Friday, March 05, 2004

National News

Our lives are in danger -Govs

.Reps summon IG over attack on Benue gov



MANY state governors yesterday raised alarm over the spate of insecurity in the land and threats to lives following the attack by gunmen on the convoy of the Benue State governor, Mr. George Akume, where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Engr. Andrew Agom and a policeman were shot dead.

The attack on the convoy was described as inhuman, brutal and shocking by the Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

Oyinlola, who condemned the attack in a condolence letter addressed to his Benue State counterpart, said that the attack was an indication of serious insecurity in the country.

He said that the attack showed clearly that some elements in the society have no iota of respect for the sanctity for human life which has no replacement.

"It is my prayer that the good Lord will assist our security agencies to move swiftly

to expose the unscrupulous elements behind the spate of assassinations and associated acts of brigandage in this nation."

The governor condoled with the families of those who lost their lives in the incident and prayed for the Lord's protection over the governor.

The Edo State governor, Chief Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion, has described as shocking, the recent assassination attempt on Mr. Akume.

Governor Igbinedion stated this on Thursday in Benin City while speaking on the attack on the convoy of Governor Akume.

The governor, who said the attack was not only unfortunate but also condemnable, expressed fears that if this trend continued unchecked, the much needed peaceful environment which was a prerequisite for development could elude the nation.

While declaring that the very many cases of assassination were a dent on the image of the nation, the governor added that the struggle for nation-building would come to nothing if the current signals of insecurity to life and property persisted.

He called on the security formations in the nation to take the recent cases of assassinations and attempted murder as challenges and ensure adequate security for the nation.

The governor called on the Federal Government to ensure that the perpetrators of the dastardly act were brought to book in order to rekindle the confidence of the citizenry and foreigners.

Igbinedion, while thanking God for sparing the life of Governor Akume, however, expressed the condolences of the government and people of Edo State to the families of the former Managing Director of Nigeria Airways, Mr. Andrew Agom and Sergeant John Ngam who were killed in the incident.

Meanwhile, many more sympathisers, including Akume's colleagues, continue to troop into the Benue Government Lodge in Abuja where a registered was opened for the visitors.

Governor Donald Duke of Cross River, Alhaji Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Adamu Muazu (Bauchi) and Alhaji Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State, were earlier callers.

The Jigawa and Gombe state governors gave a hint that the 36 governors were likely to meet soon to review the rising insecurity in the country.

Governor Turaki said, "there is actually the need for us to meet. We discussed this yesterday at the Northern Governors' Forum and we sent a delegation to Governor Akume."

Asked why governors were the targets of attacks by gunmen, the governor said that governors were part of the society.

He attributed the increase in the crime rate in the North Central area to the fallout from the series of riots in the area in recent times.

According to him, during the communal clashes, a lot of arms were used which later fell into wrong hands.

Governor Akume himself thanked God for saving him from the attack while bemoaning the loss of his friend and a security officer in his convoy.

The list of the sympathisers also included former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na'Abba, Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State and his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Adamu Aliero.

Others were former Aviation Minister, Dr. Kema Chikwe, ex-Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mrs. Paullen Tallen, Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun and General Chris Garuba.

Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has also expressed shock at the attack of bandits on the convoy.

A statement signed by Mr. Tajudeen Kareem, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, said that Dr. Saraki, who first heard the news at the Northern Governors' Forum in Kaduna, described the incident as "sad and regrettable."

Governor Saraki, while describing Governor Akume as a fine gentleman politician, wondered why anyone would want to assassinate him.

Dr. Saraki also sent his condolences to the government and people of Benue State on the death of Mr. Andrew Agom and police Sergeant, Joseph Ngam, who were killed in the ambush by the bandits.

Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, who was among sympathisers who visited Mr. Akume in Abuja on Thursday, said that the attack on the governor was a challenge to the government and people of the country.

General Babangida, though admitting that violence could not be totally prevented, said government must, in collaboration with the people, intensify efforts to reduce it.

He told journalists in an interview at the Benue Lodge in Asokoro that it was natural that people should be agitated by the spate of crimes in the society.

Babangida said that the matter might be one of the items to be discussed at the next Council of State meeting.

He added that though he did not work at the Council of

State "secretariat", "we discuss a lot of things bordering on security, education and general welfare of the people at the forum."

Describing the attack on Governor Akume as terrible and unfortunate, the former military president vouched for the government efforts in combating crimes in the country.

"I want to believe that a lot of efforts are being made to arrest the problem and I think if nothing else, it should challenge the government and the people in the effort to put an end to this.

"It is natural for people to be agitated by this. But I also know that government will continue to do its best to make sure that a solution is found. Such an occurrence may not be ruled out 100 per cent, at least something should be done to put an end to this", Babangida said.

He said that Governor Akume and the late Engineer Agom were his good friends and "that is why I have to travel from Minna to come here to see him (the governor).

"I sympathise with the family of Agom and I thank God for sparing the life of the governor."

The House of Representatives on Thursday expressed outrage at the attack on the Benue State governor, Mr. George Akume, as it resolved to summon the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, to explain reasons behind the increasing wave of assassinations in Nigeria.

The House, however, refused to entertain a motion which called for the summoning of the Director of State Security Service (SSS), Mr. Kayode Are and the National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, for the same purpose.

Hardly had the House settled down for the business of the day when Honourable Tenigu Tshaba moved a motion under matter of urgent public importance to bring the attack on the Benue State governor the previous day under focus.

At the end of the debate, the House, in addition, resolved to call on the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to track down the hoodlums involved in the attack while it also called on the Federal Government to take urgent steps towards stemming the increasing wave of politically motivated attacks and assassinations of prominent individuals in Nigeria.

Members of the lower house had taken turns to express disappointment at the attitude of the Federal Government in addressing the security problem in Nigeria wondering what had become of the previous motions passed by the House on solving the problem.

Honourable Mao Ohuabunwa had observed that the activities of hoodlums could not have been on the increase in Nigeria had there not been lapses in the nation's security system.

Ohuabunwa, making a case for a total overhaul of the Nigeria Police, blamed some divisional police officers across the states whom he said have been assigning their officers to different checkpoints to extort money from the public.

Also, Honourable Usman Bugaje said Nigeria should look beyond the police in addressing its security problems, calling on the appropriate authorities in Nigeria to probe the issue of politically motivated assassinations.

Bugaje opined that there was more to the issue at stake than the public was aware of, insisting that there are certain secrets known to certain top government officials which, according to him, have been closely shielded away from the public.

"I have a strong feeling that somebody within the executive is enjoying what has been going on. It is time we urge the government to bring out the issues, that they should go into the root of the matter. Certainly, there is a knowledge shared in the private that is not made known to the public," he said.

Meanwhile, a former Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Aliyu Attah, on Thursday faulted the call to summon the Inspector-General of Police over the attack on Mr. Akume.

Speaking with newsmen in Abuja while reacting to the call, Alhaji Attah, who described the call "as very annoying", said that such an action would not in any way solve the security problem of the country.

Alhaji Attah said that any sack of the Inspector-General of Police would not improve the security lapses in the country except "the police are well equipped and personnel retrained."

In addition, the former police boss called for the immediate restoration of the special branch to the force which would be saddled with the gathering information that would assist the police in their operations.

In another development, crack detectives have been drafted to the Lafia - Nasarawa - Akwanga road where Governor Akume was attacked to comb the entire area with a view to tracking down the perpetrators.

Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, who disclosed this in a statement while reacting to the attack on Governor Akume, said that in addition, a police helicopter had been deployed to the area to provide support to ground operatives.

Bozimo disclosed that the police would do everything possible to arrest the perpetrators of the dastardly act with a view to bringing them to book.

While condemning the attack on the convoy of Governor Akume, the minister assured that the culprits would be fished out, but pleaded with Nigerians especially the people of Benue State to assist the police in giving necessary information that would lead to the early arrest of the culprits.

He commiserated with Governor Akume, the people of Benue State and the families of those who died during the attack and prayed God to grant their souls eternal rest.

Meanwhile, the armed robbery theory in the attack on Governor Akume of Benue State was given additional credence on Thursday when some robbery victims on the Sawe road that Wednesday were brought to the Force Headquarters, Abuja.

An informed source told the Nigerian Tribune that the robbery victims, including officials of one of the transport unions, were robbed when the governor's convoy emerged.