Adamawa State Governor, James Bala Ngilari, yesterday confirmed that the Boko Haram sect had overrun five local governments in his state, expressing deep concern over the security situation in the area.
The governor equally warned that the heightened insecurity in the state had become precarious, but added that his government was trying to do its best to manage the situation.
Ngilari made the remarks when he fielded questions from State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, stating that the local governments that had been occupied by the insurgents included his entire senatorial district comprising Mubi North and Mubi South Local Government Areas, Gombi and the outskirts of Shanli.
“On Shanli, there is some semblance of movement in that area but really, we need a lot of intervention. We need to move more troops to secure the state. It is a big challenge,” Ngilari said.
On the capture of the Chief of Defence Staff’s hometown, the governor said: “We shouldn’t reduce the issue of the insurgency to simply the takeover of the hometown of the defence chief.
“There are a whole lot of things that make you face the challenges of insecurity, what about the problem of unemployment. You know it is a whole long story. We should not just reduce it to the take over of the house of the defence chief. I think it is more than that.
“It is an absolute challenge. We will do our best, but it is not something that we should leave in the hands of government alone.
“Everybody has a role to play in terms of giving out timely information, in terms of convincing people who are involved in the insurgency. They live with us, they are not from planet Mars, they are part and parcel of the society.”
Despite his worries, he expressed optimism that Nigeria would overcome the challenge posed by insurgency.
On whether he could predict a timeframe for an end to the insecurity in the North-east, Ngilari said: “I don’t know the timeframe. Anything that affects any part of Nigeria, affects the rest of the country. We must all see how we can tame this monster.”
In another development, owing to rising attacks on Adamawa State, most public and private secondary and primary schools in the state capital, Yola, have been shut down indefinitely.
Fears were heightened in the city following rumours that the insurgents were planning to attack Yola, prompting most schools to close down till further notice.
Miss Favour Raphael, a student of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) in Yola, said they were told by their principal to go home until further notice.
Raphael said there was no reason given to them for the closure of the school, lamenting that because of the Ebola virus, the school’s resumption date was delayed and with the latest directive, she was uncertain they would be able to cover the school curriculum this term.
Some of the teachers of the affected schools, who also spoke to THISDAY, said the fear of the unknown was the reason for the closure of the schools.
They said it was done as a precautionary measure so as to avoid a repeat of what happened in Chibok in Borno State, where 276 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents last April.
Also, banks operating in the state capital have been rendering skeletal services since the fall of Mubi last week, and only open from 9 am to 2 pm daily.
However there was no definite statement from the state government regarding the closure of the schools.
In the meantime, 16 men who were arrested by Nigerian troops in the country’s North-east were found dead just hours later with bullet wounds, community leaders said yesterday, demanding an inquiry.
Troops rounded up 17 people, including an Imam, from the Dogo Tebo area of Potiskum in Yobe State as they left a mosque after morning prayers on Wednesday.
Residents and hospital staff said the bodies of all but the Imam were later found in the morgue at the Potiskum General Hospital.
“All the bodies have gunshot wounds on them,” said a nurse, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The bodies had been brought in by soldiers and were formally identified by community leaders and residents from Dogo Tegbo, he told AFP.
One resident, Tukur Danu, said the cleric was not among the dead and added: “We are worried about what they could do to him.”
Potiskum is the commercial hub of Yobe State, which with neighbouring Borno and Adamawa States, has been under emergency rule since May last year because of the Boko Haram insurgency.
On Monday, at least 30 people were killed and some 50 others were injured in a suicide bombing targeting a major Shia Muslim festival in Potiskum.
The head of the Shia community in the city, Mustapha Lawan Nasidi, said at the time that several other people died when troops who were deployed to the scene opened fire.
Community leaders believed the 16 men were picked up and killed because all of them were from the Kanuri ethnic group that forms the bulk of Boko Haram’s membership.
“We demand a probe into this unjustifiable murder,” said one community leader in Dogo Tebo, who asked not to be identified for his personal safety.
“We believe they were killed on suspicion of being Boko Haram members because they were Kanuris.”
All those seized were related either by blood or marriage, according to another leader.
“The government should look into this cold-blooded murder and ensure justice is done because being a soldier does not have a licence to kill at will on mere suspicion,” he added.
“Our fear is that we don’t know what they will do next,” he said, adding that three more people were arrested late on Wednesday in the same area.
A Dogo Tebo resident Maigana Kalli said ordinarily, anyone arrested on suspicion of belonging to Boko Haram is taken to the regional army base in the state capital, Damaturu.
AFP contacted the army in Damaturu and the capital Abuja by phone and by text message but there was no immediate response.
Human rights groups in Nigeria and abroad have previously accused Nigeria’s military of carrying out extra-judicial killings in the five-year fight against Boko Haram.