Boko Haram scare grounds Abuja

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By HUGO ODIOGOR, INALEGWU SHAIBU, PETER DURU , CHRIS OCHAYI & VICTOR AHIUMA YOUNG
ABUJA – The nation’s capital city was  grounded, yesterday, by military security check following fears of possible Boko Haram attack on the residents. This provoked a traffic gridlock forcing commuters to trek long distance.

Vehicles entering into and leaving the city were  thoroughly searched by stern looking military men  dispatched by the military High Command following the threat by  Boko Haram to plant and detonate improvised explosive devices, IEDs.

Reports said residents and motorists from satellite towns on the Abuja-Keffi Express way  pleaded with soldiers to remove the road blocks to ease their hardship and movement but these were rebuffed.

Abuja was grounded yesterday following the Army's search on vehicles for Boko Haram members and bombs along Abuja-Keffi Road. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

Yesterday’s development in Abuja trailed reports that over 100 suspected Boko Haram memebers had been arrested by security operatives.

Arrest of suspects
Spokesperson of the State Security Service, SSS, Mrs. Marilyn Ogar said that the suspects were arrested in different parts of the North.

Despite security cordon around Abuja, banks and other financial institutions have come  under the radar to monitor how terrorists groups get their funds.

The deployment of soldiers to beef up security in strategic places and major roads leading to the nation’s capital city was a response to the failure of the Nigeria Police which is yet to recover from the national embarrassment unleashed on it by the suicide bomb attack carried out by Boko Haram.

Most of the commuters who ostensibly left their homes around 5.30 am in order to beat the usual traffic jam on the road spent over four hours on a journey of about 20 minutes. The traffic jam was so severe that most workers especially civil servants had to go back home, while many cars broke down due to the strain of the hold up.

Some motorists, government and private staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity frowned  at the method used by the soldiers to carry out their exercise.  They told Vanguard that Federal Government should introduce scientific method of searching vehicles, noting that the method used by the soldiers was not in line with modern technology.

They noted that in the Middle East where suicide bombing is rampant people still go to work without necessarily going through the stress Abuja residents and its environs were made to go through since the Army barracks and Police headquarters were bombed.

One of the soldiers told Vanguard that the military did not have the equipment to carry out scientific method of searching, adding that the military has never prepared for this alien culture of bombing that has left several people dead and loss of property running into billions of naira in the country.

Reacting to the hardship of heightened security checks in Abuja, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, swiftly condemned harrowing experience the soldiers were subjecting residents of Abuja and environs, noting: “It is unnecessary and will do nothing substantial to reduce the state of insecurity.”

In a statement by its Acting General Secretary, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, the NLC said that though the Congress appreciated that the check points were designed to reduce the state of insecurity in city, they could be done without subjecting residents to untod hardships.

Potential trouble makers
The statement said: “In any case any potential trouble makers seeing the kilometres of traffic jam caused by the soldiers will be alerted to take alternative routes.  In fact, the congestion caused at the points of blockade could easily become targets of would_be miscreants. It is unacceptable for the Army to create such traffic gridlock in an axis like Karo/Nyanya which made hapless commuters to be stuck in traffic for hours on Monday, July 4, 2011.

The situation was so bad that many workers and other commuters had to trek for kilometres, making the axis look like a forced exodus of Nigerians walking to safety.

“A similar scenario, although on a lesser scale is going on in the approaches to Deidei from the Kubwa and Zuba ends of Abuja. In this particular area, commuters had to spend an average of three hours on Saturday, July 2, 2011 getting through the military check point.

Also, the corporal punishment these armed solders are meting out on Nigerians particularly commercial motorcycle operators in the Karo area is uncivilized and unacceptable in a country that has laws and a functional government. In any case, how does the Army hope to reduce insecurity just by blocking highways with no checking of vehicles going on, no sniffer dogs or visible security equipment?”

Security agents arrest Boko Haram members in North

Residents of Maiduguri were, yesterday, greeted with the news that the Military Task Force on “Operation Restore Order” had arrested six Boko Haram suspects in connection with Sunday’s bomb explosion at the Wulari Mammy Market which claimed the lives of eight people and left 15 others hospitalised.

The task force commander, Maj. Gen. Jack Nwogbo, told Vanguard: “We arrested about six suspects, and we have already begun screening them to determine whether they have cases to answer or not.” Another explosion took place around Tashar Kano (motor park) in Maiduguri, but there was no casualty as the military patrol team targeted was not there at the time of the blast. In a related development, the State Security Service, SSS, revealed, yesterday, that it has prevented multiple bomb explosions in Kaduna State in the last one month.

Assistant Director, Public Affairs Services, Mrs. Marilyn Ogar, said in Abuja that more than 100 persons identified as key cell commanders and members of the Boko Haram group in Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe and Adamawa states have been arrested.

She said: “For strategic operational reasons, details of those arrested will remain classified as they are still undergoing the process of de-radicalization, perception management and also try to win their confidence back to the society.”

Mrs. Ogar who said that President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the service to handle issues pertaining to the security issues with carrot and stick approach, adding that the Services cannot charge any of the arrested persons to court now.

On why they have not charged the suspects to court, she said: “You must also realize that they are Nigerians. And being Nigerians, for whatever reasons, they have gone overboard, we have to first of all try to engage them and talk them out of those reasons.”

Highlighting the incidence of prevented bomb blasts, she said: “On May 23, 2011, security operatives discovered and successfully demobilized eight Improvised Explosive Services, IEDs, concealed in small and medium size tins beneath a stair case in Kafanchan, Jema’e LGA, Kaduna State.”

Israel offers help

The increased Boko Haram menace has become a source of international concern as Israel yesterday offered to help Nigeria tackle the security challenge. The Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria, Moshe Ram said his country could dig deep into its peculiar experiences to assist Nigeria tackle its security challenges.

The envoy who led a trade delegation to Benue State made the declaration in Makurdi while on a courtesy call on Governor Gabriel Suswam said: “Nigeria is in a critical point in her development as a nation, and you have a huge security challenge in the country and the security of lives and property is very important and that is where  the role of leadership comes to play.”

His offer came as the Federal Government has ordered close surveillance of countries suspected to be providing funds and training to the hardline Islamic sect in the country. These countries are in Middle East, Asia and in Africa where the group is suspected to be getting technical and logistic support for their attacks.

Fresh security checks on banks, foreign funds

Banks and financial institutions have also come under increased security surveillance as new security measures have been proposed to President Goodluck Jonathan who is said to be embarrassed by the June 16 bombing of police headquarters.

Expected to come under renewed scrutiny are movements of funds by individuals, groups and corporate organisations especially those that have, over the years, received aids and grants from foreign countries.

Top security sources told Vanguard that President Goodluck Jonathan was facing “the most embarrassing and intractable security challenge where religious sentiments are being used to pursue secular political goals.”

Among the measures being proposed by security experts is “targeting the source of the funds and ordinance, include screening transactions of customers and activities of groups and individuals that carry out businesses with foreigners especially if such transactions are deemed suspicious.”

Vanguard learnt that government was also moniitoring some countries notably Iran, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somali and Indonesia where the ordinance could come in terms of training, technology for making improvised explosive devices (IED) as well as importation of arms and ammunition.

US. Trained security expert Mr. Bob Inyang told Vanguard in Lagos: “We are still dancing naked in public, summoning Police high command to marathon meetings, visiting the scene of the bomb blast and embarking on show of power are signs of victory which emboldens the terrorist because they are in celebratory mood for the damage and impact that their action has caused. This is time to be more creative and strategic; it is the time to apply our intellectual resources to combat well planned criminal activities.”

Lagos based lawyer Achike Meze said: “The response of the Federal Government since the bomb blast at the Police Headquarters in Abuja on June 16,2011, shows that the country has no plans or counter strategies to confront such situation since it reared its head in 1987. We have all these years failed to apply our brains to tackle problems before it got out of hand. He said the State Security Service is busy screening ministerial nominees when there are urgent matters that need their fretting out valuable intelligence on Boko Haram and their activities.

Are you in Abuja ? Are you witnessing any traffic gridlock resulting from the military security check? Is the traffic situation better today?

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