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Outrage as terrorists dare Nigeria’s seat of power

By Odita Sunday and Tina Abeku (Abuja)
30 July 2022   |   3:51 am
Despite assurances by Nigeria’s security forces that they are well positioned to contain the current wave of terrorist threats on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, residents of the city...

Top security officers

Fear Grips Abuja Residents
• ‘Nigeria Is Fighting An Asymmetrical War With Terrorists’
• Police Heighten Surveillance Operations
• Army Redeploys GOCs, Makes New Appointments
• Experts Allege Sloppy Response By Government, Proffer Solutions

Despite assurances by Nigeria’s security forces that they are well positioned to contain the current wave of terrorist threats on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, residents of the city have not been sleeping with both eyes closed.

Findings by The Guardian showed that many ordinary and Very Important Personalities (VIP) in the city have lost confidence in the ability of the Federal Government to contain the growing attacks and threats from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram terrorists and have adopted extra security measures, including prayers, to protect themselves against the marauders.

The residents spoke a day after the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), who addressed the press after a five-hour closed-door meeting of the National Security Council last Thursday chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, had admitted that Nigerians were tired of the current security challenges facing the nation and were tending towards seeking self-help.

Recall that on the night of Tuesday, July 5, this year, terrorists attacked the Kuje Correctional Centre near the FCT, and released over 900 inmates, including Boko Haram suspects. The ISWAP had claimed responsibility for the attack.

As residents were gradually recovering from the shock of the jailbreak, the terrorists, on Monday, July 25, threatened to kidnap President Muhammadu Buhari and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai

This was after three soldiers sustained injuries in an ambush by Boko Haram terrorists in Bwari Area Council of the FCT. The soldiers from the elite Guards Brigade guarding the FCT, as well as the presidential seat of government, were ambushed along Bwari Kubwa road while on patrol of Bwari Area where the Nigerian Law School and the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) are located.

The Guards Brigade is in charge of the security of the President, his entire family, the Vice President, VIP, the FCT and its surrounding states. The ambush was the first direct encounter between terrorists and the Brigade of Guards in Abuja.

The soldiers from the 7 Guards Battalion had been carrying out a patrol in the town following an intelligence report of an impending attack on the Nigerian Law School. The multiplicity of attacks and threats on the FCT and environs led to the immediate closure of all unity schools in Abuja.

In the face of growing insecurity, attacks and threats of coming attacks from the ISWAP and Boko Haram, residents of the FCT said they have lost confidence in the ability of the government of the day to protect them and have resorted to prayers.

Some of the residents told The Guardian that the nation’s capital was becoming a fearful place to live in such that they now sleep with one eye open due to fears of attacks from terrorist groups, armed robbers and kidnappers.

A resident in Lugbe area, Rosemary Akor, said it was most unfortunate that the internal security of the country has been compromised to the extent that Nigerians now walk around with broken hearts and disappointment.

“The truth is that Nigeria has an emergency at hand; Nigerians now walk around with broken hearts and have resorted to trusting God. We had the impression that we have a government that should provide us with security. But if we are to go by recent happenings, all is not well.

“If the armed groups are launching successful attacks on presidential guards, if they have the effrontery to attack a maximum Correctional Centre in Nigeria, break away with their members and the government has not been able to make any meaningful arrests of the over 3000 individuals involved in this, then the internal security of the country has been compromised,” she said.

She lamented that Nigerians could only hope on God for protection, adding: “I must say that it is unfortunate that Nigerians suddenly found themselves in the era of not sleeping with their two eyes closed anymore. Nigerians no longer have a fun time, because you don’t know where you will go and where strange faces will come and attack you. It is unfortunate that we have shockingly found ourselves at the point of what Chinua Achebe said, ‘There Was a Country. We only hope that the story of Nigeria will not be in the past tense.”

She called on President Buhari to step aside if he could no longer “steer this ship”, stressing, “let him step aside and give it to people that will do better.”

Another resident, who simply identified himself as Mr. Johnson, said Nigeria was on the brink of becoming a failed state, because of the inability of the government to tackle widespread insecurity and provide a safe environment for the citizens to live in.

He expressed disappointment at the series of attacks within the FCT, which he said threatened the sovereignty of the nation.

He noted that a lot of people were apprehensive due to the belief that the terrorists had long been living among the people and integrated themselves to the level that they would be above suspicion.

“I believe that they have long been living among us and are just waiting for the go-ahead from their commanders to attack. This is why many people are living in fear and no one can be trusted at this time.

“This insecurity issue has gone for far too long and the inability of the government to end these attacks is a threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty as a state. There is no way we can say this than to accept that Nigeria is not too far from being a failed state,” he added.

For another resident who introduced himself as Mr. Duro, unless the President takes decisive action in revamping the country’s security apparatus, the nation would fall into the hands of terrorists.

Head Teacher in one of the schools in Abuja also lamented the impact of the activities of terrorists on the education system and its consequences on school children, especially the fact that many schools were yet to finish their examination before schools were closed and students were told to go home.
  
“Even the primary schools are now closed to stay safe and protect everyone until this whole thing settles. This is sad and most unfortunate for our nation at a time like this,” she lamented.

Aside from human security, observations showed that food security was also threatened in the city, as many farmers in rural Abuja communities have abandoned their farmlands for fear of either being kidnapped for ransom or being attacked or killed by bandits who reportedly hang around the hills and mountains.

Nevertheless, retired security personnel who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity said Nigeria was fighting an asymmetrical war with terrorists, which is difficult to deal with once and for all.

“This is a symmetrical war; it is not easy to handle but our security agencies should have long dealt with it. This is a problem that demands total commitment, good strategy and tactical experience.”

On his part, a security analyst, Christopher Oji, noted that the present state of insecurity has become an embarrassment to the nation, noting that terrorists have invaded the seat of power and even threatening to abduct the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
  
“This is the greatest insult of the century. The only solution is for the government to declare a state of emergency on security and stop paying lip services to the issue. The government is not really serious about the security situation in the country. If the government is serious, it should call for an emergency meeting of stakeholders in security and deal decisively with the terrorists.

“The military should be equipped; let the Air Force do the needful by bombing the locations of the terrorists. We expect that when terrorists succeed in attacking a place, the Air Force should make sure that they wouldn’t get back to where they came from.

“Secondly, Nigeria should be proactive. The Department of State Services (DSS) gave a warning of the terrorist’s planned attack on Kuje Correctional Centre. Yet, government agencies did not do anything. Immediately after the jailbreak, the American government warned its citizens of massive attacks on Abuja and told them to be careful where they visit, yet the government of Nigeria was looking aloof.

“If the government of Nigeria wants to succeed, it should sack the National Security Adviser and the Service chiefs who have compromised and put in unbiased men and women in their positions. I am saying unequivocally that the security agencies have been infiltrated by terrorists, but if the government is overwhelmed, let her invite America to come and deal with the people terrorising Nigeria,” Oji said.
  
President of Private Security Practitioners, Dr. Wilson Esangbedo, however, also noted that terrorists have made an inroad into government and urged Nigerians to volunteer information to security agencies to enable them to restore order in Abuja and other parts of the country.

“Former President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed this while he was still in power. The terrorists are already in our midst and only if the people support this government fully can we win this war.

“The attitude of the people must change as they must now take ownership of their security and cooperate fully with government by providing them with information,” he noted.
  
A former Director of the DSS, Mr. Dennis Amachree, also said: “I will implore the Federal Government to keep politics aside for now and empower the law enforcement and security agencies to counter all intrusions into Nigerian territory, especially the FCT.
  
“The defensible space around the FCT must be expanded to avoid the embarrassment of the Kuje Correctional facility. Enough should be enough with these terrorists in Nigeria.”

  
A criminologist, Mr. Albert Uba, also urged the government to mobilise forces and go after the terrorists.

His words: “Nobody is safe any longer, whether you are a street trader or lawmaker. The country is in shambles. Imagine the gut they had to say in a viral video that their next target were Mr. President and Governor El-Rufai.
  
“Two days after the threat video, they ambushed the Brigade of Guards thinking the president was on the convoy and killed three innocent senior soldiers. We do not need a clairvoyant to tell us that terrorists have invaded the country. They are everywhere, and to have clearly made an incursion into the FCT leaves much to be desired.

“What we need to do now, whether this administration has about six months to pack up or not, is to galvanise all the security apparatus and go after these enemies of society.

  
“These people are not spirits; they are human beings who bath, eat and sleep like us; so the DSS should go after them. This is not the period to align politics with the issue any longer. The menace has gotten to the zenith and we should fight it with all within our reach.”

Also analysing the development, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bulwark Intelligence, Tanwa Ashiru, said: If cancer is found in one part of the body, it must be treated or else, it would spread. This is precisely what Nigeria is dealing with.

Insecurity had been ravaging other parts of the country, but because it had not affected FCT directly, perhaps the Presidency, lawmakers and leaders of the country felt far removed from the problem. Now that the threat is directly at their doorstep, everyone is in panic and reaction mode. 

“Gunmen do not adhere to any formal borders. If the security and intelligence agencies were being truthful and proactive, they would have been more meticulous about tackling the threat actors that had begun increasing their operations in the states surrounding FCT. These gunmen increased their attacks in Abuja’s outskirt towns without much resistance from security forces.  

“The gunmen over the years are now feeling more emboldened. They have increased attacks against military and law enforcement targets. They have amassed sophisticated weapons from kidnap for ransom proceeds. They now feel comfortable attacking the once impenetrable Abuja.”

On the way out of the dangerous situation, she said: “The first thing that needs to be done, is the intelligence agencies must step up and fill in the knowledge gap with vital intel on the threat actors. Their intention, capabilities and motives must be thoroughly understood, and an action plan must be put in place, to neutralise them. 

“The same effort must be put in other states as well; if not the gunmen will simply relocate to another state/region to regroup and come back when they feel ready for another direct confrontation.” 

She advised Abuja residents to remain cautious and report any suspicious persons or movements. “They must also have a plan of what they will do if they find themselves in a high-risk situation such as in the middle of an active shooter scene, or if a curfew is suddenly imposed across the city. 

“Residents should limit their movements in and around high-risk areas. They can do this by monitoring the local radio stations for news of any potential danger zones. Abuja residents should also ensure they have law enforcement emergency phone numbers saved on their mobile devices so that they can call for help, in case their community comes under any attack.”

Observations by The Guardian showed a large security presence across the city, especially at major entry and exit points.
  
This was even as residents of the FCT were becoming familiar with the present large numbers of policemen manning various points in the city for stop and search operations.

The FCT Police Command has also commenced the enforcement of the ban on motorcycles in parts of the territory by the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA). The Guardian learnt from the intelligence sources that most of the riders serve as informants to criminals and terrorists.

  
The Commissioner of Police, FCT Police Command, CP Sunday Babaji, who ordered the seizure of 20 motorcycles in Durumi area of the city last Tuesday, had urged members of the public not to panic but to go about their lawful businesses while monitoring and surveillance of the entire FCT continue.

Meanwhile, in an effort to reposition the Nigerian Army (NA) for operational efficiency and proficiency, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Faruk Yahaya, has approved the posting and appointment of some senior officers of the Nigerian Army to command, instructional and staff appointments across formations and units.

Those affected in the shake-up released late last Thursday, July 28, included some Principal Staff Officers of the Army Headquarters, General Officers Commanding, Corps Commanders, Commandants of training institutions, Brigade Commanders, and Commanding Officers, amongst others.

According to Army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, “the Chief of Army Staff has directed all the newly appointed senior officers to redouble their effort and commitment to duty in tackling the security challenges bedeviling the nation, as they assume their new appointments.”

Nwachukwu said some of the senior officers appointed as General Officers Commanding (GOCs) are Maj. Gen. UT Musa from Headquarters 81 Division to Headquarters 82 Division and appointed GOC; Maj. Gen. TA Lagbaja from Headquarters 82 Division to Headquarters 1 Division and appointed GOC; Maj. Gen. OC Ajunwa from Nigeria Defence Section Brasilia to HQ 81 Division and appointed GOC, while Maj. Gen. AS Chinade was redeployed from Depot Nigerian Army to Headquarters 2 Division and appointed GOC.

The newly appointed Army Headquarters Principal Staff Officers included, Maj. Gen. OW Ali, from Headquarters Command Army Records to Army Headquarters Department of Army Administration and appointed Chief of Administration (Army); Maj. Gen. S Muhammed from Defence Headquarters to Department of Army Standards and Evaluation and appointed Chief of Army Standards and Evaluation (Army); Maj. Gen. JA Ataguba from Army Headquarters Department of Army Standards and Evaluation to Defence Headquarters and appointed Director Peace Keeping Operations;  Maj. Gen. AA Adesope from Headquarters Nigerian Army Finance Corps to Defence Headquarters and appointed Chief of Defence Accounts and Budget and Maj. Gen. US Mohammed from Army Headquarters Department of Administration to Nigerian Army Resource Centre and appointment Senior Research Fellow.

Other senior officers affected in the redeployment are Maj. Gen. PB Fakrogha from Defence Headquarters Garrison to Defence Space Agency and appointed Director Policy Plans and Research; Maj. Gen. MO Enendu from Nigerian Army College of Logistics to Defence Headquarters and appointed Director Psychological Warfare; Maj. Gen. AE Attu from Defence Headquarters Department of Defence Training and Operations to Defence Headquarters Garrison and appointed Commander and Maj. Gen. BE Onyeuko from Defence Headquarters Directorate of Defence Media Operations to Defence Headquarters Department of Logistics and appointed Director Procurement.

The newly appointed Corps Commanders are Maj. Gen. AM Alabi from Nigerian Army Ordnance School to Headquarters Nigerian Army Ordinance Corps and appointed Corps Commander Ordinance; Maj. Gen. A Mohammed from Nigerian Army Farms and Ranches Limited to Headquarters Nigerian Army Electrical Mechanical Engineers and appointed Corps Commander Electrical Mechanical Engineers; Maj. Gen. E Akerejola from Nigerian Army School of Supply and Transport to Headquarters Nigerian Army Corps of Transport and appointed Commander Corps of Supply and Transport and Maj. Gen. AA Fayemiwo from Nigerian Army Welfare Holdings Limited by Guarantee to Headquarters Finance Corps and appointed Chief of Accounts and Budget (Army).

Senior officers newly appointed as Commandants of Nigerian Army Training Institutions are Maj. Gen. PI Eze from Defence Headquarters Department of Procurement to Nigerian Army Ordinance School and appointed Commandant; Maj. Gen. AA Adeyinka from Army Headquarters Department of Army Logistics to Nigerian Army College of Logistics and appointed Commandant; Maj. Gen. PP Malla from Army Headquarters Department of Army Administration to Depot Nigerian Army and appointed Commandant as well as Brig. Gen. UT Otaru from Defence Headquarters to Nigerian Army School of Supply and Transport and appointed Acting Commandant.

The newly appointed Brigade Commanders are Brig. Gen. DH Ndahi from Nigerian Army Resource Centre to Headquarters 4 Brigade and appointed Commander; Brig. Gen. FS Etim from Amphibious Training School to Headquarters 6 Brigade and appointed Commander; Brig. Gen. l EA Orakwe from Headquarters 6 Division to Headquarters 19 Brigade and appointed Commander; Brig. Gen. JO Are from Army Headquarters Department of Army Standards and Evaluation to Headquarters 3 Brigade and appointed Commander, among others.

  

 
 
 
 
 

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