— Dec 26, 2014.
For the first time in the last three years, the country is experiencing a Christmas celebration devoid of bomb attacks by insurgents.
The celebration across the nation yesterday ended without any such untoward incidence as most people went about the celebration under the watchful eyes of the security agencies.
In the nation’s capital, Abuja, most of the recreational grounds and relaxation park were a bee-hive as celebrants besieged the fun places eating, drinking and taking photographs in celebratory mood.
At the time of going to press, most of the reports from the various states in the country showed that Nigerians in their large numbers thronged fun spots in their localities with their families and loved ones to mark the Christmas celebration.
From Lagos to Plateau, and from Katsina to Imo State, reports filed in gave indications that there was heavy presence of police and other security operatives to ensure that hoodlums and mischief-makers did not have any leeway to operate.
Although some of the reports noted that the celebration was low-keyed, there were no reports of attacks even in states where attacks, especially by insurgents, have been rife.
In Abuja, like in most parts of the country, security operatives were seen conducting stop-and-search on most motorists on the highway. The operatives were also seen at major markets conducting searches on traders and customers alike as they trooped into the market.
The worship places were not left out of the scrutiny as most churches held their services with security operatives nearby.
The inspector-general of Police, IGP Suleiman Abba, who joined his colleagues in patrolling every nook and cranny of the FCT, explained why most parts of the country experienced a hitch-free Christmas celebration was because security agencies nipped planned attacks by insurgents in the bud.
Abba who made the disclosure yesterday after a land patrol of most parts of the FCT and its environs said security agencies have continued to receive signals of planned attacks by the insurgents.
According to the police boss, reports from across the country, so far, have indicated that the Christmas has been celebrated without any bad incident, adding, “but this will not make us relax.
“The police, as well as, other agencies involved in law enforcement and security activities have beefed up operations to make sure that people enjoy the festivities, to make sure that people celebrate with some sense of safety in them.”
The IG who was accompanied by the FCT Commissioner of Police, CP Wilson Inalegwu, was seen mingling with fun seekers at the Abuja lake at the end of the patrol and taking group photographs.
IGP Abba had earlier embarked on aerial patrol/surveillance on Christmas Eve, to the Abuja-Lokoja, Lokoja-Benin, Abuja-Minna and Abuja-Kaduna highways as part of strategies to ensure security during the celebration.
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, residents celebrated Christmas festival under tight security. Our correspondent observed that along the major roads in the Tin city, stern looking security personnel were seen conducting a stop-and- search exercises on vehicles and passengers.
Besides, security operatives like Department of State Security (DSS), Police, the Special Task Force on Jos crisis, STF and member of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were seen patrolling the streets of Jos.
In Niger State, the Christmas celebration went on smoothly and peaceful with
Meanwhile, the Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola has urged Nigerians to embrace the virtues of peaceful coexistence and refrain from fanning the embers of disunity.
Fashola, in his Christmas goodwill message to the residents of the state, said that as the 2015 general elections approaches, it is only through peaceful co-existence that Nigeria can make the desired progress.
The gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Adamawa State, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu felicitated with the Christian community over the celebration of Christmas.
Ribadu urged Christians in Nigeria to emulate Jesus Christ whose mission he said, was to entrench peace, love unity and understanding among people.
Mutiny: Army faults Death Sentence on 4 soldiers
The Nigerian Army last night dismissed a circulating story that another set of four soldiers has been sentenced to death for alleged conspiracy and mutiny by a court martial sitting at Mogadishu Barracks, Abuja, Wednesday night.
According to the story, the court martial delivered its verdict in the case of conspiracy to commit mutiny and incitement of mutiny involving five soldiers, four lance corporals (LCPL) and one private (PTE).
LCPLs Bankole Taiwo, Bankole Olawale and Isaiah Olofu and PTE Adebayo Gbenga were convicted and sentenced to death while LCPL Sule Ochehepo was discharged and acquitted.
According to report, the allegation against the soldiers was that they asked “inciting questions” from the Commanding Officer of 81 Batallion when he addressed them on September 14, 2013. The questions pertained to the corpses of some of their colleagues brought to the camp after they were killed by the Boko Haram terrorists due to lack of weapons. The charge of mutiny was that the five soldiers “incited soldiers of 81 Battalion to mutiny against the authority of 7 Division of the Nigerian Army.”
They reportedly pleaded double jeopardy, saying that they had been tried summarily by their commanding officer, convicted and sentenced and that they had served the punishment. The record of proceedings of the earlier trial was tendered and admitted in evidence by the court martial, but the court martial headed by Brig-General M.S. Yusuf did not give importance to the defence of the soldiers.
Altogether, 71 soldiers have been sentenced to death for protesting against the non-payment of salaries and allowances, and failure of the authorities to provide the right equipment to confront the well-armed Boko Haram troops. Hundreds of other soldiers are currently awaiting trial in Abuja, Jos and Lagos for mutiny, negligence, cowardice and allied offences. They are due to be arraigned after the Christmas vacation.
But in his reaction last night, the director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier Olajide Laleye, dismissed the story with a wave of hands.
“Where did you get the information? he asked. “Where are the facts of the matters they are talking about? The details of their offences have not been brought to my office. Where did the so-called court martial sit? Do they think the Army could sentence four of its soldiers to death without due process? It is a tissue of lies,” he said.
According to him, the second court martial had delivered the death penalty verdict against some officers and soldiers recently and, according to the rule, “that court martial has been dissolved and I am not aware if another has been inaugurated and that is sitting in Abuja.”