BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI & EMEKA AGINAM
ABUJA— Indications emerged yesterday that heads may roll among the top brass of the Nigeria Police, especially in the North-East, following their inability to prevent weekend’s bloody attacks that claimed over 100 lives and property worth hundreds of millions of naira.
This indication emerged just as a security source informed Vanguard that the Boko Haram sect members originally planned to bomb the headquarters of the Joint Task Force “Operation Safe Heaven’ to send a message that JTF cannot save Borno State from their activities.
According to the source, a truck carrying the Boko Haram sect members and their explosives was sighted early last Friday, November 4, close to the Gombe/Yobe border, obviously on its way to Maiduguri. But once it became obvious to the bombers that their mission may have been unearthed, they made a detour to Yobe State.
On entering Yobe State, security agencies including Mobile Police personnel and other security operatives opened fire on the truck and injured some of the sect members. The truck was said to have continued its movement with the occupants shooting sporadically along the road at any Police checkpoint or security personnel they met on the road until they got to the city centre.
At the city centre, they commenced throwing of bombs at any notable government structure and churches they met on the way before the truck was said to have gone up in explosion following a counter attack from security agencies that had become effectively mobilized.
“The attack on churches in particular was said to have been a pre-meditated attempt by the sect members to instigate a religious uprising and reprisal attacks between Christians and Moslems in the North East but security agencies have taken measures to prevent such”, the source said.
Vanguard gathered that the option of removing some of the commissioners of police which is believed to have the backing of the Presidency followed confirmation that adequate intelligence information was gathered showing that the Boko Haram sect would strike during the Sallah festivities.
It was further gathered that the directive by the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim to all States Police Commissioners in the Country to be on red alert shortly before the Sallah celebrations and his specific instruction that states in the same zone should synergize operational activities whenever there is terrorism related attack, was not followed hence the planned removal of the CPs.
“If the Commissioner of Police, Gombe State which is just one of the North East states for instance had put in place, adequate preventive measures, as soon as the Boko Haram members made a detour from the initial destination which was Maiduguri because of the heavy security apparatus, they would have been stopped in their tracks.
“But instead, they travelled all the way through Gombe and successfully entered Yobe State where they carried out their bombings and attacks. And this is unacceptable”, the source said.
Luxury hotels deserted
Meanwhile, barely 24 hours after the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Andrew Azazi accused the United States of America of fanning unnecessary tension in the country by issuing a warning to its citizens resident in the country to avoid three high profile hotels in the federal capital territory because of fears of terrorist attacks, Vanguard can report authoritatively that soldiers have taken over security of almost all luxury hotels in Abuja.
The NSA had disclosed in a statement in Abuja , Monday, that his office was on top of the security situation in the country, insisting that the threat by Boko Haram to bomb three luxury hotels in Abuja was not new. The hotels are Nicon Hilton, Sheraton Hotel and Towers as well as the Nicon Luxury Hotel all in Abuja.
However, a visit to most of the high profile hotels in Abuja especially the three identified hotels as well as other strategic government buildings, showed heavy military presence from both the Army headquarters Garrison and the Guards Brigade headquarters both located in Abuja, indicating government is not wishing away the threat.
For instance, the usually busy Transcorp Hilton Hotel which is a relaxation haven of foreigners at festive periods was deserted as activities in and out of the hotel were at its lowest ebb.
Both human and vehicular movement into and out of the hotels like those of Nicon Luxury and Sheraton were very scanty. Most of the taxis and charter vehicles which normally parked both outside and inside the hotels were nowhere to be seen while any vehicle that had cause to visit these hotels was subjected to stringent scrutiny with metal detectors with special attention paid to the bonnet and booth of the vehicles.
The action of the soldiers, Vanguard gathered is to complement the deployment of scores of plain clothes policemen in the streets of Abuja by the FCT Police Command as well as the deployment of several armoured personnel carriers, bomb disposal unit and anti-terrorism personnel by force headquarters on Monday.
Additional checkpoints manned by both the Police and the military in different locations of Abuja conducted stop and search operation on all vehicles with emphasis said to be in all exit and entry points of FCT.
Boko Haram attacks indefensible —HRW
Reacting to weekend bloodbath in Damaturu, Human Rights Watch tasked the Federal Government to bring to justice, perpetrators of the bomb attacks and earlier attacks that left hundreds dead. The organisation in a statement issued yesterday said the bombings were an indefensible attack on human life.
The statement signed by Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch said, “Boko Haram has once again demonstrated its utter disregard for human life. The authorities should act swiftly to bring to justice, those responsible for these terrible crimes and for earlier attacks that left hundreds dead”.
UK Minister for Africa condemns attacks
The United Kingdom Foreign Office Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham has also condemned the attacks in Yobe and Borno. While condoling the families of the victims, he said in a statement by the Press Secretary, British High Commission, Abuja that he “was saddened to hear of the brutal attacks in Yobe and Borno States on Friday evening that killed and injured so many innocent people. I utterly condemn those who carried them out and I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”