The battle for Baga, just like the battle for BORNO is a critical one in the war for peace in Nigeria’s North East. Twice in less than three months Borno Governor Babagana Zulum has visited Baga, twice he has been attacked with casualties. Baga is not the only part of the state that BOKO Haram operates but it is obvious that there is more to the attacks on his convoy.
Meanwhile, during the first attack, he accused the military of connivance with the attackers. This time around he was more diplomatic and circumspect.
Friday prayers being held in Baga for the first time in two years
In his speech on Saturday, after the Friday attack, Babagana Zulum said the situation facing the state was a tough one and that Boko Haram terrorists had an “ultimate wish to take over the state and bring it under a sovereign brutal administration.
Zulum, whose convoy came under Boko Haram terrorists’ attack in the Baga area on Thursday, for a second time, escaped because he travelled in a military aircraft, although the death toll has now risen to 30 persons from an initial 15 reported.
This is just as the pan-Northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, lambasted the Federal Government and the military over the Boko Haram terrorists’ attack on the governor’s convoy, saying they had “a lot of questions to answer.”
Also, a former Vice President and 2019 Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, called on the Federal Government to “adopt new strategies to deal with the menace of insurgency decisively.”
Security sources on Saturday confirmed to the Agence France Presse that the death toll had risen to 30 persons, giving the breakdown as 12 policemen, five soldiers, four members of a government-backed militia and nine civilians.
Sunday PUNCH learnt that it was now a custom for Zulum to travel to northern Borno by air because of the ravaging Boko Haram insurgency and since he was attacked by the terrorists in July 2020.
A close source said, “This (the Thursday’s visit) was not his first time travelling by a military chopper. It has become a custom after his convoy was attacked in the same Baga a few months ago. All his journeys since then to the dangerous terrain of northern Borno have always been by air and he uses military choppers.”
The Borno State Police Command on Saturday confirmed the Boko Haram terrorists’ attack on the governor’s convoy, saying 11 persons were killed while 13 others were injured. The police noted that the deceased were eight policemen and three members of the Civilian Joint Task Force.
The police also confirmed that the governor travelled by air, but had state officials and federal and state lawmakers in the convoy attacked by the insurgents.
The officials included the senator representing northern Borno, Abubakar Kyari; House of Representatives members, Mohammed Monguno and Bukar Kareto, who represent Marte, Monguno, Nganzai, and Mobbar Kukuwa, Guzamala, Abadam federal constituencies respectively.
The Commissioner of Police, Bello Makwashi, in a release on Saturday, said that the police “would not relent in providing the needed security for the people of the state at all times.”
The CP said, “On September 25, 2020, at about 12 pm, the security convoy, which was heading for Baga in respect of the government’s effort to relocate indigenes of Baga to their ancestral home came under heavy gun attack by armed men suspected to be Boko Haram terrorists a few kilometres from Cross Kauwa. The security convoy returned fire and successfully repelled the attack.
“In the ensuing gunfight, however, casualties were recorded on both sides. Unfortunately, eight policemen and three members of the Civilian Joint Task Force paid the ultimate price. Thirteen other persons sustained injuries and were rushed to a hospital for treatment.”
Bamidele Ogundana with additional reports from Punch