President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, and Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Abubakar Sadique, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, over the increasing spate of insecurity in the country and tasked the service chiefs to live up to their responsibilities.
The president, who observed that the wanton destruction of innocent lives in the country had become a major embarrassment to the nation’s image in the international community, challenged the service chiefs to promptly arrest the situation.
The president, according to a statement issued later by his chief spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, also condoled with the government and people of Benue State over the invasion and killing of innocent Nigerians at the Zaki Biam yam market by unknown gunmen on Monday.
The president also condemned the wanton killings of Nigerians in different parts of the country and challenged the security forces to secure the lives of citizens, which he observed had become so cheap in Nigeria.
In clear terms, Buhari condemned the Zaki Biam killings and directed security agencies to forthwith begin investigations into the tragedy with a view to bringing the assailants to book.
The statement added that Buhari sympathised with those who lost their loved ones in the attack, prayed God to comfort bereaved families, and grant the souls of the victims eternal rest.
Lamenting the perpetual loss of value for human lives in the country, Buhari pointed out that human life was sacred and no one has the right to take the life of a fellow human being.
“We must condemn inhuman and unnecessary shedding of human blood all over the country. We seem to have lost value for human life, which is sacred. Man is the glory of God’s creation and nobody has the right to unjustly and unlawfully take another person’s life in a reckless manner,” Buhari said.
He advised all citizens to cultivate the habit of living together in peace and brotherhood and promote the spirit of tolerance.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents after the meeting, Buratai said he met with the president to give him an update on security issues under the purview of the Nigerian Army.
He said following the update, the president was happy with the military and assured them that the armed forces would continue to live up to their constitutional responsibility.
“I visited the commander-in-chief to update him on security matters that the army is involved in – defending the territorial integrity of the country, the welfare of the troops, the state of our general administration. Basically, that is why I came.
“The president is happy with the Nigerian Army and the military. We will continue to do our work to defend the constitution of this country and we assured him of our absolute loyalty and to ensure we discharge our constitutional responsibility,” he said.
Also, Sadique described the meeting as routine one, adding that the Nigerian Air Force would ensure that Nigeria is secure and its citizens free to carry out their activities without fear.
“It was just a routine meeting. I came to brief the president on what is happening in the air force. He is the commander-in-chief and he has the right to meet with his service chiefs.
“For us in the air force and for all the services, really, we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that our society is secure and our communities are stable so that people can go about pursuing their legitimate aspirations without any fear.
“That is the purpose for which the air force was established. That is why we are working to ensure that we do everything humanly possible to create the right environment because without security, you cannot think of development,” he said.
Meanwhile, facts have emerged that the deadly gang that massacred over 30 persons at the Zaki Biam yam market might have given notice of the attack.
A senior security officer, who preferred not to be named, told THISDAY that the gunmen with links to a notorious outlaw, Gana, had written to the residents of Zaki Biam of their scheduled attack.
Another source stated that there was a clash between the leader of the gang and another member who had renounced his membership and was now working for the government as an agent.
He said the main goal of the gang was to eliminate the former member and anyone close to him.
On a visit to the area Tuesday in the company of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, THISDAY gathered from the locals that more dead bodies including students of Amensi Secondary School located on the yam market road were also discovered.
The students were said to have been on an extension, preparatory to writing their West African School Certificate (WASC) examination.
The locals, who pleaded for anonymity, said several persons were still missing, disclosing that the gunmen including a woman came to the area with sophisticated weapons in a pick-up van, Toyota Corolla car and on motorcycles shooting sporadically into the air to scare away people.
Following Monday’s bloody attack, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) said he deployed his men in banks, hotels, schools and other institutions to safeguard them.
“We have dispatched as early as 8 a.m. and the gunmen attacked by 2 p.m. on Monday. They numbered over 30 and abducted so many people,” he said.
It was observed that many houses were burnt and several people had fled the area. Shops and other institutions in the area were closed.
Many families were seen with their belongings leaving the town for fear of more attacks.
After his inspection, Ortom visited injured persons at the Light of Grace Hospital. He also went to St. Anthony’s Hospital where dead bodies had been deposited as well as the General and NKST Hospitals.
He appealed to residents to remain calm, promising that more security personnel would be deployed in the area to restore peace.
He also assured them that the culprits would be arrested.
In another development, the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and his counterparts in The Gambia and Ghana, Adama Barrow and Nana Akuffo-Addo, respectively made telephone calls to Buhari in Abuja Tuesday and wished him sound and perfect health.
In his phone conversation, the Egyptian president also congratulated Buhari for what he described as the strides Nigeria had made in the war against Boko Haram and other security challenges.
El-Sisi, according to a statement by Adesina, said his country was prepared to assist Nigeria in its quest to overcome its security challenges, promising that the two countries would continue to partner each other in other areas of mutual interest.
Also on Tuesday, Barrow of The Gambia made a goodwill phone call to Buhari and thanked Nigeria for its leading role in his emergence as president of his country. Barrow then wished Buhari well.
In the same vein, Ghana’s president, Akuffo-Addo, in another phone call, wished Buhari good health, and promised improved bilateral cooperation between the two West African countries.