NIGERIA UNDER SIEGE
As the clock ticks toward another general election, Nigerians are getting increasingly scared of activities and threats from sundry terrorist groups in the country.
Despite beefing up of security by the Federal Government, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Boko Haram, a Muslim sect against Western education, continue to drive fear into the people. For a country that has literally been under siege from the menace of daredevil kidnappers, the development is like adding pepper to an injury.
A former minister and elder statesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said because of tension usually associated with past elections in Nigeria, people expectedly should be worried over threats from the two militant groups.
He expressed fear that some power brokers in Nigeria may cash in on the vulnerability of the groups to cause crisis in the country ahead of the general election. 'Everybody who is conversant with elections in Nigeria should be worried about threats from these terrorist groups, considering the tension the issue of zoning has generated.
'I can tell you that people, including those who are highly placed, are living in fear because you cannot predict the actions of these terrorist groups.
'As it is, the threats would definitely affect political campaigns because just as MEND has said, you cannot guarantee the safety of people who would be at rallies,' he said. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday raised alarm over receipt of text messages from unknown people threatening to bomb its headquarters on November 6. It said it was already probing some clues and also on the trail of those behind the threats.
According to EFCC's Head of Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Babafemi, 'shortly before noon on Wednesday, October 20, a shadow group sent text messages out to the telephone numbers of some media executives warning of imminent bomb attack on the EFCC and its top officials in a manner reminiscent of the October 1 bomb blast in Abuja. 'In one of the messages, the group threatened to bomb the EFCC on November 6 while they accused the commission of disorganizing banks, firms, companies, REA (Rural Electrification Agency) and blocked their accounts since 2008.'
Continuing, he said the text message added: 'FCT will (on November 6) smoke, big and small will run and vacate.'
On Tuesday, MEND's spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, in an electronic mail to the media, warned Abuja residents to steer clear of all political rallies being organized by President Goodluck Jonathan. The group stated: 'We hereby repeat our warnings to the residents of Abuja, the heart of the country and to all persons who will be interested in attending the political presidential campaign organised by President Goodluck Jonathan.'
Gbomo threatened that the militant group would carry out bombings over the arrest of MEND's alleged leader, Henry Okah, in South Africa. Okah was arrested On October 2 in Johannesburg, a day after twin car bombings in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, killed no fewer than 12 persons. Okah has denied any involvement in the car bombings, according to his lawyers.
Meanwhile, a Muslim sect suspected of a series of targeted killings and orchestrating jail breaks, has issued fresh threats in northern Nigeria, this time invoking al-Qaeda's North Africa branch. Posters by the Boko Haram sect appeared at key intersections in the city of Maiduguri during the week, bearing the name of Imam Abubakar Shekau, the group's de facto leader. The two top corners of the posters bore a symbol of an opened Quran, flanked on each side by Kalashnikov assault rifles and a flag in the middle.
The message warned the public against assisting the police or going near soldiers guarding the town at night. The message also acknowledged a recent reward offered for information leading to the arrest of suspected sect members.
'Any Muslim that goes against the establishment of Sharia (law) will be attacked and killed,' the message read.
Boko Haram, which means 'Western education is sacrilege' in the local Hausa language, has campaigned for the implementation of strict Sharia law.
According to reports, police officers began removing the signs late Wednesday.
'These publications and messages on Boko Haram activities are seditious and could jeopardize our investigation into the four-month serial attacks and killings in the state,' Borno State police commissioner Mohammed Abubakar said Thursday.
Boko Haram sect members rioted and attacked police stations and private homes in July 2009, sparking a violent police and military crackdown. In total, 700 people died. The sect largely went underground after the attack but there are rumours of regrouping for more attacks. In September, authorities say the members engineered an attack on a federal prison in Bauchi that freed about 750 inmates, including imprisoned sect followers.