The Guardian (Nigeria)

Security alert: Delta faults inclusion in UK’S travel advisory to 12 states

- From Terhemba Daka ( Abuja), Saxone Akhaine ( Kaduna), Rotimi Agboluaje ( Ibadan) Monday Osayande ( Asaba) and Nnamdi Akpa ( Abakaliki)

• As gunmen kill 30 in Sokoto market • 10 soldiers, 21 others killed by gunmen across Nigeria last week • Gunmen attack police station in Ebonyi, kill cop • Report insecurity as declining, not rising, Buhari begs media • Asking journalist­s not to report insecurity as rising amounts to gagging the press, says Farounbi

GUNMEN have killed at least 30 people in an attack in Sokoto State, Governor Aminu Tambuwal confirmed yesterday. The assault began at a weekly market in Goronyo on Sunday and continued into Monday morning.

This is coming as the United Kingdom ( UK), at the weekend, advised its citizens in Nigeria to steer clear of 12 states, saying Boko Haram insurgents were likely to kidnap foreign nationals.

The UK Foreign, Commonweal­th and Developmen­t Office ( FCDO), which announced this in a travel advisory for its nationals, said there was a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria for ideologica­l, financial or political gain. The states include Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe,

Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River.

The bandits, according to locals, came in their large numbers using motorcycle and opened fire at any object on sight in the market on Sunday evening. “This happened when people were already preparing to return to their homes,” a source said.

The event occurred barely 10 days after bandits had killed dozens of people in a similar attack on Unguwar Lalle Market in Sabon Birni Council of the state. Goronyo, Isa, Sabon Birni and Raba are local councils in Sokoto in the frontline of banditry.

Iliyasu Abba, a local resident and trader, told newsmen that there were 60 bodies at Goronyo General Hospital mortuary, with many others sustaining injuries while escaping.

“The gunmen stormed the market as it was crowded with shoppers and traders,” he said. “The men were shooting sporadical­ly at us after they surrounded the market firing at every direction, killing people.”

Gunmen across the Northwest have killed scores of people and kidnapped hundreds more for ransom over the past year in a security crisis that the government is trying to tackle via communicat­ions blackouts, military operations and stepped up policing.

The government ordered shut all telephone and Internet services in the whole of Zamfara State in early September, the blackout was later extended to parts of Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna states as military operations intensifie­d.

Confirming the incident when the Chief of Army Staff ( COAS), Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, paid a courtesy call on the Sokoto Government House, Governor Tambuwal said the army operation in Zamfara State has worsened the security situation in Sokoto lately.

Tambuwal, who noted that people were killed in their tens when bandits struck on Sunday, appealed to the COAS to reinforce security presence in the state and deploy more resources.

One of the locals, who claimed to have lost four relatives, said it was not only a gory sight but was also disturbing.

“As I am talking to you now, most of our people have run away from Goronyo to take refuge in the metropolis. All our villages are not safe. We have been living in perpetual fear. These brutal bandits come at will, kill our loved ones, rustle our cows, cart away our foodstuffs, rape and whisk away our women and girls uninterrup­ted,” he said.

Last month, 17 security personnel were killed when gunmen attacked their base in Sabon Birni’s Dama village, an assault the military blamed on Islamic State- aligned jihadists.

THE UK advisory had read: “The groups have previously shown intent and capability to conduct kidnaps in Nigeria. Foreign nationals, including humanitari­an workers, are likely targets for kidnap. “There’s a high threat of kidnap throughout Nigeria. Kidnaps can be motivated by criminalit­y or terrorism and could be carried out for ideologica­l, financial or political gain. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the risk of kidnap increases after dark.

“The security environmen­t in the Northeast has deteriorat­ed since 2018 and there is a heightened risk of kidnap. There are also reports that Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province ( ISWAP) are continuing to actively plan to kidnap foreigners.

“In Northeast Nigeria, extremist groups operate in some northern and middle belt states, including Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Adamawa states. If you’re working or travelling in these states then you should be aware of the risk of terrorist kidnapping.”

The UK government also advised its citizens to be careful as events to mark the one year anniversar­y of # ENDSARS protests might lead to additional protests in Lagos and Abuja, adding also that the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB), scheduled for October 21, might lead to protests and heightened security presence in Abuja and the Southeast.

REACTING, Delta State Government, yesterday, expressed dismay over the travel advisory. Commission­er for Informatio­n in the state, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administra­tion in the state put high premium on the security of life and property of citizens because it was the primary purpose of government.

He, therefore, urged the public and the internatio­nal community to disregard the advisory report because it was not in tandem with the situation in the state.

“We were taken aback as to why the FCDO in their latest travel advisory report included Delta in the list of 12 states where they are asking their citizens not to visit on account of possible attack by Boko Haram. We want to believe that it was an error because just last month, precisely on September 21, the British High Commission­er to Nigeria, Ms Catriona Laing, was here in Delta.

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