BusinessDay

Abuja residents feel insecure as Presidency tightens security

Security has been tightened around Nigeria’s seat of power – Aso Rock Villa, following heightening insecurity in the country, particularly recent attacks in Abuja by terrorists.

Talks of fear, low morale, disappointment and even lack of confidence is spreading among citizens, not just within the city, which have enjoyed relative peace till recent years, but even within the presidential Villa as concerns heighten on government’s inability to tackle the lingering security crisis.

But in a bid to further secure the seat of power, the State House management has activated the automated system for the entrance gates, beefed up surveillance as well as electronic and manual screening of both staff and visitors, at the entry gates.

Some of the security personnel, especially Police personnel, who spoke to BusinessDay, narrated how much they now feel more threatened and have had to change their uniforms at the close of work and then go home in normal outfits for fear of being identified and targeted.

“ We are the most vulnerable,” a police officer said. “None of us wears our uniforms outside the Presidential Villa and we also live in fear of being exposed in our environment.”

BusinessDay also gathered that government has approved that security personnel in all the formations, especially those living in their barracks, be allocated weapons, in readiness for a possible attack by the bandits or terrorists.

The recent ambush and killing of soldiers of the President’s elite Military Corps of Guards Brigades and later by terrorists and a similar attack around Zuma, which ISWAP claimed responsibility for, have heightened fears in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

In the last few weeks, citizens in FCT and across the country have been thrown into a state of panic and anxiety over alleged imminent attacks by the terrorists and bandits. Intelligence reports suggest that terrorists have left the outskirts of FCT and are closing in the city centre. More than 300 terrorists reportedly orchestrated the attack on the Kuje custodial centre alone.

In response, security agencies beefed up security in some parts of the nation’s capital after those attacks in form of routine patrol, intensified stop and search operations at military checkpoints especially from suburbs to the city centre.

But Abuja residents have expressed concern that security seems to have been relaxed across the capital, after the recent engagements that neutralized over 30 of the bandits within the FCT.

Precious Amadi, another Abuja resident, worried that enough is not being done as residents still feel insecure despite assurances by the government.

“After terrorists killed soldiers in Bwari, we noticed a routine patrol by soldiers and policemen, some were seen around the market, but its been close to three days I last saw security men, especially around the market,” Amadi who resides in Bwari, which was recently attacked by terrorists, told BusinessDay.

She however stated that the residents are at alert. “We are not leaving anything to chance. Vigilante is already active in some areas because these terrorists can strike anytime, and even the soldiers we are looking on to can fail us.”

Princess Kelechi, another resident in Bwari said, “I have noticed that the intensity of the search at the military checkpoint has reduced. Before they stop and search, but they don’t do that as much now. Also, police don’t patrol anymore, I don’t see much of the security men around, unlike last week.”

Matthew Obodagu, another resident who lives in Maraba, a border town between FCT and Nasarawa State, said, “We don’t feel the presence of security operatives as much here.

“Immediately after the kuje prison attack and the threats by terrorists to attack public places, churches and mosques, I started noticing the presence of police officers on standby within my area, but I have not seen them for some days now. It is worrying because I keep seeing security alerts from the security agencies on the possible attack on FCT almost everyday.”

“Residents are still anxious , even where I work, my colleagues are careful not to exceed 6 pm. Government cannot protect us, I do not have any confidence in government to protect us, some times I even have pity for the security men because I feel like govenrnent is just leading them to the slaughter. It is only God that can protect us from what these terrorists are planning, because I know they are planning something, and they may succeed except God intervenes,” he added.

Read also: Now that Abuja is under a siege

The latest security advisory from security alert by the Economic Community of West African States, dated July 27, 2022 is also spreading fresh panic among the residents.

The advisory, which has been trending online, warned its staff of potential attacks in the FCT and other parts of Nigeria.

Nigerians believe that these attacks would have been curtailed or avoided totally if the government was proactive in its response and even adhered to several local and international intelligence reports.

The United States Africa Command, for instance, had repeatedly warned that ISIS is expanding operations in Africa, especially Nigeria, but citizens feel disappointed that the Nigerian government failed to take deliberate action, as reports shows that the terrorists group is gaining more ground.

In a bid to remove the shanties and shops that serve as hideouts for hoodlums and criminals within the FCT, officials of the FCT administration have started pulling down illegal structures, especially around the Kuje Correctional Centre, recently invaded by the terrorists.

Shop owners who spoke to BusinessDay lamented that how they have lost goods worth millions of naira in the exercise, and according to Comfort Kabila who leads the traders there, they were given little time to clear their wares.

But the Senior Special Assistant to FCT Minister on Monitoring, Inspection and Enforcement, Ikharo Attah, told journalists that “the exercise was under the minister’s directive and under the guidance of police commissioner, Sunday Babaji and other security heads in the FCT.”

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