NYU Black Renaissance Noire Spring 2015 - Page 162

A few days earlier, the gunmen had launched a pre-dawn attack at the Federal Road Safety Commission (frsc) office and killed two officers on night duty. The incident was thought to be a robbery attack until the night of July 26, 2009, when Yusuf ’s men struck again, invading and attacking several police posts and public buildings in parts of Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Yobe states. At this point, the president decided that the Boko Haram menace had to be confronted frontally. 160 Coming on the eve of his departure for a twice-postponed state visit to Brazil, there were suggestions that the president should shelve the trip on account of the lives of policemen that were lost. But he argued that it would be improper to do so given that the trip had been postponed twice, and besides, he noted, the security agencies were in control of the situation. Before we departed for the airport, he met with the nsa and security chiefs as well as the service chiefs to whom he gave this directive: deploy troops to the area and fish out all the leaders and members of the extremist sects involved in the attacks. The president further directed that security be beefed up in all neighbouring states and security personnel placed on full alert to ensure that the attacks did not spread elsewhere. He also used informal channels to reach out to emirs and prominent Islamic leaders in the north to rally support against Boko Haram. I had told State House correspondents to proceed to the airport ahead of our convoy as I had secured the commitment of BRN-SPRING-2015.indb 160 the president to field questions before our departure. At the session, the president expressed his heartfelt sympathies with the families of the gallant police men who lost their lives while defending their posts from the senseless attacks, as well as other innocent victims who may have been caught in the unjustifiable mayhem. He also reaffirmed his determination to deal decisively with all those whose misguided beliefs and actions promoted violence, and contempt for the rights of others and undermined national peace, stability, and security. Indeed, the soldiers deployed to tackle the Boko Haram sect fulfilled the president’s mandate when they captured its leader, Yusuf, alive with what was no more than a minor injury on his arm. In the euphoria of the moment, the army commander of the operation, Col. Ben Ahanoto, allowed his men to take snapshots of Yusuf with their mobile phone cameras, before they handed him over to the police. The story turned awry, however, when a few hours later journalists were shown the bullet-ridden body of Yusuf, who was said to have died in a shoot-out with the police. Meanwhile, Ahanoto had spoken to reporters on record that he had personally captured Yusuf and handed him over to the chief of police in Maiduguri. He said Yusuf had a wound on his arm, which had already been treated. The police, however, insisted that Yusuf had been fatally wounded. There were reports that the attack on the police station by Boko Haram members was a response to an earlier attack on the sect members in the course of a funeral procession. They were said to have been accosted by the joint police/ army task force called Operation Flush for not wearing helmets while riding motorcycles. In the altercations that followed, tempers had flared, with policemen allegedly killing about 17 of the sect members. This was said to have been the genesis of the crisis, but there were also allegations that the subsequent order for the killing of Yusuf and Alhaji Buji Foi (a former commissioner for religious affairs in Borno State) after they had been captured alive was given by certain political leaders in Borno State. There may not have been any credibility to the allegations, but Boko Haram members believed it and were out for revenge. The suspicion of extra-judicial killings, however, spurred a reaction from the police commissioner of Borno State, Christopher Dega, who said Yusuf “was in a hideout, and the forces went there, and there was an exchange of fire. In the course of that confrontation, he sustained his own injury. He was picked up, and he later couldn’t make it.” This was different from the first police version, in which Yusuf was said to have been fatally wounded while trying to escape from custody. This version had indeed been corroborated by Usman Ciroma, the spokesman to the Borno State governor, who told the Associated Press: “I saw his body at police headquarters. I believe he was shot while he was trying to escape.” 3/29/15 11:42 AM