Residents in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja are currently on high alert over fear of a possible terrorist attack in the city, after the United States and the United Kingdom warned of an elevated risk of attacks.
While expressing their lack of confidence in the government and security forces to prevent any panned attack, residents are taking own precautionary measures some of which includes: avoiding crowded places especially target areas identified in the US security alert, avoiding late night, non-essential movements and generally being cautious of any suspicious movement.
The US Embassy Abuja, had in a security alert dated October 23, 2022, disclosed that targets for the attacks includes government buildings, places of worship, schools, markets, shopping malls, hotels, bars, restaurants, athletic gatherings, transport terminals, law enforcement facilities, and international organizations.
“When I saw the advisory from US, a colleague shared it on our platform, I became scared, and just started sharing it to my family and friends. It is really a source of concern for me, because for such alert to come from US, that means there is a high possibility. As it is, I avoid crowd by all means, I will make sure I don’t stay out late too, and mind the vehicles I enter, ” Bunmi Theophilus, a sales representative who resides in Lokogoma district of Abuja said.
Chidozie Okafar, a student who resides in Bwari area council said upon hearing the news, he cancelled his planned outing. “I initially planned to catch up with some friends in town today, but my father advised me to be careful. He told me about the US warning, so I just decided to stay back until things calm down. Also the outing is not that important, it’s something I can always do. We are being careful here because government cannot do anything to help us, ” he said.
The heightened alert by residents is also fuelled by recent attacks in the nation’s capital in the last two months. The most prominent attacks which are still fresh in the minds of residents include the Kuje jail break and the attack of soldiers in Bwari by terrorists.
However, despite the alert, residents still continue normal activities including some of the target areas such as markets, govenrnent offices, and major motor parks.
Emmanuel Arinze,a businessman at the popular Bannex plaza in Wuse II told this reporter in a telephone interview that normal activities , but said he is however exercising some caution.
“I just have to be cautious, because we can actually do nothing, we can only pray that the worst don’t come. I will definitely go about my business because government will not feed me. I can only pray and be careful,” he said.
Read also: US raises alarm over ‘elevated risk of terror attacks’ in Abuja
It would be also be recalled that in 2014, the Emab Plaza was bombed by terrorists, which killed more than 20 persons and left over 50 injured.
Arinze, further said he however observed some tightened security measures in some public places. “I was at the mall to get lunch in one of the restaurants, and I observed that security men were a bit thorough in their regular checks, same for teh bank. So everyone is just being careful here.
Also, at the Bwari and Wuse markets business activities continued, there was however heightened security presence at Wuse market. Police vans were seen patrolling the vicinity. A seller, who identified herself as Ucheoma at the bwari market said the market has remained busy and crowded as usual. She said, she was however indifferent about the alert.
“Since after the kuje attack, we have been hearing warning of attacks, we aconite continue to live in fear. It is only God that can see us through, we can only be careful and pray that we don’t see evil, ” she said.
Meanwhile, more schools are shutting down in the city indefinitely. A parent who identified her self as Ogechi said she received notification from the school to pick up her ward. “The school sent a message asking us to come pick up our children because of the security threat, so I rushed to do that,” she said.
She also disclosed that three other schools around her ward’s school have directed parents to pick up their children till further notice, mostly private schools. Ogechi however declined to disclose the name of the schools.
After issuing the threat, the US Embassy announced that it will offer reduced services until further notice. The embassy also warned citizens to: avoid non-essential travel or movement; day alert; avoid crowds; review personal security plans; keep their cell phone charged in case of emergency; and carry proper identification.
The British High Commision (BHC) also announced reduced services, saying it will only be open for business for critical staff only. The Canadian government followed suit. In its updated travel advice, it urged citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Abuja over the increased threat of terrorists’ attacks.