BOKO HARAM BOMBINGS: DON'T PANIC, FG REASSURES
BY OKEY NDIRIBE, KINGSLEY OMONOBI,BALA AJIYA & VICTORIA OJEME
ABUJA- Following the renewed threat by Boko Haram sect to carry out more bomb attacks in Abuja after weekend bloodbath in Damaturu, Yobe State capital which claimed more than 150 lives, the Federal Government yesterday asked members of the public not to panic assuring that security agencies have put in place adequate measures to secure lives and property.
Government assurance came just as the Yobe State Commissioner of Police, Mr Sulaiman Lawal released details of the casualty suffered by members of the security agencies in the attack.
The United States Embassy in Nigeria on Monday warned its citizens to steer clear of three major hotels in Abuja claiming it had intelligence report that the sect was planning to attack the hotels.
The National Security Adviser, General Owoeye Azazi (rtd) in a statement yesterday said the Federal Government has put in place adequate measures to secure three top hotels in the Federal Capital city suspected to be targets of the fundamentalists.
The Statement reads: 'The attention of the Federal Government has been drawn to a publication making the rounds in the media concerning planned attacks on three major hotels in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Expectedly, the publication is eliciting unhealthy public anxiety and generating avoidable tension.
A Police anti-bomb squad vehicle burnt on November 4 by members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect in Damaturu, Yobe State. AFP PHOTO
The Federal Government wants to advise members of the public that it would continue to ensure the security of lives and property under its jurisdiction despite the unfortunate events in Maiduguri and Yobe over the weekend.'
Azazi stated that the current threat of attack on the three hotels in Abuja was not news, stressing that for over three months, the security services have taken pro-active measures to protect the designated critical facilities and others.
See more photos of Damaturu, Yobe State killings
The NSA urged members of the public not to worry about the report but to go about their normal duties and businesses without fear and be assured that security agencies have put in place adequate counter measures to secure lives and property.'
Situation under control
Speaking to newsmen on the issue yesterday, the Assistant Director (Press) of the State Security Service, SSS, Marilyn Ogar said the present situation was not beyond the security agencies, even as she admitted that there were internal security challenges to contend with.
She said: 'We have internal security challenges and it is nothing new. And if you ask where did this information come from, it is basically from the internet, which subsequently somebody sent as an e-mail and we thought that had been addressed. I don't see any problem that is beyond the Nigerian security agencies. Of course, we have deployed men and beefed up security everywhere.
'We had said that on 26th or 27th of October; we have had text messages making the rounds that some targets were going to be bombed in Abuja. In my subsequent press release on the 2nd of November, we did say that we traced those that sent the message to a secondary school in Kagara in Niger State. Students of 18 and 17 years and of course, may be out of mischief, because they said there was an advert in the national daily that said anybody who has information concerning Boko Haram should send this information to a particular number.
'May be because they were idle, they decided to play pranks with it. So you find out that Nigerians always use various security challenges we have as instrument may be to frighten or create unnecessary fear and panic within the society. There is nothing that is above the security agencies', she stated
On America and Canada's messages to their citizens, she said: 'If America sent out that message it is nothing too strange. It is not because our country is disintegrating. If Canada has followed suit, there is nothing new to it. We have had wonderful Sallah though with some pockets of crisis here and there but they are not issues that we have not been able to contain.'
Pointing out that there is no nation without its security challenges, she said: 'Even the US has security challenges and I don't think they will say it is beyond their security agencies. It is not right to pass judgement'.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim yesterday directed the release of 50 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC's), Police Patrol vans and the deployment of both plain clothes and armed police personnel in and around the FCT.
Specifically, the Armoured Personnel Carriers have been deployed to such hotels as Transcorp Hilton, Sheraton, Nicon Luxury and NANET Hotels.
Aside the hotels, Vanguard observed that security has been heavily beefed up in and around the FCT with such important national assets like the NNPC towers, CBN headquarters, Three Arms Zone, NTA, and Radio House, getting increased security presence.
It was further gathered from a senior Police source that Armoured Personnel Carriers, Anti-Terrorist as well as Bomb Disposal squads have been deployed to all the exit and entry points in the federal capital territory with a view to checkmating activities of the Islamic terrorist group.
Vanguard also gathered that the Inspector General of Police has directed all Police Commands in the country to remain at red alert and to also dispatch plain clothes security personnel in and around the city centers as intelligence indicate that the attacks in Yobe state may be the first of many others planned by the group.
Meantime, Yobe State Commissioner of Police, Mr Sulaiman Lawal yesterday gave the breakdown of casualty suffered by security agencies in last weekend attacks by Boko Haram in the state. Apart of civilian victims, he said 11 policemen, one soldier, one customs official, one Federal Road Safety Commission Corp marshal and an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps were killed in the attack.
Addressing a press briefing yesterday, he explained that with the deployment of soldiers from the 241 Recce Battalion Nguru to patrol the streets of the state capital, normalcy has returned to the state. He said that curfew has also been imposed on the state capital from 7 pm to 7 am.