Residents of four major towns - Song, Maiha, Hong and Fufore in Adamawa State – were left seriously traumatized, even as the affected towns are gradually coming back to life. On different days, mostly in night-time, unknown gunmen stormed the once quiet dwelling places, killing security agents and civilians.
Malum Sahabo is just returning to his home town of Maiha in the far north-east of Adamawa for the first time in almost a year - only to find the town a mere shell of its once lively self.
A pre-dawn attack by suspected gunmen has changed the look of the town. The attack led to the death of at least two people in the town with 35 prison inmates freed. The attack threw the council into confusion as the Divisional Police Headquarters, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) office and several residential houses were set ablaze by the invaders.
Barely three days after the Maiha attack, unidentified gunmen struck again, attacking a divisional police headquarters in Hong, freeing detained suspects. Though this time police officers were able to repel the attacks, but a school-age boy was hit by a stray bullet.
As Hong residents were counting their losses and mourning, tears again flowed freely in the early hours of Thursday, when an unknown gunmen launched a four-hour operation in Song, the headquarters of Song Local Government Area, leaving no fewer than four people dead, including a soldier and a police officer.
A resident of Song, Zakariya’u Bello, says the gunmen started the bloody operation at about 1am, attacking the Divisional Police station, injuring and killing security operatives.
The eyewitness said the heavily-armed gunmen lunched another bloody attack on the local government secretariat, burning some parts. "Police station and part of the one-storey secretariat were burnt down by the gunmen who also attacked a security check point along the Song-Yola road," Bello has said.
Another resident said he saw two uniform casualties, an old woman and a boy, who were hit by stray bullets in their house near the police station.
"Dada Audu, an 80-year-old woman with her grandson of about 15 years were hit by bullet and were feared dead," the resident said.
Adamawa State Police Command spokesman DSP Mohammed Ibrahim, confirmed the attack in Song, saying, "One soldier, police officer and two civilians were killed during the attack."
In the recent times, major towns in the state have come under the siege of killers, especially in the wake of ongoing insurgency in the North. In the last one year, the state, particularly the northern part of it, has witnessed series of security challenges arising from the attacks carried out by unknown gunmen.
As Mubi town battled to curtail the rising insecurity with more horror being unleashed on innocent citizens and property worth billions of naira being destroyed, little did other local government areas realized that they would equally be targeted by the insurgents.
Mubi, neighbour to Borno State, which is virtually the hub of the insurgents’ activities, is one of the towns in the northern part of Adamawa State that has been on the radar of attacks. Many believe that the heavy presence of security agents in Potiskum, Biu and Maiduguri, among other places, have forced the members of the Boko Haram sect to gradually shift base to Adamawa State.
Besides being commercial centres, Mubi, Maiha, Hong, Fufore and Song are very close to Cameroun, whose borders are very porous. Insurgents have capitalised on the security lapses to infiltrate the densely-populated towns. With the strategy of hide-and-fight being adopted by the group, many predicted that it would not take long for them to even enter the Adamawa State capital.
The prediction has since come to pass. Today, the Adamawa State Government is grappling with how to rid the state of the security challenges facing it. The once busy commercial towns in recent time have become shadows of themselves as residents now live under palpable tension.
While many believed the attacks could be by armed robbers, others argue that it could be strategies of the insurgents to rob places where they can get money to finance their activities.
And there are others who still believe that there is a sinister move to cause instability in the state.
"As chief security officer of your respective local governments, I challenge you to brace up for the looming security challenges, because there are security reports that some people are bent on creating instability in our state," Governor Murtala Nyako recently said, while receiving in audience local government chairmen who paid him Christmas homage at the Government House, Yola.
The Song attack was one incident that has raised the consciousness of many Adamawa people to finally believe that the state is under siege. Sequel to this, the Adamawa State government has constituted a joint security committee comprising the Army, Police, State Security Services (SSS), among others to fight the rising spate of crime in the state.
Already there was palpable fear among residents. "We always lived in fear from 7:00pm till daybreak, because of the almost daily gunmen attacks being experienced here," said a resident who craved anonymity.
Some of the residents also say gunmen on motorcycles and vehicles have been making life unbearable for the people. A resident lamented that the activities of the gun men were more prominent in the evening or night when people were either returning from work or sleeping.
Other residents stressed the need for dialogue to end the insurgency, "In the name of Allah, we are sincerely appealing for the sheathing of swords for peace to reign."
Kabiru Musa and Rejoice Timothy, residents of Song, have prevailed on the Federal Government to enter into dialogue with the insurgence, to stop the continued killings of innocent people in the country and to rescue the north from further economic degradation.
Musa said, "considering the state of insecurity particularly in the North, I am begging both the Federal Government and the insurgents, to please come to a dialogue table to settle this matter because the North is dying."
In her words, Rejoice laments, "We are please appealing to the both sides to embrace dialogue in the interest of peace as innocent people are being killed."
Observers say though the security apparatus of the state government has to a large extent warded off possible and high-profile attacks in Yola, the state capital, others insist that checkmating the activities of suspected insurgents in towns like Gombi, Shuwa in Madagali, Mubi and Maiha, all bordering Cameroun, would be a Herculean task, owing to the porous nature of the country’s border with Cameroun. Several times, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were tossed on patrol vehicles of the Joint Task Force, most of which narrowly missed targets.
Another attack that prompted the attention of security operatives and the state government was the recent killing of the acting Chairman of Maiha Local Government, few kilometres from Mubi. As the police and the JTF team launched investigation into the killing of the acting chairman, GSM masts belonging to MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat in Mubi were bombed.
The damages were massive as the town has been cut off from others in terms of subscribers enjoying effective communication services.
However, Thursday morning's mayhem might have rubbished the effort of security operatives in Adamawa although the perpetrators were still being hunted. Observers said the recent attacks might be a power show between the insurgents and security operatives.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the Zone 3, Tambari Yabo, told newsmen last Wednesday in Yola that there were prevailing security challenges in the state.
Yabo explained that within the week, gunmen launched attack in Maiha, Hong and Fufore Local Government Areas and that by deduction; it seemed the gunmen were closing on the state capital.
Though security operatives claim that they were on the top of the situation. "I can assure you that we are on the top of the situation. We want cooperation from public with useful information that could assist us, to achieve result," DSP Ibrahim Muhammad, the state police public relation officer has said.
Avoidable mistake created in the killing of Muhammad Yusuf leader of the Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnati Lil da’awati Wal Jihad, as pointed out by observers, created the heavy insecurity in this part of the country.
"Today, there are many faces of the calamity in Nigeria. There is the ugly face among Muslims, and there is the pathetic face of the calamity among the hapless Christian community and there is a troubling, complicated face created and stoked by the government forces," said a pundit who doesn’t want his name mentioned.