By Danie Idonor & Victoria Ojeme
ABUJA—IN the wake of mounting threats of bomb attacks in the country by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, the Federal Government Wednesday maintained that it is able to contain the threats because Nigeria’s security agencies are some of the best in the world.
Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who was reacting to insinuations that government was losing the war against terror, told newsmen that several covert measures against the terrorists have been successful without making too much noise about them.
He said: “A lot is going on, deployments are being made, arrests are being made, and there is a man hunt for all those involved. So, if the President calls on Nigerians to pray, it is not because actions are not taking place but the truth of the matter is that we also need prayers. Everything is being done to bring this dispensation we have come into under control.”
Asked if the President was losing the fight against Boko Haram and how long Nigerians will continue in this condition, Maku said: “Let me say it very clearly here that sometimes, we pick comments out of context. The President is the Commander-in-Chief and President of Nigeria, the chief security officer of this federation.
All of us in this hall should be familiar with the fact that in the last couple of months since the president was sworn in, in May, nothing has taken the attention of government more than the issue of insecurity in the country. That is brought about mainly by anti-state groups that have continued to attack innocent citizens.”
Maku pointed out that “almost every week the President has held meetings with security chiefs. And let me also say here that the recent attack in Yobe and Borno, the NSA (National Security Adviser) addressed the press and as at yesterday, not only has there been counter offensive but that arrests have been made and those under arrest are in detention for proper investigation. This also has been made available by the security agencies to the media.”
He said: “There have been ongoing security operations in the North-East, particularly in Borno and surrounding states. Also in Yobe, there have been security deployments, this also has been done and the media is also aware of these developments.
“Talking about consistent fight against terror, all of us know that wherever terror raises its ugly head, it is not a conventional war, where the military will go to one side and the terrorists group to the other side for a confrontation. Terrorists use undercover attacks, what you call guerilla welfare. They do not operate under the light of self proclamation of who their identities are. There are several countries like Algeria and Pakistan and several others that have come under terrorist attacks for over a decade and in those countries, you still have isolated attacks in spite of all the deployments that have taken place.”
The Minister however assured that “what is going on is a new phase in this nation, which will not continue for long. Neither the public nor the government or security agencies is used to a situation where innocent citizens will be attacked for a cause that is clearly difficult to reason with or to explain.
“Let me say that since these terror attacks started, this administration has been working round the clock and sometimes there are achievements we cannot just go and proclaim on the pages of newspapers.”
Let me give an example, all those who carried out the terrorist attack of October 1, 2010 have been arrested, all the vehicles they used, all the channels they used, all the individuals associated with it are in the custody of security agencies and are being investigated”, he said.
Maku added that “you will also find out that in many places where similar attacks have taken place earlier, arrests have not been made even in countries that you can say have greater sophistication in terms of technical capacity. Our security agencies are working round the clock, yes there are issues and challenges but I want as a Nigerian not just as Minister of Information to appeal to our people through the media that what we are facing is a new phase of life”.
Besides, he said “the government has been doing everything and if you go to Borno on a daily basis, you are hearing of even house to house search to recover weapons and this also clearly reported most of the times to the media”.
He disclosed that “of course certain aspect of undercover cannot be disclosed on the pages of newspapers, but one thing I do know is that our agencies are doing a lot of work to secure this country. There are of things that have been busted, stopped from taking place in this country”.
Speaking on the lingering activities of the Boko Haram, the Minister explained that “also part of the things we also face is that these people live amongst us and we have been campaigning and call on Nigerians to understand that the way to go about it today, is that we must all come together as a people to address this issue by way of cooperation by members of the public; and the media are very strategic in raising the awareness of Nigerians, that some of the information we require to nip these people’s action before they take place, is for citizens cooperation and sensitivity”.
He was however optimistic that “a lot of cooperation is coming, there are many Nigerians who are cooperating with security agencies to get to soul of their hide out and where they operate. But the truth of the matter is that the federal government, particularly the president is working round the clock on daily basis to tackle these problems.
But because there is also political opposition, people just take statements out of context to create and this is really not the time to politicize what is going on. It is the time for all of us to put heads together as a people to ensure that we overcome the threat of anti state terror”.?
UN moves office from Transcorp
Meanwhile, security concerns over the safety of its staff on the heels of reported threat by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram to bomb key hotel facilities in Abuja has prompted the United Nations office to relocate from the Transcorp Hilton hotel to a secured location in Asokoro.
Sources close to the world body confided in Vanguard in Abuja that the relocation from the Transcorp Hilton was prompted by the travel advice released by the US Embassy to its citizens urging them to stay away from the three five star hotels in the federal capital city due to what it described as credible security report of threat by Boko? Haram to bomb the hotels during the Sallah festivities.
The UN office had initially moved to the Sheraton Hotel shortly after the August 26 bomb attack that claimed 25 lives, but was soon forced to relocate to Transcorp Hilton over what sources described as the porous security in and around the hotel at the time.
Since the August 26 bomb attack on the UN office, some UN departments and agencies which could not be accommodated by the federal government at the Transcorp Hilton operated from smaller hotels and facilities within the capital city.
The choice of relocation, Vanguard learnt, was premised on the tight and round-the- clock security in and around the city’s most affluent area, where over 95% of the nation’s state governors have their lodges in Abuja.
The area is also home to official residences of foreign envoys, as well as majority of foreign missions and embassies, that are yet to relocate to Diplomatic drive, the officially designated area for offices of foreign missions in Nigeria.
No ?UN official was, however, available to respond to enquiries from Vanguard.