.
It was learnt that the attack on Bargari left many people displaced as the insurgents were said to have set many houses ablaze. Shops, vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles were also set on fire.
The marauders were also alleged to have carted away many food items and livestock.
The sound of the attack re-echoed in parts of Maiduguri, leaving many residents of the ciy trembling in fear.
A resident of the village, Mallam Abubakar Maikudi, who was lucky to escape the onslaught, having taken cover in the surrounding bush, said when he sneaked into the community after the insurgents had left to pick up some toiletries, “I counted 45 dead bodies including one of my neighbours.”
Maikudi said: “The gunmen who came into the village at about 9 pm gathered residents in one place convincing them that they had come to Bargari to propagate the teaching/preaching of Islam, and when almost all residents were gathered, a larger number of terrorists came from nowhere and opened fire on the congregation.
“We started running for our dear lives, I was able to escape without being shot, but the gunmen were able to kill over 40 and injured many others before they started looting properties and set structures ablaze, razing the whole village completely.”
Another resident, who was lucky to escape, but did not want his name in print, recounted that the gunmen numbering about 20 ambushed the village, “they drove in in four Toyota Hilux vehicles, and had AK47 rifles, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and petrol bombs. They wreaked havoc before they fled towards the Sambisa forest”.
The incident was also captured on the BBC Hausa Service monitored in Maiduguri, which said about 45 persons were killed by the Boko Haram sect in Bargari village.
All attempts to get official confirmation were unsuccessful as the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Gideon Jubrin, could not be reached.
However, a top police officer, who was not authorised to speak, confirmed the attack to journalists, revealing that, “45 people were killed when the suspected terrorist group invaded Bargari village, leaving several others seriously injured". Also, gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram yesterday killed a soldier in Madagali Local Government of Adamawa Statem after which they razed the old Catholic Church in the area and the Madagali Development Area Secretariat.
An eyewitness confirmed the attack and reported that the gunmen struck the area at about 4am yesterday and immediately overran the military checkpoint where they killed the soldier.
He said the insurgents also snatched two military patrol vans at the checkpoint in the crossfire with the soldiers which lasted for three hours.
Mr. Anthony, one of the residents of the area, said the leader of the insurgents openly told them that they should not panic as they were not after them but had come with the sole aim of killing soldiers on patrol in the area.
“When we heard gunshots, we started running for our dear lives but the leader of the insurgents was pleading with us not to be afraid because they were not after us,” he said.
Another resident further said the gunmen, who overran the area with about 10 Hilux vans and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), operated for nearly three hours unchallenged as the soldiers manning the military checkpoint all took to their heels on sighting the insurgents.
However, officials at the Madagali Local Government headquarters said the town was thrown into a state of confusion when fighter jets with Nigerian colours bombarded parts of the area leading to the death of a girl.
“Shortly after the insurgents left, an aircraft deployed to repel them dropped three bombs on a church, a mosque and near a police post. A girl identified as Laraba Michael was instantly killed in the affected church while another girl was injured,” a resident, Mallam Sani Dandaura, said.
Dandaura told THISDAY on the phone that the military fighter jets arrived the scene of the attack late, as the insurgents had fled before the jets' arrival.
“Despite their late arrival, they released bombs on the town which led to the killing of a girl while destroying many properties,” he said.
The Public Relations Officer of the Adamawa State Police Command, DSP Abubakar Othman, confirmed the incident but said details of the incident were not handy at the time he was contacted by THISDAY.
Every attempt made to reach the Army Public Relations Officer, Captain Nuhu Jefaru, in Yola proved abortive.
FG Asks Media to Blackout Sect
Meanwhile, as the terrorists continue with their murder spree, President Goodluck Jonathan has urged the media to desist from promoting the activities of the sect.
He also said some media reports on terrorist activities instigate different faith-based groups against each other.
The president said this yesterday in Abuja during the presentation of a book titled “What They Don’t Teach You in Broadcasting”, which was authored by Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, a seasoned broadcaster.
“Terrorists need publicity to be recognised and they depend on the media but they do not deserve the type of publicity the media is giving them,” he said.
Represented by the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, Jonathan said the terrorists and their acts were being promoted through the media.
The president acknowledged that the media has a responsibility to report the sect’s activities, but said terrorists should not be given the platform to sell their evil ideas.
“I am not saying you should not report them, but we should instigate the generality of the society against them, not promoting them. Evil people are using the outlet of free media to sell their evil ideas.
“The media should help us to sensitise the public, so that for us to win this battle, we must join hands together. We need to leave politics, ethnic or religious sentiment aside,” he said.
The president, who emphasised the need for professionalism in the media and reportage on security issues in the country, urged journalists to imbibe the culture of objectivity and consider national interest first.
Author of the book, Orji, a former member of staff of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), said the necessity for a free and strong media built on the rule of law was the major philosophy behind the publication.
He added that the existence of free and fair journalism would be a major driver of national development.