Insecurity: Northern govs, VIPs shun public mosques




Increasing attacks by the Boko Haram Islamic sect may have forced Northern governors, emirs and prominent citizens of the region to review their attendance at mosques.

Investigations by our correspondents revealed that the governors and VIPs had come under increased pressure to change their security arrangements, following incessant attacks and killings of Muslim faithful by Boko Haram gunmen targeting prominent individuals.

Over the last few months, some Northern traditional rulers and top serving and former government officials have been targeted at mosques by suicide bombers and gunmen for elimination.

Among them are the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero; Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Umar Garbai el-Kanemi; Emir of Fika, Alhaji Muhammadu Idrissa; a former Minister of Mines and Power, Alhaji Shettima Ali-Monguno; former Controller-General of the Nigeria Prison Service, Alhaji Ibrahim Jarma; and Borno State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha.

Jarma and his two guards were shot dead as they left a mosque in Azare, Bauchi State in September 2012.

Ali-Monguno was kidnapped by Boko Haram gunmen shortly after performing the Juma’at congregational prayers at a ward in Mafoni ward in Maiduguri.

On April 13, 2007, about 5.30 am, a renowned Kano-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was shot while leading the Fajr (Morning) prayer at the Dorayi Juma’at Mosque.

The assassins shot him at close range, tearing his chest and abdomen.

Shortly after the incident, he was rushed to Malam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital where he died before he could receive medical attention.

Before now, security was usually increased around churches after targeted attacks on churches after the 2011 Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla in Suleija, Niger State.

Only last week, the spokesman for the Military Joint Task Force, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, had in a statement in Maiduguri, warned politicians, civil servants and traditional rulers among other VIPs to be security conscious.

He based his advice on intelligence which indicated that members of the Boko Haram sect had concluded plans to kidnap prominent Northerners to raise funds.

Sagir said, “Intelligence available to the task force has indicated that Boko Haram terrorists have resolved to concentrate more on kidnapping than robbery.

“They alleged that kidnapping is more lucrative, less dangerous and requires short time to plan and execute.

“Similarly, a special kidnapping squad has been earmarked and tasked by the Boko Haram sect to kidnap persons who could be wealthy relations, politicians, businessmen/women, traditional rulers, senior civil servants and foreigners alike.”

A number of state governors are not taking Sagir’s statement lightly.

In Kano State, for instance, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and members of his cabinet have for some time now avoided public mosques.

Saturday PUNCH learnt that they had restricted their Friday prayers to the heavily fortified mosque situated within the Government House, Kano.

The Kundila Juma’at Mosque located within the Kundila Housing Estate, which played host to the cream de la crème of the state’s Muslim elite like the Kano Central Mosque, located behind the palace of the Emir of Kano; now enjoy heavy security presence on Fridays.

A security source said, “It has become obvious that the elite and members of their family can no longer walk freely.

“The situation has been made worse by the abduction of Monguno in Maiduguri two weeks ago.”

The situation is not different in the northern cities of Maiduguri, Kaduna, Damaturu, Gombe, Sokoto, Gusau, Katsina and Yola.

In Kaduna, the popular Sultan Bello Mosque, which shares a fence with Arewa House around Ugwan Sarki area, also enjoys a heavy security presence.

An Improvised Explosive Device hidden in a polythene bag at the mosque killed a police bomb detection officer who tried to defuse it about two years ago.

One of our correspondents also observed an unusually high security presence at the Ansarudeen Mosque located at Abeokuta Road in Kaduna in the last few Fridays.

The movement of most of the state governors, especially on Fridays, has become a closely guarded secret as some move in silent convoys avoiding the use of sirens which was common place.

Reacting to the situation, Dr. Juniad Mohammed, a social critic and Convener of Concerned Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, said such would be a welcome development.

He said, “I quite frankly will be happy if that were to be the case because the Nigerian elite have been irresponsibly negligent about security.

“And they tend to confuse their roles as leaders of government with that of being politicians.

“Violence inside mosques is not unknown to Islam. That is why Islam favourably looks at arrangements to secure the lives of public figures that go into the mosque.

“For example, the second Kalif, Kalif Umar, was assassinated inside a mosque.

“There are several instances where murders of emirs and Kalifs were committed inside mosques throughout the history of Islam, including some imams in mosques in Baghdad and in holy places in the holy land in Jerusalem.

“For example, the grandfather of the present King of Jordan was assassinated in the grand mosque in Jerusalem. So, nobody can use Islam to say that because he wants to go to the mosque he should expose himself.

“If they don’t take care of themselves, that is their own business. Of course, the best protection is to be just and fair.

“And even if you are just and fair, like Kalif Umar was, they can learn from that unfortunate occurrence of more than 2000 years ago to protect themselves.

“So anybody who thinks he can use the mosque or use the current fashion of religiosity; to go and show how great a Muslim they are, they should think twice.”

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