Civil war hero, Major Gen. Muhammed Shuwa, was gunned down yesterday by suspected members of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram. His killing occurred 24 hours after the sect gave conditions under which it would negotiate peace with the Federal Government.
The assassination of the former General Officer Commanding the First Infantry Division of the Nigerian Army in his Gwange 1 area, Maiduguri followed alleged all night raid of four areas of the metropolis by military men during which about 40 youths were shot dead.
Killed along with 79-year-old Shuwa was a guest.
The gunmen struck at about 12 noon, according to a statement by the Defence Headquarters
It said: “At about 12 noon today (Friday) at General Muhammadu Shuwa (rtd) house in Gwange 1 area of Maiduguri metropolis, while the general was seated in his house with some guests, four men initially thought to be his visitors and guests for the Juma’at prayers entered his house and opened fire on the general and his guests.
“One of the guests died on the spot while the general died on the way to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
“The JTF troops located in the area immediately cordoned off the area and search for the assailants is ongoing to apprehend the terrorists.
“The terrorists that carried out the killing of the general will be brought to book.”
It called for information from the public to help the security agencies in apprehending the terrorists.
Shuwa, whose exploits during the war included the capture of Ogoja and Nsukka, was part of the Borno Elders Forum who recently urged caution in government’s handling of the Boko Haram insurgency.
In May this year, Shuwa had said he could be the target of Boko Haram insurgents. He spoke in an interview with the French news agency, AFP.
Before retiring from the army, he had served at different times as Federal Commissioner for Trade and Works.
Earlier in the year, he took on his former deputy in the First Division, Gen. Yakubu Danjuma, after he (Danjuma) described Borno State as one of Nigeria’s failed states on account of the general state of insecurity created by the Boko Haram insurgency. He dismissed Danjuma’s statement as unguarded.
The former Defence Minister, Shuwa added, was far from the reality in the beleaguered state and could not be trusted to make objective assessment of the situation there.
His words: ”I expected General Danjuma to have visited Borno State to see things for himself before passing a weighty judgment on an entire government and its people.
“I cannot remember when last General Danjuma visited Borno State, not even with the crisis that should ordinarily attract empathy visits by leaders to extend hands of solidarity to fellows in turbulent times.
“I don’t think it is right for any leader to remain far away and form an opinion without having practical knowledge of things.
“This, to me, is like treating Borno State as a ‘distant cousin’. I advise General Danjuma to reconsider his statement in the interest of mutual respect and instead work for the formation of a zonal forum of like-minds to address the prevailing security challenges.”
The former Federal Commissioner for Works said the former Chief of Army Staff came out to express concern over Boko Haram insurgence only when the sect attacked Taraba, General Danjuma’s home state.
He said: ”I am, however, worried by his very disturbing description of a state with functional executive, legislature and judicial arms of government, functional law enforcement agencies as well as citizens going about their daily routine as a failed state. Agreed, Borno is facing challenges, but to call it a failed state is a remark in bad faith.
“I just hope some Nigerians will not accuse General Danjuma of keeping silent while many parts of the country were facing problems only to come out offensively few days after his home state, Taraba, was attacked.
“I regard General Danjuma as an elder statesman and hope he didn’t speak out of sentiment, which is not expected of a nationalist like him.
“I must say that, for me, every part of Nigeria is important and our collective peace should concern all of us. It is not right for any leader to isolate some states and write them off in very unpleasant remark.
“A leader ought to provide solutions either by way of advice to the federal and state public office holders in particular, or by championing a forum of discussion for problem-solving.
“A national leader cannot play a blame game; a national leader provides options to problem-solving and by that a leader brings something new, and not to join a bandwagon of making remarks that appear to merely attract headlines.
“As a national leader, I expected General Danjuma to invite any governor in Nigeria or indeed summon the governors of the North to any suitable venue to offer advice on areas of governance he feels concerned (about).”
As Federal Commissioner for Trade, Shuwa introduced Price Control as part of the strategies by the then military government to check profiteering by traders.
Before Shuwa’s death yesterday, residents and a morgue official said soldiers had killed about 40 young men late Thursday during operations in four Maiduguri neighbourhoods, including Shuwa’s home area of Gwange.
An imam told the BBC about 11 youths from his street alone were killed, including four of his own sons.
Mallam Aji Mustapha, an imam in Maiduguri, said after morning prayers on Thursday, soldiers took him and his children to an open field where many people had already been taken.
“In my street alone, about 11 youths were shot dead and no-one has given us an explanation about what they did,” he said.
He said they were told to lie on the ground. People were called forward for a screening process – the young men were checked against photos on a computer database and some of them were separated.
He said they were ordered to look away and then he heard gunshots.
“They killed four of my children in front of me. They took their bodies to the mortuary of the general hospital,” he said.
He said when he went to collect the bodies later, he saw the bodies of 40 youths.
“In my street alone, about 11 youths were shot dead and no-one has given us an explanation about what they did.”
The BBC Hausa Service spoke to other residents in the city who had similar stories about house-to-house searches across the city – and those rounded up and taken to the field for screening.
One man said he saw a dozen corpses at the general hospital. He identified one of them as a friend with whom he played football.
The alleged extra-judicial killings happened as Amnesty International accused the security forces of abuses in its crackdown on Boko Haram.
Lt. Col. Sagir said he was not aware of the incident, although he promised that investigations would be made.
In response to the Amnesty International accusations, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that the government would never condone human rights abuses. But she said it should be remembered that the army was trying to curb “terrorist” acts.
“I think you need to look at the circumstances. When the UK was battling terrorism… the US, they had Guantanamo Bay…. All countries, when the security of their citizens is at stake, they try to use all the tools at their disposal,” she said.
Maiduguri is the stronghold of the group which, on Thursday, said it was ready for peace talks with the federal government, provided its conditions were met. These include holding the talks in Saudi Arabia.
It also picked former military leader, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as mediator.
Buhari contested last year’s presidential election on the platform of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) against President Goodluck Jonathan.
Others, it suggested as mediators are Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari, Mrs Aisha Alkali Wakil and her husband Alkali Wakil.
Boko Haram named Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, said to be the next in command to its leader, Abubakar Shekau, as leader of its team to the talks. He will be joined by Abu Abbas, Sheik Ibrahim Yusuf, Sheik Sani, Kantagora and the detained Mamman Nur.
Ibn Abdulaziz, who spoke in a tele-conference with reporters in Maiduguri, Borno State, also called for the arrest of former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, but gave no reason for the demand.
He also asked for compensation for families of killed Boko Haram members and the release of those in detention.
In a swift reaction, the Presidency welcomed Boko Haram’s change in position, reiterating its commitment to peace and justice.
Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said: “Yes, I have seen the story in which the Boko Haram is reportedly declaring a ceasefire and the opening of dialogue. I think it is important to restate the position of government in this matter.
“The Federal Government is committed to peace and security for the benefit of all Nigerians. If what the proposed ceasefire is intended to achieve are the objectives of peace and security, then it is a welcome development.”