Last week’s attack on the Presidential Guards Brigade clearly indicated that terrorists must have made inroads into the Federal Capital Territory, the country’s seat of power, SOLOMON ODENIYI writes
Three daring attacks by terrorists within three weeks have raised questions about the security architecture in the nation’s capital.
Regarded as one of the most fortified custodial centres in the country, the Kuje Medium Custodial Centre was on July 5 successfully attacked by members of the Islamic State for West African Province, who freed 443 inmates, including 69 of their members. The terrorists, who were said to be over 100, reportedly operated for more than two hours and overwhelmed a battalion of the Nigerian Army, Operatives of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the Armed Squad of the Nigerian Correctional Service, among others stationed at the facility.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, were all totally befuddled at the sheer brazenness with which the attack was carried out.
The President and some of his cabinet members, as well as the Senate President, had yet to recover from the shock and were still apprehensive about the Kuje attack and the possibility of the escapees staying back to torment them when they woke up to yet another report of an attack on the Presidential Guards Brigade last Sunday.
The Presidential Guards Brigade, which provides security for the Presidential Villa, the nation’s capital, and neighbouring communities, was ambushed by terrorists, who killed two officers and six soldiers.
Again on Thursday night, some dare-devil terrorists went to a military checkpoint located at Zuma Rock and opened fire on personnel on duty. Although they were repelled, a soldier was killed in that attack while two were injured.
Presently, all institutions of learning in the Federal Capital Territory have been abruptly shut down due to the rising insecurity in the territory.
Before these attacks, there have been pockets of cases leading to the deaths and abductions of some residents in Robochi, Abaji, Kwali, and Kuje, among other neighbouring communities in the FCT.
In March, residents of Chukuku in the Kuje Area Council blocked the Gwagwalada-Kuje express road and made bonfires to protest against the incessant abductions and killings in their community.
As of then, they claimed no fewer than 30 residents had been abducted since the year started.
However, security analysts believe these incidents and the spectre of insecurity witnessed in neighbouring states like Nasarawa, Niger, Kogi, and Kaduna should have put the security operatives and the government on red alert and measures capable of averting these attacks should have been emplaced.
Compounding the fears of the residents was the leaked memo from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, which reported a planned attack by terrorists on the FCT.
In addition to this, there has been a litany of messages on social media platforms warning residents to refrain from some places within the territory.
In recent times, the FCT has been experiencing an influx of people from other northern states as a result of the few cases of insecurity recorded in the territory compared to others. The recent attacks by terrorists have, however, put paid to that.
Some of the residents who spoke with our correspondent said they couldn’t go about their normal activities as a result of the current situation in the FCT.
A resident who was recently transferred to the FCT, Mrs. Adebimpe Olayinka, said she did not feel safe at the moment.
She said, “When I got transferred to Abuja, I was not bothered about security as much because the FCT was regarded as one of the safest places to stay in the country. One should not have expected anything less because that is where the seat of power is. With the recent attacks and happenings in the FCT, I feel unsafe. Our community leaders have doubled our security, but I still feel that people that successfully attack Kuje, the Presidential Guard, tell me where they cannot attack. And with the news of strange faces being seen across the FCT, it shows they have surrounded Abuja. I hope and pray it doesn’t get worse.”
A trader at Karimo Market who gave her name as Lauretta said the rising insecurity in the FCT was affecting her business.
The Nigeria Police Force said it had deployed additional assets to strategic locations within the country’s capital to avert imminent attacks.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, stated that the Force Intelligence Bureau has been charged with gathering intelligence.
Similarly, the Guards Brigade has deployed more troops across the city to prevent another security breach.
The FCTA has also met with the governments of neighbouring states in order to rejig security operations. The security operatives in the FCT and their counterparts in contiguous states at the meeting agreed to take the fight to the terrorists’ camps.
Also, the terrified federal lawmakers, besides threatening to impeach the president, had met with the military high command to fashion a way out of the situation in the nation’s capital.
Risk management and security expert, Kabiru Adamu, lamented that despite the early signs, no corresponding measures to avert the attacks were put in place.
He said, “Outside AMAC, there have been constant attacks. If you ask us, the tell-tale sign was there. The Niger State governor had warned, even though his warnings were considered political, because the location he talked about was about 200 kilometres away.
“The governor of Kaduna had also warned. All of this points to the fact that these monsters had encircled the FCT and were planning an attack. The corresponding security posture would have limited or prevented the monsters from coming into the FCT. Unfortunately, we didn’t see that. Yes, it would be unfair to say the security department did not do much. They did.
“They carried out raids, which we didn’t see as a coordinated and systematic approach to the issue.” The forests, if you look at the ones that lead to Kaduna, would take you as far as Niger, through Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kebbi. If you look at the one in Niger, there is no way you would carry out a raid and be successful without involving the neighbouring states to block the terrorists from moving around. The result is where we are today.”
He advised that reports about the planned attack on the FCT be handled with caution.
On his part, the former Director of the Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofo, said the police could not have prepared ahead to avert the attacks because they lacked the required manpower.
He said, “How do you prepare ahead when Police manpower is inadequate, they are ill-equipped and underfunded? That is why people must be involved in security.”
He called on residents to be security conscious and get involved in activities that would secure their communities.
Ejiofo said, “Everybody must not only be security conscious but vigilant. Residents must observe their environment. This is the time to form groups and employ vigilantes to look after the community to strengthen security within their environment. Also, they should ensure they have CCTV in their houses, although, it doesn’t stop crime from happening but it will help the police during its investigation.”