Friday, November 28, 2014

Mosque attack in Kano, Nigeria leaves dozens dead

Dozens have been killed in a gun and bomb attack during prayers at one of the biggest mosques in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, officials say.

Many more people have been hurt, with one rescue official putting casualty figures at almost 400.

The Central Mosque is where the influential Muslim leader, the Emir of Kano, usually leads prayers.

The emir recently called for people to arm themselves against Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

No group said it had carried out the attack, but the assumption is that Boko Haram was behind it.

The group has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009 and has killed more than 2,000 people this year, rights groups say.

President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack, calling on all Nigerians "to remain united to confront the common enemy".

He said the government would "continue to take every step to put an end to the reprehensible acts of all groups and persons involved in acts of terrorism". 'Helter-skelter'

Nigerian police said 35 people were killed in the attack, but some eyewitnesses said far more people lost their lives.

The rescue official, speaking to Agence France-Presse, put the casualty toll at 120 dead and 270 hurt, although this has not been independently confirmed.

Three bomb explosions were reported in and around the mosque. The attackers also turned gunfire on worshippers.

Some reports say the first bomb was hidden in a car which was driven straight into the worshippers.

One eyewitness told the BBC's Focus on Africa: "The imam was about to start prayer when he saw somebody in a car trying to force himself into the mosque. But when people stopped him, he detonated the explosions. People started running helter-skelter."

There was pandemonium as people ran for their lives.

But then several men then opened fire on the crowd killing more people. Three of the gunmen were caught, and - as the terror turned to rage - they were killed on the spot, the BBC's Will Ross in Abuja reports.

BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman said one witness at a local hospital had described the scenes there as being the most horrible he had ever seen.

It is clear it is not only Christians who face the threat of violence in northern Nigeria. This is a major mosque, frequented by one of the country's most influential Muslim leaders, Kano's emir.

Emir Muhammad Sanusi II has criticised Boko Haram and only last week urged civilians to take up arms against the group. This has raised questions as to whether he was the target of today's attack - although he was out of the country at the time.

While violence in remote rural areas is no longer news for many Nigerians, the increasing attacks in larger cities are sending shockwaves across the country. The military's ongoing counter-terrorism efforts will need more concrete results to boost public confidence.

Our correspondent says Boko Haram will be the main suspects, as the attack bore all the hallmarks of the group.

No-one from the group has yet commented.

Boko Haram has stepped up attacks against civilian targets since the Nigerian military launched an offensive last year.

Boko Haram was also behind the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno state this year, an act that sparked international outrage.


Related stories: Emir of Kano former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi calls Nigerians to arms over Boko Haram

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram 

Bomb blast kills dozens in Adamawa, Nigeria

At least 25 people are reported to have been killed in an explosion in north-eastern Nigeria's Adamawa state.

Some reports said the blast was caused by a roadside bomb and occurred near the town of Mubi, close to the Cameroonian border.

This week Mubi was recaptured from Islamist group Boko Haram, which controls many towns in the region.

In April, the group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, causing international outrage.


A spokesman for the governor of Adamawa state told the BBC that most of the victims of the bomb attack in Marabar-Mubi, about 30km (18 miles) west of Mubi, were civilians, although five of the dead were said to be soldiers.

Earlier reports put the death toll as high as 35.

A witness told the Reuters news agency that several buses caught fire in the roadside explosion.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nigeria petroleum Minister appointed OPEC President

 Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison- Madueke, as newest president. Diezani was elected at the 166th General Meeting of the organization held on Thursday in Vienna Austria, making her the first female president of the organization.

Before her election, Diezani was the Alternate President of OPEC, a position she has held since January 1. She replaces Abdourhman Atahar Al- Ahirish, Libya’s vice Prime Minister for Corporation.

OPEC, an association of 12 oil producing countries, has 81 percent of the world’s proven crude oil reserves. The bloc, which works to maintain a stable and favourable oil price among its members, have been under pressure from the collapsing global crude oil prices.

It is expected to make decisions on how to tackle the price decline, though a sense of division surrounds measures to take. While the body’s poorer members want a cut in production to stem the price slide, the richer ones are thought to be not so enthusiastic, fearing it will affect their market share.

Diezani, born 1960, the same year OPEC was established, was formerly Nigeria’s Minister of Transport from 2007 to 2008. She was subsequently appointed Minister of Mines and Steel from 2008 to 2010 before accepting the position of Minister of Petroleum Resources 2010. Her appointment made her the country’s first female Petroleum Minister.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Islamic leader accuses Nigerian military of cowardice

Nigeria's top Islamic leader on Monday accused the military of fleeing when Boko Haram attacks and terrorising civilians, in the harshest ever criticism from the key cleric, as violence persisted in the northeast.

A statement from the country's top Muslim body, the JNI, described the military's handling of the five-year Islamist uprising as "unfortunate, worrisome and embarrassing".

The JNI speaks for Nigeria's top cleric, the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, and included the harshest ever-criticism of the military from a key Islamic leader.

"Soldiers take to their heels and abandon their bases, arms, ammunition and other military hardware on the approach of the insurgents!" the statement said.

"Nigerian Security Forces only surface after the deadly attacks and terrorise an already terrorised people by installing road blocks and searching homes," it added.

The condemnation came after similar remarks last week from Nigeria's number two Islamic cleric, the Emir of Kano, and will likely infuriate President Goodluck Jonathan's government, which expects traditional monarchs to abstain from political commentary.

In a speech released at the weekend, defence spokesperson Chris Olukolade meanwhile accused the media and other "campaigners" of distorting the military effort against Boko Haram, tarnishing Nigeria's global image and hurting troop morale.Bodies lying dead

Another attack occurred Monday, when suspected Boko Haram gunmen entered a market in the northeast town of Damasak at about 11:00 (10:00 GMT) and opened fire on unarmed traders, a military officer and a local government official told AFP.

The militants were disguised as traders, carrying containers they claimed were full of goods for sale but which in fact were stuffed with AK-47 rifles, the official, Mohammed Damasak, said.

The gunmen "inflicted horror", he said, adding: "Many traders escaped with bullet wounds while many are lying dead at the market."

A military officer with direct knowledge of the attack but who requested anonymity said soldiers had deployed to the market and were battling the militants "for control of the town".

Damasak, in northeast Borno state, is close to the Niger border, a remote region with a poor telephone network.

It was not immediately possible to establish a death toll or whether the Islamists had chased out the military.

Boko Haram is believed to have taken over more than two dozen towns in recent weeks as part of a campaign to establish a strict Islamic state in the northeast.Government should 'wake up'

While there has been no official response to the tough JNI statement, it will likely ratchet up tensions ahead of Nigeria's general elections in February.

The main opposition All Progressives Congress is widely expected to nominate a candidate from the mainly Muslim north against Jonathan, who is a southern Christian, and Nigeria's religious divide will be a key factor in the vote.

The JNI, speaking on behalf the Sultan, condemned the recent Boko Haram violence while urging the government "with the loudest voice, to wake up to its fundamental and obligatory responsibility of protecting lives".

It accused the government of "wallowing in diatribe" against a growing number of critics who say the military response to Boko Haram's five-year uprising has been woefully inadequate.

Stop 'ridiculing' our nation

Military spokesperson Olukolade said Nigeria's management of the Islamist conflict had been hugely distorted by the media and "campaigners" who have concealed their political bias against Jonathan.

The attack on so-called campaigners was a reference to the Bring Back Our Girls protesters carrying out daily marches to demand the release of the 219 schoolgirls held hostage by Boko Haram since mid-April.

The local media valued "reporting war" above "the nation's image or collective destiny", he said in a speech in the US city of Atlanta.

The foreign press had shown "disdain for objective reportage" and inflated claims of rights abuses by Nigerian troops, he added.


Related stories: Nigerian soldiers attack own army commander

Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram  

Suicide bombings kill more than 60 in crowded market in Maiduguri, Nigeria

Two explosions at a crowded market in northeastern Nigeria have killed more than 60 people, sources told Al Jazeera.

The twin bomb blasts on Tuesday hit the Monday market in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, the sources said.

"After the first explosion happened and people started to gather, a second explosion took place," Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Abuja, said.

"Many people are saying that they believe the second explosion was carried out by a female suicide bomber. At least that is what an initial reports are indicating."

Soldiers and police officers cordoned off the area while rescue workers helped survivors to the hospital.

Hospitals have been flooded with injured residents, Al Jazeera sources said.

No official statements have been issued yet.

Maiduguri is a stronghold for the armed group Boko Haram. Borno state is one of the three states in northeastern Nigeria that are under a state of emergency because of the extremist violence.

Towns seized

Also on Tuesday, government and security sources told AFP that Boko Haram had taken over another town in Nigeria's northeast.

Maina Ma'aji Lawan, who represents Borno in Nigeria's senate, said the group was in control of the border town of Damasak.

Nigerian soldiers and hundreds of residents fled across the frontier to seek sanctuary when the heavily armed fighters opened fire on traders on Monday morning, he said.

"There is not a single male in Damasak," Lawan said. "Boko Haram is in control because all males and soldiers have fled."

Boko Haram has seized more than two dozen towns in Borno and neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa states, marking a change in strategy from its previous trademark of deadly hit-and-run strikes or high-profile strikes against government, police or military targets.

The group wants to create an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, and its seizure of towns has raised fears about a potential loss of government control in the region.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Boko Haram kill 48 fishermen

Islamist militants from Nigeria's Boko Haram have reportedly killed 48 people in an attack on fish sellers near the border with Chad.

A fish traders' group said some victims had their throats slit whilst others were tied up and drowned in Lake Chad.

The attack took place on Thursday, but the news took several days to come to light because Boko Haram has destroyed mobile phone masts in the area.

It was the second major attack in two days by Boko Haram.

In Thursday's attack, the traders were on their way to Chad to buy fish when militants blocked their path near the village of Doron Baga, some 180km (112 miles) north of Maiduguri in Borno state.

Abubakar Gamandi, the head of the fish sellers' association, said the militants had used no guns.

"The attackers killed their victims silently without the use of the gun to avoid attracting attention from the multi-national troops," he told AFP news agency.

Troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger have been deployed to the area and have a base at Doron Baga, but the military task force has had little impact, says the BBC's Will Ross in Lagos.

On Wednesday, Boko Haram gunmen attacked the village of Azaya Kura, also in Borno state, killing at least 45 people.

In this attack too, victims' hands were tied behind their backs and their throats were slit. The attack was apparently aimed at punishing the community after four insurgents were pointed out to soldiers and were shot dead.

Boko Haram has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

It has stepped up attacks against civilian targets since the Nigerian military launched an offensive against the group last year.


Friday, November 21, 2014

China to build $12 billion railway system in Nigeria

A state-owned Chinese company has signed a $12 billion agreement to build a railway along Nigeria’s coast that it billed as China’s single largest overseas contract, yesterday.

China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. (CRCC) signed the official construction contract with the Nigerian government on Wednesday in Abuja.

The Nigerian railway will stretch for 1,402 kilometres (871 miles) along the coast, linking Lagos, the financial capital of Africa’s largest economy and leading oil producer, and Calabar in the east, according to the report.

The $11.97 billion deal marks China’s largest single overseas contract project so far, it said, citing CRCC.

The news came two weeks after Mexico cancelled a $3.75 billion bullet train deal only days after it was signed with a Chinese-led consortium headed by CRCC — the sole bidder — reportedly due to concerns about transparency.

CRCC chairman Meng Fengchao said the Nigeria project will adopt Chinese technological standards and lead to $4 billion-worth of Chinese exports of construction machinery, trains, steel products and other equipment, Xinhua said.

It will create up to 200,000 local jobs during the construction and a further 30,000 positions once the line is operational, he said.

“It is a mutually beneficial project,” Meng was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Trains will travel at a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour on the link, the report added.

China has dramatically stepped up its presence on the African continent in recent decades as it seeks more resources and new markets for its economy. Trade between China and Nigeria totalled $13.6 billion last year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promised more investment and more Chinese technical expertise during a visit earlier this year.


Related stories: Nigerian government signs $1.49 billion construction deal with China

Nigerians suffering in Chinese prisons

Boko Haram attack leave 45 people dead

The leader of a vigilante fighter group in Nigeria says Boko Haram militants have killed about 45 people in an attack on a village.

Muhammed Gava of the Nigeria Vigilante Group said the assault occurred Wednesday in Azaya Kura village in northeastern Nigeria's Borno state. He told The Associated Press on Thursday that the heavily armed Boko Haram militants surged through the village in several trucks, destroying houses and carting away food and livestock.

Shettima Lawan, a local politician, mourned the attack, telling the AP: "I am still searching for motives behind the mass killing and destruction."

The village is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno. The state has been hit the hardest by Boko Haram's five-year insurgency.

The militants continue to pursue their aim to carve out an "Islamic caliphate" under their black and white flag. Last week, Boko Haram fighters captured Chibok town, where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped six months ago. Nigeria's army recaptured Chibok on Saturday.

At least 1.5 million people have fled their homes since Nigeria declared a state of emergency in May 2013, according to U.N. figures.


Related stories: Boko Haram captures more territory in Adamawa as Nigerian forces flee

Nigerian military take back Chibok from Boko Haram

Police break up scuffle in Nigerian parliament

Nigerian security forces have fired tear gas inside parliament, just before a crucial debate on security in the conflict-ridden north-east.

Reports say the police were trying to stop House of Representatives speaker Aminu Tambuwal from entering.

Mr Tambuwal defected to the opposition from the ruling PDP last month. His former colleagues have since argued he should be stripped of his speaker role.

Senate leader David Mark ordered both chambers to close until next week.

Political tensions are high in Nigeria, ahead of general elections next year.

It is a coincidence that this row happened on a day when an important bill was to be debated by the lawmakers.

After the defection of the speaker of the House of Representatives from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition, PDP members have publicly called for his impeachment.

Lawmakers from the ruling party even tried to recall the House from its recess, but the courts decided that only the speaker is constitutionally empowered to do so.

Last month the Nigerian police withdrew the security aides attached to Aminu Tambuwal after his defection, saying he ceased to be the speaker of the house.

Nigerian police are notorious for being partisan and actively support the wishes of whoever is in power.

If Mr Tambuwal had been absent from Thursday's crucial sitting, PDP lawmakers could have impeached him and proceeded to approve the extension of the state of emergency with little opposition.

Mr Tambuwal's defection is a further blow to President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election in February.

Mr Tambuwal adjourned the House shortly after he defected in late October, apparently to ensure he could not be unseated by PDP representatives.

Thursday was the first full session of the House since his defection.

Parliamentarians were due to debate a presidential bill seeking the extension of the state of emergency in three states hardest hit by the militant group Boko Haram.

BBC Hausa editor Mansur Liman says many opposition MPs opposed the extension of the state of emergency because they say it has failed to bring an end to the insurgency.

Witnesses said security agents attempted to block Mr Tambuwal as he arrived at parliament, and also locked out other opposition politicians.

Images showed suited politicians scaling the gates outside of the assembly building.

Agents then fired tear gas, which filled the lobby for several minutes.

Mr Tambuwal reportedly managed to get into the assembly building only after other politicians scuffled with security agents.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nigeria Football Federation accepts blame for Super Eagles failure to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has said it accepts the blame for the Super Eagles' failure to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

The African champions finished third in Group A following Wednesday's 2-2 draw with visiting South Africa in Uyo.

NFF president Amaju Pinnick said it was a time for sober reflection rather than looking for scapegoats.

"The NFF takes full responsibility for what has happened," he said.

"It is a tragedy for us to come so near and yet fail to reach the finals."

Nigeria suffered a troubled qualification campaign where they not only struggled with form on the pitch but also were affected by deep divisions in the NFF, while coach Stephen Keshi was in and out of the job.

Yet the team's victory over Congo on Saturday put their fate in their own hands and a win against already-qualified South Africa at home would have sealed their place in the finals.

"We made so much effort and sacrifice in Congo to achieve the victory we needed there on Saturday and really had no business bungling it here," added Pinnick.

"However, our commitment is to build a sustainable football culture in the country and nothing has changed.

"This is a disappointment but for us, we gave it our best shot and supported the team fully."

Pinnick, who had sanctioned the appointment of a foreign coach before a presidential order led to Keshi's return, said Wednesday's failure could turn out to be blessing in disguise.

"This has happened but we believe it will work together for us to toil hard and achieve a renaissance that will take Nigeria football to much higher heights than it has ever been," Pinnick's statement continued.

Under-fire caretaker coach Keshi admits his players underestimated the South Africans, who have never beaten Nigeria in a competitive fixture since 1993.

"Maybe we took South Africa for granted and we paid dearly for this." said Keshi.

Hull City striker Sone Aluko, who scored both of Nigeria's goals, said the whole team was devastated.

"I am disappointed, everybody is disappointed," he said. "We did not get the result we wanted and we now have to pick ourselves up as a team."


Related story: Nigeria fails to qualify for Nations Cup

Nigeria fails to qualify for Nations Cup

There will be no Africa Cup of Nations defence for Nigeria when the best of the continent file out in Equatorial Guinea next January following Super Eagles 2-2 home draw with South Africa in Uyo wednesday night.

Just like in 2012 when Equatorial Guinea co-hosted that year’s edition with Gabon, Super Eagles are going to be conspicuously missing in action. It is even worse this time around because Nigeria has joined the unenviable list of cup holder like Zambia who failed to defend their title at the very next edition.

Against all expectations, Coach Stephen Keshi and his wards finished in a dismal third place in the Group ‘A’ of the 2015 AFCON qualifiers. South Africa topped the group on 12 points while Congo Brazzaville snatched the second ticket on 10 points following their 1-0 victory over Sudan.

Bournemouth striker, Tokelo Rantie, was the star of the South African team with his brilliant brace.

After several wasted efforts by the Nigerian forward with Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike and Ike Uche the greatest culprits, Tokelo easily dash past Kenneth Omeruo and Azubuike Egwuekwe to face Vincent Enyeama on a one-on-one.

The Lille safe hands hand no answer for the brilliant shot fired by the South Africa in the 42nd minute to put the Bafana Bafana one goal up. It was a sheer class act!
Tokelo, spotting jersey number 17 was to return three minutes after the break to increase his tally. That goal completely shut down the home fans that included Governor Godswill Akpabio inside the brand new Ibom International Stadium in Uyo.

But Sone Aluko was to revive hope for Nigeria in the 68th minute when he latched on an Ike Uche rebound shot to drive home a powerful shot to pull back one for Eagles. All efforts to get the much needed equalizer did not materialize until in the stoppage time to tie the game at two-all.

Hopes of Nigeria picking the available best loser ticket fizzled with DR Congo defeating Sierra Leone 3-1 in Group D to end with 9 points. The battle for that slot is between the Congolese and Egypt who had a late fixture against Tunisia last night. Victory for the Pharaohs would mean goals advantage may decide the tie.

This Day

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Emir of Kano former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi calls Nigerians to arms over Boko Haram

One of northern Nigeria's most influential Muslim leaders has called on people to defend themselves against attacks by the Boko Haram militant Islamist group.

The Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, said residents should "acquire what they need" to protect themselves.

The BBC's Will Ross, in Nigeria, says such an intervention is very unusual.

A police spokesman said the Emir's comments were a "call for anarchy" and should not be acted on.

The emir, who until earlier this year was governor of Nigeria's central bank, normally stays silent on political matters.

He made the comments at a prayer meeting, following several further attacks in recent days blamed on Boko Haram.

Jihadists from the group continue to cause havoc in parts of north-east Nigeria, capturing towns and villages where they have been imposing their own strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Primary schools in one of the worst-affected areas have begun reopening after being closed for the past eight months.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden", often attacks educational establishments.

Some of the schools are to be protected by self-defence groups.Deserting soldiers

The emir, who strongly criticised the government when he was a banker, said people should not be afraid of the militants and should prepare to defend themselves.

"These terrorists slaughter our boys and abduct our girls to force them into slavery," he said.

"People should not sit idle and say prayer is the only solution. People should be made aware of the importance of being in a state of preparedness and make sure they acquire what they need to protect themselves. We should be ready to give our lives."

The emir said residents should not wait for help from the military. There have been numerous reports of soldiers deserting, saying they are not as well equipped as the militants.

Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said: "Any call for citizens to arm themselves is a call for anarchy and lawlessness. And this is not allowed under our laws. Such a call should be disregarded. The police [force] is living up to its duty to protect lives and property."

Civilians have already played a key role in fighting the insurgency by forming local vigilante groups (known as civilian joint task forces) and this is now a wider call for everyone to stand up and be counted.

The emir may not have mentioned the group known as Boko Haram by name but this was a strong condemnation of the insurgents. It is highly unusual for the emir of Kano to be so outspoken on this issue.

Muhammad Sanusi was a persistent critic of the government when he was central bank governor and some of his detractors may criticise him for speaking out now but there is no denying that the situation in north-east Nigeria is deteriorating.

The emir's strong message contrasts sharply with the government, which has stayed almost silent on the conflict except for the oft-repeated promise that the insurgents will be defeated.

Over the weekend a local vigilante group helped the military recapture the town of Chibok which Boko Haram had seized 48 hours earlier.

Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town in April, sparking global outrage.

Schools reopening

Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has repeatedly targeted villages in Borno state in recent months.

There are reports of many Boko Haram members being killed in Sunday's raid.

Schools in Borno state were shut down eights months ago because of security concerns after attacks by the militant group.

State officials said 450 primary schools were expected to reopen on Monday in a staged process intended to lead to the reopening of almost 1,400 schools in the state.

The BBC has confirmed that some primary schools in the state capital, Maiduguri, have already reopened.

The chairman of a state committee on education, Mohammed Dongel, said fencing had been erected around schools and security guards were ensuring "24-hour surveillance".

Secondary schools in Borno are due to remain closed until internally displaced people sheltering in them can be moved to alternative accommodation.


Related stories: Video - Sanusi Lamido's TEDx speech - Overcoming the fear of vested interest

Central bank governor Lamido Sanusi suspended

Time Magazine Lists Lamido Sanusi on World's 100 Most Influential People

Video - Nigerian short film Chuks premieres at Toronto International short Film Festival

On November 14th, 2014. Nigerian filmmakers premiered their short film titled Chuks at the Toronto International Short Film Festival.

Chuks is a businessman who deals in a peculiar business. For a handsome fee, he facilitates the transportation of desperate Nigerian illegal immigrants looking for greener pastures in North America.

Official selection at 2014 Toronto International Short Film Festival.

Official selection at 2015 Pan African Film Festival Los Angeles.

Cast: Udoka Oyeka, Emeka Menakaya, Selena Broughton, Uzo Menekaya

Directed by Chidi Nwaozomudoh

Written by Chidi Nwaozomudoh and Chiedu Nwaozomudoh

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka says Nigeria lacks genuine leaders

The Noble Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka yesterday lamented the insecurity in Nigeria and blamed it on lack of genuine leadership.

Speaking after receiving the honourary award of the university of Ibadan, he said if the country had genuine leadership, Nigerians would not be at the mercy of Boko Haram.

Soyinka who specifically asked the representative of President Goodluck Jonathan at the award ceremony, the Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau to deliver his message, cautioned the president on the huge amount of money being spent on sports.

While noting that the president had spent so much on sports, he suggested that more money be allocated to education and enlightenment.

He said that Nigeria was covered with cloud of shame and dereliction of responsibilities, adding that what was happening in institutions of learning in the north could happen in any part of the country.

“Something happened. It is what we are doing today. Yes, it is a festive occasion. But, we are here and we know we are sitting under a cloud, it’s heavy cloud; it’s cloud of embarrassment of shame, a feeling of dereliction or solemn irresponsibility towards the children.

“We are sitting here under a cloud of impotence of a calamity that was not without notice.

“You all know why we are all here, it is in the course of learning and till death, we will not stop learning. It is all about learning and that is what life is all about. We never stop learning,” he said.

According to him, this cloud is made up of a sense of humiliation.

He lamented that school children were sent out on errand and they did not return, saying “the errand we sent is what we are celebrating today.

“This is what creates this festive atmosphere. Though, it is a festive mood, but our young protagonists went on that errand and they did not come back; we gathered them in preparation for this day and they never came back,” he added.

President Jonathan who was represented by the Minister of Education, Malam Shekarau, described education as the bedrock of nations’ development.

, saying the federal government would give necessary support to ensure provision of qualitative education at all levels through effective teaching, learning and provision of infrastructure.

To this end, he said government had increased budgetary allocation to education with a view to ensuring accelerated development.

While noting that funding of education should not be left for government, he called on the public sector to contribute to the proper funding of education in Nigeria.


Related story: Video - Nigeria's Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka speaks to Aljazeera about Boko Haram and Nigeria today

Monday, November 17, 2014

Africa's richest man Nigerian Aliko Dangote to get oil refineries running in Lagos by 2018

 Dangote Group, controlled by Africa’s richest man, expects an oil refinery it is building in Nigeria to come on-stream in late 2017 or the first half of 2018.

The plant in the Lagos area will be able to process 500,000 barrels of crude a day, George Nicolaides, Dangote Industries’ operations director for petroleum refining, said in an interview at the Platts African Refining Summit in Cape Town today.

“The site is being cleared, the plant is being designed,” Nicolaides said. “We are close to the beginning of detailed engineering.”

In September last year, Dangote said it had agreed on a $3.3 billion loan with 12 Nigerian and foreign lenders to build the refinery as well as a petrochemical and fertilizer complex costing a total of $9 billion. At the time, the facility in Africa’s biggest economy was expected to be completed in 2016 and the capacity of the refinery was put at 400,000 barrels a day.

“We have a very ambitious construction schedule,” Nicolaides said. “I’m not sure about the history of those dates.”

While Nigeria is Africa’s top producer of crude oil, it relies on fuel imports to meet more than 70 percent of its needs. Four state refineries with a combined capacity of 445,000 barrels a day are operating at a fraction of that because of poor maintenance and aging equipment.

Dangote selected Engineers India Ltd. (ENGR) to do most of the detailed engineering work for the new plant. Construction contractors have yet to be appointed.

“Supplying the local market is the primary objective,” Nicolaides said. “Naturally we can move product to the region. The government is being very supportive, very enthusiastic about this project. We are not looking for or wanting any particular subsidies.”

The group owns Dangote Cement Plc, the country’s biggest company by market value, Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, Dangote Industries Ltd. and Dangote Oil Services Ltd. Its president is Aliko Dangote, who is worth $20.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.


Related story: Video - Aljazeera speaks with Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote

Nigerian military take back Chibok from Boko Haram

The Nigerian army says it has recaptured the north-eastern town of Chibok, which was seized by Boko Haram militants on Thursday.

Boko Haram fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the village in April, sparking global outrage.

The group, which says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, has repeatedly targeted villages in Borno state in recent months.

There are reports of many Boko Haram members being killed in Sunday's raid.

Correspondents say Chibok was retaken late on Saturday, after dozens of military vehicles were seen heading to the village.

A local vigilante force was part of the operation.

This was a joint operation by Nigerian soldiers with a large number of members of a local vigilante force. The success of the mission offers some hope of further success against the insurgents who have been seizing towns and villages in north-east Nigeria, often with little resistance.

The vigilantes would have been desperate to flush the jihadists out of the town and may have felt they had very little to lose by taking them on. A decision was clearly taken to retake Chibok as fast as possible. It is geographically no more significant than other towns and villages still in the hands of the jihadists but its name resonates around the world due to the tragedy of the 219 abducted school girls and so it was important for the government and military to win this battle.

Larger towns like Gwoza have been held by Boko Haram since August and it is surprising that there has not been more urgency to dislodge them from there. There has been a depressing diet of news from the north-east but the recapture of Chibok is a rare piece of good news from an area in crisis.

'Still dangerous'
"Troops continue pursuit of fleeing terrorists and arrest of the wounded. Normalcy is restored," Nigeria's army said on its official Twitter feed.

The military has clearly made it a priority to recapture Chibok, which was held by the insurgents for 48 hours, the BBC's Will Ross reports from Lagos.

However, many residents say the jihadists still have a presence in the surrounding villages and so the area is not safe, our correspondent adds.

Many Chibok residents have moved to other parts of the country, fearing more attacks.

Last month, the group dismissed the government's claims to have agreed a ceasefire. The government had said the ceasefire would set the stage for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.


Related story: Boko Haram seize Chibok - home of kidnapped schoolgirls

Friday, November 14, 2014

Boko Haram seize Chibok - home of kidnapped schoolgirls

Boko Haram militants have seized the north-eastern Nigerian town of Chibok, from where they kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April.

Militants attacked and took control of the town, in Borno state, on Thursday evening, residents who escaped told the BBC.

Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted villages around Chibok over recent months.

The group says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.

The schoolgirl kidnappings in Chibok caused worldwide outrage and sparked a social media campaign. Changed tactics

A senator for Borno state, Ali Ndume, told the BBC Hausa service that security forces posted in Chibok, a relatively small, mainly Christian town, ran away when the insurgents attacked.

Residents told the Sahara Reporters news website that the militants headed to the centre of Chibok and declared that they were taking it over as part of their caliphate.


Related stories: Video - The state of Nigerian governance and Boko Haram

The fake ceasefire with Boko Haram

U.S. responds to Nigeria's allegations with evidence showing aid and support given to Nigerian military

The United States has faulted the claim by the Nigerian government that it is standing in the way of the Nigerian military’s quest to procure weapons to strengthen its war against the extremist Boko Haram sect.

Answering questions during a press briefing, the U.S. Department of State spokesperson, Jen Paski, said Wednesday the American government has been supporting the Nigerian military in the area of intelligence sharing, training of soldiers and other measures in combating the insurgency.

On Monday, the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Ade Adefuye, had accused the U.S. of letting Nigeria down in its hour of need by refusing to help the country procure weapon to combat Boko Haram.

“We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly,” he said. He said the U.S. was standing in the way of the Nigerian military procuring lethal equipment that would have helped the country end the deadly insurgency mounted against Nigeria by Boko Haram.

Dismissing the claims that the Nigerian military were involved in human rights violations, Mr. Adefuye also flayed the U.S. government for the manner it’s sharing intelligence with the Nigerian military, arguing that despite the claim by the Americans that things have improved in that aspect, “it is still there”.

However, during Wednesday’s briefing in Washington, the Department of State spokesperson said the U.S. has actually increased its support for the Nigerian military, especially in the last six months.
She said her government has improved intelligence sharing with the Nigerian military and has actually approved and sold some military equipment to the Nigerian military.

“Let me just lay out the facts of our assistance. Over the past six months, the United States has started sharing intelligence with Nigeria, began training a new army battalion and held numerous high-level discussions with Nigerian authorities on additional measures to best address the Boko Haram threat.

“We have also provided and approved sales of military equipment to its armed forces. These decisions are made, of course, after careful scrutiny to ensure they conform with United States law,” she said in response to a question about Ambassador Adefuye’s claims.

She explained that the U.S. refused to sell some Cobra attack helicopters to the Nigerian armed forces early this year because it was concerned the military had no capacity to operate and maintain it.
Ms Paski said there were also concerns over the protection of civilians during military operations.

“We shared those concerns with Nigeria before this decision and subsequent to it,” she said.
She said that the Nigerian military has however purchased helicopters from other sources and that the U.S. government did not prevent such purchases.

“Nigeria has purchased helicopters that originated in countries other than the United States, and nothing in our decision prevents Nigeria from obtaining weapons and equipment from other sources.
“We’ll continue to look for ways to deepen our cooperation with Nigeria to help it acquire the systems and skills needed to restore peace and security. But obviously, we’ve provided a great deal of assistance over the past several months.”

Ms Paski said the U.S. would continue to urge the Nigerian military to investigate allegation of abuses by soldiers and to do more in the area of training the country’s security forces to improve its effectiveness.

“We wouldn’t be raising that concern if we didn’t feel and others didn’t feel that they were warranted,” she said.

Premium Times

Related stories: U.S.A. blocks Nigeria from buying military helicopters from Israel

The fake ceasefire with Boko Haram

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Central Bank of Nigeria issues new 100 Naira digital note






The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has unveiled the first digital N100 paper note, to commemorate Nigeria’s Centenary. The new note was unveiled at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting, in a presentation by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.

The new note which has features for the visually impaired will be officially issued into circulation on Friday December 19, 2014. The unveiling is part of the series of activities lined up for the eventual injection of the new note into circulation.

On Wednesday, November 19, the new note will be sent to banknote equipment manufacturers and other machine suppliers to enable them adapt to machines and authentication devices.

On November 26, there will be a publication of the new N100 bank note to be sent by the CBN to commercial banks, chamber of commerce, Nigeria Police force, cash in transit companies etc.

On Wednesday December 3, leaflets on the N100 bank note will be sent to 1,000 Point Of Sales (POS) in the country, including a reminder about adapting machines and devices. While on Wednesday, December 17, a film showing how to check the new hundred naira bank note will go live on the CBN YouTube channel.

Explaining the features of the new banknote, Mr. Emefiele said the new note was designed with enhanced security to offer robust resistance against counterfeiting. “We have produced a banknote which is the first of its kind, but most importantly it has been designed and produced with most advanced technologies in the world,” he said.

He noted that in the process of producing the new note, the following was taken into consideration: “Durability, to make it tolerant in tropics and in doing that we introduced a two sided interglow barriers, both at the front and the back. We also made the note attractive for public acceptance. Emphasis was also placed on our rich cultural heritage. The note has a transformational character”.

Explaining the features he said on the front side of the note is a public authentication features, window micro-optics, showing the national flag and numeral100 indicating the value of the denomination and the attainment of the centenary period.

The second is a spark feature of a rolling manilla bar which was the instrument used during the slave trade era. A portrait of Chief Obafemi Awolowo is retained both in the ink, that is the interglow level, as a portrait and also in a paper as a shadow image.

“We made provision on the front for the visually impaired individuals in our midst by having a raised and embossed line,” he said.

At the back side, the CBN introduced a feature called Quick Response Code, QRC. It is a feature that highlights and sources all the information about the centenary. “This makes the note the first digital banknote in the world,” he said.

The QRC is an application found on the smart phone or Ipad. Once the barcode on the back of the note is scanned it shows the President’s face and then comes up with all information on Nigeria’s history. President Goodluck Jonathan thanked the CBN for unveiling the note.

The Coordinating Minister of Economy and minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, said introducing the note was a smart move and the feature of the QRC is educative. But she went on to ask how much it will cost to print the notes. The President said this will be discussed when the memo is presented.

Premium Times

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Female suicide bomber attacks College in Kontagora, Nigeria

A female suicide bomber blew herself up on Wednesday at a college in Kontagora in Nigeria's central Niger State, close to the capital Abuja, a police spokesman said.

The bomb went off as the woman was trying to enter the college's library, a witness said.
"The female suicide bomber blew herself up before reaching her target," the police spokesman told Reuters by telephone.


Related story: 46 students dead by suicide bomb blast during school assembly

The fake ceasefire with Boko Haram

Nigerians were ecstatic on October 17 when the federal government announced a ceasefire deal with Boko Haram. If it had been true, years of ruthless killing of several thousand citizens would have been halted - suddenly - and the over-200 Chibok girls kidnapped seven months ago would have been freed.

Sadly, Boko Haram held out for no longer than half-a-dozen hours before unleashing an attack on Abadam Village in Borno State, killing a resident. Very early the following day, eight people were mowed down in Dzur Village, also in Borno, consequently extinguishing whatever hopes anyone nursed of a ceasefire.

So, within a day of the ceasefire announcement, delirious Nigerians had become crestfallen and had started asking: "Was there really a ceasefire?"

It was not until another two weeks, though, that the leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, dealt the coup de grace to a peace deal that had quickly gained international traction.

"We have not made ceasefire with anyone. What is our business with negotiation? We did not negotiate with anyone... It's a lie; it's a lie. We will not negotiate," he said in a video released on October 31.

Who duped whom?

I feel little pity for President Goodluck Jonathan over the ceasefire debacle. For a whopping 18 days after Boko Haram struck in Chibok, Jonathan did not believe that an abduction of more than 200 girls indeed took place. He thought it was all a ruse - a propaganda by opponents of his re-election ambition.

And he neither saw the need to visit Chibok nor invite the grieving parents to Abuja. It took the pleading of a 17-year-old, Malala Yousafzai, for Jonathan to agree to meet with parents of the abducted girls "within 24 hours".

So if Jonathan's peace-deal effort is now being misconstrued as a lie, well, it's a taste of his own medicine. But in fairness to him, ceasefire negotiations were ongoing. Just with the wrong Boko Haram representatives.

In July and August, "Boko Haram commanders" wrote letters to the president of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, himself a former rebel leader and well-decorated military officer, asking him to broker a ceasefire with Lagos.

It is a mystery what Alex Badeh, an air chief marshal and chief of defence staff, and Mike Omeri, coordinator of the National Information Centre (set up strictly to disseminate information relating to the insurgency) were thinking on October 17 when they gathered journalists together to tell them Boko Haram had announced a ceasefire.

"Already, the terrorists have announced a ceasefire in furtherance of their desire for peace," Omeri said gleefully. "In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared a ceasefire."

Exactly 10 days later, Aminu Wali, minister of foreign affairs, assured journalists that the ceasefire was intact.

"Boko Haram are saying that those ones [attacks] were done by other rogues and criminals," he said after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

It was therefore shocking to hear Godswill Akpabio, governor of Akwa Ibom State and one of Jonathan's staunchest allies, blame the media for the post-ceasefire confusion. Tragic. Uncharitable. To be sure, Akpabio was speaking for the government and for Sambo Dasuki, the president's national security adviser (NSA).

"The NSA was of the opinion that high level contact with the Republic of Chad was made ... and of course, no agreement has been reached yet. It is just that the press probably misunderstood what was reported. The discussions are ongoing," he said.

According to journalist Ahmad Salkida, who has a close understanding of Boko Haram and its ideology, Danladi Ahmadu - the man who supposedly represented Boko Haram in the negotiations - would never have been chosen into the Shura (ruling council) of the terrorists because the name "Danladi" (meaning "born on a Sunday" - Christians' holy day) is "filthy" to the sect's Islamic orientations.

In short, it is clear that the government communicated with a powerless negotiator and most likely an impostor.

The announcement of what has turned out to be a phantom ceasefire is a gaffe Nigeria must learn from, especially the media and the military. The media must be discharging its reportorial responsibilities with stiffer scrutiny.

Clearly, it is not enough for the government to declare that "terrorists have announced a ceasefire". Who announced it on behalf of the terrorists? Where was it announced? How, too? And what was proof that it was the decision of the Boko Haram hierarchy - not just a minority? Those were unanswered questions that should have been raised to temper the public optimism that followed the announcement.

With Nigeria's main opposition party consistently haranguing and pillorying Jonathan for failing to halt Boko Haram, the president's men were desperate to polish his image ahead of the 2015 poll. The faintest hint of a ceasefire would work magic; it had to be announced to the media at once - even if prematurely. Looking back, the media was duped, and so were the people, in turn.

Salkida warned early on that "the government is more interested in shadows and bubbles than in substance". Few paid attention, it seems.

And so we are back to square one, having to deal with the disastrous strategy of the Nigerian military which has extended and broadened the conflict rather than curbed it.


Related stories: Boko Haram agrees to ceasefire

Boko Haram kidnap more women after Nigerian government announce ceasefire

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Boko Haram captures more territory in Adamawa as Nigerian forces flee

The Boko Haram on Monday expanded the territory it controls in Adamawa when it captured the town of Maiha, residents have told PREMIUM TIMES.

Maiha is about 25 kilometres from Mubi, the commercial town captured by the insurgents in Adamawa last week. Maiha is also about 200km from Yola, the state capital.

Even before the town fell to the insurgents, it was already a shadow of itself as commercial and social activities were paralyzed. People were already leaving the town due to its proximity to Mubi.

Fleeing residents said they saw many soldiers running away from the area with some of them hitch-hiking in residents’ vehicles. The soldiers told the residents that if the insurgents caught up with them, it would lead to instant death.

“The insurgents started trooping into the town around 2:30 p.m. and engaged troops stationed at Kosha before advancing to the main town of Maiha,” a fleeing resident, Kabir Musa, said in a telephone interview. “The soldiers, who advanced to the area in their bid to recapture Mubi, started running away as the insurgents overran the entire town.”

Another resident of the town, Garba Baba, said some fleeing soldiers begged him to assist them with civilian clothes so they would not be traced by the insurgents. The soldiers, he said, even threw their guns into the bush.

“The fleeing soldiers asked us to give them our clothes so that they can camouflage and escape from the area safely as some of them discarded their weapons in the bush. A lot of the discarded weapons are currently lying in the bush,” Mr. Baba, who also fled Maiha, said.

He said in a similar situation to when the insurgents captured Mubi, they did not encounter any challenge from the Nigerian troops.

“The insurgents did not encounter any challenge as they stormed the town in APC’s and Toyota Hilux vans firing shots into the soldiers’ directions chanting Allahu Akbar,” Mr. Baba said.

“The Boko Haram insurgents had ordered us not to run, saying that they are not after civilians but soldiers and other security people.’’ Another resident still trapped in Maiha, Dauda Mallam, said, “Many of the residents fled into the bush, particularly soldiers. Some of them may have been killed by bullets.

“The insurgents also hoisted their flags in strategic places in the town.” A soldier of the 23rd Armoured Brigade, Yola, also told PREMIUM TIMES that “we just heard that the insurgents had attacked our men in their base near Maiha town, and some soldiers were killed in a gun battle. We are yet to get full details.”

The military is yet to officially react to the Maiha takeover in Adamawa, which like Borno and Yobe, has been under a state of emergency since last year. The emergency rule has not deterred insurgents from carrying out terrorist activities leading to the death of thousands of people.
Several soldiers including senior officers are currently being investigated and disciplined for fleeing battles with insurgents.

On Monday, the Nigerian government, apparently frustrated by its inability to check the Boko Haram insurgency, accused the U.S. of not doing enough to assist the country.

Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Ade Adefuye, expressed the government’s view when he received a delegation of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

“I am sad to inform you that the Nigerian leadership: military and political, and even the general populace, are not satisfied with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support for us in our struggle against terrorists,” Mr. Adefuye said.

“We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly.

Premium Times

Related stories: 12 Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny

Some Nigerian soldiers refuse to fight Boko Haram until given new weapons

Nigerian government dissapointed with America's refusal to sell them weapons

The Nigerian government has expressed its sadness over the United States refusal to sell military weapons to Nigeria in order fight against terrorism in the country, Empowered Newswire reports.

Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Professor Ade Adefuye speaking on Monday while receiving a delegation of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations expressed disappointment.

“I am sad to inform you that the Nigerian leadership: military and political, and even the general populace, are not satisfied with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support for us in our struggle against terrorists.”

“We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the U.S. presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology, Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly”.

“The U.S. Government has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.”

The Nigerian ambassador who has urged the Council on Foreign Affairs to put pressure on the US State Department and the US Department of Defence to re-examine the basis of their refusal to sell equipment to Nigeria said: “A stable and secure Nigeria is an invaluable asset to America,” Mr. Adefuye said.

Osun Defender

Related stories: Nigeria threatens South Africa over arms deal

Another secret arms deal between Nigerian and South Africa goes awry - $5.7 million seized

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Nigeria's education system is developing

It is widely accepted that Nigeria’s education system must undergo major changes if it is to enable the country to develop in a manner that will allow it to continue to grow. Unless the vast majority of the country’s young people receive the level of education they deserve, they will be condemned to a life of poverty and unemployment, which will inevitably lead to widespread unrest and political instability. In simple terms, the only way to overcome the proliferation of extremist groups such as Boko Haram is to stamp out illiteracy and provide a decent standard of education for all.

For some years following its independence, Nigeria’s education system continued to be based on the British model, which was not designed to meet the needs of an emerging African state. However, the Curriculum Conference of 1969 resulted in the staged introduction of a set of National Policies on Education in 1977, 1981, 1998 and 2004.

Unfortunately, not all the government’s policies for improving education in the country have been carried through due to a combination of poor organization, inadequate teacher training, underfunding and lack of forward planning. As a result, the number of unemployed rises annually while vacancies for skilled positions in all sectors remain unfilled.

A secondary school curriculum that was designed to meet the needs of the country’s growing economy was introduced many years ago as part of the National Policy on Education, but it has never been fully implemented; doing so as quickly as possible has to be a key priority. The Secondary Education Board, which is overseen by the Ministry of Education, was set up to implement government policies in all state schools; primary, secondary and senior secondary. The board has many responsibilities, including the construction of new schools, the provision of a safe learning environment; support for the development of the qualifications and skills required by industry and commerce; the preparation of students for their future working and family lives; making them aware of all the options available to them, and offering ongoing training and support to teaching staff. These actions should mean that the number of individuals leaving the country to attend overseas universities can be significantly reduced, thus enabling them to become the type of entrepreneurs the country so desperately needs.

The private sector is already playing its part, especially in terms of further education; for example, the African Leadership Academy helps would-be entrepreneurs and budding future leaders of industry by financing their university education. There is no doubt that Tunde Foliwayo’s profile is one that any aspiring young Nigerian would do well to emulate.

The current secondary school curriculum largely ignores technical, practical and vocational training. This is due, in part, to a lack of facilities and shortage of suitably trained teaching staff; however, the educational system has always leaned more towards an academic rather than vocational curriculum. It is essential that youngsters receive hands-on practical experience so that they can prosper throughout their lives.

The vast majority of the population is not employed as lawyers, company directors, doctors or accountants; most school leavers become farmers, mechanics, shopkeepers, nurses, etc. These are the people who form the backbone of the country and who will be responsible for ensuring Nigeria continues to grow economically and culturally and remains a safe and civilized place in which to live.

Former EFCC chairman Sani Ribadu's brother kidnapped

Gunmen have abducted Sani Ribadu, the younger brother of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu.

A brother to Mr. Ribadu, Arabi Ribadu, informed PREMIUM TIMES that Sani was abducted in his farm in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, on Sunday.

“He was abducted by gun wielding men in his farm along Fufore road at about 5 p.m. this evening,” he said.

He also said the abductors took away their victim and abandoned his car.“Up till this moment, there is no communication from them,” he said.

Efforts to speak with the police spokesperson in Adamawa State has been unsuccessful as his phone was switched off.

Adamawa is one of the states worst hit by the Boko Haram insurgency, with Mubi, the second largest town in the state, now under the control of the insurgents.

Premium Times

46 students dead by suicide bomb blast during school assembly

At least 46 students have been killed by a suicide bomber at a school assembly in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, police have said.

The explosion at a boys' school in the town is believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber dressed as a student.

The militant group Boko Haram is believed to have carried out the attack, police said.

The group has targeted schools during a deadly five-year insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic state.

It is waging a sustained campaign to prevent children from going to school. It believes girls should not attend school and boys should only receive an Islamic education.

'Devastating attack'
The explosion ripped through the assembly hall at the Government Science Secondary School, reports say.

Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu told the BBC Hausa service the attack had left 47 people dead, including the suicide bomber. Another 79 were wounded.

By setting off the bomb during the morning assembly, the militants clearly aimed to kill as many students as possible.

Few of the attacks here are ever claimed by any group but Boko Haram will once again be suspected. The jihadists have carried out particularly brutal attacks on schools before.

Chibok is known in many parts of the world because of April's mass abduction of girls from that remote village. But there have been many other horrific attacks on schools which have received less attention - including last February's raid on Buni Yadi, in Yobe State.

Dozens of boys were burnt to death, shot or killed with knives in the dormitory. Female students were spared but told to never attend school again, go off and get married. Boko Haram wants the education of boys to be limited to strict Koranic studies only.

The insecurity in the north-east is so rampant, with entire towns and villages now in the jihadists' hands, it will be extremely hard for other bombings to be prevented.

"At about 08:00am [07:00 GMT], a suicide bomber disguised himself as one of the male students and while the school was holding its normal assembly, the bomb went off," Mr Ojukwu said.

He added that police were investigating the explosion.

One student told the BBC he saw the mutilated bodies of fellow students at the scene, where emergency operations were ongoing. A resident reported seeing parents wailing at the sight of their children's bodies at the hospital.

Soldiers who attended the site of the explosion were met with fury by the assembled crowds who pelted them with stones and accused them of not doing enough to halt Boko Haram's insurgency.

A grieving relative told the BBC: "My brother, a student in the school, died in the blast. He was about 16 years old... We buried him at about 11:00am [10:00 GMT] today."

"The government needs to be more serious about the fight against Boko Haram because it is getting out of control," he added.

Schools in Yobe state have been frequently attacked by Boko Haram militants.

The state is one of three in Nigeria that have been placed under a state of emergency as a result of the group's activities.

Potiskum, one of the largest towns in Yobe, has been targeted before by Boko Haram.

Last week, a suicide bombing killed 15 people in the town.

The bomber joined a religious procession of the rival Shia Muslim sect, before blowing himself up.

In April, Boko Haram sparked global outrage by abducting more than 200 girls from a boarding school in Chibok town in Borno state.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has dismissed government claims to have agreed a ceasefire, under which the girls would be released.

He says the children have converted to Islam, are learning to memorise the Koran and have been married off.


Related story: Vigilantes fighting Boko Haram

Friday, November 7, 2014

18 suspected Boko Haram militants found dead after taken into custody by Nigerian military

Eighteen men arrested by soldiers in north-east Nigeria have been found dead hours after being taken into custody, residents in the town of Potiskum say.

All the bodies had gunshot and knife wounds, they said.

The men had earlier been accused of being members of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The Nigerian military has denied killing them and announced the release of more than 40 others who had been suspected of links with the militants.

Two residents of Potiskum, who told the BBC they had identified 18 bodies in the town's morgue, said the men had been arrested on Wednesday by the Nigerian military during a search operation.

A nurse at the morgue was quoted by AFP news agency as saying the bodies had been brought in by soldiers.

'Cold-blooded murder'
The news agency said community leaders believed the men had been killed because they were from the Kanuri ethnic group from which Boko Haram draws many of its members.

They have demanded an inquiry into the deaths.

"We believe they were killed on suspicion of being Boko Haram because they were Kanuris," AFP quoted an unnamed community leader as saying.

Another said: "The government should look into this cold-blooded murder and ensure justice is done because being a soldier is not a licence to kill at will on mere suspicion."

Potiskum is the commercial centre of Yobe state and has been the scene of many attacks by Boko Haram, including a suicide bombing on Monday in which 15 people died.

The Nigerian army has been conducting a war against the group and has frequently been accused of committing atrocities itself, including torture and beheadings.

It denies doing so.

In the city of Maiduguri, which has been at the centre of the insurgency, the army said it had released 42 people who had earlier been accused of being members of Boko Haram.

They were given more than $1,000 (£631) each by the military and the local government.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vigilantes fighting Boko Haram

Long before the Islamist militant group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok in April, Abba Aji Kalli watched his country descend into madness. Kalli lives in Maiduguri, a city of more than one million and the capital of Borno State, just 80 miles from Chibok, in Nigeria’s impoverished northeast. For months before the girls were taken, refugees flooded into Maiduguri, fleeing almost-daily Boko Haram raids on nearby villages. The militants arrived on motorcycles and Toyota Hilux trucks, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes in broad daylight, destroying homes and businesses and killing villagers. By May, a month after the kidnappings, the rebels were coming closer, striking surrounding villages and towns. Maiduguri could only be next.

Kalli was trying to stay calm, but he couldn’t keep the anxiety and paranoia at bay. Recently, the stress had become so intense that he was hospitalized for eight days. Why was the military not protecting his people? He had grown tired of asking the question. Kalli, a wiry, energetic man of 50 with an affable manner, worked as a government auditor. He was also a unit commander in the Civilian Joint Task Force, a thousands-strong vigilante battalion that was formed in June 2013 to combat Boko Haram. The Civilian J.T.F., as it is known, is made up of volunteers — professionals, civil servants, students and traders — and arms itself with machetes, locally sourced guns and homemade weapons. Kalli led a unit of 8,000.

Just after the girls were kidnapped, Kalli and his volunteers, whom he affectionately calls his “boys” — they call him “Elder” — arranged to meet local soldiers in Alagarno, a village near the expansive Sambisa Forest, where Boko Haram had set up camps and the girls were thought to be held. But the military’s promised aircraft never arrived, he said. Kalli was angry but not altogether surprised. It wasn’t unusual for the military to fail to keep its promises. The government’s ineffectiveness in fighting Boko Haram was why he joined the Civilian J.T.F. in the first place.

Since the insurgency began in 2009, the military’s response has been both slow and inadequate. Residents report seeing soldiers running away during confrontations with Boko Haram. Soldiers say they do not have enough equipment — they often appear to lack protective gear — and do not get paid on time, if at all. Recently, a military tribunal sentenced 12 soldiers to death for attempted murder and mutiny; they had shot at their commanding officer after a convoy of their fellow soldiers was ambushed by Boko Haram. The governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, angered federal government officials this year when he remarked that Boko Haram outmatched troops in the northeast in both weaponry and motivation. John Campbell, a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former United States ambassador to Nigeria, makes a similar point: “We are talking about a body that is relatively weak,” he says, one that “has been starved of training and resources for a very long time.”

In the absence of an effective military response, the job of combating Boko Haram has fallen to the Civilian J.T.F. “We are responsible for fighting them,” Kalli said. Widely credited with pushing Boko Haram out of Maiduguri a year ago, the Civilian J.T.F. dispenses a summary justice. Much of Kalli’s time was devoted to tracking down and turning over to government authorities the men and boys suspected of having joined Boko Haram.

One Sunday in May, hours before I met up with him at a hotel in Maiduguri that is popular with the military and considered secure, his contact in Yola — the capital of neighboring Adamawa State, where Boko Haram has also waged attacks — called to say someone suspected of being a Boko Haram member was returning to his home in Maiduguri. Kalli guessed that the young man was coming to pick up supplies, perhaps weapons he had stashed somewhere. He gathered his boys and dispatched them to the suspect’s house in one of the unit’s blue pickup trucks.

A few hours later, while Kalli and I sat talking in the hotel, his phone rang. As he listened, he became agitated, twitching with excitement. “We got one,” he said, hanging up. His boys had captured the suspect. Kalli told me he had to go and rushed out of the hotel.

Two days later, I visited Kalli at one of his two homes, a modest bungalow. The power was out, and his third and youngest wife lay on the floor with their three children, fanning them as they napped. I joined Kalli on the couch as he pulled up the cellphone video he shot of the Yola suspect. It showed a young man in black athletic shorts and a red T-shirt, surrounded by men shouting questions at him. The suspect, Mohammed Umar, who could not have been much older than 20, looked dazed. “He confessed that he was a member of Boko Haram and that they have been hiding AK-47s in one house,” Kalli said gleefully. “We asked him to take us to the house. At the first house, we went in and dug but didn’t find anything. He took us to three houses. At the third house, we found two AK-47 magazines.”

When it was over, Kalli and his men, who’d been joined by another Civilian J.T.F. commander, handed Umar over to the authorities. “He ran away from Maiduguri when we started chasing Boko Haram last year,” Kalli explained. “Most of them fled. Even now, many of them are living in Lagos, many of them are living in Abuja, many of them are living in Kano.” During his first operation in June 2013, Kalli and his boys captured 10 suspects with AK-47s. All were turned over to the military and detained. More recently, in April, he and his boys apprehended nearly 40 people suspected of being Boko Haram members in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, 500 miles away. With each mission, Kalli and his unit have become more efficient at rooting out sympathizers. This time, he boasted, the entire operation — from finding Umar to searching the houses to handing him over to Nigerian security forces — took less than 35 minutes.

Kalli grew up in Maiduguri, among 18 brothers and sisters. His father was a cow trader and farmer, and his mother, the last of his father’s four wives, was a housewife. Kalli’s grandfather helped raise him and pushed him to excel at school. As a teenager, Kalli decided he wanted to be a military officer and joined his secondary school’s cadet program, a feeder for the best military academy. But his mother worried that he was choosing a risky career, and he ended up studying accounting at a technical college in Maiduguri. He became an auditor, rising through the ranks of the Borno State government, married and soon was prosperous enough to take two more wives and have 20 children.

Then Boko Haram began its onslaught against his hometown. Once an ancient center of Islamic teaching and trade, Maiduguri is now a city of sandbagged bunkers and security checkpoints. The attacks were sporadic but chilling. In June 2011, Boko Haram bombed a beer garden; last December, it orchestrated bombings near the airport and on a military air base. Boko Haram attacked civilians seemingly at random. Kalli’s brother was assassinated in his own home in 2011. “It really hurt me,” he recalled. “But we were handicapped, we couldn’t do anything. We were even afraid to report it to the military or authorities, because if you report it, a few days later Boko Haram will just come and kill you.” This was not the Nigeria he knew.

Men of Kalli’s generation were among the last to benefit from the country’s post-independence, oil-driven economic expansion. In the 1960s and ’70s, a high-school graduate could easily find a good job. The Nigerian naira was on par with the British pound. Nigeria was so wealthy, in fact, that it almost didn’t matter that billions of dollars were lost to graft. But deep social and economic rifts existed just below the surface. Pieced together in 1914 and controlled by the British until its independence in 1960, Nigeria was loosely divided along religious lines, with a mostly Muslim, ethnically diverse north and an equally diverse, predominantly Christian south. Under British rule, the north was governed via local emirs, which did not interfere with the region’s Muslim identity, while the south was more directly controlled by the British. The south eventually developed an economy centered on oil; the north remained largely agrarian. Because Christian missionaries were concentrated in the south, southerners also had access to Western education. Today, these regional differences persist: Literacy rates are significantly higher in the south than in the north, while poverty is more entrenched in the north than in the south.

After independence, a succession of military governments held the two regions together, suppressing ethnic and religious differences and quelling dissent. Civilian rule returned in 1999, renewing hopes of a more equitable society. Instead, says Max Siollun, a Nigerian writer and historian, “1999 came and went, soldiers left and were replaced by civilians, but nothing changed. The government was still corrupt, poverty was still rife and economic opportunities and jobs were still scarce.” Radical Islamic groups, Siollun says, filled this moral vacuum, as they often had in Nigeria.

Boko Haram got its start in Maiduguri. In 2001, a young Muslim cleric named Mohammed Yusuf began preaching about the government’s failures, blaming Western education for corrupting Nigerian leaders and advocating an Islamic society based on Shariah law. Yusuf’s message resonated with many in the north, especially its disaffected young men. Over the next two years, the group, then known as the Yusufiyya movement, tried to create independent settlements in Borno and in neighboring Yobe State. Most of the efforts began peacefully, though some cells were accused of killing clerics and police officers. Local news media began to use a term for the group, Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden” in the regional language, Hausa. The insurgents’ official Arabic name, however, is jama’atu ahlis sunna lidda’awati wal-jihad, which means People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.

In 2009, after the police opened fire on several Boko Haram members at a funeral procession in Maiduguri, shooting 17, the group bombed and set fire to government buildings. The police and the military battled the insurgents for days; more than 800 people were killed, most in extrajudicial killings by the military, and thousands of people were forced to abandon their homes. Yusuf was arrested and died in police custody. In response, Boko Haram staged an uprising. Under a newly appointed leader, Abubakar Shekau, the group burned down schools and police stations; blew up cellphone towers, markets, churches and mosques; and killed scores of students and teachers throughout central and northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has since massacred thousands of Nigerians and abducted hundreds more. In February, the group savagely murdered almost 60 schoolboys; some were burned alive. This year, Boko Haram set off three explosions in the country’s capital, underscoring that not even the federal government was safe from attack. In April, the group took the schoolgirls from Chibok. It still holds at least 200 of them captive.

The Nigerian government’s response to Boko Haram has been fraught from the beginning. President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner, has behaved as if the insurgency is a creation of northern Muslim leaders and thus their problem to solve. It took him more than three weeks to speak publicly about the abduction of the schoolgirls. His wife, Patience, provoked public outrage when she questioned whether the kidnapping had occurred, claiming it was all a ploy by her husband’s opponents to embarrass him. (She later expressed concern over the missing schoolgirls.) Government critics charge that the military has been slow to respond to the threat posed by Boko Haram because officials are benefiting from the war in the north, siphoning money from the country’s $6 billion security budget.

Residents in the northeast have complained frequently of the army’s indifference. But their grievances coalesced around the response to the kidnapping of the girls. Local officials in Chibok say the army was alerted to the possibility of an attack up to four hours before the girls were abducted, but military reinforcements never arrived. Since then, the military has been criticized for not doing enough to look for the girls. It claimed that it had broken up a Boko Haram cell that participated in the kidnapping and that it was on the verge of rescuing the girls, but they never materialized. The United States and other foreign powers have offered assistance, but finding the girls remains a formidable task. “It’s a big, big challenge,” says Stephen Schwartz, the director of Nigeria policy and operations at the State Department. “If it were up to the United States, we would have difficulty trying to rescue that number of girls over that big an area. It’s a really high-stakes kind of effort. I give the Nigerians a lot of credit for having the forbearance to not try anything premature or reckless.” (The military declined repeated requests for comment.)

Meanwhile, Boko Haram continues to fund and arm itself through bank robberies, extortion, ransom demands, sieges on Nigerian armed forces and, some analysts say, help from affiliates of Al Qaeda. In part, Boko Haram can operate with impunity because much of the northeast remains inaccessible, with bad roads and poor phone reception. Large areas along Nigeria’s borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger are vulnerable to Boko Haram. “The northern land mass is just huge, and some parts of it are not very hospitable, so the government hasn’t always penetrated into every nook and cranny,” Siollun says. “Those border areas have always been bandit country; it facilitated the emergence of groups like Boko Haram.”

Despite Boko Haram’s increasing strength, the Nigerian government, says Campbell, the former ambassador, has not pursued a comprehensive anti-insurgency strategy. “The government has done very little to address the pervasive sense of alienation among people in the north,” Campbell says. “If you’re going to address the drivers of the insurgency, that takes time. My sense is implementation is very, very slow.” Fatima Akilu, a director in Nigeria’s Office of the National Security Adviser, told me that a deradicalization program is being created to promote sports, literature and the arts to secular and Islamic schools, and that the government is working on an economic-­development plan for the northeast. Akilu says officials also hope to devise “safe passage” for militants who wish to leave the group. She assured me that the Civilian J.T.F. was not a reaction to the military’s failures but rather a natural response on the part of northeasterners to a common threat — a kind of citizens’ brigade. “It was a spontaneous movement that began without any involvement from the state at all,” she says. “These were youths who said, ‘We no longer want you in our communities,’ and they pushed them out. It is an initiative we support.”

From the time Kalli wakes up, around 4:30 in the morning, until he goes to bed, sometimes as late as 2:30 a.m., he receives calls alerting him to Boko Haram sightings, impending or developing attacks and recent abductions and killings. When he hears of a village under siege, he rounds up as many of his boys as he can and heads out to the fight — without protective gear and at times without proper weapons. “Sometimes your gun won’t even work,” he lamented. It was a miracle that only 15 of his men had been killed so far. “God is with us,” he said. When he began this work, his children, whom he calls “my soldiers,” and his wives urged him to reconsider. “I don’t have enough time to get rest or sleep,” he said. “I am always engaged.” Kalli, a Muslim, says he is ready to die for his religion and his country. “These insurgents came to destroy the image of Islam,” he told me. “They are cult members. Islam doesn’t allow anybody to kill anybody, either Muslim or Christian. I want to protect the integrity of this country.” He is still employed by the auditors’ office, but was given an extended leave for this new public service.

When I first met Kalli at the hotel in Maiduguri, he was with three men who had been seized by Boko Haram. The group has turned to forcible recruitment as its violent tactics erode support among northerners. “They began to recruit by force, because they have moved so far from their core ideology,” Akilu says. “When Shekau descended into this indiscriminate slaughter, murdering people for no reason, a lot of people didn’t understand what was going on and did not subscribe to the philosophy of the current leadership.” Sometimes Boko Haram compels the boys and young men it captures to spy or fight for the group; sometimes it kills those it captures, a warning to anyone who would collaborate with government forces. The men with Kalli managed to escape. (This is not unheard of; Boko Haram does not always guard its captives carefully. Right after their abduction, some 50 of the Chibok schoolgirls also managed to get away. One of them, a 14-year-old named Rejoice Yaga, told me that the militants seemed confused and kept asking one another if they should take the girls or leave them.)

Kalli had already debriefed the men, but he wanted me to hear their stories firsthand. The first man I spoke to, Ali Bukar, a tall 40-year-old whose face bears the distinctive scars of his Kanuri ethnic group, was abducted in May while farming outside his home in Konduga, a village in Borno State about 20 miles from Maiduguri. “I had heard people talk about Boko Haram, but I had never seen them until the day they came and captured me,” he said. His wife and children were inside the house, unaware that just a few yards away two gunmen were tying him up with rope. The militants placed Bukar between them on their motorcycle and drove off. He thought he was doomed. “I asked them what kind of offense I committed, but they refused to talk to me.”

It took less than an hour to reach the site where Boko Haram had set up camp. Several men, some in T-shirts, others in traditional dress, milled about. They threw him, still tied up, to one side. Over the next three days, the men debated whether to kill him, occasionally feeding him beans and discussing plans to attack Maiduguri. But his rope was loose, and one day after nightfall with his hands still tied behind his back, he escaped. He ran for nearly 12 hours through the bush to reach his village. When we met, his arms were still severely bruised, marked by puffy, raw lesions; he could barely raise them. “I will never go back to that village,” he said of his hometown, shaking his head slowly. He has since moved some relatives with him to Maiduguri.

The second man Kalli introduced me to, Hamza Alhaji, was more fortunate. A prematurely graying 30-year-old who made his living collecting firewood in the forest outside Maiduguri, he was ambushed by Boko Haram militants while driving back to the city last spring and then unexpectedly abandoned when they retreated into the bush.

As I spoke with Bukar and Alhaji, Kalli kept interrupting, eager to answer the questions himself; he knew their stories so well. For Kalli, the men were proof that Boko Haram must be stopped at all costs. How could anyone be safe when grown men were seized in the middle of the afternoon?

Unlike Alhaji and Bukar, the third man with Kalli that day — Modu Jalomi, a 35-year-old who lives in Yajiwa, a town 45 miles outside Maiduguri — was used to seeing Boko Haram members near his home. “I have seen them before,” he said. “I know some of their members.” The militants occasionally passed through Yajiwa to buy food. At first, residents welcomed Boko Haram; as recently as last year, young men were voluntarily joining the militants. “It was their own wish, because of religion,” Jalomi said. He could count 20 young men, most of them teenagers, who left. He pitied them now, he said, because the situation had changed. “When people saw that what Boko Haram is doing is not the right thing, they started to run away,” Jalomi said.

As Jalomi lay in bed next to his wife one night, four men came into the house with AK-47s. One was his neighbor. “They didn’t even hide their faces,” Jalomi recalled. They took him on a motorcycle to the same area near Alagarno where they had taken Bukar and accused him of feeding information about them to the Civilian J.T.F. and the military. Jalomi was tied to a mango tree for 11 hours before he managed to break free. The militants shot at him as he fled. He now lives in Maiduguri and hasn’t returned to his village since. “They have no support now,” he said of Boko Haram.

In a residential area of Maiduguri, Kalli rented a small office from which he directed his unit. When I visited, bags and boxes of donated items for victims of Boko Haram took up half the room. “When we started this, everybody was chasing the insurgents,” Kalli said, recalling the chaos of the early days of fighting Boko Haram. “Later on, we decided to organize and divide into 10 sectors.” Splitting up the city this way allowed him and his fellow commanders to more effectively monitor different neighborhoods. The Civilian J.T.F. has always relied on residents for tips about insurgents who may be hiding among them. Most readily complied, but as the Civilian J.T.F. gains strength, residents are beginning to fear that the vigilantes are using their power not to fight Boko Haram but to intimidate personal enemies. Men and boys have reported being forced to join the group under threat of being beaten. The Civilian J.T.F., some say, could one day prove to be as dangerous as the insurgents.

The Civilian J.T.F. works closely with Nigeria’s Joint Task Force — the military, the police and other security forces — which has been accused of indiscriminate killings in the counterinsurgency. After a March attack by Boko Haram on Giwa Barracks, a military garrison, troops killed hundreds of people, most of whom were unarmed suspects held there. In Maiduguri, thousands of boys and men have been detained on little to no evidence. Some are taken to Giwa Barracks, from which reports of torture and extrajudicial killings regularly emerge. Others simply disappear; sometimes their bodies turn up at the city’s morgues. In response, residents barricade streets with logs and tires to keep outsiders away. There are entire sections of the city that government officials are afraid to enter for fear of reprisal.

In August, Amnesty International released footage showing what appear to be Nigerian soldiers and Civilian J.T.F. members near Maiduguri, cutting the throats of suspected Boko Haram members and then pushing them into an open grave. Amnesty International also says the vigilantes have made arbitrary arrests and engaged in torture and extrajudicial killings of suspects, both independently and with the military. “From witnesses and victims and families of victims that we have talked to, there is an undeniable degree of frustration and concern and fear against the vigilante groups,” Netsanet Belay, the Africa director of research and advocacy at Amnesty International, told me. “We are seeing the Civilian Joint Task Force increasingly engaged in serious, mass human-rights violations.” Schwartz, the State Department’s Nigeria director, says the United States has pressed and continues to press the Nigerian military on human rights — “Giwa Barracks was a big issue of contention.” The problem with vigilante groups like the Civilian J.T.F., he adds, is that they are essentially unaccountable. “They’re not trained as a law-enforcement group, they’re not underpinned by a law of the land,” he says. “We don’t sanction or condone lawless actions of vigilante groups. I’ve seen a number of these videos, and it’s disturbing.”

Government officials in Borno State express few misgivings about the Civilian J.T.F. One official in the governor’s office, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, told me that the Civilian J.T.F. was doing commendable work identifying and arresting Boko Haram members, and that any abuses committed were most likely the fault of the military on joint exercises. The state’s governor, Shettima, describes the emergence of the Civilian J.T.F. as “almost a divine intervention,” though he acknowledges that “one may not rule out some infractions from some overzealous members.” The government, in conjunction with the military, he says, is working to rein in excesses through a training program, the Borno Youth Empowerment Scheme, which began in 2013 and provides a modest monthly stipend. The plan is to train at least 5,000 Civilian J.T.F. members by the end of this year; so far, 3,000 men have begun the program.

Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African affairs at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, argues that to survive, the Civilian J.T.F. has had to evolve from stick-wielding vigilantes to a more sophisticated group. “It’s a catch-22, because if they remain lightly armed, they are at high risk of being massacred by heavily armed Boko Haram insurgents,” Zenn says. “But if they are armed, they essentially become like soldiers.” Once they assume their militarized roles, they may become what soldiers are in the region: both protection and threat.

In his office, Kalli insisted that anyone who fears the Civilian J.T.F. must have a relationship with Boko Haram. “Any good Samaritans will have to support the Civilian J.T.F., because we have done a lot to bring peace to this city,” he said. If his neighbors refuse to understand that he is trying to help them, he will make them understand. Last year, he turned in his 18-year-old nephew, whom he believed to be a member of Boko Haram. He later watched the military execute him. Kalli expressed no remorse. “I saw him with AK-47s, so that proves he’s a Boko Haram member,” he said. When the insurgency began in 2009, his nephew attended Boko Haram’s sermons, and that year he ran away from Maiduguri. His family and neighbors suspected he had joined the group. “I was the first person to see him when he came back to town,” Kalli said. “He was part of my family, part of my blood. But I apprehended him and handed him over to security.” He told his brother and sister-in-law that their son confessed to killing more than 30 people and even threatened to kill him. “I asked him, ‘Is this the way we brought you up?’ ” Kalli recalled. “You know, the first thing before you start this job, you will take an oath. The oath is that you will not hide anybody, whether it’s your friend or relative.” Couldn’t his nephew have been brainwashed? I asked. He was, after all, little more than a child. Kalli’s face contorted into an expression somewhere between anger and disbelief, and his voice took on a hard edge. “Whether he understood or he didn’t understand, his mind was polluted,” he replied. “We have no regret for anybody if you are a Boko Haram member, because we have suffered a lot at the hands of Boko Haram. We have lost so many people.”

Several young men marched into Kalli’s office, greeting him with reverence before sitting down to wait for their training stipends. Among them was Mohammed Musa, an electrical-engineering student at the University of Maiduguri who signed up with the Civilian J.T.F. last year. For many young men, joining the Civilian J.T.F. is a way of retaking power after so much has been lost — relatives, friends, a viable future. His parents are happy that he volunteers, but he recognizes that much of Maiduguri is wary of the civilian police. “Many people fear us,” he said with frustration. “They say, ‘See this Civilian J.T.F., they’re doing bad things.’ They act as if we’re useless or up to no good. They should be praying for us every day.”

Kalli’s son Lawan, a small-boned and polite 17-year-old in his last year of high school, entered his father’s office and slid into a chair. He described how he inspects cars at checkpoints and carries a knife for protection. One charge leveled against the Civilian J.T.F. is that it recruits children. Human Rights Watch reports indicate that some vigilantes manning checkpoints in Maiduguri appear to be younger than 18. The watchdog group says witnesses have seen children working at checkpoints in Borno and Yobe States. “If you are not 18, you are not part of us — that is the truth,” Kalli said. His son was different, he said; he wasn’t allowed to use a gun. “We are not using any children. If we see any under-age ones on the streets, we arrest them and call their parents.” I asked him about worries that the vigilantes could be committing abuses. He again became defensive. “We don’t kill anybody. We hand them to the authorities. We have to protect ourselves, but we normally catch them alive.”

One afternoon, Kalli picked me up in one of his trucks. A new crop of volunteers was jammed into the back. They wore T-shirts and sunglasses, with handkerchiefs and guns slung around their necks. They were talking and laughing loudly and watched with amusement as I climbed into the vehicle.

“I was sitting in my office preparing paperwork for my boys who went for training when I received a call from one of my chairmen,” Kalli said as he drove. “He told me that he’d been told that some members of Boko Haram we were looking for were in town and that he’d seen them at Ecobank. When we rushed there, they had already finished their transaction and left. I drove my boys to the car park and mounted a checkpoint. I left some of them there so that they can maybe trap them.”

He put on the truck’s siren and swerved through narrow spaces between lanes. As we sped through Civilian J.T.F. checkpoints, the young men at the barriers saluted him. “We are suspecting that they might enter the market to buy food items,” he said of the Boko Haram members he was tracking. “So we have already put our members on alert. They sleep in the bush, come in to get money and food items and then go back. But we have our people watching them. If we see them, we will grab them.”

I asked him about the guns his crew was carrying. They looked like relics from the 19th century, short-barreled rifle-muskets with wooden grips. “I personally told my boys to carry guns,” he said. Residents donated money to help buy the weapons, he said; at first they had only cutlasses and sticks to fight militants armed with antiaircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades. “I bought these local guns you have been seeing and distributed them, because my area is the worst area.” His zone, he pointed out, covers “up to Sambisa” and the outskirts of Maiduguri. “Anything can come through us,” he said. The siren blared louder.

As we drove, Kalli returned to talking about the military: “They are not responding the way they should; that is the biggest problem we are facing. It is the fault of senior officers. If I were a soldier, I would not go in, because I wouldn’t have enough equipment to fight the insurgents! I withdrew my men from Sambisa because I knew the authorities didn’t want to finish this job.”

We zigzagged through traffic to pick up medicine for Kalli’s youngest daughter, who was gravely ill with the measles. His phone rang; the caller was reporting yet another attack on a village, demanding to know why Kalli and his men weren’t there. When he hung up, he sighed, and his body slackened. “You know, I’m tired of this thing,” he said. “We gave the security forces everything — information about the camps, where they are, and they’re not doing anything.” I asked him if he has given up on finding the girls. “We can’t go up to Chibok again,” he said.

The path that Kalli and his unit took out of Maiduguri to Chibok in May is now a lonely one. When I traveled along the same road on a market day, only a few cars, trucks and minivan taxis hurtled past torched vehicles and the burned-out shells of schools and homes. Boys rode bikes with bows and arrows tucked under their arms. Commuters between the two towns were stopped at a series of checkpoints, some manned by the military and others by the Civilian J.T.F. The vigilantes were more disorganized but savvier. They casually waved machetes at drivers and demanded that they turn on their windshield wipers. Militants had been hiding weapons under car hoods, which prevented the wipers from working.

I spoke with Kalli shortly after I left Maiduguri. He was in low spirits. His daughter with the measles had died, and he had taken a break from his Civilian J.T.F. duties. I asked him when he would rejoin his colleagues. “I don’t know,” he said. “I need rest.”

In July, a bomb blast in a Maiduguri market killed at least 20 people. This fall, Boko Haram occupied numerous northeastern towns, including Bama, only 45 miles from Maiduguri, and declared a caliphate. The government recently claimed to have struck a cease-fire with Boko Haram that would lead to the release of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls. But in October, the militants abducted 60 women and girls from Adamawa State and later at least 30 boys and girls from Borno State, casting doubt on the existence of a truce.

Yet when I called Kalli recently, he spoke of the future as bright. He said the military was holding on to Maiduguri and had pushed Boko Haram out of other places. He was no longer doing much fieldwork. He was now an “executive at the state level” for the Civilian J.T.F., coordinating the sectors and managing their finances. He was also running for Senate. Kalli remained relentlessly upbeat. “We are 100 percent sure we will kill these insurgents,” he told me. He seemed to believe it.

New York Times