There are strong indications that the Federal Government is considering to declare state of emergency in the five northern states of Benue, Borno, Nassarawa, Plateau and Yobe in efforts to check the rising killings and insecurity.
The hints emerged on Friday after an emergency meeting held by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan with security chiefs and some other top government officials in his bid to address the problem of rising insecurity in many parts of the country, with the latest being the killing of 47 policemen and 10 State Security Service operatives and the destruction of nine patrol vans by the Ombatse militia in Alakyo forest in Nasarawa State on Tuesday.
It could be recalled that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan cut short his trip to South Africa late on Thursday to review reports from the security chiefs on recent violence in Baga and Bama in Borno State; Alakyo Village in Nasarawa State; and Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.
The meeting which lasted several hours was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’id; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba; Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh; Director-General of State Security Service, Ita Ekpenyong; representative of the Chief of Army Staff, Maj-Gen. Emmanuel Bassey; and Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar who wore a black arm band to the meeting as a sign of mourning for the slain policemen.
Others at the meeting were the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.); Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd.); Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.
Midway into the meeting, Olubolade, Anyim and Oghiadomhe left the meeting wearing gloomy looks while President Jonathan and the security chiefs continued with the discussions.
At the close of the meeting, none of the government or security officials was willing to speak with journalists. Although the inspector general of Police, Mohammed Abubakar described the killing of the policemen as “a sad development”, he was shielded from journalists who sought an interview with him on the recent killing of policemen.
A reliable source at the meeting however described it as “a stormy session”, with far-reaching decisions, some of which would soon be made public and others kept under wraps for security reasons taken.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (rtd.), who was moved to tears, managed to answer reporters’ questions on the murder of policemen.
On the speculations that the Federal Government was considering the imposition of a state of emergency in some states in northern Nigeria, he said, “That is not within my purview. They (security chiefs) have the right to call for whatever they want. At the end of the day, the President will take a decision.
“It was an emergency security meeting at the instance of Mr. President. He had to cut his journey short because of insecurity and loss of lives; he was supposed to have been in Namibia. So, he summoned the security agencies to have a quick meeting with us and as you can see, they are still there. The Chief of Defence Staff and other service chiefs are still with him.
“He is looking at how we can put an end to all these troubles we are having and I think that at the end of that deliberation, you will get to know the outcome.”
Olubolade advised policemen against revenge, stressing that such actions would not help the nation. In his words, “The security agencies particularly the police will not want to go and revenge. It is not going to help us because they are supposed to protect lives and property. Going to revenge will not douse tension. It will bring about a lack of confidence in the system. So, we will strictly discourage that”.
Concerning the allegation that policemen killed nine of the Ombatse cult members in Nasarawa State first before they retaliated, the minister said, “I wouldn’t know what is true about that. All I know is that the police have a duty to perform and as such, they must not be afraid, they must be equipped, they must be trained, they must do their job because they are under instructions. The police will not just wake up and pick their leaders if nothing has gone wrong.
“The populace must know that anybody can be brought in by the police for interrogation depending on the intelligence the police get; and that is what happens elsewhere.”
Following the inability of the Police and SSS to dislodge members of the Ombatse cult from their hideout in Alakyo forest in Nasarawa State, the Federal Government was considering military option to accomplish the task.
Meanwhile the death toll of policemen and SSS officers now stands at about 60 bodies recovered from the forest with another 30 still missing.