Nigeria’s president criticizes northeast governors
BAUCHI, Nigeria (AP) — President Goodluck Jonathan blamed governors in Nigeria’s northeastern states for the country’s Islamic uprising, saying their failure to provide social services created the climate for the insurgency that has killed more than 1,000 people so far this year.
Jonathan lashed out at the governors, all from the opposition, at a rally in northern Bauchi state on Saturday.
“The current security challenges are the handiwork of governors in the opposition parties who have not performed .... (who) created the situation for insurrection,” he said. They “have not done anything in terms of providing social services to the people.”
He called the uprising “madness” and “the handiwork of miscreants who recruit illiterates into insurgency.”
In a separate development, 21 people were killed and two seriously injured when shooting erupted Sunday morning at the headquarters of the feared State Security Services, on a road leading to the presidential villa compound where Jonathan lives and has his offices.
The gunfire came from an attempted jailbreak by a suspected member of the Boko Haram network of extremists that is terrorizing northeastern Nigeria, according to security agents who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. A detainee used a smuggled pistol to shoot a guard, said the agents at the scene. It was not clear if the guard survived.
State Security spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar gave a different story, saying the only gunfire came from guards who fired warning shots and soldiers who deployed after a detainee tried to overpower a guard. The detainee tried to use his handcuffs to beat the guard over the head and grab his pistol, she said in a statement.
But residents described exchanges of gunfire that continued for more than two hours.
In northeastern Nigeria, governors have accused Jonathan’s administration and the military of purposely not doing enough to curb the rebellion.
Gov. Kashim Shettima last month said Boko Haram is better armed and better motivated than the military. He spoke after survivors reported that outgunned soldiers had abandoned checkpoints and left villagers and school students at the mercy of the extremists.
Governors also have suggested the violence is intended to weaken the northern vote ahead of February 2015 elections in which Jonathan’s party faces its stiffest opposition since winning power in 1999 elections that ended decades of military dictatorship. Most northerners are Muslims and Jonathan is a Christian from the south.
The two leading political parties, Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party and the coalition All Progressives Congress, have traded insults recently about who is responsible for the uprising. There is no dispute chronic poverty is among the root causes of the insurrection. Northeastern Nigeria is the poorest region in the oil-rich nation, with up to 80 percent of young people estimated unemployed. Fewer than 5 percent of children attend high school, according to government statistics.
Some governors accuse the military of colluding with the militants to prolong the conflict while they profit from hefty war budgets. Nigerian security forces also have been accused of working with militants and oil thieves in the southern Niger Delta. Corruption is endemic in the West African nation.
Nigeria’s military insists that a 2-month offensive of near-daily aerial bombardments and ground assaults has the extremists panicking and on the run.
But such claims are belied by attacks such as a March 14 assault on the main barracks in Maiduguri city, which is the headquarters of the security forces offensive. Boko Haram claimed to have freed 2,000 detainees held at Giwa Barracks. The military said it killed hundreds of militants.
It was the bloodiest battle in the 4-year-old uprising, with hospital workers reporting a count of 425 corpses. They said they were forced to hold a mass burial because the morgue could not hold all the bodies. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from the military.
Adigun reported from Abuja, Nigeria