Gunmen killed eight Nigerian security personnel, including three policemen and five vigilantes, in an ambush in a central state, a local government spokesman said Sunday.
In the attack on Saturday, gunmen “suspected to be bandits ambushed and killed eight security officers in Ajaokuta local government area”, Onogwu Muhammed, Kogi state governor’s spokesman, said in a statement.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack but Kogi has seen an uptick in attacks recently, including some claimed by Islamic State jihadists operating outside their usual base in the northeast.
Security will be a major issue in next February’s election to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, who is under increasing pressure over the country’s worsening violence.
Kogi state governor Yahaya Bello suspended a traditional chief of the area and questioned the political administrator of the district over Saturday’s killings, the statement said without giving details.
“The governor strongly warned other traditional rulers across the state who may have connection in one way or the other with criminal elements in their domains to desist forthwith,” Muhammed said.
Nigeria’s traditional chiefs and emirs have no official political power but are very influential as guardians of local culture and religion.
Bello vowed to “deal ruthlessly with anybody who romances with criminal elements no matter how highly placed they are”.
Last month, gunmen bombed a police station in Kogi’s Okehi district, killing a policeman and razing the facility.
In April three policemen were killed when gunmen attacked a police station in the town of Adavi.
Both attacks were claimed by Islamic State West Africa Province or ISWAP jihadist group, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 to become a dominant militancy in northeast Nigeria.
The group claimed responsibility for this month’s attack on a prison just outside the nation’s capital Abuja, freeing hundreds of inmates including dozens of high profile jihadists.