It happens so often these days since Boko Haram, once a small religious sect but now a flexible dynamic fundamentalist group, capable of changing tactics and targets has turned the Northern States into a cementery of sorts. But of all the tragedies which terrorist groups have unleashed, few will compare to last Wednesday’s killings in Alakyo village in Nasarawa State by a new monstrous militia group called Ombatse cult.
Among the casualties were scores of policemen, tens of officials of the Department of State Security(DSS) who had been deployed earlier that fateful “black Wednesday”. Death toll of that tragic day has benumbed the entire country, raising the spectre tension of insurgent groups sprutting across the country to an all time,disturbing proportions. Nothing in the horizon suggested the herculean tasks the security agents were going to face in their mission to raid the hideout of the militia that operates like a cult at Akwanga. On the mission were 121 security agents, comprising 90 policemen and DSS personnel.
As it turned out, it was a “mission impossible” that came with a harvest of deaths. It was unprecedented. The security agents were reportedly ambushed in the Assakyo village. They were held hostage by the group, slaughtered in droves, dispossessed of their rifles. The leader of the Police Force to disarm the militia, Mohammed Momoh, an Assistant Police Commissioner (ASP) was among those killed. Burnt bodies of over 30 policemen were later recovered and were deposited at the Dalhatu Araf hospital, Lafia, the state capital. About 28 riot policemen who were said to have survived the the attack of the militia, have returned to their base in Akwanga. But without their weapons which were seized by the militia,an indication of the sophistication of the enemy.
The whereabouts of about 17 other policemen remain unknown. They are presumed dead having been missing for over five days now, even though the search and rescue team despatched to the scene of the bloodbath still harbour a flicker of hope that the missing officers could surface. This is beside other destruction done by the militia. This includes nine police patrol vehicles that were reportedly burnt by the militia. By all accounts, the the security challenge posed by the militia has added to existing worries facing the Federal Government, as this insurgent group has become another ‘axis of evil’ after Boko Haram. But what can government do to arrest this grave present danger? President Goodluck had cancelled his scheduled visit to Namibia that was to follow his State visit to South Africa last week to attend to an emergency meeting with security chiefs and some other top government officials in Abuja to address the spate of insecurity across the country.
The earlier tragidies in Baga and Bama are still unresolved before the latest mayhem in Nasarawa. Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar has sent a team of crack detectives led by Mike Zuokumour, an Assistant-Inspector General to investigate the killings. AIG Zuokumour is currently in charge of Zone 4 of the Police Force. He will be assisted by a number of notable anti-riot policemen from different formations, including uncover detectives and the anti-bomb squad from the Force headquarters. How far they will go in unravelling the modus operadi of the Ombatse militia remains a matter of guesswork.
The only breakthrough so far is the reported arrest of a policeman, Haruna Joseph who allegedly provided the ‘cultists’ insider information that helped them to overwhelm the security agents sent to raid the hideout of the militia, even as the Deputy spokesman of the police, Frank Mba assures that security personnel already deployed to Nasarawa over the week was to gurantee public safety. A manhunt for the killers has intensifie. Notwithstanding, like the beginning of Boko Haram, earlier warnings were either ignored or not taken seriously until the sect became a formidable force, from its initial urban guerrilla tactics. Many blame this on incompetence, lack of foresight and insensitivity of security operatives.
And today, government has bowed to pressures to enter into negotiation with a terrorist organisation that threatens the sovereignty of the nation. The fear is that the same “carrot and stick” could be used in the latest case instead of new strategies and tactics to deal with it. Government, it seems never get serious until a problems gets too serious. Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Al-Makura had claimed that he knew the exitence of the group since January this year and their nefarious activities which includes cult activities,” going from one place to another, including churches and taking hostages of ethnic groups” and demand of ransom. The governor said the solution would be to invade the shrine of the cult and pick its leader. That was what the security agents attempt to do, albeit unsuccessfully.
Perhaps the strategy and tactics were wrong. Perhaps, they were ‘betrayed’ by one of their own. What happened in Narasawa has a resemlance of the Davidian sect in Waco, Texas, in USA some years ago, when a mis-timed invasion of its shrine by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to arrest its leader, David Koresh resulted in many deaths of the members who were holed up in the shrine, including Koresh himself. The difference in the case of Ombatse militia is that the security personnel were the casualties. But, there is a lesson in failure.
What lessons have security agencies learnt from Boko Haram and how to deal with emerging terrorists groups in the country? Government must be decisive in matters of security. So far, insurgent groups seem to be a step ahead of the security agencies.