Two months and five days after the attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo in Ondo State, security agencies have arrested five terror suspects and one accomplice. The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, who confirmed the arrest of the masterminds in Abuja, yesterday ruled out the possibility of hiring mercenaries to assist the Armed Forces to curtail banditry and terrorism in the country.
Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who expressed delight at the arrest of the suspects, told reporters in Akure, the state capital, that security agencies have been on their trail after the attack.
On June 5, the ancient Owo town was thrown into mourning, following the mass shooting and bomb attack on the church, where over 40 worshippers died.
The Federal Government said the Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) was behind the attack.
The arrested suspects, according to security agents, are Idris Ojo, Jimoh Ibrahim, Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza, also known as Ibn Malik, Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa and Awwal Onimisi.
Irabor, who said efforts will be intensified to rescue Abuja-Kaduna train hostages from bandits, assured that security agencies will guarantee security for the 2023 polls.
But, ruling out the possibility of hiring mercenaries to fight the anti-terror war, he said the funds to be used to hire mercenaries should be channelled to build the capacity of the military, which has the responsibility of protecting the country. Irabor also said Abuja is safe without any threat whatsoever.
Irabor made the clarifications during a parley with media executives at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja.
He said: “Hiring mercenaries is not an option; it is a half story. Mercenaries are commercial entities moving from one place to the other.
“We should rather use the resources to build the capacity of those that have the responsibility to protect the country.
“The core responsibility of the military is to protect the territorial integrity of the country.
“A nation is as strong as its military and there are various avenues you can weaken your military. Some people are strong physically but you can attack them emotionally and their strength will be useless.
“Do not encourage people to weaken the emotional strength of the Armed Forces, if you do, every one of us will be the loser.
“God has created this space for us to dominate. Our dominating and exploiting the resources of the state is a collective responsibility.
“It is for us, our families and our children to enjoy. It is not for us to abandon it for some other idiots to take over; it is for us to defend and enjoy. So whatever it will take to defend the nation, we will do.”
Irabor also confirmed the arrest of some terrorists in Okene, Kogi State.
He said the criminals were arrested in collaboration with other security arms, including the Department of State Services (DSS), the police and intelligence agencies.
He added: “Within the last time we met, we have recorded remarkable achievement.
“Within the same period, there have been ignoble actions of men of the underworld that have impinged on our collective well-being, namely the unfortunate train attack, the attack on Kuje correctional centre and the attack on the presidential convoy.
“We have arrested those behind the dastardly act in Owo.
“I intended to present them (the suspects) to the public, but because of the investigation still going on, I had to change my mind.
“I will like to say that in due course, the world will see them and others who are behind other daring attacks in the country.
“It is not just the Armed Forces, but the DSS, the Police and other intelligence agencies were part and parcel of the efforts to apprehend these criminals who that have put us and indeed the nation on the toes.
“On August 7, Idris Ojo (37) was apprehended at Aiyetoro Osi in Ondo State. He is one of the high-profile Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) that escaped from Kuje Prison.
“Alongside with him is one Jimoh Ibrahim who is a 39-year-old criminal who was also arrested.
“Idris Ojo was not done with all the criminal activities which he undertook in the past.
“He was also planning other deadly attacks and he was perfecting those plans along with his cronies before he was apprehended.
“On August 4, again, the military in a combined operation with the DSS arrested four terrorists at Eika in Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State.
“These are Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza otherwise known as Ibn Malik; Momoh Abubakar, Aliyu Itopa and Awwal Onimisi.
“Now, Omeiza is one of the masterminds of the June 5 Catholic Church attack in Owo, as well as the attack on the Police station in Adavi also in Kogi State, that led to the killing of a policeman as well as weapons being carried away.”
Killing of bandits leader confirmed
The CDS confirmed the killing of a notorious banditry kingpin terrorizing the North-West, Alh. Abdulkareem.
He was neutralised along with 29 other fighters during air strikes on their hideout in Safana Local Government Area in Katsina State.
On the air strikes, Irabor said: “By the deeds of the surgical air operations that we have conducted, many of the bandits’ leaders have been killed. It was surgical and Nigerians must know.
“Many of the bandits terrorising have been killed. We have heightened our operations, in particular, in the North-West and Northcentral.”
On the remaining Abuja-Kaduna train attack victims in captivity, the CDS said: “Many of the victims have been released.
“The President has ordered us to do everything possible to see that whoever is still being held is rescued. We will rescue them.
“Together, we will crush those elements who will not want us to have peace
“By the grace of God, you will hear the news. I want to tell all Nigerians of goodwill, who have contributed in one way or the other to our efforts, that we are working to ensure that everyone lives in peace and harmony.
“The President has directed me, and of course members of the Armed Forces, to rescue the victims hale and hearty.”
‘General election will be safe’
On the 2023 general election, Irabor said: “Sometimes last week, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), had a forum for personnel of the police, the military and other security agencies that will be involved in the election and I made a statement that as members of the Armed Forces, we have a covenant with the electoral process.
“That statement presupposes that we will do anything to create the condition for free, safe and secured conduct of the 2023 general elections. We will do everything to ensure that nothing stops it
“We have a covenant with the Democratic process”.
The President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr. Mustapha Isah, the Director, Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor and the Chief Executive Officer of The Media Today, Mr. Charles Odenigbo called for more collaboration between the military and the media.
Isah asked the media to be part of the campaign to address the nation’s security challenges.
Akpor said the essence of the parley was to build a sustainable trust between the media and members of the armed forces.
Akpor said the meeting was in line with the leadership focus of Irabor toward fostering professional armed forces capable of meeting constitutional imperatives.
Odenigbo on his part said the Military and the media must be frank and open to each other in ensuring peace and security in the country.
He said, although military operations could not be discussed in the open, there was a need to see how the media could fit into the activities of the military.
Akeredolu cautions Ebira community
Akeredolu, who spoke on the arrest of suspected terrorists, warned leaders of the Ebira community in the state to caution their youths against venturing into kidnappings.
He said recent reports from kidnapped victims in the state have established that some Ebira indigenes were now involved in kidnappings.
The governor spoke when he played host to the leadership of the Ondo Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, led by its Chairman, Prince Leke Adegbite.
Akeredolu, who urged the Ebira community to concentrate on their farming business, alleged that victims of Ikare kidnapping were taken to Ebira farmsteads as kidnappers’ dens.
He said it would be unfortunate if the Ebiras in the state were now involved in kidnapping.
Akeredolu said: “We are appealing to them not to copy bad things. The traders selling by the roadside should not become informants. We are not fighting them.
“We have lived together for too long for this to happen. I am ready to make any effort to ensure that the conviviality that we have enjoyed continues.
“But we are begging their leaders to urge them not to copy bad things. They are in our midst, we are surrounded by them. The issue of security is key and it’s dynamic.”
The governor disclosed that 20 hunters and local vigilantes would be trained by the Amotekun corps in each of the 18 local government areas to boost the operation of the security outfit.
He also disclosed that the owner of the house where the attackers stayed before the June 5 attack in Owo has also been arrested
The governor said his administration did not spare a moment to trail the terrorists after the attack on innocent worshipers at the St Francis Catholic Church, Owaluwa, Owo.
Akeredolu added: “Now that the military has announced it, I can tell you that five of them have been arrested now. They are still on the trail of the rest.
“The home where they lodged in Owo and the person that accommodated them before the attack, has also been arrested.
“We did not spare a moment. I am happy that the Chief of Defence Staff has announced it. We have known for a while but we needed not to come out with it because more works are still ongoing.
“I can confirm that this arrest has been made. And they are still on the trail of some of them.”
HURIWA: suspects must be prosecuted
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) urged the Federal Government to prosecute the suspected terrorists arrested by security agencies.
The group accused the government of failing to prosecute suspects.
The group said there is no guarantee that the Owo incident would be different because, in the last seven years, no significant terrorist and mass murderers have been successfully prosecuted and jailed.
It added: “Government of President Muhammadu Buhari has no good record of successfully prosecuting terrorists but is notorious for deploying empty media rhetoric to hoodwink undiscerning members of the public to believe that actions are been adopted to deal with terrorists.”
Speaking on Channels’ Politics Today yesterday, former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Fatai Owoseni, and a member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Abubakar Yunusa, who hailed the arrest, said there was the need for stakeholders to do more in the area of securing the nation.
Both speakers called for community policing.
They also urged the state government to integrate the local governments into policing their areas.
According to Owoseni, security agencies should enhance intelligence gathering.
To him, the country was not under-policed but there was no proper harmonisation among these agencies.
“The information given by the Chief of Defence Staff was a welcome development. Whenever any security breach was committed, the first thing was to be proactive to go after the perpetrators and after they are arrested, they should be properly prosecuted.”
“Going forward, we should deploy more technological innovations and the community because there is no criminal that can be bigger than the community.
“We need to develop the security architecture that can incorporate the non-state actors because they will supply the local intelligence, which will support the community.
“We need to get all our security agencies to work together and not working with a mindset of outsmarting each other,” he said.
The former police chief said security agencies should synergise for better results.
Yunusa, representing Gombe in the Lower House, said security should be a joint responsibility.
He said: “Security should be everybody’s business and not for the Federal Government alone.”
Source: The Nation