The number of policemen killed by cultists in Assakio village, Nasarawa, rose to 30 on Thursday while the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Momoh, who led the security agents to the shrine of the Ombatse Militia cult group has been declared missing.
Nasarawa State Commissioner of Police, Abayomi Akeremale, told journalists on Thursday that the bodies of the 30 policemen had been recovered and deposited at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in the state capital Lafia.
Most of the bodies were said to have been burnt beyond recognition.
Momoh, a number of policemen and State Security Service operatives were still to be accounted for 24 hours after they were attacked by members of Ombatse militia group.
Also on Thursday, wives of policemen in the state protested on the streets of Lafia over the murder of their husbands by the cultists.
The Nasarawa State Police Public Relations Officer, Michael Ada, confirmed that the protesting wives had blocked the Akwanga-Lafia Federal Highway at the Squadron 38 MOPOL Base area in Akwanga.
Akeremale said he could not confirm yet whether the ACP had died but that his men were still searching for the man who led the security agents to confront members of hitherto unknown Ombatse Militia on Tuesday.
Governor Tanko Al-Makura on Wednesday had reported to Vice-President Namadi Sambo that a team of policemen sent to arrest members of the cult were ambushed and killed. He had told the VP that 20 policemen were killed.
The CP said, “We cannot say for now that he (Momoh) is dead; we are still searching, the rescue operation is still on; and we cannot actually confirm he is dead, we can only say he is missing for now.
“Investigation is ongoing to ascertain the whereabouts of other officers, no arrests have been made (yet) but efforts are being made to bring the perpetrators of this dastardly act to book.
“We believe that members of the group are still in the bush around the area, and we would do all we can to smoke them out.”
The CP said nine police patrol vehicles were also burnt.
The Presidency on Thursday announced that President Goodluck Jonathan had decided to cut short his ongoing foreign trip and return home.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Rueben Abati, in a statement said Jonathan would return to the country to personally oversee efforts to tackle the fresh challenges to national security.
The statement read, “In view of recent developments at home in Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has cut short his visit to South Africa and aborted his state visit to Namibia which was due to start today.
“The President is returning to Abuja immediately to personally oversee efforts by national security agencies to contain the fresh challenges to national security which have emerged this week in Borno, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
“President Jonathan will on arrival meet with the Chief of Defence Staff, the Service Chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police and heads of national security services to review the security situation in the country.”
This is even as a source in the Presidency said intelligence reports on the Nasarawa killings had allegedly indicted Al-Makura for poor handling of the situation. The governor is said to have been neutral in the killings.
“He merely ran to the Villa to brief the VP as a way of exonerating himself after things have boomeranged in his state,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, has ordered a manhunt for the killers of the security personnel and directed all the field commanders and special units to apprehend the criminals.
He condemned the attacks on security men in Nasarawa, Bayelsa and Borno states, and described them as an attack on the collective will of Nigerians.
A statement by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said the police were poised to bring to an end the reign of terror and lawlessness in the country.
The statement read, “Police High Command received early this morning news of the unprovoked and brutal killing of scores of policemen who were on legitimate assignment in Nasarawa State. This disturbing, condemnable and highly distressing incident, coming closely after similar ones in Bayelsa and Borno states, has thrown up a new and emerging threat in the delicate task of policing our country.
“We consider the attack not just an attack on the Nigeria Police and its officers and men but an attack on the collective will of Nigerians to protect and preserve our dear fatherland; this we have vowed to put an end to.
“Consequently, the IGP has directed all the field commanders and special units including Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police to harness all resources available within their domain to apprehend the criminals.”
JD:First,i am glad the president aborted his trip and came back home to take care of this crisis.he is commended for that.however its what he does on coming home that will actually give him full kudos.all the crisis that we have on our hands now can no longer be seen as a coincidence,perhaps the time has come when it should be looked at holistically.Could this be a well contrived plan by some people to totally destabilize the country and to what end?the president also needs to take firm control of the country and be ready to take some hard decisions to bring this situation under control.