Following the declaration of a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states, some members of the fundamentalist Boko Haram sect have started fleeing to neighbouring Gombe, Bauchi and Jigawa states.
On Thursday, members of the sect attacked two police stations and four banks in Daura, Katsina State.
It was the first time the sect was carrying out attacks in Katsina.
President Goodluck Jonathan placed the three states under emergency rule following unabated bloodbath and bomb attacks which have left hundreds of people and security officials dead.
Security sources confided in our correspondents on Friday that following the increased pressure by the military, some of the insurgents have started sneaking out of the states.
A top military official who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter said, “All the states are under intense military surveillance and we are ensuring that no one sneaks out but the insurgents have some secret routes which we are going to block. They will use these secret routes to sneak out because of the heat on them. Ordinarily, they will want to protect their wives, children and the weak among them.”
One of the soldiers deployed in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, also told one of our correspondents that some of the insurgents are fleeing the state to neighbouring ones.
The solider who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter said, “We have reports that they are running away to neigbouring states and even neighbouring countries. We are doing our best to ensure that all escape routes are blocked.”
According to the soldier, several residents of Gamboru, Ngala, and Marte, where the sect hoisted its flags are fleeing the area because of heavy military operation.
A security expert and former State Security Service director, Mr. Mike Ejiojor, toldSUNDAY PUNCH that it was possible that members of the Boko Haram sect would attempt to escape to states near Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
“Preventing them from migrating to neighbouring states is the essence of the state of emergency in the three affected states. We hope that it won’t be easy for them to migrate to other states especially if they have cells there,” he said.
Another security expert, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, told one of our correspondents that there was a possibility that members of the sect that had fled the states, could regroup to launch massive attacks on the states under emergency rule.
Ekhomu, who is the President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, said such a development could lead to having more states on the list of those under emergency rule.
He said, “They will continue to launch attacks, it is not without doubt. Don’t forget that apart from the affected states, other states have some Boko Haram presence, so they may regroup. The military must ensure that they don’t escape from the states.
“The military should use a lot of tactics to freeze the bad guys (Boko Haram). The essence of conducting the military operation in the North-East is to flush out or capture the Boko Haram elements. If they get away, then the purpose of the exercise is defeated.”
He added that members of the sect might wear military uniforms to disguise as they were becoming more adaptive. According to him, it would become difficult to differentiate between a genuine military officer and a Boko Haram member in military uniform.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Immigration Service has deported 31,822 illegal immigrants from the country in the first five months of the year.
The Public Relations Officer of NIS, Mr. Ekpedeme King, told SUNDAY PUNCH, that the figure represented the total number of immigrants arrested without proper documentation in different parts of the country.
“According to our records, from January this year to the first week of May, the Nigerian Immigration Service arrested and repatriated 31,822 illegal immigrants. I know there is the temptation to link the number to the security situation in the country and the Boko Haram insurgency. But this is the total number of illegal immigrants we have repatriated so far this year, as part of our duties to ensure that every foreigner in the country has adequate documentation,” he said.
Findings showed that most of the deportees were nationals of Niger, Mali and Cameroun, while a small number from other West African countries like Ghana and Benin Republic.
Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, who confirmed this development, said the illegal aliens came into the country through the many porous border inlets, adding that to fight terrorism in the country, it was necessary to “throw them out.”
Moro explained that the deportation was part of the measures adopted by government to check the incursion of strangers into the nation and to further contain the security threat posed by Boko Haram.
According to him, it will cost about N500m to provide the manpower and gadgets needed at the borders.
He said, “Manning our international borders effectively to check illegal entry of persons is almost impossible in the nation today. We have to admit the fact that we don’t have enough manpower and equipment to have real control of the situation.
“And I admit to you that prior to the present situation we face, it used to be worse. We used to take so many things for granted until we came to the point of this daring and dire security challenge.
“Part of the measures to succeed in the task had led us to getting into partnership with the American government to procure advanced surveillance equipment for better border security. The illegal immigrants were sent out of the country by the appropriate authorities under the ministry.”
In a related development, Amnesty International has called on security forces to adhere to international human rights standards and the rule of law.
It said it would continue to document human rights abuses by the security forces and Boko Haram, and the dire situation of the people trapped in the middle.
It stated, “We will continue to call on the Nigeria government to take action to protect the population. Nigeria must adopt measures that prevent, investigate and prosecute attacks by Boko Haram, while fully respecting and ensuring human rights in accordance with Nigeria’s international obligations and commitments.
The population will not be truly secure until everyone in Nigeria can be confident not only that the risk of attacks from Boko Haram has been reduced, but also that they will not face human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces mandated with their protection.
“Unfortunately, at the moment in Nigeria we have a situation where the military are behaving like they are above the law – like they don’t have to respect the rule of law. So, in some respects, the issue is not so much which law the military are operating under, although it is vitally important that the law complies with international human rights law and standards.”